mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

striped bass for dinner tonight . . .

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We live in a working class town in Central Massachusetts with numerous Universities (Holy Cross, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Mass College of Pharmacy) and Hospitals (UmassMed, Memorial and a bunch of others.) There are also a couple of Vietnamese grocery stores in town (Mekong and Ha Tien.)

What both of these specialty asian food shops have are open bins of fresh whole fish of all stripes (large to small.) One of my favorite trips is to go on a Saturday morning before the crowds hit at midday and to buy two medium size whole striped bass. The guys behind the counter then trim, scale and clean them. Today’s ‘catch’ costs less than $12 for the two fish. And you can’t get fish much fresher than this unless you catch it yourself, it seems!fish-1

For dinner tonight, I’m going to steam the striped bass in a large skillet until they’re cooked through. When done, I’ll move them to a large platter and pour a sauce over them (sauteed garlic, ginger, scallions with soy, sherry cooking wine, oyster sauce, a little sweetener, thickened slightly with a cornstarch slurry.) The sauce is heated separately in a pan until it tastes just right (sampling as we go,) and is then poured gently over the fish just when we’re ready to sit down at the table to eat. Because the fish is so tender all by itself, I like to keep the sauce/glaze light and full of flavor but not so salty as to overpower the delectable fish itself.

As a side dish, I’m making Chinese string beans – an experiment to replicate some of those steaming piles of green beans at restaurants that are tender in the middle but still have a bite plus a spicy hot glaze that’s piquant but not overpowering. I looked at some recipes online and I think the secret to the texture/bite is to heat up an inch of of vegetable cooking oil in a covered pot until hot and deep fry the trimmed beans (that have been rinsed but are absolutely dry before putting in the oil) as part one of a two-step cooking process.

I just finished trimming the beans and what I noticed most of all is that these are not regular bean beans like the ones you see in the super market or at the farm stand. I picked these up at the Asian food market and they’re, well, an ASIAN variety of beans. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Anyhow, they are just gorgeous: unblemished, uniformly thin, crisp to the knife. They’re dark green but not as skinny as French haricots verts!beans-2

These are going to be great! I never bought string beans at the Asian market before because I thought that all string beans were created equal! Not anymore!  So, after I rinsed the beans, I patted them dry with a paper towel before the next step of cooking them in hot oil to kind of par-fry them (as opposed to parboil.)

deep-fried beans (90 seconds) on bottom; raw ones on top

deep-fried beans (90 seconds) on bottom; raw ones on top

After 90 seconds frying in the oil, I removed them and drained them on kitchen towel to remove excess oil. THEN, in a skillet, I heated up some fresh oil and sauteed some crushed fresh garlic, minced ginger root, and chopped scallions. I stir-fried the beans quickly in a skillet large enough to move them around and then added some seasoning (a dab of Ohsawha soy sauce and a tiny bit of sugar (splenda).) Then, I sprinkle the cooked beans with a shake of red pepper flakes and tasted it: tender and flavorful. Here’s how they looked.

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Both G. and I thought that the steamed fish and string beans were plenty for our dinner and that we didn’t want or need any cooked rice.

So that’s our dinner tonight. I would tag this one as a healthy “foodie pick” for a Saturday night meal. Sound good?

 

“feast or famine diet” . . .?

a FIESTA of dahlias from Fivefork Farms this a.m. . .

a FIESTA of dahlias from Fivefork Farms this a.m. . .

dahlias, majestic in a favorite vase . . .

dahlias, majestic in a favorite vase . . .

So, if you read the last post, you’ll know that I’ve come across a 21 day diet that includes 2 days of fasting, drinking bone broth and eating regularly the rest of the time. I’ve refined this somewhat into what I call a “feast or famine” diet that includes:

  1. 2 days apart fasting – drinking juices and bone broth;
  2. 2 days of salad suppers – salads on a dinner plate with a serving of protein (teriyaki salmon, sliced steak, shrimp)
  3. 3 days left for foodie menus – pappardelle pasta with veal ragu, Peking duck, teriyaki chicken thighs on the grill, etc.
'famine' fixin's for beef bone broth. . .

‘famine’ fixin’s for beef bone broth. . .

Anyhow, I’m going to try it out, starting tomorrow when the Instant Pot arrives and I make up some bone broth to store in the freezer.

Starting Monday, September 12th, I’ll start the 21-day diet clock. And on October 3rd, I’ll weigh in (couldn’t resist the pun) and see where things stand.

Meanwhile, here are more photos of the beautiful dahlias at the end of summer – and the beginning of our weekend!

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the ‘unseen hand of the Universe’ today. . .

 

a flexible glass tube flower vase "lost" and now "found" . . .

A friend from my college days wrote to me today that she didn’t understand how elements in my book, “Uncommon Hours” combined such concepts as transcendental values, the tarot, horoscopes and the “unseen hand of the Universe” as components of a consistent world or life-view. I, in turn, was baffled because it’s exactly how my life seems to perk along everyday.

For example, I spent quite a bit of time today in the local Bank of America office trying to sort out some accounting errors and to report fraudulent activity on my checking account. It took a long time because the Bank’s fraud department didn’t answer the phone even after an hour’s wait in the manager’s cubicle. After I went home to try the fraud line again, I returned to the bank to close out my account and open a new one. During this time, I had become friendly with the bank manager who helped me with these transactions. During our chitchat while waiting to connect with said fraud department, she told me about “Instant Pot” – an electric pressure cooker.  I was delighted to hear about it because I’ve used a manual pressure cooker to cook brown rice macrobiotically but had stopped doing it because it took too long. She was enthusiastic about this kitchen gadget that would cook rice, make stock and stews as a pressure cooker (meaning fast) and could also be used as a slow cooker. When I went home, I read about it on Amazon, saving it in my checkout box.

Later this evening, I watched a chamber music special called “Simple Gifts,” a “Live from Lincoln Center” program about artist-led performances at the Shaker community in Kentucky, held in an incredible tobacco barn that was magical in its appearance with daylight showing between the slats and superior performances of artist-led chamber music. I thought it was an interesting concept not to have a conductor, but for various musicians leading the rest of the ensemble themselves, depending on whether/when they had the lead melody including wind instruments. It’s such a simple and basic concept but I had not seen it performed with such a large ensemble. I was also impressed by the co-directors, a husband-wife musician team who played the piano and cello: Wu Han and David Finckel who are also directors of the Chamber Music Society at Lincoln Center.

Directly after the special, the PBS station segued right into a healthy diet program featuring a Dr. KellyAnn somebody. She was a little grating so I turned it off but idly looked up her book online and read about her regimen to lose weight and turn your health around in 21 days because I had resolved to get in better shape just tonight after we had finished dinner. Her routine turned out to rely on two days of “fasting” and sipping homemade bone broth from beef bones or chicken bones, etc. simmering on the stove for six hours or so.

So if you’re still with me, of course, that brings my day full circle to the convo at the bank earlier where I learned about the Instant Pot which, (voila!,) is capable of making stock that takes hours on the stove in just a couple of hours in its electric pressure cooker mode. Get it? The unseen hand of the Universe, right?

But what about the horoscope part? I had read that Jupiter, a very powerful and positive planet, would enter G.’s birth sign today for the first time in twelve years, perhaps auguring good fortune. Lo and behold this afternoon, we received some good news from a Court ruling, giving us a small victory we had hoped for. Maybe we might even be turning the corner in this David vs. Goliath battle! See what I mean?

The opening question above also challenged the spiritual premise of my book and my first over-reaction was to ditch it, frustrated that yet another reader didn’t “get it” the way that I had intended. After today’s events though, I decided not to give up on it just because someone else could not imagine a life filled with so much serendipity and synchronicity.

Today has been a busy day and I feel the Universe has given me a good lesson (again!)  Hallelujah! This is the way my life goes along, just about every day. I’m not kidding. Is it just following your intuition? Seems like more than that to me, doesn’t it?

Thank you Helpers!

Note: I ordered the “Instant Pot” to make bone broth per the 21 day diet plan. Will buy ingredients today at Mekong, a Vietnamese market in town and make a first batch of bone broth after the pot arrives and I figure out how to do it. Stay tuned.