cook | This Lag B’Omer, point your compass at Southeast Asiaby faith kramer
We’re just a couple of weeks away from the bonfires and barbecues of Lag B’Omer. The holiday, which starts at sundown on May 6, marks the 33rd day in the counting of the Omer (the time between Passover and Shavuot) and is a one-day break in the period’s somber traditions.
I’ve taken some popular American Ashkenazi foods — flanken, cucumber salad and pudding — and given them a Southeast Asian street-food edge for the holiday.
For the Lemongrass and Ginger Barbecued Flanken, I’ve replaced the traditional skewered strips of beef with flanken, also known as flanken steak or crosscut ribs. With flanken, chuck ribs are crosscut, resulting in sections of meat connecting thin, sawn-off slices of bone. Ask for flanken cut into 1⁄4-inch slices. Accompanying the flanken is a Southeast Asian Cucumber Salad. Both recipes call for bouillon powder, which locals rely on as a seasoning.
For a parve dessert, I’ve turned iced coffee into Coconut and Coffee Pud-ding. Use regular Asian-style canned coconut milk, not low-fat.
Lemongrass and Ginger Barbecued Flanken
4 Tbs. unsalted, shelled peanuts
2 lemongrass stalks or 1 Tbs. minced lemon zest
2 tsp. chopped ginger
3 Tbs. chopped garlic
1⁄2 tsp. dried ground turmeric
1 tsp. minced lime zest
3 Tbs. peanut oil plus extra for greasing grill
3 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. chicken or vegetarian bouillon powder
21⁄2 lbs. flanken, cut 1⁄4-inch thick
1 recipe Southeast Asian Cucumber Salad (see below)
Chop peanuts coarsely (if raw, lightly roast first). Add to food processor bowl equipped with steel cutting blade. Cut off bulbs, roots and tops of lemongrass and strip off hard outer leaves. Crush, then finely chop, the pale, tender sections of each stalk. (You should have about 3 Tbs. of minced lemongrass.) Add to processor with ginger, garlic, turmeric, lime zest, oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and bouillon. Process until thick paste forms, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.
Spread a thin layer of paste on the bottom of an approximately 8-by-12-inch baking pan. Put down a layer of flanken. Spread paste on top, put down another layer of meat, spread paste on top and repeat with the remaining meat and paste. Cover. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Oil grill, then preheat. Grill over medium-high heat for 7-10 minutes, turning often. Serve with cucumber salad.
Southeast Asian Cucumber Salad: Combine 3 large cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced; 2 shredded medium carrots; 1 large red pepper, cut into thin matchsticks; 1⁄4 cup minced shallots; 1⁄4 cup chopped, unsalted, shelled peanuts; 1⁄4 cup minced basil and 1⁄4 cup minced mint. Mix with 1⁄4 tsp. salt, 1 Tbs. sugar, 1⁄4 cup lime juice and 1 tsp. powered chicken or vegetable bouillon. Add 1-2 minced Thai bird’s-eye chilies if desired. Mix well. Add additional juice and seasoning as needed.
Coconut and Coffee Pudding
3⁄4 cup sugar
6 Tbs. cornstarch
1⁄4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 cups hot dark-roast coffee, decaffeinated or regular
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups canned coconut milk, divided
Put sugar, cornstarch, salt and cinnamon in a large sauce pan and whisk together. Stir in the coffee and mix until blended. Place pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Whisk in vanilla and 2 cups coconut milk. Stir constantly and keep at a simmer until mixture thickens. Take off the heat and stir occasionally for 10 minutes. Pour into custard cups. Cover. Chill until set, 3-4 hours. Spoon 2 Tbs. coconut milk on top of each cup to serve.
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