5/8/12

Buddha's Delight


Here is something that will blow Mr. Mark Bittman's mind. A recipe with permutations on permutations. If you don't know Mr. Bittman, he writes on food. Besides cook books and television, he has a regular gig with the Sunday NY Times Magazine where he  outlines structurally the possible variations on a particular theme. Think something in the ballpark such as, "Having your way with eggs . . . 21 ways." We just made that one up, but it's funny, no? Or, "Beef . . . in a soup, in a burgoo, in a pie, in a taco, in a casserole. On and on. So here, Mr. B; we see you, and we raise you.

If you want to get a sense of Mr. Mark Bittman's standing with Cooky Cat, just think of the Seinfeld/Newman dynamic: Bittman! 

Also, as far as what you may already think about the name Buddha's Delight. Never mind that stir-fry mix of ordinary vegetables by that name at many Chinese restaurants. We go for "Chinese" looking for a taste of the exotic and unusual. Not a medley of vegetables any Tom, Dick or Harry could snag at the corner grocery store. There's broccoli and then there's Chinese broccoli. Not to mention a host of so many other wonderful and healthy fresh garden vegetables that seem only to arrive on the plates of those Chinese diners sitting at the table next to yours. You say, "I'll have what they're having." The waiter say, "You no likey. Taste funny." Funny, huh? "You talk funny!"

If you want to make a huge impression in a Chinese restaurant and gain instant cred, order off the menu some stir fried bean sprouts. Yes, stir fried bean sprouts.  Eyebrows will be raised and you will be cross examined. But, stick to your guns. By the way, stir fried bean sprouts are delicious. No worries. But, it is an item that only the die hard and cognoscenti would order. Trust us, they will be duly impressed. Doors will open, as if by magic.

Here is something that is guaranteed to delight the fat man, Buddha that is; or, just about anyone with a big appetite for something healthy, satisfying, and light. That's light, as in "en-light-ened." That's when you get so absorbed in the wonderfulness of this dish that the universe dissolves and you become one with what's in your bowl.

Notice, we did not say plate. Bowl. This is a bowl dish. It comes from a friend who of necessity found himself cooking on a hot plate in a single pot. He's managed to come up a bit in the world since that downfall. So let's not be concerned with his lousy, miserable story of shame and rejection. Just to say, he had it coming. For no particular reason, we interrupt to give a shout out to friend David Wronski. Let's just say, the shoe fits.

We call this dish Buddha's Delight because it is based on the notion of ONE. It's cooked in one pot, with one of several of the following classes of ingredients. By the way, this is a "structural" way of looking at things, and we acknowledge Mr. Mark Bittman for his expertise in this area. Most people are not familiar with structural thinking in general much less in the kitchen. The opposite of structural is the particular. As in, a "Paint by the Numbers" kind of approach to life in general and life in the kitchen in particular. That's fine, but you don't want to be cooking off a recipe all the time. That makes for a difficult shopping experience; not to mention, if you have to have a particular item, you wind up paying more and also maybe getting less quality than you would like because that's what they have. Alternatively, you could select things at the market based on what's in season and fresh and high quality and at a good price. Then back home you take stock (we're not talking broth right now) and envision what you've brought home might combine to make. Or, going back to the store situation, you could let yourself be inspired (Buddha would like it if you did) and see what's on the shelf that strikes your eye or tickles your fancy. (Cooky Cat loves to be tickled fancy. But that's for another post.)

Now, just to get you started on this new, enlightened approach to meals.

The bare bones structure of this dish is . . .

ONE each of the following:

4+ quart cook pot
Grain/ Grain Based
Protein
Firm Vegetable
Leafy Vegetable
Bean/Legume/Pulse (fresh or precooked)
Sauce
Condiment
Seasoning
Spice
Garnish
Element of Interest

The amounts can be scaled according to the number being served. The 4+ quart pot is for 1-2 servings, move up as necessary.

Here is the basic, and classic Buddha's Delight from our friend who set out on his own path of enlightenment.

Classic ("Poor Boy") Buddha's Delight
(per serving amounts)


Buckwheat Soba Noodles (4 oz. per serving)
Tempeh (quarter package / 2 oz./ cut into small cubes)
Broccoli, fresh/one medium head/cut into florets and stalk peeled and roll/miso cut
Spinach, fresh/big handful/rough chopped
Butter = Sauce (1 Tablespoon)
Tamari = Condiment (2 teaspoons)
Scallion = Garnish (one / thin diagonal slices)
Jalapeno = Element of Interest (3-4 paper thin slices)

Procedure:

Fill pot 2/3 full of water, bring to boil.
Add soba noodles, stir to keep separate
After each addition let contents come back to boil 
Add broccoli pieces (boil)
Add tempeh pieces (boil)
Add spinach (boil)
Finally, when contents return to boil (8 minutes approx.) cooking is complete.
Drain contents of pot
Return to pot
Add butter to melt in
Add tamari
Serve in a bowl
With scallion and chili slices

Enjoy, contemplating the simple wonderfulness of it all. Be a Buddha!

So, that's the bare bones treatment. Structure if you will. Now don't be so literal that you wouldn't switch things based on what you happen to have. We went to Whole Foods and didn't like their $8 per 8 oz. soba noodle price. Instead, some organic whole wheat linguine. Or, instead of broccoli, why not zucchini. Like that. Because, once you have the structure, you can modify, improvise, and add in as the spirit moves you. Buddha would.

For example, here is the Buddha's delight we served recently. Of special notice is the sauce, made with blond miso and sesame tahini, one third to two thirds respective proportions.

Buddha's Delight (expanded version)

Whole Wheat Pasta
Tempeh
Firm Tofu
Zucchini (Roll / "Miso" cut)
Burdock Root (Roll / "Miso" cut)
Dinosaur Kale (aka Tuscan kale, Lacinato kale, black kale, cavolo nero)
Thin sliced Chinese pork sausages (went off the vegetarian wagon)
Fresh Mung Bean Sprouts
Chopped Parsley (could just as easily have been cilantro leaves)
Thin slices of Scallion
Each serving topped with a poached egg

THE Sauce: +++
Blond Miso (1/3)
Sesame Tahini (2/3)
Tamari (to taste)
*Sesame Oil
*Cooking Wine (Chinese Shao Xing cooking rice wine)
*Wasabi paste (for a kick)
* optionals

+++ THE Sauce, by the way is killer, straight up with miso, tahini, and tamari; salt to taste (careful the miso and tahini bring some saltiness). If you want, you could factor in along with the sesame tahini some peanut butter, creamy or crunchy.

But, the idea isn't for you to do the same thing, but to see this as an example of how the basic recipe can be creatively interpreted, expanding based on your tastes, what's on hand or at the market. Also, don't limit yourself to one of each type. For example, with the firm vegetable element (if you want one in at all) you could have broccoli and carrots, or cubes of a winter type squash.

All that notwithstanding, go try the above set of ingredients, just as listed; it'll rock. (The burdock might be a little tricky to find. But if you do, it's definitely worth it. See article on "Velcro Salad.")

Cooky Cat tested it, after all.

For your delight, the Buddha in you!

Here's a spicy version on YouTube. . . 

Finally, bringing it all together . . .

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