clean up! cook in! . . .
Okay, so today is a gloriously sunny day with a nice breeze outside which can only mean one thing: strip the bed of our winter flannel sheets with colorful fish printed on them, wash a fresh mattress cover, then wash our usual white damask sheets and pillowcases and hang them all out on the clothesline to dry. The turnover from flannel sheets to fragrant cotton sheets dried in the sun feels just right for today.
In the kitchen, the rice cooker is already steaming, making its way to heavenly, aromatic sticky rice that will become more tender as the day goes by. I rummaged around in the fridge because about five days ago, I stopped by the 88 Asian food market when I went into town for a doctor appointment, and went wild for fresh greens all of which cost under a dollar or two: a huge bunch of fresh cilantro, chinese chives, two medium sized bitter melon, three tiny Portuguese cucumbers, fresh watercress, scallion and fresh bean sprouts which usually wilt and go bad before I get around to using them. But, not TODAY!, she says. One of my pet peeves with myself is being too ambitious while buying groceries and then not carrying through to cook everything while they are still fresh.
So, here goes. My plan this afternoon is to:
Make bitter melon stuffed with ground pork and shrimp:
Prepare the bitter melon by cutting them lengthwise and removing the seeds and spongey insides; slice the cleaned halves into 2-3 inch pieces. Chop three large, raw shrimp and add to fresh ground pork. Add chopped green onion, soy, sherry, cornstarch and an egg. Mix well. Heat up a skillet and add grapeseed oil. Scoop up the stuffing mixture into the pieces of melon, then place them stuffing side face down into to the hot oil until nicely browned. Carefully turn them over with a spatula and cook the remaining pieces of squash and stuffing. When all the pieces have been browned and turned over to the melon side, add half a can of chicken broth and cover the pan with a lid. Simmer for twenty minutes or until the squash is cooked through and soft. Hold at room temperature until ready to serve.
For dinner, I’ll combine three organic eggs from the egg farm in Concord (on the way to the 1st doctor appt.,) chopped scallion pieces, cleaned shrimp cut into bite size pieces, fresh watercress and cilantro leaves; a handful of fresh bean sprouts, mix the whole thing together and fry pancake size fritters in a good sized skillet with sizzling grapeseed oil. Turn them over when golden brown and crisp, then fry on the other side until the choice shrimp pieces turn pink. Drain on paper towels. Serve with an oyster and soy sauce dipping combo diluted with a little water and with a little seasoned Marukan vinegar. The sauce makes the whole shrimp/egg crunchy melange taste wonderful.
Served with sticky rice, the shrimp/beansprout fritters are the main dish; while the tender bitter melon with stuffing adds its own texture to the meal.
Now, I feel a little less irresponsible for buying so many great fresh things–my eyes being bigger than figuring when we were going to eat it all before it spoiled. We will never starve, I think to myself, because all the groceries and little bits of pork and shrimp combined probably cost no more than eight to ten dollars! Tomorrow, I’ll saute the Chinese chives with 5 spice pressed tofu and char sui and make a tiny cucumber salad. For the next few days, we’ll have some tender leftover drunken chicken dipped in oyster sauce, stuffed bitter melon, pressed tofu and chinese chives and, of course, a fresh batch of sticky rice. I probably won’t have to cook again until the weekend!
On a nice Spring day like today, though, it’ll be a treat to have freshly laundered sheets on the bed and tasty morsels to pick and choose from on the kitchen table.
We are fortunate and we give thanks.
I have the same probqlem when grocery shopping. I try to make a list and stick to it because I hate to throw out food that I didn’t use quick enough. But I still usually end up with too much fruit; it just looks so good in the store! I have to ask about the sticky rice: is it sticky beause of the way you cook it? I have a steamer/rice cooker but only use it to steam veggies, so I’m thinking about trying rice. Your meal sounds wonderful, and I love the smell of fresh air dried linens. So soothing!
I call the rice sticky rice because I use half short grain brown rice to half Chinese sweet rice (otherwise known as “glutinous” rice–that’s where the ‘sticky’ comes from when cooked.) To flavor it, I boil water and use 1 heaping teaspoon of instant dashi (seaweed) flavoring with four squirts of Ohsawa unpasteurized soy sauce. Two parts dashi/soy broth to one part mixed rice. Stir it together, close the rice cooker and turn it on. The rice cooks and steams, getting more tender the longer it steams in the cooker. I leave it on all the time and sometimes eat the rice for breakfast with a soft boiled egg on top, for lunch with some pickled cucumbers or as the staple for our supper. Yummy! Let me know if you like it too!