Pineapple and Pasta? Homemade Chili Oil and Fried Eggs? YUP!

An unusual pasta and veggies stir-fry that could easily transition to main course status by adding chicken, shrimp or tofu. At Cafe Drake HRV we served this sweet-tart-salty concoction as a bed for teriyaki chicken thighs. Here's how we prepare this Vitamin A powerhouse: In a large bowl or pitcher, mix together 1 cup pineapple juice (use it from the can you'll soon open and augment with orange juice to reach a full cup), 2 cloves crushed or minced garlic, about 1 t. grated citrus zest (orange or lemon), 2 t. soy sauce, a splash of cider or rice or white vinegar, 2 t. brown sugar and 1 t. salt. In a very small bowl place 1 T. cornstarch. Pour a tablespoon or so of the juice mixture over the cornstarch, stir to mix well and pour back in the juice mixture. Set aside while you heat 2 T. vegetable oil over medium heat in a large skillet. When the oil is hot add 1 cup chopped onions, 2 cups thinly sliced carrots (please peel first) and 2 T. minced ginger. Stir-fry for 30 seconds then raise the heat to high. Add 1 chopped red bell pepper and continue to stir-fry for about 3 or 4 minutes; the veggies should be just tender and still retain some crispness. Now add in 1 can of pineapple (in chunks) and the reserved juice/cornstarch mixture. Stir fry until the sauce thickens, less than a minute. Sprinkle bravely with cayenne or black pepper. Finally, stir in to the skillet 2-3 cups cooked orzo. Toss, still over high heat, for 30 seconds or so to incorporate the pasta fully. Taste for salt - you'll need to add more probably. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

The dining room table is set for two.
Our friend Kristin P. joined us for our pineapple and veggie and pasta stir-fry, seen above buried beneath teriyaki chicken, roasted broccoli and assorted herbs (mainly, rau ram and Thai basil).

Making chili oil at home is cheaper than buying it at the market and tastes superior. It takes mere minutes and almost no energy so let's do it together now: Heat 1 cup of vegetable oil over a medium-high flame until very hot but not yet smoking. When the oil is screaming hot, dump in 1/3 cup crushed red chile flakes and watch them foam and sizzle. Within 15 seconds remove the pan from the heat and add a dash of salt and a good slug of sesame oil. Allow to cool for at least 6 hours then strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the crushed chilies. Store in a bottle, at room temperature and away from direct sunlight, for at least a couple of months or more. You'll find infinite uses for the chili oil, both as a spicy cooking agent and condiment.

Super fiery sweet potatoes with whole chilies and scallions heated up a recent frosty night at Cafe Drake HRV. The recipe for Kung Pao Sweet Potatoes can be found on the exceptional blog Appetite for China.

We used the homemade chili oil to fry an over-easy egg, its melting, smooth yolk a delirium of comfort atop brown rice and salad greens.


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