Szechwan vegetables, condiments: alone or together, quick and simple Essay

These simple, quick dishes and condiments are designed to be part ofthe Szechwan party pictured on pages 88 and 89. Prepared individually,they can also add variety to everyday menus. Predominantly seasoned by a blend of soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar,the dishes have a light sweet-tart quality. When not part of a Chineses-style meal, the stir-fried cabbage andthe eggplant can be served as vegetable dishes, the cucumber andradishes as a salad.

Use the pickled bell peppers, onions, carrots, andasparagus as you would pickles or a relish. Aromatic Szechwanpeppercorns can be used like black pepper; you’ll find them in manysupermarkets as wellas Orietnal food stores. USe the Szechwan-style mustard and pepper-salt mixture as you wouldregular mustard and salt and pepper. Stir-fried Napa Cabbage Salad 2tablespoons each rice vinegar or white wine vinegar 2 tablespoons sugar1 tablespoon soy sauce 1/4 teaspoon cayenne 1 medium-size head (1-1/4 to1-1/2 lb.) napa cabbage, rinsed and drained well Salad oil In a small bowl, stir together vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, andcayenne; set aside. Cut cabbage into 2-inch squares.

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Pour 3 tablespoons oil into a wok or 10- to 12-inch frying pan overhigh heat; when pan is hot, tilt to coat with oil. Add cabbage andstir-fry until it begins to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Add vinegar-soymixture to cabbage and mix well; pour into a small serving dish. Servewarm or at room temperature. Makes 4 to 6 servings. Cucumber andRadish Salad 1 English or 4 Japanese cucumbers (about 1-1/4 lb.

total),rinsed 1 pound radishes with tops (about 10 oz. if tops are trimmedoff), rinsed. Dressing (directions follow) Run tines of a fork lengthwise down all sides of cucumbers,piercing skin. Cut cucumbers crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Trim tops and root ends from radishes. With a small sharp knife, cut narrow V-shaped lengthwise gashes atintervals around the sides of each radish, then thinly slice crosswise.

In a serving bowl, mix together cucumber, radishes, and dressing.Cover and refrigerate until cold, 2 to hours, or as long as overnight.Makes 4 to 6 servings. Dressing. Stir together 2 tablespoons rice vinegar or white winevinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons each soy sauce and sesame oil,and 1/2 teaspoon liquid hot pepper seasoning. Pickled Red Bell Pepper Cut 1-1/2 pounds red bell peppers (cored and seeded) into 1-inchchunks and put into a large bowl. Sprinkle lightly with salt; cover andlet stand overnight. Rinse peppers and drain well; return to bowl andadd 2 tablespoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar and 1 tablespooneach soy sauce and sugar.

Mix. Cover and chill at least 2 days or aslong as 1 week. Makes 4 to 6 servings. Szechwan Eggplant and Pork Rinse 1 small (about 3/4 lb.) eggplant; cut of and discard bothends. Cut eggplant crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices; cut slicesinto 1/2-inch-thick strips. To a wok or 10- to 12-inch frying pan, add 3 tablespoons salad oiland set over high heat. When hot, add eggplant and stir to coat withoil.

Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Lift outeggplant and set aside. To wok, add 1/4 pound ground lean pork, 1 teaspoon finely choppedfresh ginger, and 1 teaspoon crushed dried hot re chilies. Crumble porkas you cook and stir it over high heat until meat browns, about 2minutes. Return eggplant to pan and add cooking broth (recipe follows).Stir over medium heat until eggplant is soft enough to mash easily whenpressed, about 6 minutes.

Remove from heat and mix in 1/2 teaspoonsesame oil and salt to taste. Spoon into a bowl. Serve at room tempearture or chilled (if madeahead, let cool, cover, and chill up to 3 days). Makes 4 or 6 servings. Cooking broth. Stir toegether 1/2 cup regular-strength beef orchicken broth, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon each sugar, whitewine viengar, and cornstarch.

Tangy Red Onions Peel 1 pound red onions. Cut onions into about 1/4-inch-thickslices. In a 2- to 3-quart pan, combine 3/4 cup rice vinegar, 1 tablespoonSzechwan peppercorns, 3 large cloves garlic (minced or pressed), 1/2teaspoon sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon crushed dried hot red chilies. Bring toa boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat andsimmer to blend flavors, 3 to 4 minutes. Add onions and stir until theyturn brighter pink but are still crisp, 1 to 2 minutes.

With a slottedspoon, lifte out onions; let onions and liquid cool separately, thencombine again. Serve onions at room temperature or chilled (if madeahead, cover and chill up to 2 weeks). Makes 4 to 6 servings.Anise-spiced Pickled Carrots Peel 1 pound slender carrots and cut into 1/4-inch-thick diagonalslices; set aside. In a 3- to 4-quart pan, combine 2-1/2 cupes regular-strength beefbroth; 3beef bouillon cubes; 1/2 cup soy sauce; 1/3 cup sake, rice wine, ordry sherry; 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger; 2 whole staranise, broken (or 1/2 teaspoon anise seed); and 1/2 teaspoon crusheddried hot red chilies. Bring to a boil over high heat; cover, reduceheat, and simmer 20 minutes to blend flavors.

Add carrots; cover andsimmer until they are tender when pierced, about 15 minutes. Removefrom heat and let stand, covered, for 2 hours (if made ahead, chill aslong as 1 week). Drain and serve at room temperature or chilled. Makes4 to 6 servings.

Pickled Asparagus with Sesame Seed Snap off and discard tough ends of 1-1/2 pounds asparagus. Ifdesired, peel asparagus with a vegetable peeler; cut spears diagonallyinto 2-inch pieces. In a 3- to 4-quart pan, bring 2 quarts water to a boil over highheat. Add asparagus and boil uncovered until it is tender to bite butstill bright green, 1 to 2 minutes.

Drain asparagus and at once immersein cold water until cool; drain. (If done ahead, cover asparagus andchill up to 3 days.) In a 6- to 7-inch frying pan, stir 1 tablespoon sesame seed overmedium heat until golden. Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoonsrice vinegar or white wine vinegar, 4 teaspoons firmly packed brownsugar, and 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Mix with asparagus and serve at roomtemperature or chilled. Makes 4 to 6 servings. Szchwan Mustard With a wire whisk, blend together 1 cup Dijon mustard, 2tablespoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons drysherry, and 1-1/2 teaspoons sesame oil.

Pour into a small serving dish,cover, then chill at least overnight to blend flavors, or up to 1 week.Makes 1 cup. Roasted Szechwan Pepper-Salt In an 8- to 10-inch frying pan, stir 1/2 cup salt and 1/4 cupSzechwan peppercorns over medium-low heat until salt turns a pale brown(be careful not to scorch), 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon crushedblack pepper; let cool before serving.

If made ahead, store airtightindefinitely. Makes 2/3 cup.

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