Wednesday, June 2, 2010

UnRecipe: Where's the Beef? With the Broccoli.

When I was at the store, I saw a package of pre-cut, bagged broccoli that was called "Broccoli-Wokly," which made me laugh because I thought of Brock, aka, Mr. Wasabi, and the fact that they used to call him Brock-oly when he was a kid, but then I kind of sighed and shook my head because I thought, how lazy do we have to be to buy pre-cut broccoli? Of all the veggies, it has the least hassle in preparation, plus you're not trimming off much, and it's cheaper than cheap, so buying it prepackaged probably triples the cost. I picked up my supply of plain old crowns of cruciferous goodness and brought them home to make a simple stir-fry with flank steak, which I paired with a little spring salad, courtesy of a farmers market trip.

Getting beefy and eating one's greens - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I hadn't actually had beef broccoli in a long time -- it was another one of those quick weekday meals my mother would prepare, as it's pretty much just that: broccoli, thin slices of beef, a bit of ginger and garlic, and soy sauce thickened with corn starch. It's always a mainstay at fast food/generic Chinese restaurants, swimming in a mysterious sauce and sweating it out under heat lamps all day, waiting for its special purpose as a #3 Lunch Special.  I think for something as simple and nostalgic as beef broccoli stir fry, it's worth more than prepackaged, precut veggie status and grocery store deli counters.

On my last visit to the Asian market, Uwajimaya, I picked up a giant jar of black bean paste, which gives food such a great depth of flavor and you inevitably wind up with more than you know what to do with, so I've been putting it in everything possible. It gave a nice sweetness to the sauce, but not a sugary-sweet flavor, which a lot of fast-food Asian restaurants do with their sauces. Ugh -- isn't that just the worst, where you have some sort of teriyaki dish and it's like having meat with corn syrup? Bleah. I can definitely give a thumb's up to adding black bean paste into sauces for beef, as the flavor is nice and rich, plus it's nice to have around if you're making a barbecue dish and want to give it a bit of an Asian twist. Heaven knows you'll be eager to find ways to use it, as there's no such thing as buying a small jar of the stuff.

Goods from the farmers market - Photos by Wasabi Prime

As for the side dish, I made an asparagus salad with some tomatoes and red onion. This was a twist on my mom's warabi salad, which of course uses warabi, baby ferns that are plucked from the rainy lands of Hilo, Hawaii. While we have the rainy lands of Washington State, I was pricing the fiddlehead ferns at the Bellevue Farmers Market and $10 a pound for the cute little swirls was a little steep, so I went on the cheaper side and bought a bunch of thin asparagus for $5. Same idea and actually, the asparagus was pretty close to the same flavor as the warabi. Yeah, yeah,  I know what you're thinking: "Tomatoes aren't in season yet, you fool." The ones I got were clearly hothouse grown, but the vendor had a "clearance bin" of odd-shaped overripe tomatoes, and lord knows I can't resist a sale.

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1 comment:

  1. A couple of months ago, I was at the checkout in one of the UK's more upmarket supermarkets, the kind of place that sells cartons of olives as a snack instead of chocolate bars.

    The woman in front of me unloaded her basket onto the belt. Pre-mashed potato, peeled and sliced carrots, bagged salad, pre-prepped steak, already tenderised. The cost was MASSIVE in comparison to the value of the base ingredients.

    She could have bought triple the amount of food and got it into the same state of preparation as the pre-packed stuff in under twenty minutes, easily.

    It seemed like there was a distinct lack of some basic prep skills going on there, which is actually quite unsettling when you think about it. Is it the case that people just don't know how to make mashed potato anymore??

    If I think more charitably, I'd conclude that she was just time-poor, but I'm not so sure at all.


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