As farmers markets load up with more spring vegetables each week, it's a good time to review some basic tips for shopping success, courtesy of Ivy Manning, a freelance food writer and personal chef based in Portland, Ore.:
* Get there early for the best produce. You'll be able to choose from the freshest selection, and chances are you'll be able to chat with vendors who aren't yet swamped.
* Take a stroll through the stalls before buying. The broccoli at one producer's table may look better than another's, or browsing may help in mapping out a wallet strategy.
* Bring cash. Most vendors do a cash-only business; do them a favor and bring small bills and coins.
* Bring your own bags. It's environmentally friendly.
The tips, and this recipe, are from her new book. Serve this stir-fry with rice noodles or steamed brown rice.
- 1 1-inch piece peeled ginger root
- 1 to 2 large cloves garlic
- 3 1/2 ounces (1 package) shiitake mushrooms
- 8 ounces snow peas, preferably fresh
- 2 bunches watercress, washed and spun dry
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons sherry or mirin (rice cooking wine)
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Mince the ginger and garlic (there should be at least 1 tablespoon of each); place in a small bowl.
As you prep the following vegetables, keep them in separate piles: Discard the stems, if any, from the shiitake mushrooms; cut the mushroom caps into thin slices. Remove any strings from the snow peas. Trim and discard the roots and tougher stems of the watercress.
Heat the oil in large wok or saute pan over medium-high heat.
Meanwhile, combine the cornstarch and sherry or mirin in a large measuring cup, whisking to dissolve any lumps. Add the orange juice, brown sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil, mixing well to form a sauce.
Add the ginger and garlic to the hot oil; stir-fry for 20 to 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry for 3 minutes or until they begin to turn golden brown. Add the snow peas and the sauce mixture; stir-fry for 4 to 5 minutes. The sauce will become thick and bubbly. Remove from the heat and add the watercress, in several additions, tossing until it just begins to wilt. Divide among individual plates and serve hot.
Adapted from "The Farm to Table Cookbook: The Art of Eating Locally," by Ivy Manning (Sasquatch Books, 2008).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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