Friday, November 23, 2007

The rest of the farm subscription

I got through a bit more of the farm subscription vegetables today with a green bean stir fry. I don't suppose what I did was really innovative enough to talk about on its own merits, but since it's part of the farm subscription series I guess I'll lower my standards a bit. Or maybe that's the wrong move; I'm new to this blogging thing and I'm not sure what's worth posting.

My top-of-the-head thought for the green beans was a black bean sauce, but a literature review revealed that I was mis-remembering a large number of Szechuan green beans in hoisin sauce recipes out there. I wasn't really in the mood for hoisin sauce, though. I've always thought that it acts more as a condiment than an ingredient; every recipe that uses even a little bit ends up tasting like a bowl full of hoisin sauce with some supporting vegetables.

Instead I started off with this recipe. It's a good, fairly generic, starting point. I added some Szechuan peppercorns to the sauce, replaced the pepper flakes and sesame oil with chui chow chili and tossed in the last of the garlic chives and some sliced cremini mushrooms.

I also used ground turkey instead of ground pork since that's what I happened to have in the freezer. It's relatively bland so I marinated it in a couple tablespoons of the sauce, the garlic and ginger and some cornstarch.

One thing you'll notice, if it comes through with my phone's low resolution camera, is the wrinkly texture of the green beans. It's something I'd always noticed in restaurant Chinese dishes, but I figured it was just old beans from crummy cheap Chinese takeout places. Actually, it comes from giving the green beans a quick dip in hot oil. A couple minutes of deep frying dries them out so they can absorb the sauce. It also cooks them half-way so a couple minutes of stir frying is enough to finish them up. Definitely worth the little extra trouble it took.

Unfortunately, the end result was a bit blah. I blame the turkey partially, but mainly I was let down by the lack of the organic vegetable flavor explosion I was led to expect. Cooked or raw, those beans barely had any flavor. Nice crisp texture, but bland.

The komatsuna, on the other hand, had some lovely flavor. Trying it raw, I thought that the peppery taste would work best with Asian flavors, but I second guessed myself and decided I only thought that because I knew beforehand that komatsuna's an Asian vegetable. So I paired it with pancetta, olive oil and pasta instead in a variation on the turnip greens and cavatelli recipe I wrote about earlier. (By the way, the photo I took of it mysteriously resurfaced in my phone's memory so I've added it to that post. I think it looks more appetizing that the image I found on the web.)

The turnips were lovely just boiled and buttered. That's half the point of quality fresh produce-- it doesn't need fancy preparation to be tasty.

You can't just sit down and eat an avocado, though. One went into a fairly successful scallop ceviche. For the other, I found an interesting recipe that uses mashed avocado and cheddar cheese to top a roasted yam. [It's now several days later and I made the avocado-topped yam recipe. It was surprisingly good. Usually I can look at a recipe and see how the flavors fit together, and it really doesn't seem like sweet potato, avocado and sharp cheddar should work, but it did. I think it helped that the avocado was half-way to guacamole mixed, as it was, with plenty of lime juice, cilantro and olive oil. That strengthened that component while the yam remained a mild base which contributed a just a bit of sweetness to the whole. Just a theory off the top of my head, there. I'd have to make it again, maybe with a regular baking potato or with a different cheese to really figure it out.]

The squash I steamed with some shrimp. I used a carolina spice mix that was heavy on the garlic. Maybe I was supposed to put the spices in the water instead of over the shrimp, but the dried garlic flavor was overwhelming. I think it might have been better with Old Bay.

All that leaves me with is the dill. I've had some trouble finding kirby cucumbers here in Miami so I might not go the pickling route there. Maybe with some salmon?

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