Friday, May 7, 2010

Ginger Garlic & Sesame Sugar Snap Peas

I've been really fortunate to have grown up with my mom as, mom. She had dinner ready on the table every day and it was always a healthy & complete meal mostly consisting of white rice, a protein dominated dish (think steamed ground pork w/ chopped shitake mushrooms, or stir fried chicken of sorts), and a vegetable dominated dish. Wait...hold on just ONE sec....let me take back the "always" a healthy & complete meal. I will never forget that one time when we had popcorn and cheesecake for dinner (seriously)...but that's beside the point.

So back to the vegetable dominated dish, as a kid, I never understood why kids didn't like veggies. I always said that if kids had veggies the way my mom made them, there wouldn't be a problem. From bok choy to broccoli, she always managed to make it tasty. One of my favorite vegetables she made was peas. Not the little round single ones that you can get in frozen bags, but peas of the whole pod, like snow peas or sugar snap peas. I loved their crispy texture and the delicate sweetness that gave way at every bite. I'll also always have the fond memory of me and mom, sitting in front of the TV, preparing the peas for dinner. We'd mindlessly take peas from one pile and split them into 2 steadily growing piles. One was a pile of finished peas, ready to go into the wok, and the other pile was the tough ends and fibers that would get tossed away.

Whether it was just peas by themselves or peas with shrimp, I knew dinner was going to be good. I also now know why we had them so often: they're quick and easy. If there was ever a dish that could carry the coveted title of a healthy, delicious, quick and easy recipe, stir fried peas would be it. Thanks, mom, for making things that are so simple, so memorable! Happy Mama's Day!!!

1 lb of sugar snap peas, rinsed and tough ends peeled off
1 Tbs ginger, peeled and julienned
1/2 Tbs garlic, minced
1 Tbs vegetable oil, split in half

2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
Salt & White Pepper

Heat half of the vegetable oil in a pan pver medium high heat. Add ginger and cook for about 1 minute until fragrant. Add in snap peas and cook with a pinch of salt for about 2-3 minutes. *Here's my trick to getting yummy garlic flavor without burning it*

Create a well in the pan with the peas. Pour the rest of the oil into the middle of the well and place garlic in the oil. Stir just the two ingredients to let the garlic infuse with the oil. Once the garlic becomes golden brown and fragrant, about 1 minute, mix in the peas. Remove pan from heat and stir in sesame oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Transfer peas to a serving bowl and sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top. Total cooking time should be no more than 5 minutes or so to keep peas crisp.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Chicken Confit, Grilled Baby Artichokes w/ Shaved Parmesan and Herb Lime Dressing, Jicama and Broccoli salad

I don't think I've ever communicated my love for chickens within this blog. Well - I LOVE CHICKENS. There, now you know. After reading Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and then watching Food Inc, I will forever only buy free range, pasture finished meat. Over sized chicken boobs for $1.99/lb? No thanks. I'll opt for paying a little more from a direct chicken farmer where I know the little chicadees are treated with some TLC. That place for me right now is Soul Food Farms. Every couple Wednesdays, I'll order and pick up my little fresh chicken and a dozen multicolored eggs ranging from a rich brown to baby blue, some even marked with the cutest freckles you've ever seen. For the first time last week, I also ordered 2 packets of their chicken confit which equates to 4 beautiful chicken legs that have been submerged in salt and warm duck fat then slowly cooked to practically perfection. When I pull it out of the fridge, all I have to do is put it on a skillet to crisp the skin - and voila, dinner is served. Need I say more? One day, when I garner enough duck fat from a place still unknown...I will attempt this fabulous feat of making my own delicious confit.

What else am I loving right now? Umm...grilled artichokes. Why? They're in season, they're fun to eat, and it's hard to replicate the rich nuttiness that naturally comes out of that tender heart. Grilling gives me an excuse to be outside during the warm spring evenings, not to mention that it adds an additional depth of flavor to whatever you end up putting on the grill. What else would I want to pair with the yummy confit?

Oh...maybe something a little lighter to balance out the richness of everything else. I didn't have any salad greens and I was too antsy to get started with dinner to take the time to go to the store after work. Jicama and broccoli is what I had in my fridge, so jicama and broccoli is what I ate. Light, crisp and cool - a perfect pairing with the confit.

Chicken Confit - 2 legs (serves 2-3 people)

Grilled Artichokes w/ Herb Lime Dressing & Shaved Parmesan
4 small to baby sized artichokes
Juice of one Lime
2 Tbs fresh herbs, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp honey
Salt/Pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, shaved

Jicama & Broccoli Salad
1/2 of a small jicama, diced
2 cups of broccoli florets
(uses the remaining dressing from the grilled artichokes)

Prepare the artichokes by cutting the tops off and trimming off the little leaves at the bottom. Steam then for 20-30 minutes until tender. In the meantime, make the dressing by combining the lime juice, herbs, and honey in a bowl and slowly add olive oil while whisking. Salt and pepper to taste and set aside

Using the same steamer as the artichoes, steam the broccoli florets for 3-4 minutes until tender. Remove from the steamer and allow to cool. Chop them up into little pieces and toss with the jicama, set aside

Heat the grill on high. Once the artichokes have cooled, slice in half lengthwise and gently remove the choke with a spoon if needed. Brush some of the dressing on each open half of the artichoke and put cut side down on the grill for 2-3 minutes or until brown.

As the artichokes are grilling, heat a sautee pan on medium-high heat, and place chicken confit skin side down for 4-5 minutes until the chicken is heated through and skin is crisp and brown.

To serve, toss the remaining dressing in with the jicama and broccoli. Salt and pepper the salad to taste. Shave parmesan over the top of the warm grilled artichokes and plate w/ crisped chicken confit.