This stir-fry was an unintentional, but tasty bastardization of the asparagus and hazelnut stir-fry recipe that appeared in the L.A. Times recently. I had the best of intentions to follow this recipe to the tee, as I am usually wont to do, but in the end, I found myself resorting to some improvisation. I had found the recipe several days earlier, and filed it away in my brain, planning to pick up any outstanding ingredients on my way home from work and whip it up for a late dinner on Thursday night.
7:50 pm: My first stumbling block was finding nothing but bok choy in the leek section of our local supermarket. Next, a quick trip to the ethnic foods aisle suggests that tamari is really nothing other than my ordinary soy sauce…can that be right?
8:00 pm: Running across the street to the upscale “natural foods” supermarket, I sigh with relief and hunger when I spot a leek, but have no more luck in confirming whether my usual soy sauce is all I need. I run over to the bulk goods only to find myself appalled at the price of chestnuts and decide to follow the recipe’s suggestion to substitute pine nuts or pecans.
8:10 pm: Dashing into the kitchen, I discover that we’re out of pecans and virtually out of pine nuts. What are my options? Sunflower seeds or pistachios. I decide on the former and get to work.
8:40 pm: The rice cooker beeps that it’s done, my stir-fry has come together admirably, soy sauce, sunflower seeds and all, and Dylan walks through the door, ready for dinner.
My first bite? It tastes familiar…I soon realize that it tastes almost exactly like Chinese food, a taste I’d never managed to recreate in my cooking before. All that deliciousness with surprisingly little oil. And it was just as good as leftovers for lunch the second day. Next time I will perhaps give hazelnuts a try, but for a makeshift subsititute, the sunflower seeds were good and gave it a nice subtle crunch.
Asparagus and sunflower seed stir-fry (serves 4)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce)
1 tablespoon miso
2 tablespoons canola oil, more if needed
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 (1-inch-long) piece ginger root, minced
1 pound fresh asparagus, sliced diagonally in 1-inch pieces
1 cup chopped hazelnuts, pine nuts, pecans, or sunflower seeds
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
2 cups cooked rice or buckwheat noodles
1. Whisk together 2 tablespoons water with the cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth; stir in remaining 1/2 cup water, tamari and miso; set aside.
2. Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat; add leeks and ginger. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes.
3. Stir in the asparagus, nuts and garlic, adding a small amount of oil, if needed. Cook, stirring constantly, 5 minutes. Add reserved sauce; reduce heat to medium-low; cook 3 minutes until asparagus is tender. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve over rice or noodles.