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.