10.10.2015

The Borrowers

Mark just finished rereading The Borrowers books by British author Mary Norton, a favorite series of his since his childhood. They are really quite charming.


The concept is that little people live amongst "human beans", and borrow from them. Borrow, mind you, not steal. Borrow and transform: spools get used as tables, postage stamps become artwork on the wall, screw top caps make perfect soup kettles. Their frescoed ceiling is the label from a cigar box. Yes, even the Borrowers needed a fresco on their ceiling.

In the cooking world we are all borrowers to some extent. We see a recipe, we borrow it, we change it to make it our own.

Whenever possible I have learned it is important to give credit when and to whom credit is due. I learned the hard way when I was young and passed off a borrowed recipe as mine and was caught by the person who gave it to me. I had made a few changes but I should have known better. It was a hard lesson learned.

Today, I am borrowing from a blog post that I read almost a year ago by Bizzy Lizzy, in which she presented a recipe by Vietnamese chef Luke Nguyen: Wok-seared Asparagus and Asian Mushrooms, from his book Indochine

I immediately fell in love with the idea but knew that I would need to make changes for both my palate and availability of ingredients. So this is Luke Nguyens recipe. With Lizzy's suggestions. And then my changes. In other words, it is a Borrower's Delight!

Thank you, Lizzy, for all the wonderful recipes you bring to us from Down Under; I recommend that everyone head over to Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things and see what she's cooking today!

~ David

Sautéed Asparagus and Oyster Mushrooms

1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons oyster sauce *
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 dried chiltepin or other small dried chile, sliced
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 1-inch lengths
12 ounces fresh oyster mushrooms, trimmed and cut into pieces
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, lightly toasted
steamed jasmine rice, to serve

Mix fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar and water in a small bowl.

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the oil and fry the shallot and chile (gently) for 1 minute until fragrant, then add the asparagus and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry for 1 minute, then add the fish sauce and oyster sauce mixture. Toss until the mushrooms are tender, then season with half the sesame seeds and pepper.

Serve over jasmine rice, and sprinkle with remaining toasted sesame seeds.

Serves 2.

* If you are serving this to a friend who has allergies to bivalves, or is vegetarian, you can purchase a mushroom-based version of this sauce at many Asian grocery stores.


18 comments:

  1. Aw, thank you so much David for your very kind words. Recipes and the borrowing thereof is such a grey area, isn't it... all too often I see recipes duplicated in various cookbooks by different authors... and wonder how come... but I always attribute the original... even if it's one of my mother's treasured pieces. Lovely version you have here. Happy cooking xxx

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    1. Thanks, Liz - I always find lots of inspiration on your blog!

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  2. From Luke to Liz to you, David - you've got to love how recipes get personal touches as they change hands. And I'm sure Luke changed it from one that he'd tried! Nice use of of the chiltepin, David! Even nicer that I have a good supply of them!

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  3. Ooh! I love it when this happens: our worlds collide! I already follow Liz and her wonderful site!

    I agree, it is so important to give credit where credit is due and I try my hardest, but it actually infuriates me to see full on cake recipes without any mention of where the recipe was adapted from or "borrowed" to use your term. I love to cook and bake, but there's no way I'm just coming up with a brand new cake recipe off the top of my head and have it magically turn out perfectly. :(

    Lovely recipe, Liz and David! So nice to see bloggers come together over recipes :)

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    1. The blogger world is very tiny, indeed, Christina! I just wish we all lived closer to one another.

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  4. Part of the fun of serving a meal is discussing the provenance of the recipe(s)....at least with the foodies who tend to gather around the table with us! Lots to talk about when we make this one! This was a fun article, beginning with The Borrowers and ending with the lovely recipe!

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    1. I love how sometimes a recipe changes so much that, when you compare it to the here is no resemblance! But it is fun to see the provenance, and how far a recipe has come.

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  5. We all borrow. But sometimes it's hard to define and properly credit, huh? I look at it this way, you can borrow a list of ingredients (with or without changes) and not be stealing. Still, some credit is due to the source I think. However, if you take the words and process of a recipe (exactly as written or in very close spirit) then that's flat out stealing (even if you made ingredient tweaks)! All the rest is gray area and best offered up just as you have here (when possible). GREG

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    1. Thanks, Greg! It is nice to know we are all on the same page!

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  6. Hi David, I love recipes like this, lots of veggies and asparagus is one of my favorites.

    I was down in Tucson yesterday visiting my daughter and we went to the Tucson meet yourself festival and had a wonderful time, still pretty warm.....

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    1. One of these days, when you are in Tucson or I am in Phoenix, we need to get together! Glad you had fun but, yes, it is still too hot!

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  7. D, I love the stories behind your recipes. It's like I came over to your house for dinner and got your charming company as a bonus. I will order this book today. Sounds like my kind of read! xo

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    1. Both you and Daisy (and Shawn, too) will love the books! Thanks for your lovely comment! xo

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  8. My friends and I LOVED The Borrowers when we were kids! My closest friend since childhood still has them! And this is a delicious recipe to have borrowed! ;-)

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    1. So many people haven't heard of the series - I hope this helps spread the word!

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  9. I want this for breakfast now David! This is going to be a "must make" when asparagus season comes around again. Love the Asian twist.

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    1. I bet it would be great for breakfast, Inger! :)

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