Tuesday, August 22, 2006
The best cookbooks are those that teach you to cook with your senses. Far too many use a formulaic approach that outlines equipment, specific ingredients, precise cooking times, and precisely nothing that would give you a deeper understanding of the food and process. I recently picked up Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty, a book about Sichuan style cooking. It is full of not only good recipes, but fascinating information about this central Chinese province as well as cooking and eating habits of Sichuanese.
My exploring this book coincided with gorgeous fresh corn on special nearly everywhere as well as the annual pepper event at the Italian Centre Shop, one of the best places to shop for groceries in Edmonton. Each year in late summer you can get a variety of BC peppers for around 1.50 a pound. A jumble of various sweet and hot varieties take up most of an entire produce stand and you can smell it from around the aisle.
This recipe I found in the vegetable chapter of the book- fresh corn and peppers, sauteed in oil with salt. Such a prosaic combination - the very opposite of my usual idea of Sichuan cooking - gave me pause. However, the book's engaging description of the dish aroused my curiosity. It is also extremely fast to make, with a couple minutes chopping and five minutes or so frying. The recipe mentions you could make this with frozen or canned corn but it will not compare to sauteed fresh sweet corn, and I would agree that the appeal of the finished dish, which is much more than the sum of its parts, is mainly due to the freshness of the corn.
Cut the kernels off of two fresh cobs of corn. Chop coloured peppers into small dice similar to the size of a corn kernel, in quantity to give an attractive colour contrast in the dish (I used one green and one red pepper, both very small) and saute in 3 tbs of hot oil, adding salt to taste, until vegetables are tender but not mushy. The book encourages adding plenty of salt - about two teaspoons was enough to brace the sweetness of the corn I used.
Weekend Cookbook Challenge #8 entry, co-hosted by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast and Sara of i like to cook. Theme is Foreign Food. See entry details here.