Because I have the reading comprehension of a first grader and occipital lobes as lazy as an 80 year old’s, (ummm yes, I did just make a neurology reference, deal with it.) I vastly prefer cookbooks with pictures in them.
And really, how can you blame me? How am I supposed to properly cook something if I have no clue what the final product is supposed to look like? How do I know if my sauce is the correct color if there’s no standard of comparison? How do I know a recipe is appetizing if there isn’t a mouth watering portrait to drool over? Really, my method saves time by relying on gut instinct (tee hee hee). If a recipe looks good in pictures, I’ll take the time to read it…who has time to read cookbooks as if they were novels? Not this girl!
Lucky for me, cookbooks with pictures are usually the ones found in the bargain aisles of major booksellers, next to the coffee table kama sutras and anthologies of Scottish lighthouses. For some reason, these cookbooks also seem to not be sure as to whether to use the metric or imperial system of measurement and will switch freely between the two.
Sometimes said cookbooks will reference a commonly found American ingredient by its British name. This can be embarassing when you’re running around the produce aisle at Stop and Shop asking people to help you locate a “capiscum” only to find out later that it’s the British name for a red pepper.
But since part of my unspoken New Year’s Resolution was to try cooking things I wouldn’t normally, these cookbooks have lately been my trusted friends.
For example, up until this week, if I were asked to write the dictionary definition for “stir-fry,” my entry would look something like this:
Stir-fry v. (Cookery) To locate every spare vegetable or article of protein in one’s fridge, cut into small bite like pieces, and heat together in a wok as one conglomeration of vegetables and sauce. To serve over rice and lament the fact that you once again have to go shopping for vegetables.
n. A last resort meal when nothing more interesting strikes your fancy.
But apparently not everyone agrees that stir-frys require the use of every vegetable in your possession nor have to be as dull a meal as microwaved canned soup. No siree, in fact, my $7.98 cookbook suggests a multitude of single-vegetable stir-frys. I know, I know…that’s borderline crazy-talk.
In an effort to be adventurous, I decided to try my hand at one: an asparagus and mustard stir-fry. Extremely simple, but more flavorful than any stir-fry I’ve gotten my grubby little paws on over the last year. Not only was this a deeply satisfying served over rice as its own meal, but I bet it would be one killer side-dish when you’re feeling just plain tired of regular ol’ roasted asparagus.
I’m not going to lie, the onion really makes this dish, so feel free to add more; the slices take on a very sweet, tangy taste during cooking that mixes really well with the spiciness of the mustard. Toss in some chicken or tofu if you want to make it a whole meal and hit all the bases. Enjoy!
Asparagus and Mustard Stir-Fry (from The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook)
- 15 oz. asparagus (who knows that this means, just go with one whole bunch)
- 1 tablespoon oil (I used peanut!)
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard (those little yellow mustard seed balls)
- 1 teaspoon honey (I used about two)
- 1/2 cup cream (I used milk and it turned out fine. I’m sure coconut milk would work great too)
- Break the woody ends off the asparagus by holding both ends of the spear and bending gently until it snaps at its natural breaking point. Cut the asparagus into 2 inch lengths.
- Heat the wok or pan until very hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the side. Stir-fry the onion for 2-3 minutes or until tender. Stir in the crushed garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the asparagus to the wok and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, or until tender, being careful not to overcook the asparagus.
- Remove the asparagus from the wok, set it aside and keep it warm. Combine the mustard, honey, and cream. Add to the wok and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture reduces and thickens slightly. Return the asparagus to the wok and toss it through the cream mixture. Heat until the sauce thickens to slightly thinner than a glaze, but isn’t soupy. Serve immediately.