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

Tag: Buddha’s Delight

“these are our days” . . .

garden with plantersSometimes it’s hard to remember what we were like twenty years ago. Since then, we may have grown our hair out, gained weight, lost some but still weigh a little more than we did back then. Even more weighty is what our experience has been since then: how did we make out in our professional careers; what do we do and how do we spend our time now? Most importantly, what’s left that we would like to have out of our days while we are in what’s been called our “third chapter?”

G and I when we first met, >twenty years ago. . .

G and I when we first met, >twenty years ago. . .

I’d been thinking about these questions when I came across an article about Carey Mulligan, the actor who appears to be more independent than most. On her dressing room mirror, written in eyebrow pencil are the words:

“These are our days.

Walk them.

Fear Nothing.”

How pure, I thought. No extra words or flourishes. No project management flavored goals, timelines or milestones. How refreshingly free of “shoulda, coulda, woulda” thoughts. No plans nor agendas. Walking is something we do everyday. Pace yourself.

“Fear nothing” is the best advice of all. Upload into the Universe what you can’t manage anymore. Sew them up with tiny stitches and put them away, Push them through the opening and zip the cover tight. Breathe naturally. Since doing that, I’ve found that nervous tics go away. So does a lot more.

Today is Sunday and the day is filled with sunlight and a light breeze that makes the trees sway. G. is tuning a piano downstairs before it is delivered to a new home this afternoon. (How lucky we are that he does what he does with pianos and that we live in this beautiful home!) I’m drinking the last of the coffee and reading my Sunday New York Times newspaper which I relish as one of the luxuries of my week.

our weeping cherry tree flowers every year around May 1st. . .

our weeping cherry tree flowers every year around May 1st. . .

Tomorrow, our new tenants for the front apartment will be coming by for supper. I thought I’d make a vegetarian dish called “Buddha’s Delight” and we’ll make scallion pancakes together. They’ve said that they love dumplings so we’ll make them later on in the Fall after they’ve moved in and things settle down. Earlier in the afternoon, I’ll make some homemade dashi broth with kombu seaweed and bonito flakes; strain it and add some white miso, tofu and green onions for our soup. A good new start to living here in the “piano house.” I hope things work out and that we’ll have a good time.heuchera planters 1jpg

The spring ceramic planters I bought at Lowe’s are filled with dramatically colorful heuchera plants whose leaves contrast with each other against the green of the pots. Coral bells have always been some of my favorite kinds of plants because of the unusual colors the leaves are (chartreuse, light orange and deep maroon) their stems of tiny coral flowers swaying in the breeze.

heuchera planters 2

My idea is to let them grow for awhile in the planters, then place them in the ground. That will allow the pots to change their look and contents with other plantings that catch my eye as the growing season progresses: knee high cosmos plants during the summer, or statuesque foxgloves for example; bright, deep-colored chrysanthemums in the Fall. It will be fun to rotate what’s in the planters outside and mostly, it will be fun to anticipate, fearing nothing.

heuchera planters 3







spring steps . . .

my granddaughter's shoes . . .

my granddaughter’s shoes . . .

Sometimes, it feels like time stands still and progress is impeded. Or worse, something happens that stalls or detours what we’d like to see happen. Yesterday or the day before, I was cooking in the kitchen and twice ran the big toe of my injured foot into something–the stove or the fridge as I swiveled around in my wheelchair. So much for my naivete, thinking I could safely get around by myself!

The result was an angry looking, red, swollen joint on my big toe the next day which I gingerly iced for ten minutes at a time. I was also miffed at myself for being careless and not putting on the right side Teva sandal to protect the foot which protrudes beyond the footrest of the wheelchair. Anyhow, it’s better today and so I decided to venture into the pantry adjacent to our kitchen to sort and cull out canned goods for a U.S. Postal food drive scheduled for this Saturday. The only thing is, there’s a step down from our kitchen to get into the pantry.

Normally, we wouldn’t even notice such things that we take for granted. So in order to get in the pantry, the wheelchair footrests had to come off. Then, I pulled the wheelchair gingerly into the pantry, reattached the footrests and sat down in it, pulling things out like lentil soup and chick peas that I didn’t think we’d use. I also put G.’s cans of Coke into the small fridge that we use for drinks so as to free up space in the big fridge we use in the kitchen.

Sounds good, right? Except for the near-fall that I took when I tripped, getting the wheelchair into the pantry, breaking a china cannister that was in the way. I managed to pick up the broken pieces with my handy grabber, proud of myself that I was able to get most of the broken pieces into a double layered plastic grocery bag. I’ll ask G. to sweep up the rest of it up once he’s back home since I don’t want to push my luck any further.

In looking through the foodstuffs, I discovered I had plenty of dried tree ear, shitake mushrooms, dried bean curd skin, tiger lily root and cellophane noodles. When soaked in a bowl of hot water before ready to use, they are then rinsed, and cut up and then cooked with some napa cabbage, resulting in one of my favorite dishes, Buddha’s Delight. I remembered there was a small container of marinated ground pork and shrimp left over from making wontons last week which I’ll defrost and add to our buddha dish, slightly departing from the recipe’s vegetarian origins. No matter, I thought, it will still taste good. So, that’s how tonight’s dinner got decided.

"buddha's delight" for dinner . . .

“buddha’s delight” for dinner . . .

Afterwards, I pulled myself onto the couch and looked outside at the beautiful, sunny, early Spring day. Somehow, it reminded me of Beethoven’s “Archduke Trio” which I saved into a playlist from my library on I-Tunes and emailed to my daughters, M. and C. to see if they could download it and enjoy the wonderful piece themselves where they are, working so hard today to study for exams and preparing students for theirs too.

So simple: clean things out; try not to fall (too badly); use what I already have to make supper; look out the window at the beautiful Spring Day, listen to Beethoven; share it with the kids.

That works for me! At least for today.

Postscript: Happy to report the next day, I was shown by a physical therapist how to use crutches to go up and down the steps (bad foot down first; good foot up first.)

We live on the third floor of a large Queen Anne Victorian house so there are lots of steps, and also thankfully, lots of landings on which to rest. Having gotten over my reticence to try it out, I figured I’m going to be on crutches a lot longer while the ankle strengthens and becomes more limber, so going up and down the stairs with crutches (rather than sitting and sliding on my backside) is a logical next step to take.

A supper of mustard/rosemary/garlic marinated lamb loin chops and fresh asparagus made it all worthwhile!


buddha’s delight . . .

. . . soaking daylily buds, wood ear and shitake mushroom

. . . soaking daylily buds, wood ear and shitake mushroom

On Sunday, I spent all afternoon cleaning out the pantry. It was hot and the task was frustrating, having to temporarily lump disparate things in grocery bags in order to make enough space to reorganize things; then looking for where to store leftover hodge-podge goods. For once, I put food basics (rice, flour, salt, sugar) together and most often used equipment (oval gratin and baking equipment) together (DUH!) For someone slightly OCD, you might have expected I would have figured this out long ago! Better now than never.

It was also embarrassing or humorous, however you want to look at it to find out how consistent I am in my preferences; e.g., duplicates or similar ruffled pastry pans, some with removable bottoms; two extra-large cooling racks; twin muffin pans and so on.

When I consolidated the Asian foodstuffs into a white plastic three drawer storage unit on wheels (for only $11.99 at Target) there were numerous packets of dried tiger lily root ( a key component for making buddha’s delight) and wood ear (which gives texture to that same dish.) In fact, I calculated that I must have enough of these two ingredients to make buddha’s delight every week for a very long time.

Actually, that’s not really a bad idea. It was one of my cousin Pei-Fen’s favorite Chinese vegetarian dishes to cook. We shared it one last time together five years ago in her kitchen before she died this Spring. I’ve made it at home since but have as yet to come up with what made hers so definitively Buddha-ish. I think that it’s due to the fineness with which she sliced the cabbage, daylily root, tree ear and soaked mushroom pieces. The ingredients were mere slivers, resulting in a cooked melange of cabbage, aromatic with a little soy sauce and sesame oil added at the end. This dish, to me at least, is all about TEXTURE. The slightly bland flavor of the vegetables is married to their texture. It’s somehow aromatic and chaste at the same time: an ascetic aesthetic!

If you find recipes for Buddha’s Delight online, you’ll see an incredible diversity of ingredients that people use in this dish. My nirvana dish is purist and classic: no meat or shellfish of any kind; no eggs, no carrots, no broccoli florets, no snow peas, no bamboo shoots, no water chestnuts, no bean sprouts, no apple. . . nothing but a head of cabbage (not coleslaw, bok choy or napa) sliced by hand with a handful of the daylily buds, tree ear and shitake mushrooms. Graced with a little seasoning (soy sauce, mirin, oyster sauce and sesame oil) and a bit of water to steam the vegetables to a tender bite if needed. That’s it.

So today, starting little by little to use up this surfeit (glut) of ingredients, I soaked the makings in order to try my hand again at duplicating Pei-Fen’s dish. I had also cooked some brown rice the other day that I’ll use tonight to make something to eat along with the buddha’s delight: fried brown rice with edamame (soybeans), toasted nori (seaweed) and sliced scallions. The Buddha’s Delight dish will be more than enough and should last for a couple of days. Tomorrow, we’ll have it again along with buckwheat soba noodles in ginger broth.

Here are some tips for making my version of buddha’s delight:

1. Soak a half-handful of dried daylily buds, dried wood er and dried shitake mushrooms (3) in warm water until all are softened (this takes awhile to soak so just start it earlier in the day)
2. Rinse pieces and drain well to rid of any grit.
3. Trim daylilies of hard stem ends and slice into thirds
4. Trim wood ear and slice up, removing any hard or rigid pieces in the center
5. Remove stems from softened shitake mushrooms and slice into small slivers
6. Squeeze and drain all of water.

cleaned, sliced, rinsed

cleaned, sliced, rinsed

7. Heat a medium size skillet and pour in grapeseed oil to make a thin film
8. When hot, saute three scallions, trimmed, split and sliced into 1 inch pieces.
9. Add the daylily, wood ear and mushrooms; saute over medium high heat and mix together.
10. Add 1 tablespoon organic soy sauce (Ohsawa); 1 tablespoon mirin or cooking sherry, 2 tablespoons oyster sauce, 2 teaspoons of xylitol (sugar substitute) and mix together–the mixture will be aromatic and smell wonderful. This is a brief braising step that helps these ingredients to soak up flavor ahead of adding them to the plain cabbage.
11. Add a scant 1/4 cup of spring water, stir and mix everything together, letting the water steam and soften the mixture. Let sit on very low heat for about 20 minutes until ready to cook the cabbage.
braised daylily, wood ear and shitake mushrooms

braised daylily, wood ear and shitake mushrooms

Last steps:
1. Rinse head of cabbage clean. Slice large wedges and then cut each wedge into tiny slivers, using a cleaver or sharp kitchen knife. For the ingredients above, I used a little more than half a head of cabbage

half a thinly sliced head of cabbage

half a thinly sliced head of cabbage

2. Use a large skillet and heat up grapeseed oil to cover the bottom. When hot, put the cabbage slivers in and saute, coating the cabbage and sprinkling with some sea salt
3. Stir the cabbage which will soften with the salt; make sure the cabbage is cooked dry
cabbage cooking in the pan

cabbage cooking in the pan

4. Add the skillet of braised mushroom, daylily and wood ear mixture to the cabbage
5. Stir it all together until well mixed
6. Remove to a serving dish
7. Add a tiny bit of sesame oil on top of the vegetables and stir to mix in the flavors
. . . Buddha's Delight

. . . Buddha’s Delight

1. Defrost half a bag of frozen shelled edamame (soybeans) in warm water and drain well
2. Have on hand a cup of previously cooked brown rice
3. Finely cut up three scallions at sharply angled diagonal slices
4. Heat up a clean skillet with grapeseed oil
5. Saute the green onions in the skillet, add brown rice and stir fry
6. Add edamame to rice mixture
7. Have a little dashi broth & a squirt of organic soy on hand to moisten and add a little flavor to the dish
8. Stir in nori, sesame rice condiment and mix gently.

. . . brown rice with edamame and nori

. . . brown rice with edamame and nori

Note: To enlarge photos, click once; to magnify, click twice on the image.

Postscript: We finished all but a small dab of rice and there’s half a handful of Buddha’s Delight left over. Maybe I’ll make it again next Tuesday.