To welcome the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rat, as it enters on Feb. 19, here's a quick, but celebratory feast. This recipe was inspired by the new "Hot" cookbook series by Hugh Carpenter (Ten Speed Press). "Hot Wok" and "Hot Chicken" are now in bookstores. This particular dish has been simplified a bit without sacrificing the original character.
You can add some Oriental crunch to the entree with a crisp fresh salad enlivened with tangerines or oranges.
As a final toast to the King Rat, offer a platter of large chunks of dried fruit such as pears, pineapple, apricots or papaya, with vanilla pudding used as a dip.
Beef and fusilli
12 ounces tricolor fusilli
1/2 cup vegetable or beef stock
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry sherry or rice wine
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 cup baby carrots, halved lengthwise
12 ounces lean beef cut into thin strips
1 1/2 pound assorted wild and small domestic mushrooms, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup snow peas, stem end removed
3 whole green onions, cut into thin diagonal pieces
Put a large pot of water on to boil. When boiling, add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and return to pot and hold until beef-mushroom mixture is ready.
In a small bowl, combine sauce ingredients. Stir until cornstarch has dissolved.
In a large saute pan or wok, over medium-high, heat sesame oil until hot. Add carrots and saute 1 minute. Add beef and mushrooms and saute about 4 minutes. Add sauce and snow peas, stirring until warm and thickened. Add scallions and cook another minute. Pour mushroom mixture over pasta and toss. Serve immediately.
3 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage
1 (8-ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, rinsed and drained
2 tangerines or 1 large orange, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch wedges
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
salt to taste and coarse cracked black pepper
Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and toss. Serve immediately.