This week is Adam’s birthday week, so we’ve been celebrating and reflecting on years past for days. We went to the Marietta market on Saturday to pick up our goodies before I indulged Adam in watching Georgia Tech football at one of our favorite local restaurants, Twain’s. They’ve recently changed chefs, and the food there is now all homemade and incredibly tasty. If you live locally, and haven’t visited Twain’s in a while, you should really go by and enjoy lunch or dinner. You will be pleasantly surprised- and very full.
It was a beautiful day for the market, and there was a lot happening on the Marietta Square.
People were crawling all over that place! I think it was a reading festival, complete with groups of singers and performers. We walked on by to make a quick sweep of the market and, of course, I loved what I saw.
Healthy, green basil plants
and colorful potted flowers, which would only die in my home…I have the black thumb of death when it comes to growing plants. So I just admired them and kept on going.
A lovely older gentleman had a great stand where he was selling his homegrown goods including this crazy Upo squash.
I guess he got tired of answering the question “What IS that?!?!” over and over again, and now he just points to the sign.
He had beautiful baby bok choy that I simply could not resist buying
along with several of his fresh cucumbers.
Next to his booth was Turtle Bend’s spot, and I must say, their table was rockin’ this week! They had picture perfect radishes,
and loads of fabulous peppers.
They also had a basket full of delicious eggplant,
and lots of their fragrant garlic,
which is the tantalizing perfume I wear most all the time.
There was a basket of green tomatoes,
at least two of which will become party to fried green tomato sandwiches at our house.
And the dinosaur kale looked so inviting.
We grabbed our bags and headed on out of the market with quite the bounty for such a quick trip.
In thinking about utilizing this batch of kale (which looks a little crazy above from the flash), I wanted to do something different. I’ve already made kale chips, braised kale, Italian wedding soup, veggie and lentil soups with kale, and boiled and sauteed kale. With all reminiscing we’d been doing, my brain went straight to the Oki Diner in Kauai, Hawaii.
Two summers ago, Adam and I took the trip of a lifetime and spent 5 days in Kauai, the most lush place on Earth.
It was truly a magical experience, and I could tell you about it all day long- but, I’m just going to focus on one of the best breakfasts I have ever consumed in my 35 years. The eggs and bacon with fried rice at Oki Diner is a plate full of super rich, flavorful fried rice, full of smoked Linguica sausage, cabbage, and carrots. It was served with crispy bacon and perfectly runny eggs, and it was insanely delicious.
I’ve been doing some research and experimentation with jasmine rice and fried rice, and I knew it was time to take a stab at our our rendition of “Chinese Breakfast” using fresh, local kale and radishes.
It’s all starts with the jasmine rice- day old jasmine rice is best.
To cook the rice, I recommend rinsing one cup of it several times in a strainer. Then, place it in a small to medium sized pot and cover the rice with water or broth by about 3/4 of an inch. Bring the rice to a boil, cover the pot, and turn the heat down to low. Let the rice simmer for about 7 – 8 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Then turn off the heat, and let the rice sit covered on the burner for another 10 minutes or so. Fluff it and let it cool down. Then, refrigerate your rice overnight. On day two, rinse the grains of rice with water, ridding them of excess starch, and spread them out in a colander to dry.
Now, my research has shown that people make fried rice in many different ways. So this is just one approach for you to try.
Most importantly, the stir frying process moves really quickly, so you want to have all of your ingredients prepared before getting started.
I removed the ribs from half a bunch of kale and chopped the leaves into thick ribbons.
Next, I boiled the kale in salted water for about 3 minutes, just to remove any bitterness from the greens.
Next, we plunged the kale into an icebath in order to preserve its lovely greenness.
Meanwhile, we chopped our carrots into a small dice, minced our ginger, garlic, a red jalapeno, and a green frigitello pepper. We also sliced our crisp radishes into discs. I defrosted some frozen organic sweet peas to add to the fried rice as well.
And we made a simple sauce: 1 T tamarind paste (very sour), 2 T brown sugar, 3 T low sodium tamari. Usually I add chili paste- but we had the red jalapeno for heat.
After many fruitless searches for Linguica sausage, the type utilized in my dream breakfast (which is apparently popular in Massachusetts, California, and Hawaii…nowhere close to my shopping destinations), we decided to opt for Chorizo- another smoky, cured sausage made with paprika. We chopped it into little cubes, lightly beat up three eggs, and we were ready to begin.
We got our wok super hot, added a bit of peanut oil and then added our eggs to the pan.
I stirred them quickly, and once they were scrambled,
I removed them from the wok. Next, I added the sausage to brown the edges and extract some of the tasty oils to build a flavor base.
I remove the sausage to the bowl with the scrambled eggs and slid my diced carrots into the wok with a bit more peanut oil.
When the carrots were tender, I went ahead and added my rice.
The goal here is to brown the rice a bit. But, if you don’t have an iron wok or a special heating element that fits onto your stove, it is difficult to maintain a high enough temperature consistently through your wok to achieve this goal. No worries. The taste and feel of the dish will still come through. One day, I’ll have a rock star wok and every grain of my rice will be toasty…some day!
After stirring the rice for a minute or two, I added two tablespoons of my sauce and my peas.
Still stirring, I reintroduced the eggs and sausage to the wok
and tossed it all together. I tasted – to make sure the flavor was where I wanted it to be- and then I removed the rice from the heat to a big bowl so I could cook the remaining veggies. I’ve overcrowded my wok before, and it’s not a pretty site, so I wanted to create the fried rice and the additional vegetables separately.
To my crazy-looking, sugared up wok, I added a bit more peanut oil, my radishes, and peppers and stir fried them a minute.
I understand that the real-deal, age-old woks have a super thick layer of “seasoning” along the bottom. So, I did not fear.
Lastly, I added my kale, which I had pressed over the sink to remove any excess water, and garlic and ginger.
Again, I just stirred them for a minute to release the flavors. And then I poured on another two tablespoons of my sauce, tossed, and added the veggies to the bowl of fried rice.
I finished it off with a few leaves of basil, cut into ribbons.
Yes!! When I turned around, my handy photographer/ husband was frying up our eggs. We left out the bacon this time around…but the runny egg was a must.
I plated my fried rice,
and then topped it with a gorgeous egg.
And just to really share the goodness with you,
I let that yolk loose.
The level of comfort that this bowl brought to both Adam and I is right up there with spaghetti and meatballs, or chili on a cold day, or my Indian spiced pork over grits and spinach with gingery tomato coconut sauce. Comfort food heaven.
The balance of sweet, sour and salty was met quite nicely. The vegetables tasted so fresh and tender- not over cooked or mushy. Each grain of rice was coated with flavor and the texture was just firm enough. The kale was subtle, the peas and carrots sweet. I loved the radishes- they sort of acted like water chestnuts do, with that crisp-tender crunch- except that they aren’t from a can (the only way I’ve ever used water chestnuts as an ingredient). Of course the yolk of my egg made the whole dish that much richer and more delicious. The cured Chorizo brought saltiness to the dish, but we actually felt that it was a little overpowering in this capacity- a little gamey. Not quite like the linguica sausage in my dreams…but that’s okay. One day, we will head back to Kauai and hopefully, the Oki Diner will be waiting for us.
You could really use any kind of sausage here. I think an uncured Chorizo or a mild pork sausage might work even better in this situation. You’d have to cook the sausage first, in link form, and then slice it. Alternately, you could skip the sausage altogether and opt for any type of meat you’d like- or go strictly vegetarian or add tofu. The possibilities are really endless when it comes to stir fry.
I hope you will be inspired to take out your own wok, or a really big pan, and give fried rice the old college try. You will be rewarded with a mouth full of happiness. And the leftovers are unbelievably delicious too. Stir fry offers another avenue for utilizing your fresh, seasonal ingredients in a fun and yummy way. If I knew how to say Bon Appetite in Chinese, I would do that now.
Happy cooking and eating to you!