It’s a snow day. I don’t currently have a paying job–this isn’t to say I don’t work– but I’m still thrilled to think I needn’t go anywhere and perhaps could be excused from accomplishing anything. Too many years of kids in the house or teaching makes me stand up and cheer when the school closings begin. Usually I spend the day in the kitchen with a big pot of soup bubbling away –and I’m about to do that after I’m done with the blog– but today a little perking dream took life.
Just coming home from a two-week vacation is work enough (back in the saddle again), but coming home to find a #deadbodysmell fridge-freezer before you’ve even unloaded the doggies is just plain nasty. I had already needed to buy a washer and dryer on the way home as my dryer had died right before our flight to Venice and the washer was on its last legs. I was looking forward to a fast delivery to take care of the two weeks of suitcase clothing. Don’t want vacation tails? (sic) Scroll down past the photos for recipe.
I accused Dave of creating the wafting, unhappy-nose and brain smell-GOD, GOD, IT WAS TRAGIC; he denied it vehemently. I looked at the dogs, who looked back at me; they had nada. (Above: at super Double D Ranch for camp.) As I opened the car door, I realized it was the garage that smelled and just knew an animal -ARGH- had entered and died. We looked around and found no raccoon, bear, cat, etc. (We really do have bears in garages here.) Dave went to the 2001 double-door fridge/freezer we removed from the kitchen during the remodel–obviously none too soon–and not being able to stop himself from opening it, discovered a sickening mess that had been going on for a while. Quite a while.
In the house was a note from the woman who cleans our house and stays over occasionally when we travel. “House is great; can’t figure out the smell in garage.”
Just when I was feeling oh-so-sigh-Venicy. We did surely, surely have a glorious time with six friends taking the long route on a ship that, beginning in Venice with a side-trip to Florence, had to nearly blow through Brindisi, Italy; Katakolon, Greece (Olympia); Izmir and Istanbul, Turkey; and Dubrovnik, Croatia to make it back to Venice in a week. Just for info: we went on MSC Cruises (ship=Magnifica), an Italian line, and they showed us a gorgeous time. Beautiful ship (a little big at 3,000 passengers for this Holland America girl), good food, polite staff, lack of constant corny announcements, and a dependable please-read-your-daily-program-we-aren’t-your-babysitters approach to cruising. Continue reading
Dave likes to say, “You don’t like Asian food.” It’s not true and he actually knows it. What I don’t like is food from a greasy “Chinese” take-out place. What I don’t like are limp vegetables and high-fried protein mixed in a shiny, gelatinous sauce full of sweetness and calories I neither need nor want. I adore the real deal anywhere and, if I’m at home, pull out the Barbara Tropp when I need inspiration, instigation, or education. What he doesn’t say out loud is that he’s the better Asian cook; he’s just too often too busy to make dinner. I do love to see him in the kitchen. Yep.
|Here he is helping cook a gorgeous Chinese feast last year…with friend Jim.
or here…all by his handsome lonesome in our Colorado kitchen:
Sometimes, like everyone else, I just wing it or take a basic recipe and ad lib. Nothing ventured, no dinner. This fine, quick meal is a sort of Szechuan-Thai-Minnesotan fusion as it combines the garlic, ginger, and peppers of a Szechuan meal with the fish sauce, fresh basil, and lime of Thai food tradition, and finishes off with the northern American (Minnesotan) winter staple, walnuts.
|The walnuts were awesome in this dish; don’t skip them.|
I made jasmine rice because that’s what’s in the pantry and also because I adore its nutty, fragrant presence at the table. Set the table (plain mats, small bowls for rice, cups for tea, chop sticks), brew the tea, start the rice, and make the stir fry; it should come out fairly even. Add a little Chinese music off the internet, if you like. Here’s a youtube I enjoyed.
|This is what I do for my Asian meals–just a simpler feel. Nothing fancy. I include silverware as well as chopsticks.|
Try this; you’ll be happy you did. If you’ve been dissatisfied with your attempts at stir fry before, use my method and see what you think. Don’t buy any pre-made sauces and, no, you don’t need soy sauce here. Next time, switch it around with your favorite vegetables or use tofu or pork instead of chicken….
chicken-vegetable stir fry with walnuts
serves 4 people generously
- 1/2 cup chopped or halved walnuts, toasted in a pan on the stove on low for 5 minutes
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked jasmine rice
- Fresh ground black pepper, kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
- 1 tablespoon each grated fresh ginger and minced garlic
- Pinch of crushed red pepper
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1 – 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 1/2 cup cabbage, chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and julienned (matchsticks)
- 3/4 pound haricots verts or regular green beans cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal*
- 4 ounces sliced button mushrooms
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1 lime (use 1 tablespoon juice while cooking and the rest for garnish at table)
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup basil, julienne (sliced in thin ribbons)
- 2 tablespoons red or green onion, minced
1. Before making stir fry: Set table. Make tea or pour wine. Set aside toasted walnuts. Make rice: combine 1 1/2 cups dry rice with 1 3/4 cups water with two good grinds of black pepper and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer, cover and cook (a tiny plume of steam should be escaping) for 20 minutes. Turn off heat. Fluff with fork. Let sit until needed.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together salted and peppered chicken pieces with 2 tablespoons of the fish sauce. Heat the oil over high heat in a wok or a large, deep skillet and add the garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper. Let cook a minute before adding chicken. Let brown well, turn, and brown on the other side until cooked through. Remove to a clean bowl.
3. Add onions, cabbage, carrots, green beans, and mushrooms to the wok. Cook, stirring, until vegetables have just begun to barely soften, about two minutes. Remove vegetables from wok and add to the bowl with the chicken.
4. Pour into the wok the chicken broth and 1 tablespoon lime juice, along with the cayenne, and simmer for a minute or two to reduce before adding back in the chicken and vegetables.
5. Stir in the other tablespoon of fish sauce, let heat through; turn off heat. Taste and adjust seasonings. If too dry, add a little more chicken broth; you want some sauce here for your rice. Sprinkle with reserved walnuts, basil, and onions. Serve hot with rice and lime wedges.
*If you have older or thicker regular green beans, slice them lengthwise in addition to cutting into 1-inch pieces.
Cook’s Note: If you don’t like spicy food (and this isn’t terribly spicy), leave out the crushed red pepper and try just a tiny pinch of cayenne in the sauce to give the meal a little edge.
IF YOU LIKED THIS, YOU MIGHT LIKE TO LOOK AT ANOTHER ASIAN MEAL ON MORE TIME:
Sing a new song,
|Nothing cooking today, though I cooked egg tacos for my breakfast.|
I guess if you write a blog, you like to write. I read somewhere today that we write because we see things and must share them; that’s our job. I don’t know. I only know that since I could hold a pencil, I’ve been writing. For years, it was letters. Before that, it was poetry and all kinds of intense scribbling that kids seem to need to do. Now it’s a cooking blog and I’m grateful for it and I’m grateful for you, since you’re reading. Grateful to the cooking that brings it all together.
Speaking of cooking blogs, I began a new blog this week in response to Emily’s request for a kitchen and pantry list, as well as some recipes suited for cooking for one. I had been thinking of (and had even staked out a name) another cooking blog for a while, but couldn’t settle on which focus to pursue. When Emi talked to me about solo cooking, I knew I had my topic. There aren’t many posts and the first ones deal with kitchen/pantry, of course. There will be lots of recipes, links to video tutorials, shopping lists and tips, and thoughts on sharing your food. Less stories and more food. It’ll grow. Take a peek, though. It’s called Dinner Place: A Blog for Solo Cooks. I’d love emails or comments with recipes/ideas that are great for one person; I’ll blog them if I can.
It’s a nasty-cold night in Colorado, land of temperate winters and beautiful, warming sun any day of the year. We had a long, warm fall and have had a mostly gentle winter with a few arctic exceptions. But last night, the banshee moaned and the house creaked hard while the wind chimes sang and banged on the front deck. Sometimes, when it gets like that, I make my way out in the dark and put the chimes out of their misery until morning. We get wind here like nowhere else except Alaska and we get it worse up here on the mesa, where it’s not unusual to get hurricane-force gales that blow the panels out of the ceiling in the bathroom, scaring the shit out of me. We don’t take showers when the wind is up. One time, the panels crashed down into the bathtub while I was at rehearsal, impaling a huge lizard that had, for reasons known only to her, made her way into the bathtub. I came home and, after taking the dogs out and chilling out myself, decided to strip and jump in the shower. Ever since then, I’ve had a clear shower curtain. Make your own movie here, though it must involve a certain amount of Alyce running back and forth, making a lot of noise.
And not only is it frigid (.3 on my thermometer) and blowing, but the coyotes have the fur up on their backs and are crying and chirping down the hill, howling over God knows what. Something they’ve had for a late night snack, I’m guessing. The dogs are spooked and I am, too. After all, I’ve got to take them out for a last pee in the snow. It’s nothing to have incredible shapes make their way in front of you in the deepest dark on the street here. Leaves you wondering if it was a bobcat out catting around. Sometimes I have two or three lounging around in the yard. 40 pounders. I’m just thoroughly happy it’s too early for the bears, though occasionally they wake early if it’s good weather. One reason to be thankful for the cold, I guess.
There’s a good reason the Indians didn’t settle here. Of course, no water was a big clue.
Despite the weather and wildlife, I am managing pretty well on a snow day near the land I dreamed of when I was young. My day was full of reading, writing, listening to music, dog snuggling and tennis ball playing, laundry and playing the piano. Not always in that order. Today, the piano and writing won out. Two articles for examiner. Had to finish Mr. Pettigrew’s Last Stand. (Lovely British love story) I ate leftovers and skipped cleaning the kitchen. (Did you read the grilled eggplant-Italian sausage pasta blog? I had some of that in the freezer.) Don’t you just occasionally look at a clean kitchen and think, “I’m leaving it that way.”? I have sweet neighbors who keep in touch and give me lots of fuzzies and the conversation one needs come cold weather.
As we go through time toward moving, I’m spending more time on hateful things like weeding books and other possessions. I donated half of my clothes to ARC last week. What a chore. I’m vowing to never again let that happen, to keep up better with things I don’t use. Our closing date is set for mid-March; we’re still working on a schedule for what and who is moving when and how. We probably will keep our house here, the question being, “For how long?” First trip will be in the car with the dogs so they and I can stay and do some painting, get Dave’s office ready, and hire someone to repair the living room wood floor where a wood stove has just been removed. I’ll ship my kitchen ahead of time and use that first week or so to decide where the pots, pans, gadgets and Tupperware go. All this, knowing the closing could fall through (we’re waiting on an appraisal) or be delayed and force us to house shop again. Yuck.
But that leaves me with shrimp stir fry, which is what you came for; didn’t you? Last week, one day when I was at the north end of town, I stopped in Whole Foods for cheese, chicken broth, yogurt, jicama and Fed Ex blueberries (shipped north from Chile). They had yummy-looking shrimp on sale for $9.99 a pound and one pound rode home with me while I thought about:
- Making shrimp po boys.
- Making shrimp rolls.
- Making horseradish sauce and eating them boiled in water seasoned with Old Bay.
- Making spicy shrimp pasta
- Making shrimp stir fry
- Making shrimp Cobb salad
Stir fry won. I NEVER know what I’m doing with stir fry, but Dave assured me I had made my mark (finally) with this potful. I find if I think of it as just cooking and not Asian cooking, the food is much more tasty. The original recipe had just shrimp and sliced green onions, which sounds super, but I had a bunch of veggies wilting. You can use whatever veg you have or like. Actually, you can sub chopped boneless chicken thighs; make sure there’s no pink left in them after cooking.
Cook sticky (the cheap stuff) white rice; use a little less water to make sure it holds together. Leave out the rice if you’re watching carbs; this is a filling meal without the rice. (about 250 calories a cupful) A pot of tea would go down; we love oolong. Otherwise, this is a beer meal. Riesling if you must have wine.
Could this be for Valentine’s Day? I don’t see why not. If you have a helper, split the chopping and it’s pretty fast after that. Get the table and drinks ready before you cook or the food will get cold.
|This just sings.|
Shrimp and Veggie Stir Fry
Make a pot of rice first; it takes longest. While this sounds like a long list of ingredients, the dish comes together very quickly. Get everything out and/or measured before you begin. Makes 4 servings
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons corn starch
- 1 teapoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon canola or peanut oil
1 onion, chopped coarsely
1/2 large red pepper, sliced thinly
4 ounces sliced button mushrooms
1/2 cup sliced snow peas in pods
1/2 cup shredded cabbage
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 cup spinach
2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoon sweet chili sauce (or a good pinch of crushed red pepper)
sprinkle each salt and black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
- Cilantro sprigs, garnish
- Fresh Lime, garnish
- In wok or in a 12″ deep skillet, heat oil over high heat and add onion through cabbage to the pan. Cook and stir often until vegetables are starting to soften a bit.
- Meantime, whisk together the ingredients for the sauce (first short list), broth-white pepper.
- When vegetables are softened, add sauce, shrimp, spinach, fresh ginger, garlic, and chili sauce or crushed red pepper. Cook about 3 minutes, stirring often until shrimp are pink and firm.
- Stir in sesame oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Serve hot on cooked, hot rice, garnished with cilantro and lime.
Around the ‘hood in no special order and rather random to say the least
Worshiped at Shove Chapel last Sunday, always a delight. What an organ. How hopeful to hear Jacque Franklin pray. How I hate to think of missing Benjamin Broadbent’s life-changing sermons, though we had a guest seminarian preacher.
Had friends to dinner Saturday for pork loin and oven-roasted root vegetables with a fennel-celery salad that had a fine, fine Parmesan dressing. Homemade vanilla pudding with a dop of fig jam thinned with lemon juice and Cointreau. Enjoyed a luscious Burgundy imported by Scott Paul in Oregon; they do a famous job of picking the litter of less-expensive French wines.
Shipped a kitchen to Emily, who moved into an apartment. This was no easy feat..fitting it all in two big boxes. (What’s with these shipping prices? Can you fix that somehow?)
Had a salad lunch at Walter’s with Mary Pat.
Friday we had to get out of the house (long day working at home) and ran over to the new BJ’s Brewery for a very quick meal; they were packed and turning tables. Glad for their business, but we needed to relax and couldn’t because they had such a long line and the server was pushing us through the meal. So we came home and, by the time we did, home looked a bit more welcoming. By the way, the food was tasty brewery fare at BJ’s. They have some inexpensive happy hour specials (like an appetizer pizza you can split) and more draft beer choices than I’ve ever seen. Perhaps I haven’t looked.
Sunday, I took Saturday’s leftover pork, made bbq sauce and we had bbq pork on Wimberger’s (Bott Ave off 21st St.) rolls for Super Bowl. I also made Raise Your Cholesterol Dip (breakfast sausage, cream cheese and undrained Rotel cooked and served w/ tortilla chips.)
Two things: Where were the great commercials and did you notice the Packers didn’t appear over the moon about winning, despite the nail-biting ending? (We’ll leave out the part about learning the words to the national anthem and I guess I was the only one who liked the half-time show.)
We signed a zillion loan, title, etc. papers on all of the red exes and mailed them back to St. Paul. I bought used, but VERY expensive moving boxes. If you have some, I’d love to take them off your hands. I kept very few from the last move.
Dave got in a nap or two; what are weekends for?
Sing a new song,
You know how you have an addiction to certain Thai restaurants? (If you know why, let me know.) Now I like almost all things Thai foodie, except I can’t handle the tres, tres spicy dishes. “I like them; they don’t like me.” My father-in-law, Gene, says that, and he is so right. Ever since I came back from summer study at University of St. Thomas, I’ve been just dying to get into cooking Thai. For two summers, we lived above a Thai restaurant and I think it began to get into my pores.
I’ve dibbled and I’ve dabbled and I’m now at the point where I’m making it up as I go along. Perhaps it’s because I eat at Bhan Thai sometimes once a week…usually to get in an all-veggie meal that’s not a salad. Each dish provokes, “What’s in this?“
|Here’s my Thai basil with regular basil. Planted in a pot under a shade tree. It’ll burn up in the Colorado sun otherwise.|
Finally, though, I kept looking at my Thai basil out by the whiskey barrel under the tree….and I knew its days were numbered. Not that fall is ever REALLY coming (and winter, true winter, only makes it a couple of times a year in the Springs, despite what others think), but we do get freezes. And herbs that haven’t been cosseted and lovingly brought in to my dining room south window bite the dust. Or whatever herbs do. (Sometimes they resurrect in the spring.) All told, it was time to get my Chicken Basil on.
So google that and put it in your pan. There’s a million Chicken Basils. But most of them are almost all chicken. I sooo wanted a big bunch of veg in this one. And the one Thai cookbook I wanted to buy is out of print. Figure it out yourself, I said. You’re a cook; you’ve got the stuff. And here’s what I got. Do use fresh herbs; if you can’t do all three, don’t make it without at least the basil. I think that if you have the minty Thai basil, you could consider skipping the other two herbs, but I like it with all three.
And, like everyone else, I’ll tell you to drink a little riesling with this. I do so like the Oregon ones… Chehalem in particular. They do a fairly dry one that’s just does my taster good.
Alyce’s Chicken Veg Basil serves 4
Set the table, pour the water or wine, etc. Then start to cook.
First make enough rice for four people: Bring 2 cups of salted and peppered water and a cup of rice to boil. Lower heat to simmer, cover, and cook until done. (About 20 minutes at sea level… a few minutes more at altitude.) Add 1/4 c chopped cilantro and toss with a fork. Replace lid to keep warm (up to half an hour) until the chicken and vegetables are done. (I like medium-grain, cheap rice for this. It should be sticky.)
Ingredients for stir fry:
2 boneless chicken breasts cut into 1″x1″ pieces
2T fish sauce
1 1/2 T soy sauce
1 1/2 t sugar*
2 T cooking oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, ditto
1 small zucchini, sliced thinly
1 small yellow squash, sliced thinly
1/2 red sweet pepper, sliced thinly
1/2 yellow sweet pepper, sliced thinly
1 tomato, fresh, cut into quarters and squeezed to get juice and seeds out. Next, cut into medium dice.
1 jalapeno, minus seeds and membrances, finely minced (for mild, use 1/2 the jalapeno; add more for hot)**
1 c fresh basil or Thai basil left whole, divided
1/4 c cilantro, chopped roughly
1/4 c fresh mint, chopped roughly
Freshly ground black pepper
|Have all this stuff ready to go.|
1. In a medium bowl stir together cut-up chicken and the next four ingredients, fish sauce-sugar. Let sit while you
2. In a wok or large deep skillet, heat oil over medium high heat and cook sliced onions for about two minutes. Add sliced garlic, squashes, sweet peppers, tomato and jalapeno. Let cook another two minutes, stirring often.
3. Using a slotted spoon, remove chicken from sauce and add to the pan of vegetables. Add half of the basil, the cilantro and the mint. Season well with black pepper. Cook about 3 minutes until chicken is no longer pink. Pour sauce into wok/pan and cook another 30 seconds or so, stirring all the while. Spoon in to serving bowl and top with remaining whole basil leaves. Serve with the hot rice.
*sauce recipe from FOOD AND WINE
**Whole jalapeno, seeded and membranes removed, minced finely for hot. (Hotter? Pass crushed red pepper at the table. You could also use Thai bird chiles, but jalapenos are more accessible here.)
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood
Still feeling like summer around here….Decks got painted over the last two weeks.
This is what we call “The Doggie Door.” Still in the 60’s. Changing tomorrow.
|Hasn’t frozen yet.|
|Are you gonna eat that?|
This week, I’m testing pizza and have already made some. I teach the Italian section of “Cooking with Music” this Saturday and I WILL be up-to-date on my crust by then! Blog coming, I’ll hope.
|This is the first try at a 15″x13″ margherita. It had its ups and downs Cool thing about it is it’s baked in a half-sheet pan like anyone has. You could do it tomorrow!|
Fitness update: Gabby and I hiked the local hills instead of me going to the gym. Spiritual practice of “putting one foot in front of the other,” as Barbara Brown Taylor says. Dave and I worked out together on Saturday morning…before going out to breakfast. Gee.