Monday, May 23, 2011

Cooking for real people

Sometimes, I get so sick and tired of making the same old, same old for dinner that I just want to cry.  Sometimes I'd rather just eat nothing at all then have to face the boredom of the "dinner rut" I often get stuck in.  (Too bad I have three other people in the house who need to eat!)  Chicken this, chicken that, meatloaf, enchiladas, tacos, more chicken, mac n cheese, blah blah blah. Bor-ing.

I think that the only way to find something new, is to try something new.  Novel idea, I know.  But really.  So not long ago, I was flipping through one of my seldom-used cookbooks (a Rachael Ray cookbook)and found something that I would normally pass on by.  Seldom-used, because a lot of her ingredient lists are a mile long.  A recipe I would pass by, because of "shrimp profiling."  I'd never cooked shrimp in my life.  What's up with that?  I always assumed it would make the house smell bad.  But I's gonna be the same old same old if I don't try something totally new.  I made it, crossed my fingers that it would actually turn out sort of OK...and absolutely loved it!

Disclaimer: I'm no food blogger.  But here goes:

Thai-Style Shrimp and Veggies with Toasted Coconut Rice - made by a normal person with normal ingredients, in a normal kitchen.  

2.5 cups chicken stock
1.5 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup rice
4 T veg oil
1.5 lbs large shrimp
1 small yellow onion, sliced
8 napa cabbage leaves, shredded
1 c shredded carrots
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 red bell pepper, sliced
3 T tamari (dark aged soy sauce)...don't be put-off by this...
5 scallions, thinly sliced
20 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
juice of 1 lime

OK I'll stop right here.  The items in bold are the things I actually had.  The other ones, I just fudged.  Read on.  Oh, and do yourself a favor.  If you're going to make this, you CAN make it in 30 minutes, if you chop your veggies ahead of time, like earlier in the day, and just put them all in a ziploc in the fridge.

Step 1: the rice - don't be lazy & just do regular rice.  The coconut rice is so delicious.  And I don't even like coconut.
In a pot, combine 1.5 C of chicken stock with 1 C of coconut, simmer, add rice, simmer (covered) for 18 minutes.  Or so.  Easy enough; so far so good, right?

Step 2: toast the coconut - seriously, don't skip this!  It makes a huge difference and is very easy.  Just throw your rice into a hot pan (or a wok, in my case. love my wok), and stir it until it gets brown.  Once it starts to get darker brown, take it out right away!  Then set it aside.

Step 3: the shrimp - maybe I'm the only person with a hang-up about shrimp.  I like it; I just can't look at it or think about it too much.  Oh, and I'm not about to spend half my grocery budget on one dinner's worth of it.  Here's what I used - the $5 frozen version:

Season with salt & pepper, then toss around in the wok for 3-4 minutes, until they look sort of pink.  Take them out of the pan and set aside.

Step 4: the veggies - chop everything in sight. (Do this ahead of time!!!)  Onions, garlic, pepper, cabbage - oh, cabbage.  I used a few leaves from a small red cabbage (less than $1) because I thought it looked pretty.  I couldn't find a bag of pre-shredded carrots, so I didn't use carrots.  They would have been really good in this, though. And here's the deal with fresh ginger: it's inexpensive and light years better than dried ginger.  I found this out not too long ago!

After the chop-fest, you'll have a cutting board full of something like this,
to be thrown into the wok, with a wee tad more oil if needed, for only 3-4 minutes.  At this point, too, if you have some of the things I didn't have, like crushed pepper flakes & carrots, those go in there too.

Step 5: put it all together - at this point, you'll whip out your tamari, and...wait, you don't have tamari?  Well, run to Walmart and get some!  Oh, your Walmart doesn't have any?  Their "Asian food section" is a 2-foot long section of a shelf?  Me too.  Why I continue to shop there, I don't know.  That's a whole 'nother post.  But I did learn that tamari is "dark aged soy sauce."  Well, heck!
it was at this point that my DH walked in and thought that I'd gone off the deep end because I was taking a picture of my soy sauce.

My soy sauce looks kinda dark, and it's been sitting in the fridge for a couple of I guess you could say that it's dark and aged...I think it'll work!
So grab your ever-ready supply of tamari, dump in a little carefully measure out 3 T, mix it with the rest of the chicken broth (1 cup), and pour it into the wok with your lovely veggies.  This step will make them a little less lovely, but do you want pretty, or do you want flavor?  (Don't worry, it still turns out pretty.)  

Then put the shrimp back in with everything else, cook the rest of the way (2 min. or so), and season it up.  This is where those fresh basil leaves would come in handy.  I didn't have any.  Boo-hoo!  I also didn't have scallions, which I'm sure would have been delicious.

What I did have, and pretty much always have, was fresh cilantro and a lemon.  Staples for me.

Do you have one of those Tupperware lemon squeezers?  They're great.  You should get one.

Step 6: Enjoy!
Mix in the toasted coconut with the rice, serve it with your stir fry, squeeze a little extra lemon or lime juice, throw a little more cilantro on top, and watch the fam woof it down and ask for seconds!*

*unless you have a 5 year old little boy.  He will be upset that you're trying to give him firsts.

1 comment:

  1. That really sounds great. You cook like I do. I use what I have and those other ingredients? Probably not important. Except sometimes they are.... Cook and learn ! I always forget when I am making something that I might want to blog about that I should take pictures along the way! Good for you for remembering!