Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Four Minute Asparagus

Four minute asparagus. Now that is a little misleading. The four minutes refers to the cooking time but you might add another 5 minutes for prep. Nonetheless I have an easy side dish for you. Perfectly steamed asparagus spears are drizzled with a citrus oregano dressing and dotted with sweet orange segments. Did I mention that there is no cooking required? Just set 4 minutes on your microwave and you're done. The color stays vibrant and the texture still crisp. I may never turn on the oven for asparagus again.

Asparagus with Citrus and Oregano
adapted from Urban Italian

about 1 lb thick asparagus
1 navel orange + zest
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 tblsp lemon juice
4 tblsp olive oil
2 scallions, green parts only, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Zest the orange and set aside. To segment the orange, cut off each end then set on end and slice off the peel and pith. Cut the segments away from the membrane and put in a small bowl. In another small bowl collect any juice and squeeze remaining juice out from the pulp. In this bowl whisk 2 tblsp olive oil, scallions, oregano, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside

Prepare the asparagus by cutting off the bottom 1" from the tough end. Place in a microwave safe dish and sprinkle the orange zest over top. Pour over 1 oz of water and 2 tblsp of olive oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave for 2 minutes. Rotate dish and cook for another 2 minutes. Test for doneness. Remove plastic wrap and drain off liquid. Pour the dressing over asparagus and layer with orange segments. Serve hot or room temperature.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Shake the Beef

In my never ending attempt to find new ways to spice up steaks, I have found one that takes the cake. The Vietnamese dish bo luc lac (aka shaking beef) is so good I could eat it 3 times a week. Whenever tenderloin steaks are on sale, stock up so you can make this dish whenever you crave it. Thick flat-iron steaks would also work well for a cheaper alternative.

This version is taken from San Francisco's The Slanted Door. Chef Phan's restaurant was featured in this month's Saveur alongside some other great recipes I hope to try soon. I serve this either with rice or with boston lettuce. It goes wonderfully wrapped up in little lettuce packages and dipped in the heavenly lime pepper sauce.

Bo Luc Lac (Shaking Beef)
from Chef Charles Phan

1 lb beef tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1" cubes
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic chopped
3 scallions, sliced thick
4 tsp ground black pepper
7 tsp sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tblsp fish sauce
2 limes, juiced
1 tblsp butter

Prepare the beef in a bowl and sprinkle over it 2 tblsp oil, 1 tsp sugar, and 2 tsp pepper. Cover and let set at room temperature for about an hour or refrigerate overnight. In a small bowl mix the soy sauce, rice vinegar, fish sauce, and 2 tsp of sugar. Set aside. In another small bowl prepare the dipping sauce, juice the limes and add 4 tsp sugar and 2 tsp pepper. You will have to work quickly and in batches so have all other ingredients prepared and nearby.

Remove the beef from the bowl and pat dry with paper towels. Heat 2-3 tblsp oil in a wok or large skillet. Heat until smoking. Working in batches, add half of the beef and cook until each side is quite brown, 2 minutes, but still medium rare. Add half of the onions, scallions, and garlic stirring constantly for 1 minute. Pour in half of the soy/vinegar mixture and butter and continue to stir for another few seconds. Pour out onto a platter. Heat some more oil until smoking and repeat.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Teased with Turmeric

I have new neighbors. I think they cook constantly. At breakfast, lunch, and dinner I go outside or open the windows to the smell of Indian spices wafting up toward my nose. I find it terribly unfair that they haven't invited me over for dinner. Little do they know my love hate relationship with Indian food. I love to eat it but hate to cook it because I can never make it nearly as well as my favorite restaurants.

The mouth-watering temptation day in and day out has taken its toll. With no decent take-out place or buffet within a 100 mile radius, I decided to give it yet another try. I admit, things are going well. P has to agree that I'm getting much closer at creating above average Indian dishes.

Mattar paneer is always my go-to dish. Its not the most exciting thing out there but in my mind its a good test of a restaurant's quality. It is quite easy to put together in this version, but my only complaint was the level of spiciness. I need a little heat (or a lot) in a dish like this and I was a little clueless on what to add to achieve that. Cayenne? Red chili powder? A small, hot pepper?

Mattar Paneer
adapted from Cuisine Cuisine

2 medium onions, chopped
1 1/2 tsp cumin
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam marsala

1 lb paneer, cut into cubes
2 cups frozen peas
3 tblsp tomato paste
4 tblsp plain yogurt
1 tblsp grated ginger
1 tblsp minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Ahead of time, lightly fry the paneer cubes in ghee or oil until browned on each side. Set aside.
Heat some ghee or oil in a large dutchoven and fry the onions until nicely browned and charred a bit. Add the spices and stir for a few seconds. Add more oil if it becomes too dry. Remove the contents of the pot to a food processor and puree with the garlic and ginger. Return the paste to the pot and add the tomato paste and stir for a minute. Pour in a scant 1/2 cup of water to deglaze the bottom and scrape up any bits. Stir constantly until it smooths out and then add the yogurt. Let it simmer for a few minutes then add the peas and paneer. Bring to a simmer and put a lid on it to steam the peas for a couples minutes. You may need to add more water if the heat is too high and its not coming together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in some chopped cilantro and serve with basmati rice or naan.