Saturday, January 29, 2011

Gone East for dinner Friday night ...

I love trying new, exotic recipes - and this one definitely counts. When asked what we were having for dinner, my answer - "African Stew." Despite the concerned looks I got, I went for it and in the end, everyone loved it. I am so appreciative that I have open-minded foodies in my life to cook for! For a while now I've been totally in love with eating Asian cuisine - though cooking it is a completely different story. I can never seem to get the right spices and flavor to the dishes I've tried, but one recipe I've gotten down is the fresh summer rolls you often find at Thai and Vietnamese restaurants.

Friday: Fresh Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce, African Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew over Couscous and for dessert - Tropical Crumble

With fresh summer rolls you can pretty much add whatever you like to the inside - I typically cut up all of the options and let people decide what they want to put in theirs, a sort of "make-your-own-roll" station.

Avocado, lettuce (in thin strips), shrimp, fresh mint, fresh basil, thin rice noodles, carrots, cucumber and scallion were options last night - all rolled up inside spring roll rice paper.

The most important part - a yummy peanut sauce! Just add all of the following ingredients to a food processor and pulse until creamy:
1/2 cup peanut butter, 1 TB sugar, 2 TB hoisin sauce, 1 TB soy sauce, 2 tsp, minced garlic, 1 TB sesame oil, Juice of 1 lime (in a pinch last night I used a little lemon juice and OJ), 1/4 hot water, 1/4 tsp. ground ginger*

*About a year ago we hosted a Sushi Night and after going to 5 or 6 grocery stores I could not find the rice paper wrappers I needed to make these spring rolls. I was so disappointed that the next day I set out to find what has become my go-to asian market in the area. If you're having trouble finding any of these ingredients in the international aisle at your grocery, just do a search online to find an asian market near you!

African Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew
It will seem like a TON of
sweet potato, but it's right!
3 TB water
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
3 garlic gloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 TB light brown sugar
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Dash of cayenne pepper (more if you like it spicy!)
1/2 cup (heaping) of creamy peanut butter
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes                4 cups vegetable stock
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed off                 1 tsp. salt and dash of pepper to taste
1 can diced tomatoes (no added salt)                                        Chopped peanuts (to garnish)

Before adding peanut butter
1. Heat the water in a large soup pan over medium heat and when hot, add onions and garlic. Cook until softened (about 6 mins) and then add bell pepper. Cover and cook again, until softened, another 5 minutes. Stir in brown sugar, ginger, cumin, cinnamon and cayenne - stir together to coat all ingredients.
2. First add a little hot water to the peanut butter and mix together to thin it out a bit - otherwise it may be difficult to add to the stew. Once thinned out, stir in the peanut butter.
3. Add sweet potatoes, kidney beans and tomatoes, stirring enough to coat the ingredients in the peanut mixture. From this point forward be sure to stir occasionally so that the stew doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
4. Add your vegetable stock, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan a bit and simmer for about 30 minutes until the sweet potatoes are soft.
5. Pour 1/3-1/2 of the stew into a blender and puree ingredients together. This will help to thicken the stew. Add the pureed stew back to what was left in the soup pot and stir together. Add the salt and pepper if you think it needs it.
6. Cook your couscous according to the package directions - I used the Near East brand's Toasted Pine Nut couscous, which was a cook pairing for this dish. You could also use quinoa or some sort of rice. Serve the stew over the couscous and top with a spoonful of chopped peanuts!

This recipe made a LOT (at least 6 servings) - you could try halving the recipe, but you'll be left with half cans of kidney beans and tomatoes. I think it will be great leftover though, so I don't mind the large recipe.

Tropical Crumble
Crumble Topping :                             Fruit Mixture :
1/2 cup flour                                     3 TB brown sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar                          1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cinnamon                               1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. nutmeg                                  1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. allspice*                                 1 banana, sliced
1/4 tsp salt                                         1 fresh pineapple, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 TB butter or margarine                   2 mangoes, pitted and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup chopped pecans

I loved the warm pineapple!
1. Preheat oven to 370 degrees. Spray a baking pan (I used 7" x 9") with non-stick spray.
2. Combine first 6 crumble topping ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the butter and mix together with a pastry cutter (or fork and knife) until it looks crumbly. Stir in the coconut and nuts.
3. Combine all of the fruit mixture ingredients together. Add this to your baking pan first on the bottom and then sprinkle the crumble mixture on top of the fruit.
4. Bake for 30 minutes - topping should be golden brown and the fruits' juices will be bubbling. Don't forget to serve it with vanilla ice cream!

*I never seem to remember to buy allspice, so I always substitute with a mixture of other spices I know that I have on hand - ground ginger, ground cloves, and a little extra cinnamon and nutmeg.

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