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Oh the Deliciousness of it All *

At heart, I’m a simple girl. I like my burritos with just beans [black, please, and hold the pork] and rice — no fancy grilled vegetables for me — and my pizzas mostly free of extraneous additions like olives and artichokes. And when I’m cooking for just me, I like easy, simple, yummy dishes that don’t take too much time to make.

I don’t read too many cooking blogs (quelle horreur!), but one I’ve come across recently is Heidi Swanson’s 101cookbooks.com (she has also published “Super Natural Cooking” this spring). One of her recent posts revealed that she loves asparagus as much as I do, and it inspired me to make one of my favorite easy work night dinners: an asparagus, garlic, mushroom, and white bean stir fry served over brown rice.

I usually make this dish with a soy sauce base, but on Swanson’s recommendation I made a lemon-tahini dressing instead, though, admittedly, I wondered how it would compliment the mushrooms. Luckily, I took the chance and was not disappointed!

I came up with the idea for this last spring when I was still in the courting stage with my cast iron pan. I experimented with different oils and heat settings, and found for this particular concoction the garlic doesn’t need too much olive oil to make it nice and toasty, and the vegetables are best cooked under a watchful eye on low heat.

The flavors are simple and earthy, which completely satisfies after a long day at the office (especially if you’re jet lagged), a post-work run, and two loads of laundry. The other night I accompanied this with my very favorite Odwalla juice blend (“B Berrier” — a splurge, but necessary) but I think a nice pale ale would taste just as fine. Sometimes I switch out the rice for quinoa, and it always makes enough for lunch leftovers the next day.

Garlic, Asparagus, Mushroom and White Beans with Brown Rice and Lemon Tahini Dressing

4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 lb. mushrooms (more or less)
1 bunch asparagus, washed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
Almonds, chopped

Coat your pan with olive oil, then add the garlic and saute over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the mushrooms and more oil if necessary, turning the heat to low, and cook until mushrooms become soft and release their juices. Add the asparagus and stir to incorporate. When asparagus is bright green and becoming tender, add the beans and almonds and stir well. Add a bit of salt and pepper and basil or oregano to taste.

Lemon Tahini Dressing

1 clove garlic, pressed
5 Tb. of tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
pinch salt
1 Tb. olive oil

Whisk the garlic, tahini, lemon juice, olive and salt until smooth. Add water as needed to thin. Add more tahini or lemon juice to taste.

Serve the stir fry over brown rice and generously drizzle with the dressing.

** Title taken from an erstwhile book club book that I’m still smarting over having paid full price for …

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