Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Keeping it simple with a side of Asparagus, Peas and Basil...

We've had some heavier dishes as of late, so I made sure to plan a couple dishes this week that would be fresh, light and full of summer flavor. For this simple side dish tonight, Asparagus, Peas and Basil, we took advantage of the asparagus we picked up from the farmers market and our bountiful basil plants that seem to be tripling in size on the deck.

The original recipe called for a full three tablespoons of butter, but we knocked that back to one and a half - this still gave us plenty of flavor and enough moisture to cook the vegetables in. For a more delicate onion flavor, we softened a couple chopped shallots in that melted butter, then tossed in the sliced asparagus and peas, along with a couple pinches of salt and a dash of black pepper. If you have access to fresh peas in the pod, by all means shell 'em and use them- you'll need about 3/4 pound worth of the mossy green beauties.

To ensure all of the moisture from the butter is trapped inside the pan to steam and infuse into the vegetables, we sealed the top of the pan with foil as soon as they were added. Depending on the thickness of the asparagus spears, it should only take about 4 to 6 minutes to become tender, yet still retain a little bite in the center. We tore up and added a heaping mound of sweet anise-y basil leaves to bring the dish to life - right before serving, be sure to taste a piece of the vegetables and add a couple sprinkles of salt if they need a little boost.

For the protein portion of tonight's dinner, I had to actually start this Southeast Asian Grilled Flank Steak last night. To give the steak enough time to absorb and take on the Asian flavors, it needed to sit and stew overnight in a mixture of fresh lime juice, fish sauce, just a little granulated sugar to balance the tartness, Sriracha (hot chile sauce), ground coriander and a couple cloves worth of minced garlic.

Grill it to your desired degree on doneness - we try to keep things around medium to medium-rare to keep the meat tender and juicy, so this took us just about 4 minutes per side. Make sure you plan enough time for the steak to rest at least 5 to 10 minutes so the juices stay inside and don't run out when you slice into it. You'll also need to take note that you are going against the grain of the steak when slicing to ensure it won't end up stringy or tough. Spicy, but not hot, the racy flavors of the lime juice, fish sauce and garlic took charge and seemed to wiggle their way into every fiber of the steak, ensuring that each forkful would make your taste buds dance. You could serve this just by itself as we did, use it to bulk up a green salad or serve with rice noodles tossed with vegetables.


  1. Peas, asparagus and basil...3 of my favorite green things! Looks delicious and I'll bet tasted even better!