Sunday, May 24, 2009

Spring Spring Spring Spring Spring

This spring has been a bit funny, alternating between cold, cold and rainy and warm and sunny until this week, when it decided to get really warm and the pee smell New Yorkers enjoy so much this time of year started to rise off the sidewalks once again. I'm thrilled in spite of the smell, because this means that the farmer's market selection will go from strictly winter greens, if you're lucky, and those wicked apple cider donuts (and I mean wicked in both the New England and traditional senses), to a cornucopia of greens, fruits, vegetables and flowers. It's so much more fun to eat in the springtime, and I was getting sick of winter foods.

Today's dinner, inspired by a recipe from Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins' The New Basics Cookbook, features a bunch of delicious springtime vegetables, and is quick and hearty to top it off. (One of the things I love about The New Basics is that I can look up whatever ingredient I have on hand, in this case, asparagus, and they give you, well, the basics, and a bunch of related recipes. Such a great resource!)

Here's what we've got: asparagus, ramps (whose leafy tops were erm, over refrigerated), some spinach, tempeh, and toasted sesame seeds, soy sauce and sesame oil. If you can't get ramps where you are, some garlic or green onions might do the trick. Shallots might also be good. That's all you need. It's simple, delicious, and cooks up in about 20 minutes.

I separated the tips of the asparagus from the stems (the original recipe called for just the tips, but I can't be bothered to find something else to do with the stems), and the ramps from both of those, and cooked in stages, according to the delicacy of my ingredients. Here's my method:
1) Heat about 2 Tbsp. of sesame oil in your trusty wok over medium-high heat and add the tempeh, stirring it around for a bit until it gets slightly brown. Add 1 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari and stir it around. I also add a splash of water so the tempeh steams a bit (I've heard this tempers the bitterness that tempeh sometimes has).
2) Add the stems of the asparagus and stir around (this is a stir fry, so you should pretty much be stirring constantly) until they just start to brighten in color.
3) Add the ramps (if you're using the leaves of the ramps, you should probably hold them to add with the spinach) and stir until they just start to get translucent.
4) Add one more Tbsp. tamari/soy sauce, stir.
5) Throw in those asparagus tips, and yes, stir.
6) When the asparagus tips are tender, but still crunchy, add the spinach and mix it in until it cooks down. Taste, and if necessary, add more soy sauce. Sprinkle sesame seeds liberally over the whole shebang.
7) Dinner is ready! (Oh, you could make some rice or cous cous to have this over if you want to, though I like naked stir fries every now and again.)

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