Seasonal Asian dishes

Spring is a good time for Asian cooking, with so many fresh greens, herbs, and more available. The meal below was thrown together experimentally, drawing upon my Filipino background, general Asian cooking experience, and loose consultation of a few cookbooks. It came out very nicely and was a great way to finish a long, hard day working in the field. While there are many non-farm ingredients used in any Asian meals we make, the menu is still rooted in the fresh produce of the season and could easily be replicated from our farm stand. What follows isn’t exactly a recipe, since I was making it up as I went along and don’t have exact amounts, but it’s a good guideline for anyone to follow in creating their own version. There are almost infinite ways you could vary the basic concepts here.

SOUP:

This was based on two quarts of beet green broth, though any broth made by simmering fresh greens would work. Once simmering, I added a large handful of mint and lemon balm leaves, along with chopped chives & cilantro, ground dried hot peppers, a dab of fish sauce, and a cup of leftover adobo sauce from another meal (this last is a staple of Filipino cooking, made in our household by combining garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, peppercorns, and bay leaves). I let this simmer for a long time to blend the flavors, then strained out the leaves. A few minutes before serving, I added a half-can of coconut milk and a few cups of chopped bok choi, and let it cook just long enough to soften the vegetables. The result was a light but rich soup with a nice blend of flavors.

BEANS:
These were a bit riskier, but came out good enough. I’d started dried black bean simmering hours before, and around dinnertime I moved on to the rest. I chopped and sauteed some garlic scapes in sesame oil, along with minced hot peppers and grated ginger. When these were lightly cooked, I added a half-can coconut milk, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and a cup of adobo sauce (see Soup, above) and let things simmer on low a bit longer. Then I added the drained black beans and some chopped rapini and mustard greens, mixed everything together, and let it all simmer on low to blend. The coconut milk ended up being a bit strong; I should have used half the amount, but otherwise it produced a nicely flavored dish with a good balance of heat and flavor.

FRESH PEAS:
I served these with a big bowl of freshly-picked snap peas, which complemented the main dishes really well. Each of the other dishes were rich and spicy, so after every few bites we would grab a few peas, whose fresh, sweet flavor really balanced the rest of the meal. It was a perfect touch

DRINK:
I had baked a strawberry-rhubarb pie as well, and reserved about 1.5 cups of juice from the sugared fruit. I mixed this with about 3 cups of orange juice and 1 cup of yogurt before chilling, to make a nice sweet fruity lassi kind of thing. This also balanced the rich, spicy main dishes perfectly.

Not very photogenic overall, but quite enjoyable.

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