Monday, September 18, 2017

17 September 2017

What a week. From tropical storms to exciting large projects with Hewlett Packard at Grant Design Collaborative to new potential developments in the City of Canton, I have been a busy man. However, I am grateful we were spared any severe damage from Irma and continue to keep those who have been devastated by this storm, as well as Harvey, in my thoughts and prayers. Please join me in contributing to worthwhile relief efforts in any way possible. It appears more storms are on the way, so the need will only grow in the weeks ahead.

Speaking of the weather, it has been fickle to say the least. Just when there was a tease of Fall in the air with cooler mornings, Summer returned with a vengeance the past couple of days, but it was a beautiful weekend in Canton. Granted, it is challenging to plan for Sunday Supper menus with the changing forecast. Just when I began to think about warm, autumn-inspired comfort foods, such as stews and casseroles, I had to switch plans for the warmer weekend.

For some reason, I have been craving Asian food lately. Other than our wonderful local Thai restaurant, Chon Ngren, other types of this cuisine alludes us here in Canton. I always enjoy venturing down to the diverse culinary playground of Buford Highway in Atlanta for this type of food, but that is a long drive, especially on a Sunday. In addition, typical Asian ingredients are also hard to find in this area, so when taking matters into my own kitchen, I have to plan accordingly. Like other cuisines, you can be resourceful with substitute ingredients, but there are certain exotic ones that simply can not be replaced. So after a little online research, I came across an interesting Malaysian dish of beef and celery. I love celery, and this recipe celebrates it as a vegetable instead of the typical garnish. There were a couple of challenging ingredients, but I worked around them and added a few elements to make the recipe work in my kitchen at One Britt. If you are not a celery fan, simply substitute asparagus or some other vegetable. As a side to the beef dish, I found an interesting coconut rice recipe with an extremely spicy sauce made with yogurt, cilantro and jalapeno peppers. The rice is made with coconut milk instead of water, and I added a cinnamon stick, cloves, bay leaf and cumin seeds for really interesting flavors. It was a perfect accompaniment to the earthy and aromatic beef and celery main course. For appetizers, I prepared some simple steamed edamame and baked some vegetable egg rolls to serve with homemade Chinese hot mustard. The mustard is easy to make and so much better than the prepared, packaged version you get with take out orders. I just whisk three tablespoons of Coleman's hot mustard powder with three tablespoons of cold water, and let it sit for 15-20 minutes. It is spicy and a good way to clear your sinuses!

If you like a certain type of food, don't be intimidated by exotic recipes. Just use common sense to substitute and improvise. It may not always work out, but the fun is found in the experimentation. For instance, I have a couple of woks to use for stir frying, but I did not want to pull them out of the back of my cabinets for the beef and celery dish. So, I simply used my large cast iron skillet to stir fry everything in one pan. You can never go wrong with cast iron! Explore the International food aisle of your local grocery store as well. If you see interesting ingredients, simply Google them to explore recipes and ideas. We also have some amazing hispanic stores in Canton, such as Ramirez on Marietta Highway. Here, you will find a bounty of wonderful ingredients, spices, fresh produce and baked goods for Latin and Mexican inspired menus. You will also find these stores to be very affordable as well.

Here's hoping your week is filled with fascinating improvisation and delicious serendipity.

The Menu:

- Stir Fried Beef and Celery

- Coconut Rice Pilaf with Spicy Cilantro Sauce

- Steamed Edamame

- Baked Vegetable Egg Rolls with Homemade Chinese Hot Mustard

The Recipe – Stir Fried Beef and Celery


16 oz rib eye steak, cut into thin strips
2 Tbsp Chinese black bean sauce/paste
8 celery ribs, strings removed with vegetable peeler, halved and cut into 2 inch batons
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp whole black peppercorns, crushed
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
4 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp mirin, rice vinegar, or black vinegar (optional)

For the beef marinade:

3 tsp cornstarch
3 tsp light soy sauce
Pinch of ground white pepper


Place ribeye in freezer for 30 minutes before slicing. Mix marinade ingredients together in a medium bowl, then add the beef and stir to coat. Let beef sit in marinade for 20 minutes.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel a thin layer off the celery to remove strings, cut them lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide  and two inch long batons.

Heat half of the oil in a wok or frying pan until smoking, then add the marinated beef and stir fry over high heat for 30-45 seconds. Remove the beef and reserve, leaving the browned bits of the beef in the pan for flavor.

Reduce heat to medium, then add the remaining oil, crushed peppercorns, black bean paste, and garlic, stir frying for 1 minute, until just fragrant, but don't burn the mixture. Add the celery, and fry for 2–3 minutes, then return the beef to the pan. Mix the oyster sauce, water and mirin or vinegar, and add to the pan. Stir and cook for 30 seconds longer. Serve immediately with basmati rice.

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