Vail Simply Seasonal column: Lemongrass
Lemongrass. The very word evokes the senses. A field of tall stalks, rustling in a tropical breeze. The fresh scent and taste of lemon. True to its name, lemongrass is a long, reed-like herb which is used in flavoring the cuisines of the world with a refreshing tang and aroma.Most commonly found in Thai dishes, lemongrass is a delicate but distinct seasoning, particularly suited to seafood and chicken. Preparations of soups, brothy sauces or stir frys will often be scented with this aromatic herb. Caribbean cuisines use lemongrass to compliment the heat of spicy rubs. Mexican dishes often blend lemongrass with chiles, garlic and cilantro. Michael Mayer, Cima’s executive chef, tempers a vibrant South American dish of fresh seafood in a fragrant lemongrass, ginger and coconut milk broth.A perennial plant, lemongrass grows wild in many warm climates of Asia. In the U.S., Florida and California have begun cultivating lemongrass as a commercial crop as interest in global cuisines continues to grow in this country.When purchasing lemongrass, look for firm stalks indicating freshness. Trim the bottom root end, then mince the lower few inches for cooking. Cima’s pastry chef, Bill Fitzgerald, suggests steeping the tops to create flavorful liquids. His refreshing panna cotta features cream infused with lemongrass. Keep lemongrass on hand all winter for its medicinal properties. Steeping lemongrass in hot water yields a strong and aromatic tea to soothe winter’s common cold.Seafood el Salvador 1 quart shrimp or fish stock1 tablespoon minced garlic2 tablespoons minced shallots1 stalk lemon grass, finely sliced crosswise1/4 cup julienned ginger2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla)2 tablespoons Thai hot chile sauce (sriracha)3 tablespoons light brown sugar2 tablespoons fresh lime juice1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk1 teaspoon salt1/2 pound small peeled shrimp1 pound mussels, scrubbed1 pound bay scallops1/2 pound sugar snap peasZest of 2 limes1/4 cup chopped cilantro2 tablespoons minced green onionsPlace first 11 ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Strain and return to the pot. Bring to a boil, add the shrimp, scallops, mussels and peas. Cook until the mussels are open and shrimp are firm and pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime zest, cilantro and green onions, and serve. Serves 4-6.Lemongrass coconut rice1 stalk lemongrass, bottom 6 inches only, outer leaves peeled1 cup long-grain rice, rinsed and drained1 3/4 cups coconut milk2 bay leaves1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric1 pinch saltLightly pound the lemongrass stalk with a kitchen mallet. Combine the lemongrass, rice, coconut milk, bay leaves, turmeric, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally; reduce heat to low and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Remove bay leaves and lemongrass before serving. Serves 6.Lemongrass panna cotta with tropical lychee salsaLemongrass Panna Cotta1 1/2 cups heavy cream1 cup whole milk1/2 cup sugar3 lemongrass stalks, cut into thirds1 envelope unflavored gelatin1/4 cup cold water Mix cream, milk, sugar and lemon grass in medium saucepan. Bring just to boil on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Let stand 1 hour. Sprinkle gelatin evenly over water in small bowl. Let stand 5 minutes or until gelatin is softened. Strain cream mixture, discarding stalks. Return cream mixture to the saucepan. Heat on low heat 2 to 3 minutes. Add softened gelatin; stir until gelatin is completely dissolved. Pour mixture into medium bowl set in a larger bowl of ice water. Stir frequently with rubber spatula about 10 minutes or until mixture is cooled. Pour into 6 dessert dishes. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 4 hours or until set. Lychee salsa1/2 cup drained canned lychees, quartered1/2 cup finely chopped peeled ripe mango1/4 cup finely chopped peeled kiwi1/4 cup flaked coconut, toasted2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mintMix lychees, mango, kiwi, coconut and mint in small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Spoon Lychee Salsa on top of each panna cotta to serve.Serves 6.Sue Barham is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Cima, now open in The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa. The newest restaurant concept from acclaimed chef Richard Sandoval, Cima is a contemporary Latin kitchen, featuring bold, vibrant flavors with Latino roots, created with fresh ingredients and global cooking techniques. Visit http://www.richardsandoval.com/cima.
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