Friday, February 1, 2008

Bowled Over

In my last post, I mentioned that I could eat Tex-Mex all the time and not get tired of it. I have to say I feel the same way about Asian food. The flavors are all so vibrant—you can’t help but feel good after you eat it.

I must admit I rely heavily on one tried-and-true dish in my limited Asian repertoire—stir-fry. It’s easy and quick, and when you can get half of your daily veggie intake in one sitting and love every bite, I find it hard to break outside the box. Plus you can pair it with any starch for a hearty meal with or without meat. Pretty much any vegetable works well for stir fry—whatever you like, toss it in. Broccoli, bell peppers, carrots sliced thinly, cabbage, green beans, peas, edamame, even tomatoes are delicious flash-cooked.

The secret is knowing when to put each ingredient in so nothing gets mushy and nothing’s too crunchy. Think hardest to softest—carrots would go in before green beans; tomatoes would go in last. And everything should be served piping hot. There’s a Cantonese term, wok hay that loosely translates as the “breath of the wok.” I love this term, because it captures the essence of truly fresh, steamy-hot food. (Note to self, get a proper wok…I don’t think there’s any such thing as skillet hay.)

I always like to experiment with a different sauce. I’ve done Thai curry, spicy chili, teriyaki, carrot-ginger, ginger-lime…I don’t usually make the same one twice. But there’s one in particular Jason really loves, so I’ve done it a few times.

Lightly peanut-y without being overwhelmingly so, this sauce makes brilliant use of two of my favorite flavors in the world: lime and ginger. Soy sauce and a touch of honey round out this oh-so-simple topper for a veggie stir-fry, or in this case, a noodle bowl. I didn’t have any, but a healthy squeeze of sriracha garlic-chili paste would be a fabulous addition.

Chicken and Veggie Noodle Bowls
with Peanut-Lime Sauce

serves 2 big eaters

If you don’t like peanut sauce, you can definitely omit the peanut butter here and still get a tasty sauce. You may want to add a touch more honey and/or oil to thicken and sweeten it. If you don’t already have natural-style peanut butter on hand, just use the regular kind. Taste it before you add the honey, as regular peanut butters tend to be sweeter than the natural kind.

For the noodle bowls:
½ pound broccoli
¼ pound angel hair pasta
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 chicken breast, cut into thin, bite-size pieces
1 red bell pepper cut into matchstick-size pieces
Handful snow peas
Two of the following:
½ cup shredded or thinly sliced carrots
¼ head red cabbage, shredded
Handful English peas
1 large tomato, seeded and cut into bite-size chunks

¼ pound angel hair pasta

For the sauce:
1 2-inch piece of ginger, grated
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon natural-style peanut butter
1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
½ tablespoon chicken broth
2 teaspoons honey

Garnish: Green onions, sliced thinly on the bias
Crushed peanuts

Remove tops of broccoli from stems and cut tops into bite-size florets. Peel off the tough outer layer of the broccoli stems with a vegetable peeler and cut stems into matchstick-size pieces.

Make the sauce: In a blender, combine all ingredients and process until combined. Alternatively, in a large bowl, combine all ingredients and whisk vigorously until combined. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds being careful not to burn it. Add chicken in one layer and sear each side for 1 minute (2 minutes total). Add broccoli to the skillet and a tablespoon of water or chicken broth. Toss to make sure garlic does not stick to bottom and burn. Cover skillet and cook 3 minutes. Uncover and add red peppers, snow peas, and (if using), carrots, and cabbage. If using peas or tomatoes, toss in at the very end.

While veggies are cooking, cook pasta per package directions. Carefully drain pasta and add it directly to the skillet with the chicken and vegetables. Add half of sauce and toss to coat. Add more sauce a bit at a time until it’s sufficiently coated to your taste. Garnish with sliced green onions and crushed peanuts, if desired.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I made this last night and it was a big hit! It was simple and delicious and all my veggies were actually just tender enough without being mushy. The best part was that Alexi did all the dishes. Thanks for the great recipes!!