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The Clay County Advocate - Press-Flora, IL
  • Kitchen Call: A change of taste brings Asian recipes

  • Thinking it was time to shake up the palates, I put my love affair with all-American and Mediterranean flavors aside and searched farther afield. A can of salted peanuts languishing for a long time on a kitchen shelf provided the inspiration to look to Asian recipes.

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  • Thinking it was time to shake up the palates, I put my love affair with all-American and Mediterranean flavors aside and searched farther afield. A can of salted peanuts languishing for a long time on a kitchen shelf provided the inspiration to look to Asian recipes.
    Admittedly, my interactions with Asian foods are usually at chef workshops, in restaurants or watching my kids devour sushi, a treat I avoid except for California rolls. I wanted something to be cooked at home without breaking the bank, only a few purchases that could easily find another use if leftover.
    My fridge usually contains limes, shallots and scallions (a.k.a. green onions or spring onions), often an avocado or two and, when I find a good buy, a fresh pineapple — so much nicer than canned. And there’s always long-grain rice on the shelf.
    So now I needed to pick up a few items that aren’t usually hanging around the kitchen. First, shrimp. Yes, they are expensive, but I only needed 12 for the recipe below. If you have a larger crew at the table or want heftier servings, get “large” shrimp rather than “jumbo.” Frozen ones are often less expensive than fresh, already cleaned, and enough in the bag to use in another recipe.
    In the vegetable bin, I needed a small jalapeno chili, some fresh cilantro (check the label, as it looks a lot like parsley) and a knob of fresh ginger.
    Now, to the specialty foods section of the store for fish sauce and sesame oil. Note: The sesame oil needs to be labeled Asian, as there are Middle-Eastern versions that won’t taste right at all. Also, fish sauce tends to have a loud, pungent aroma that mellows out when it meets other ingredients. I like the milder Thai version.
    Craving something with rice, I found an easy-to-prepare recipe, the rice cooking while I chopped the rest of the ingredients. The fritter recipe was my way of using some of the extra ingredients — the extra mint and cilantro, and the fish sauce and sesame oil, and so it wouldn’t get freezer burn, the shrimp.
    PINEAPPLE & PEANUT SALAD WITH SHRIMP
    Makes 4 servings
    2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    2 tablespoons fish sauce
    2 tablespoons canola oil
    1 teaspoon sugar
    2 thinly sliced shallots
    1 small jalapeno, seeded, thinly sliced
    3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
    12 jumbo cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, with tails
    1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple, cut in spears
    1 large avocado, peeled, pitted, coarsely chopped
    3 tablespoons salted peanuts
    1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
    1. Whisk together lime juice, fish sauce, oil, and sugar in a bowl. Keep whisking until sugar dissolves. Gently stir in shallots, jalapeno, and mint leaves.
    Page 2 of 2 - 2. Toss pineapple and avocado, with the dressing together. Divide evenly onto four plates. Top each salad with 3 shrimp and the peanuts.
    GINGER-CILANTRO RICE
    Makes 4 servings
    1 cup long grain white rice, e.g. Uncle Ben’s Original
    2 inch-long pieces peeled fresh ginger
    1 teaspoons peeled fresh ginger, minced
    2 cups chicken stock
    1 1/3 cups chopped fresh cilantro leaves
    1 scallion, thinly sliced, white and green parts
    1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
    1 teaspoon plain rice vinegar
    1. Combine rice and 2-inch pieces of ginger and stock in large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir once. Cover; turn heat down to low. Simmer until rice is tender and stock is absorbed, about 20 minutes. (Check the rice at 15 minutes, but resist the urge to stir.)
    2. Pulse the cilantro, scallion and minced ginger in a blender or processor. Add the canola and sesame oils and the rice vinegar; pulse until nearly smooth. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more vinegar, if needed.
    3. Transfer rice to a bowl. Remove ginger rounds. Mix in the cilantro oil before serving.
    SHRIMP FRITTERS WRAPPED IN LETTUCE AND HERBS
    Makes 12 fritters
    Chopped raw shrimp are sticky so no batter is needed — a little rice flour holds the fritter together.
    10 ounces shrimp, peeled and chopped
    1/2 thinly sliced scallion, white and some of the green
    2 teaspoons minced ginger
    1/2 jalapeno, minced
    1 tablespoon fish sauce
    2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
    1/2 each teaspoon salt and sugar
    2 teaspoons rice flour
    Canola oil, for frying
    1 bunch cilantro leaves and 1 bunch fresh mint leaves, chopped
    12 Bibb lettuce leaves
    2 limes quartered
    1. In a bowl, combine the shrimp, scallion, ginger, jalapeno, fish sauce, sesame oil, salt, sugar and rice flour
    2. In a heavy saucepan, heat 2 inches of oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, drop the shrimp in flattened golf-ball size patties into the oil. Fry until golden on all sides, turning once, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
    3. To serve, place a fritter and the chopped fresh herbs on a lettuce leaf, sprinkle with lime juice, roll up and eat immediately.
    Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by email at KitchenCall@aol.com. Follow Linda on Twitter @KitchenCall for a daily kitchen hint, trick, shortcut or info.
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