Making somethin' out of nothin'

Cooking is for the leisurely minds. I've found that my food tastes good only when I am cooking in a relaxed and happy mood. Hence in the last couple of weeks I basically lived off frozen dumplings and take-outs. But now my friend Iris is in town. I can't possibly feed her frozen dumplings. That would be a crime. (although she does have a strange yearning for bad American food -- macaroni&cheese; bad Chinese take-out...) Regardless, for my pride I have to deliver a decent home cooked meal. So I made what any Chinese housewife would probably make in a jiffy -- little dishes to go with congee. I made pickeled cucumbers (very classic summer side dish), scrambled eggs with shredded carrots (sounds bizarre, but pretty good), asparagus and shiitake mushroom with oyster sauce (I had to use up my 1-week old asparagus), and a improvised pork salad. All the cooking was done in one hour. The host and the guest were both pleased as we carried our full bellies to the sofa after dinner.

Recipes: Pickled cucumber

1 English cucumber
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sugardash of sesame oil
1 clove of garlic minced
a pinch of hot chili pepper flakes
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
2 tsp salt

1. Peel cucumber. Remove seeds. Cut into thin slices. Mix with salt for 10min.
2. Squeeze out as much juice as possible. Rinse with water. Squeeze dry again.
3. Warm up vinegar and sugar until sugar completely dissolves. Mix everything including cucumber slices into the vinegar/sugar mixture. Refrigerate for at least 30min.
4. drain and serve.

Recipe: Scrambled eggs with shredded carrots

2 thin carrots
3 eggs
2 tsp oil

1. Peel and shred carrots with a cheese grater.
2. Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Saute carrots until softened a little.
3. Scramble eggs with salt. Pour into the pan and cook until eggs are just a tiny bit runny. Dump onto a plate. Eggs will finish cooking on its own.

Recipe: Asparagus and shiitake mushroom with oyster sauce

1 bunch thin asparagus
4 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 clove garlic minced
1.5 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp oil
1 tsp corn starch
2 Tbsp water

1. Cut asparagus into 1.5" segments. Saute them with garlic in pan with oil for 1-2 minutes until becoming bright green. Add salt during cooking and toss the pan frequently
2. Meanwhile, cut mushrooms into strips. Add to the pan as asparagus is almost cooked.
3. Mix corn starch, water, sugar, and oyster sauce. Add to the pan when mushroom is cooked. Toss continuously so it doesn't burn. When sauce boils and thickens it is ready.

Recipe: Pork salad

1 Tbsp rice wine (sherry or sake will be fine)
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
0.5 lb pork (country-style rib, boneless)
half of a small vidalia onion, very thinly sliced
some honey
some soy sauce
some rice vinegar
some lime juice
some chopped cilantro

1. Boil a pot of water with rice wine and ginger.
2. Meanwhile, cut pork into thin strips. Place into the boiling water. Take out the meat as soon as they are cooked. Run cold water on the meat until cooled.
3. Mix the sauces and toss with onions and pork. Let sit for 10min before serving.

Note: the amount of seasoning is arbitary. Just add a little of this and a little of that. Taste as you go.


Perdita said…
I totally agree with you about cooking in a relaxed and happy mood. I never hum as I cook after work. But on the weekend I'll start early and totally enjoy myself.
Unfortunately the humming makes in nearly impossible for anyone to take me seriously when I try to get sympathy for having to do all the cooking.
Albertitto said…
My problem is that if I cook in a foul mood, the food tastes foul too. It's like in that movie Like Chocolate for Water, the character's tears infused the chocolate with bitter emotions. I have to be at least in a decent mood to cook.

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