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We have good news and bad news. Bad news first: Spring is taking its time getting here. (That's not really news. Sorry to beat a dead horse.)
The good news? The days of early sundowns and snow flurries are behind us.
Now, as we find ourselves in seasonal purgatory, eating seasonally is less of a whimsical jaunt through the farmers' market and more of an existential crisis under the supermarket's fluorescent lights. Let's leave late winter's crucifers and early spring's radishes to duke it out amongst themselves for produce aisle precedence. We'll just be over here with a dinner that cares nothing for what's fresh and local, but focuses on those ingredients that have stuck by our sides all year. Start with a stir-fry that has just enough heat to jolt you into summer, and cool the burn with ice cream that's really just masquerading fruit.
300 grams (about 10 1/2 ounces) ground beef (can substitute with any other meat)
5 to 8 Thai chilies, chopped
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 cup Thai basil leaves, packed (can substitute regular basil)
1 bunch bananas
We assume you have a red onion, garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, white pepper, and eggs. If not, add those to your grocery list!
1. Peel the bananas and cut them into small pieces. Freeze for 1 to 2 hours on a plate or tray while you make and eat dinner.
2. Make the chili sauce by combining 2 to 3 chilies with 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 1/4 cup water, and, if you'd like, a clove of chopped garlic. Set this aside.
3. Heat the wok with 1 tablespoon of oil. When oil just starts to smoke, add 3 to 5 cloves of chopped garlic, the rest of the chilies, 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar, and one thinly sliced red onion. Stir-fry until onions are soft and golden-brown. Add meat and stir-fry for around 5 minutes; then, add 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, and 1 teaspoon fish sauce, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and throw in basil leaves, stirring until they are well combined and wilted.
4. Garnish with ground white pepper and serve with a fried egg over Thai jasmine rice. Eat immediately, adding chili fish sauce as needed.
5. When dinner's over, remove the bananas from the freezer and blend, blend, blend in the food processor, scraping down the bowl when they stick. Enjoy the magic moment when they turn into ice cream, and try mixing in other fruits, nut butters, or chocolate as inspiration strikes.
Photos by James Ransom