Monday, May 28, 2018

Recipe of the Month: Non-fried non-rice

As Memorial Day weekend approached, I realized that not only had I yet to do a Recipe of the Month for May, but I had also completely forgotten to cover the May 1 Gardeners' Holiday. Most likely, I overlooked it because our garden wasn't giving us that much to celebrate this year. Normally, I celebrate the start of May as The Age of Asparagus, but our asparagus patches have been less and less productive of late. We still manage to harvest a handful of spears from the bed on the south side of the house, but the one in front of the main garden area, next to the rhubarb, has been giving us basically nothing.

This year, in fact, we finally concluded that the plants in that bed were kaput, so we dug them up and put in some others that we picked up at the Belle Mead Co-Op on a recent trip to buy some bulk mulch. We chose the Millennium variety, which was billed as a good producer, and paid $9 for ten crowns. We put in eight of them, all we had room for, and held on to the other two. It's been about two weeks now, so at this point (according to Good Housekeeping), we can add a couple of inches of dirt to the trench, and continue filling it up gradually week by week. So with luck, next year we should have a few shoots, and the year after that we can begin to harvest it in earnest.

But with so little asparagus this spring, and not much else producing in the garden yet, we were on our own when it came to preparing a new vegetable recipe for this month. What we eventually ended up with, in fact, was not so much a recipe as an experiment. Last week, we headed out to the store for some veggies, including broccoli, which Brian was planning to use in a stir-fry. However, the price of the broccoli put him off that plan, so he decided to just grab a green pepper and whip up some fried rice instead. So he fried up some cubes of tofu, seasoned with soy sauce, and stir-fried together some peppers and scallions, and tossed it all with his usual sauce of soy sauce, sesame oil, and a little garlic, ginger, and sugar. Only at the last minute, he decided he was bored with fried rice, so he decided to use quinoa instead—and not fry it. In other words, he made non-fried non-rice.

I must admit, I had a little trouble adjusting to this dish. It had all the flavors I'm used to in fried rice, so my mouth was puzzled to encounter the chewy, nutty quinoa, which didn't really seem to belong there. It wasn't that it didn't taste good; in fact, flavor-wise, it wasn't that different from standard fried rice. It was more that I had a hard time wrapping my brain around it. However, by the time I'd finished a bowl of it, I found I'd enjoyed it enough to go back for a couple of spoonfuls more, and we both lunched off the leftovers happily enough the next day.

So, on the whole, I guess you'd have to say this dish was a success—but all the same, I'm not sure there's any good reason to make it again. The quinoa made a perfectly acceptable substitute for rice, but it wasn't really any better, and it is significantly more expensive. So on the whole, I'm inclined to stick to rice for this application, and save the pricier quinoa for dishes where that nutty flavor and chewy texture really make a difference.

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