I’ve come down with a case of love handles. They need to go. Citizen Chef has been feeling some of the same symptoms, and we’ve been discussing healthier cooking. As much as I love what we’ve been doing lately, let’s face it: Baked Ziti isn’t going to do anything to my love handles except expand their territory. For the next couple of months, we’re going to start cooking healthier. There are a few desserts I’d like to do, but let’s see if we can’t get our main track set back to a healthier fare.
So, last night, I dove back into my Food and Wine magazine. I was craving vegetables in a big way, and landed on a Vietnamese stir fry of vegetables with lemongrass.
I’m not normally a fan of vegetarian fare, but this had cauliflower. I love cauliflower.
Stir-Fried Vegetables with Lemongrass
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
1 large stalks of fresh lemongrass, tender inner white bulb only, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 pound cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets (2 cups)
6 asparagus spears, cut into 1-inch lengths
1/4 cup shredded carrots (about 1 medium)
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped basil
Rice, for serving
The original instructions call for the addition of mung bean sprouts, but I didn’t pick any up at the store. In fact, I totally forgot to even look and see if my grocer had them. As it was, the dish turned out great. The original dish made very little sauce and, since my family likes a lot of sauce, we doubled it. This is all reflected in the ingredients above.
This was my first time ever working with just dry lemongrass; usually I mix it in with something to make a paste, like I do when I make Keo’s yellow curry paste. I didn’t realize the innards of the lemongrass was going to end up so stick-like, so I only cut them into 1-inch pieces rather than slice them thinly as the instructions suggest. In the frying pan the lemongrass doesn’t break down, and my spouse was scared of eating the weird hay-like things that he saw. I won’t make that mistake again. Next time, I’ll slice them thinly.
One other thing that almost threw me was that I wasn’t sure how far to go inside of the lemongrass. I kept peeling strips off until I got to this pale center. You’ll know when you get there, because it omits the strongest lemon odor. As soon as I peeled off the top, the scent hit me.
Put the lemongrass into the food processor and chop them up until they are small.
In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the lemongrass and shallots and stir-fry over high heat until the shallots are golden brown, about 2 minutes.
Now what happens next happens fast, so it’s a great idea to have the vegetables ready to go by the time the shallots were done. My vegetables weren’t ready to go in, so I had to remove the pan from the heat while I finished.
Add the cauliflower, asparagus, carrots and red bell pepper along with 1/4 cup of the water; cover and cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.
As you can see in the photo above, I cheated with the carrots. Rather than shredding them, I just tossed them into the food processor.
Stir in the coconut milk, soy sauce and the remaining 1/4 cup of water and bring to a simmer.
I pushed some of the vegetables aside so you could see the sauce. There’s not a lot with the original recipe, which is why we doubled it.
As soon as the coconut milk hits the pan, the super sweet aroma of coconut hits you. This surprised me, because I’ve cooked with coconut milk a lot and I’ve not had the scent come out quite like that before. After you stir everything together, the soy balances out any sweetness and the sauce is quite mild, and very delicious.
Remove from the heat and season with pepper. Stir in the fresh basil. Transfer the stir-fried vegetables to bowls and serve with rice.
Overall, this was a fast dish and incredibly tasty. It’s also fairly healthy… okay, it’s got coconut milk in it, but it satisfied my cravings for vegetables. I’m not a vegetarian, but I’d eat this any day of the week. I may even consider putting this one into my weekly rotation. It didn’t completely knock my socks off as a new and innovative dish, which is why I will need to knock the rating down a little bit on the overall scale, but it was simple and delicious. Sometimes less is more and in this case, that theology definitely pays off.
Weeknight Cooking: A
Overall Dish: A-