Broccoli Stem Stirfry

If you tend to have leftover broccoli stems, don’t toss them! We tend to use the crowns down to the main stem for a green vegetable with western meals, but that leaves us with quite a lot of long stems. These can be cut into “matchsticks” and stirfried into a delicious vegetable (or meat) dish.

ingredients:

  • 3-4 broccoli stems
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 T oil
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • salt, to taste

method:

  1. Peel the broccoli stems and  cut into 1/8 x 1/8 x 1.5″ matchsticks.
  2. Cut the bell pepper into 1/4″ dice.
  3. Heat the wok over medium-high heat, then add the oil just until it shimmers.
  4. Add the garlic and explode just until fragrant.
  5. Add the broccoli and red pepper and stirfry just until crisp-tender, approximately 2-3 m.
  6. Season to taste, then serve.

variation:

  • If you want to use some meat in this dish, a bit of diced bacon or ham cut into strips makes a nice addition. If you use bacon, you should cook the bacon first, then remove it to drain some of the fat. You can either use the bacon fat to stirfry the vegetables or dump it out and use oil. If you use ham, add it at the very end of the cooking process, just to heat it through. In either case, you’ll need to use less salt.

Garden update!

The seedlings I started a while ago have been traveling a lot recently – under the light frame in the basement, up into the garage, back downstairs, in and out of the garage, in and out of the sun and rain. I’ve finally decided that spring is here to stay in Michigan and have transplanted them into the raised beds by the house. Now the battle begins: critters vs. first-time gardener….

I’m not terribly optimistic – our first composter turned out to be too much of an attraction for the local wildlife, and after setting it up on a brick platform with mild success, we still decided to try out the turning barrel variety. That’s been successful so far, and we now have about 1/4 barrel of stuff that promises to eventually be of use in the garden. But I’m guessing all that dirt and composted manure I’ve hauled in the last week and the hours spent planting this morning will probably provide…a nice salad bar for our animal friends? Or maybe their taste doesn’t run toward Asian vegetables?

New from Let’s Move

Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign is going strong with a new initiative to obliterate obesity within one generation. I was struck by 2 recent posts on the Let’s Move website, perhaps not for the right reasons:

The May 14th post about Alice Deal Middle School in DC does not really say much new – there are manu such programs and partnerships (this one with Whole Foods) that are entering public schools in an attempt to instruct about healthy eating. What it does bring home is that folks in the administration are finally paying attention to the fact that many parents have stopped being responsible for the proper nutrition of their children (or perhaps more to the point, the parents are all too responsible for their children’s poor nutritional status). Sad but true – it’s now the children who must take home what they learn and teach their parents.

Sam Kass’ post on Chefs Move to Schools  made me optimistic that perhaps more chefs (well-known and more obscure) would start to work for change in the child nutrition field rather than spending innumerable hours trying to be the next top chef and founder of the newest food fad. But then again, I’m not sure I want some of the star tv chefs teaching my children about healthy eating – one bacon doughnut egg burger comes to mind….

Food in the News and on the ‘Net

Did you know that Michigan is second only to California in terms of agricultural diversity? Learn more about the opportunity for agriculture to save Michigan’s economy in Eating in Place, a new documentary that explores Michigan’s local food economy.

And to add to the reading list: Animal Factory by journalist David Kirby, recently interviewed in TIME.

GE crops, continued: the National Research Council has released a report on the advantages and disadvantages of genetically engineered crops. While I fall firmly on the side against GMOs, it’s good to see someone presenting both sides of the issue.

Stirfried Ham & Tofu with Chinese Chives

We’ve gotten some lovely ham from our local meat supplier, Back Forty Acres, (looking forward to the bounty of the 1/2 hog that’s on its way this month!) and we’ve started to use it more and more for stirfrying.

Chinese (or garlic) chives, jiucai in Mandarin, are available in Asian markets and at farmers’ markets that have vendors of Asian produce. The look like a long, flattened version of our chives. When fully grown they are not hollow at the center and sometimes have buds at the tips (which you can just add to the stirfry). If you can’t find them, you can substitute the more commonly found chives (reduce the cooking time) or scallions cut into thin 2″ long strips. The flavor won’t be identical, but it will be tasty all the same.

Pressed beancurd, called doufu gan (sort of translates into “tofu jerky!”) is literally tofu that has been pressed to squeeze out excess moisture. The result is a firmer texture that some people compare to meat, although the flavor is of course different. Pressed tofu comes in a variety of flavors – the most common one for this dish is five-spice, which has a dark, slightly smoky exterior and an off-white center. You can easily substitute baked tofu, now readily available in most conventional markets, for this ingredient. For this dish, try to find a block that is unflavored and relatively moist – the ham is the dominant flavor ingredient here.

Leftovers? This stirfry is excellent mixed into Fried Rice.

ingredients:

  • 3 oz smoked ham, cut into 1/2″ cubes or matchsticks
  • 3 squares pressed beancurd or baked tofu (unflavored)
  • 4 oz garlic chives (or use 2 oz chives or 4 scallions as mentioned above)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4 x 1.5″ strips
  • 1 T oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt, or more to taste

method:

  1. Rinse the beancurd under hot water to remove some of the oil, then pat dry.
  2. Slice the beancurd 1/8″ thick, then cut the slices into shreds approximately 1.5″ long.
  3. Wash the chives well and cut into 1.5″ lengths – you can keep the buds intact if there are any.
  4. Heat the oil in the wok just  until it shimmers.
  5. Add the tofu and stirfry to coat with the oil and heat through.
  6. Add the chives and red pepper strips and stirfry gently until the vegetable just wilts but is still bright green.
  7. Add the ham and stirfry to heat through.
  8. Adjust seasoning, then slide onto the serving plate.