Great Food Fast: Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms (For A Taste of Spring)

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It must be spring! Here in the Bay Area it’s gone from cold and rainy to sunny and hot in just a few days. When I imagine spring, I think of tender green vegetables such as asparagus, water cress and peas. And no pea is as versatile and easy to use as are sugar snaps.  If you’ve guessed that they’re a cross between Chinese snow peas and shell peas, you’d be right. The new variety was developed by a pair of plant breeders in Twin Falls, Idaho. Sugar snap peas are a lazy cooks dream, they don’t need shelling, and they stand up much better to high heat than delicate (although lovely) snow peas. Quick and light cooking methods are the way to go–I suggest either a brief blanching, or as in this recipe, a stir fry. Wash, and trim off the stem ends, that’s all the prep they need.  You could have this dish on the table in ten to fifteen minutes. Eat them right away though, they lose their charm if they sit around. The full recipe is after the jump. Continue reading

Cooking Techniques: Tips for a Perfect Stir Fry Every Time

Teriyaki Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry

Stir frying would seem to be a quick and easy technique to master. And it is.  But for a really first rate stir fry, there are a few things to consider. First, select interesting, but compatible ingredients. Choose foods with a variety of textures, colors and shapes–cut vegetables into similar sizes, but use a variety of cutting styles. Second, freshness and quality of ingredients count for so much because stir frying is a technique which reveals, rather than hides. Third, the brilliance of this method is that it cooks quickly at high heat, thus searing in flavor. Cook over the highest heat you can manage.  And don’t over crowd the wok.  You want to quickly fry the ingredients, not simmer them. Two or three quick, small batches are much better than one, slow one. Fourth, sauce and seasonings should be assertive enough to bring the various elements together, but not so strong as to mask individual flavors–be cautious in adding strong seasonings. Fifth, timing is crucial. So, have all your vegetables cut and ingredients assembled before you begin stir frying.  Also, have the other parts of the meal ready to go, rice or noodles cooked, condiments assembled. And, have your friends and family nearby and ready to eat.  Other than that, it’s a breeze.  Once you feel comfortable with it, stir frying is a technique you will use successfully again and again. Here’s my outline for making a tofu and vegetable stir fry… Continue reading