Everyday Kitchen -
Part 3 of a three-part series
Now that I've spent a little time researching food allergies and the way people struggle with them, I will be even more alert to the issues when guests come to my home.
But this is the end of our little Saturday series. If you have nothing to worry about in the kitchen, these are just great recipes that I would serve to anyone, so don't stop reading even if you can eat the bottom out of a cast iron pot.
If you wheat-free types feel left out, please remember I devoted the whole space to you fairly recently - hope you found something interesting in that column, and whenever I come across a tidbit for you, I'll throw it out there.
Tree nuts include almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, brazil nuts, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts, and a lot of people can't tolerate them even in trace quantities. That big old list means you miss out on a whole bunch of crunchy deliciousness. But the crunch in the following recipe comes from soy nuts, which are soy beans soaked, drained and roasted until golden. I have seen them in grocery stores recently, so unless you can't eat soy, this one is for you.
For folks without dietary restrictions, use any nut you like - pecans are a great choice. If you use salted soy nuts be sure to reduce or even omit the rest of the salt. By the way, fresh soy beans - and you can buy those now frozen in their pods - would also be delicious in this recipe, but they won't have that same tooth impact, of course. One other thing, I have heard many of you become quite inventive in your quest to avoid nuts and, in search of a good bite, add toasted rice crisps, bran buds and goodness knows what else to your recipes. I'd love to hear about your discoveries.
One more thing: if you don't care for Brussels sprouts - although I'm pretty sure that means you haven't given them a fair trial - substitute green or waxed beans, broccoli, cauliflower or just about any other vegetable your family enjoys. This amount will serve 4.
Nutty Golden Brussels Sprouts
1 lb. fresh brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (frozen aren't great for this)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/3 to 1/2 cup soy nuts, preferably unsalted
Place brussels sprouts in a frying pan with a lid and add about 1/2-inch cold water. Sprinkle salt over top, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for a couple of minutes - you just want to blanch the sprouts. Drain off the cooking water, leaving sprouts in the pan. Add oil and fry over medium heat until sprouts are starting to turn golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Add pepper and soy nuts and continue cooking for another minute or two, just long enough to combine the flavours and heat the nuts.
Beef and Pine Nuts in Sweet Pepper Sauce
If you think pine nuts only work in Italian dishes, then you've got another thing coming. You aren't sacrificing anything if these are the only nuts you can eat. When you taste this recipe, you'll feel privileged. The sweetness comes from the uniquely flavoured Hoisin sauce, so it's worth going to grocery store if you don't have any on hand, but if any of its ingredients are a problem for you, substitute a spoonful of brown sugar or honey. Again, if soy sauce is not on your menu, by all means leave it out or draw on your usual substitutes - anything from Asian fish sauce to an extra pinch of salt.
Same goes for sesame oil - just leave it out. Talk about flexible - go for chicken or pork in this recipe for an equally delicious result. This quantity serves 4.
1/3 cup beef or chicken broth
2 tbsp. dry sherry or other dry wine
1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
1 lb. boneless steak (medium marbling for best taste)
2 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1 egg (optional but adds texture)
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. vegetable oil (divided)
4 green onions
1 small red pepper, diced
3/4 cup pine nuts
1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper (or less to taste)
2 tbsp. Hoisin sauce
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
Combine broth, sherry and ginger and allow to stand 15 minutes. Strain and discard the ginger if you wish. Cut steak into small strips - you'll find it easier if you put the meat in the freezer just long enough to stiffen it up a bit. Whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil and egg and stir into beef. Toss with cornstarch until well coated. Fry beef over high heat in about half the oil, until just cooked through - dividing it into 2 or 3 batches will give you the best result. Remove and set aside. Add remaining oil to pan. Cut off most of the green stems from the onions, leaving about 2 inches attached to each white bulb; set aside. Coarsely chop the white onion bulbs and add to oil. Stir fry a few seconds, then stir in red pepper, pine nuts and black pepper. Continue frying until pine nuts take on a little golden colour. Stir in Hoisin sauce and ginger-flavoured liquid and bring to a boil. Stir in beef and cook, stirring, until thickened and hot through - just a couple of minutes. Serve over noodles, rice or some other nice grainy side dish that agrees with you.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John's. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John's, N.L., A1E 4N1