Friday, August 20, 2010

Stir Fried Snake Beans

When the heat is on , you need to avoid turning on the oven at all costs and you need to conserve energy . 

I know that summer is high grilling season , however I have to confess that this is the second summer I have been without a grill , so the Gourmet Goddess has had to improvise on many a recipe . 

That been said, I also feel that summer is a high octane carnivor carnival. Don't get me wrong , I love nothing more than a piece of nicely grilled meat , grilled vegetables and dinner is done in an instant . But by far the quickest meal in my repertoire is stir fried vegetables and jasmine rice . You can eaily add your favourite protein to make this more substantial and sometimes I enjoy it without rice or meat , just  on its own .

The secret to a good stir fry is a nice composition of vegetables and not the kitchen sink . I know for many people this is a great way to use up old vegetables forgotten in the bottom of the fridge. But I feel strongly enough that good quality vegetables make for a better stir fry .

One vegetable I always like to include in my stir fry is snake beans , I am sure many of you have seen them in the international markets and wondered how you would cook them . I tried them out one day , as an experiment and have not looked back since . They are not snappy like the classic green bean rather they are limp and sad looking - but they pack a powerful flavour punch .

In this recipe I also included an eggplant , and much to my surprise it really brought the whole dish together and was sweet and delicious. Add all of these ingredients tp a very hot wok , a touch of ponzu and hoisin sauce and you have a delicious dish that can be enjoyed hot or at room temperature .... or should I confess - standing at the fridge door !!!  

This is a recipe without precise measurement and or ingredients . Use whatever your family likes and the sauces to your taste or liking.

Stir Fried Snake Beans
a GG original recipe

1 med spanish onion
canola oil
fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves
ponzu sauce
tamari low-sodium sauce
hoisin sauce

red bell peppers
snake beans

sesame seeds (optional)
cooked jasmine rice

Prepare Jasmine Rice according to package directions and desired quantity - while that is cooking you have to time prepare and cook the stir fry.

Heat your wok until it is very very hot . Add some canola oil to the base and allow it to heat through , then add your spanish onion which has been sliced medium thickness, allow to soften a little then add the fresh ginger and garlic clove which have been peeled and sliced thinly . Stir until fragrant - do not allow the garlic to burn or it will taste bitter.

Add the vegetables in the longest order of cooking time , by that I mean carrots and peppers will take longer to cook that the beans . After you have added the beans , add a few splashes of ponzu or tamari , keep the vegetables moving , so they do not scorch . If at any time the vegetables look a little dry add a splash of water to the wok to keep things steaming along.When they are almost done add 1-2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce thinned out with a little water to bring the whole dish together and warm through .

Place on a platter and sprinkle with some black and white sesame seeds and enjoy .

Note : Tamari is a wheat free soy sauce and I find it more flavourful than regular soy sauce , I tend to use the low-sodium bottle because it is not as salty. Ponzu sauce , is again a soy sauce , but very light , not as salty and has a hint of citrus. This is delicious on steamed rice and or cooked wontons .

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Peach Salsa with Ruffled Basil

Upon our return from the road trip to the land of maple leaves and maple syrup I was craving something fresh, seasonal and inspiring. Do not think for a minute we did not enjoy beautiful meals in Canada, but as always I miss my kitchen after a few days , and I enjoy creating something with a Gourmet Goddess twist.

As you can imagine we are in the peak season of stone fruit and there is abundant basil in the gardens ..... I get inspiration just looking at the raw ingredients . Firstly, I love stone fruit , I anxiously await the arrival of apricots , peaches and nectarines every summer. My only proviso is that the fruit is firm and not soft and squishy ( we all have our quirks).

After visiting my fresh market I saw peaches that beckoned me , merely with their heavy scent and gorgeous colour . Having sampled fruit salsa during several trips to Whole Foods ( you know the pineapple and serrano pepper one ..... next to the guacamole bar !!!) , I thought it was now time for the Gourmet Goddess to give her spin on a summer staple.

My basil crop was abundant and thriving , the classic green genovese basil perfumed the patio area with its intoxicating aroma . I also planted purple "ruffled" basil this year and I have to say I was surprised by its intense aroma and flavour . I would not consider making a pesto out of this - the colour would put me off. However it was perfect for salads or salsa , because it could stand up better to the rigors of home made dressings and did not turn black and or taste bitter. The leaf was much thicker than your classic green basil and unlike thai basil ( which is also purple leaf coloured) this had a very intense basil aroma and taste - therefore a little went a long way .

This salsa was enjoyed with some grilled pork tenderloin and baby potatoes. It should be a sinch to put together as almost eveything in it should be pantry staples. If you are able to buy yellow and white peaches from your farmers markets - that would also be a great combination and look equally colourful . Of course, it held up well in the fridge for a couple of days and tasted even better on day 2 .

Please hit the farmers markets and enjoy the seasonal bounty upon us - this would also taste delicious with some blue corn chips and an ice cold beer on the patio ........ it is truly delicious.

Peach Salsa with Ruffled Basil
a GG original recipe

2 yellow and or white peaches
1/2 cup finely dices red onion
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
small handful of fresh basil - green and or ruffled - chiffonade
sea salt to taste
freshly ground pepper - a couple of twists of the pepper mill
1-2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
finely diced serrano chili or jalapeno peppers ( optional and to taste)

Wash and dry the fruit and proceed to dice in a small to medium size . Add the onion and bell pepper along with the fresh basil chiffonade ( you can substitiute flat leaf parsley if you do not have basil) . Toss to combine - the mixture should look colourful , you can adjust any of the ingredients to your taste .

Add a few sprinkles of sea salt , I recommend Maldon it is brand I have been using for years it is a finishing salt and it is surprising how it makes the peaches taste more like peaches .

White balsamic vinegar is readily available and it adds a beautiful sharpness and sweetness to the dish , add one teaspoon at a time and balance this with olive oil .

Allow the dish to develop it flavours , toss occassionally and the peaches will release their own sweetness with time.

Enjoy with grilled meats, tossed in some cous cous , quinoa or orzo pasta .

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Road Trip

It was road trip time in our household , plans had been hatched many a time over the last ten years , and we finally made good our promise and descended upon the beautiful city of Toronto Canada.

As usual, in keeping with the frenetic pace of my life at times , we departed our hometown of Chicago at a moments notice and within 48 hours we were on the road to Toronto. The car was packed , mapquest directions printed, Penelope (our cat) was left in charge of the household with a list of last minute instructions. The drive was uneventful , at times picturesque, filled with naps, songs and times of silence that needed no explanation . We took in the dulcid tones of Shirley Bassey, Elvis Presley and Santana ..... along with obligatory snippets of baseball scores.

While in Toronto we were expertly guided by  Andrew T-Tours a personally handpicked tour guide providing us with all the ins and outs the city had to offer . Several of the photos included in the post are courtesy of Andrew T-Tours  ........ highly recommend his services .

We enjoyed a tour of the island directly opposite the downtown area of Toronto , as a member of the garden club I was completely enamoured with the stunning garden beds and beautiful parkway . There was a beach and a lagoon within the park which was enjoyed. 

entering the waters of lake Ontario

getting ready to tackle the lagoon ....

taking it easy with dad at the helm !!

one day my garden might look like this.
what to they feed the plants ??

We also took a drive to Niagara Falls , enjoying a beautiful drive through vineyards, a quick stop at Niagara on the Lake , a beautiful picturesque town with adorable gift stores and places to eat . Again the garden beds were stunning :

We then took a walk down to the Niagara river and were met by two mermaids sitting on the rocks :

As we drove to the falls we stopped and admired ...... I use that word loosely - because my heart was in my mouth and I was dizzy just watching-  the boat tackle the whirlpool caused by the water from the falls.

Once we got to the falls all I can say is - they are loud and the water moves quickly and they are a sight to behold. I do not think any photo I could take would ever do them justice - it was overcast and rainy by the time we arrived there - so I will spare you the photo of us looking like drowned rats . Take time to listen to the video and hopefully this will give a feeling of what the falls are like.

We enjoyed a trip to the Science Museum , highlight of the trip was the Harry Potter exhibition. We enjoyed eating in some great restaurants - a "glowing" review to follow in a future post . We enjoyed getting to know long lost family members, we enjoyed quality family time and above all it was great to get away for a few days .

Needless to say we were hounded relentlessly by papparazzi and along the way brushed shoulders with some famous people ..... also  had some funny moments.

could this be Jackie O ???

air dried our hair at the CN tower .... who needs hairdyers ??

I specifically asked for a personal shopper, limo to the hotel and fresh cut flowers upon my arrival...and all I got was this hoodie!

Happy travels everyone ....... summer is fleeting make the most of the days to come !!!