Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Refrigerator dinner: summer vegetables in a lemongrass-vanilla broth with three-onion fried barley

I hate the way my dumb name for this dish sounds. Chefy-cum-crunchy-granola. I prefer to think of it as vegetables and barley, but you might not still be reading if I had called it that. In the Internet business, it's all about eyeballs.

Basically, this dinner was assembled out of ingredients near the end of their refrigeration window. The barley was left over from making a salad and the vegetables were acquired at farmer's markets such as this one over the last couple of weeks. If I still haven't cooked up last week's farmer's market take, how can I justify going again this week? And how can I not go?

The inspiration for the broth was a dish I had years ago in Madison at a great restaurant called Harvest. That dish, as I recall, was a vegetable ragout with vanilla served over Israeli couscous. I haven't seen Israeli couscous on a menu in quite a while--it's no longer in fashion-- but it's delicious stuff and now I want some. (More on this in a post to follow.)

My vegetables: carrots, cauliflower, corn, and green beans. My broth: homemade chicken stock, lemongrass, ginger, chiles, and a Madagascar vanilla bean. Also salt and fish sauce. My three onions: shallots, scallions, and half a yellow onion.

I pre-cooked the corn, cauli, and beans during an afternoon break using the boil-and-shock method.

To make the broth, I heated the chile, ginger, and lemongrass, bruised and battered by the butt of my knife handle, in a bit of peanut oil.

Then I added the vanilla bean, split and scraped,

stock, salt, and fish sauce. (Fish sauce is salty, yes, but if you use so much of it that the broth is seasoned properly your fish-saucy flavor is too pronounced.)

I reduced the heat to low and simmered for a while. Then I strained it and added the carrots to cook them (they were an afterthought, a good one).

To make the fried barley, I sliced the onions,

sauted them in hot oil until they began to brown, and then tossed them with the cooked barley, salt, and white pepper.

This is basically a fried rice recipe made with barley. It works great.

To warm up the veggies I threw them in the pot with the broth and the carrots, ladling the broth over them to coat them with simmering liquid.

To serve, I spooned some barley in the center of each plate and poured the vegetables and broth over it.

The broth lubricates the barley but not so much that it becomes soup-like. The vanilla, lemongrass, and onions make everything taste sweeter.

So you see, it's not all ice cream and barbeque around here. We're eating healthy too. This is lean, mean food the way I like it: veggies are front-and-center and there's lots of aroma, flavor and texture. Eat your veggies, people!


Blogger the sad billionaire said...

What a tasty looking dish!

8:57 PM  

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