Roasted Figs with Buche de Chevre & Balsamic Glaze

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There was a skinny fig tree in front of my childhood home — the original home, the only one that appears in my dreams, that I have hopelessly yearned for since the day I left for America.

Throughout my childhood, I remember tasting a sweet ripe fig only once. I grew up in the years of extreme food scarcity and no child could wait until the figs were ripe to harvest them. My brother and I began picking them earlier each year because we wanted to get them before the other children in the neighborhood could steal them. We tried to leave the raw figs in the rice sack or in the sun for them to ripen, but the figs stayed hard no matter how long we waited. 

One day, I was idling by the 2nd floor window daydreaming, which was something children often did in that era. A gentle breeze ruffled the leaves of the fig tree and a pinkish purplish bulb caught my eye. A ripe fig! I had never before seen a fig like this, rufescent and drooped from the slightly wilted stem. I nearly killed myself trying to pluck it with the help of a clothe hanger. I quickly stuffed it in my mouth before anyone could see me. There are no words that can describe the intense and shocking burst of pleasure as my teeth sunk into the flesh of that fig.

As I prepared these roasted figs today, I felt a nostalgic tug in my heart — a nameless longing. Was I twelve or thirteen? What was I daydreaming about? The neighbor boy with a “bad reputation” to play badminton with? The faraway lands I secretly read about in forbidden hand copied books? Or was it food? I was always a little hungry in those days and food was never far from my thoughts.

Not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined roasting dozens of ripe figs in an oven — a wonderful contraption I didn’t know existed until I came to the US.

As I used to daydream by the window, I now do by the oven. These roasted figs are sumptuous. They are great as appetizer, dessert or a snack. I used Buche de Chevre which was absolutely exquisite, but goat cheese will also taste great with it. The balsamic glaze is an important ingredient that is not optional in my mind. It is a perfect finishing touch to complete the dish.

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Roasted Figs with Buche de Chevre & Balsamic Glaze

Figs

Brown sugar

Buche de Chevre

Balsamic Glaze

Pinch of salt

Pine nuts

Mint leaves

Olive oil spray

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Rinse the figs and pat them dry, then cut off the stems and, without cutting through the base, halve them from top to bottom.

Spray a baking pan with good olive oil. Dip the cut side of the fig in a dish of brown sugar. Line the figs cut side up in the baking pan.

Bake until the sugar is bubbling and the figs is heated through, about 15 minutes.

Sprinkle broken cheese on top. Drizzle with balsamic glaze. Top with pine nuts and mint leaves. Serve warm.

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Braised Fish Maw & Some Other Musings

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Many of you might never have heard of it, but fish maw is considered a delicacy in China — one of the four treasures of the sea. It has also been documented, since the Han Dynasty, as a tonic for strengthening one’s tendons and bones.  In today’s China, women believe it to be a beauty food because of it’s high collagen content.  I have eaten it in the past, but have not cooked it myself until today.

Pikky’s mother, who had brought me the fish maw the other day, gave me a recipe, but I didn’t have many of the ingredients she listed, and decided to improvise with what I had on my shelf.  I suppose I gave it a Shanghainese twist.  A few adventurous eaters from our Marco Polo production ate it and claimed that they absolutely loved it, which surprised me, and pleased me to no end.  As a friend of mine commented that those were the loyal hungry subjects of the Hungry Empress.

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I leave for Shanghai tomorrow and will bring some fish maw back to cook it for my parents.  They are both getting frail with age and I want to spend as much time with them as I can.

My father is hard of hearing and my mother has early stage of dementia. They have been helping each other in the recent years — one hears and the other remembers. Together, they have lived as one whole person.

Mother was a brilliant researcher in the field of neuropharmacology.  As she began to lose her short term memory, her critical thinking and analytical ability were still intact and she was clear-eyed about her poor prognosis.  She told me that there is no cure yet for damaged brain cells.

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Mother

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My father with me in front of our house in Shanghai

When I called her two days ago about my trip to Shanghai, I was not sure if she would remember it later. I thought of calling her again today to remind her.  Sometimes, I would call her everyday about the same thing until she got it. For instance, I told her that I was filming in Malaysia at least five times until she finally committed it to memory. Now she knows where I am, most of the time.  When I turned on the computer to Skype her, I was happy to see an email from her, clearly remembering our conversation and asking for my arrival time.  Her very selective short term memory can still retain what’s truly meaningful and important to her. 

For as long as I could remember, I have admired my mother for her beauty, intelligence and talent. When I was a child, all my school friends admired her and wanted to grow up to be like her. 

After her retirement, my mother took up piano full time and won First Place in a city wide competition in Shanghai for her age group 10 years ago. When her arthritis became more severe, she changed her style from classical to what she called Jazz — freer, more expressive but less demanding on her fingers’ precision. Now she plays the piano as part of her daily routine to stall the progression of dementia.

Sometimes, I panic a little when I see how old age has ravaged them, but when I hear my mother play the piano, I calm down with the knowledge that there is still much vitality and joy left in her.  As I write, I have the picture in my mind: Mother is playing the piano with her arthritic fingers while Father sits next to her focusing on the computer screen, polishing the radiology textbook that he, at age 84, will publish this year, completely deaf to and unperturbed by Mother’s banging on the piano.  They remind me to seize every moment and to capture every drop of joy in life.

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Braised Fish Maw

Ingredients:

3 cups Fish Maw (after soaking, squeezing out the water and slicing)

1 cup Shao Xing cooking wine

1 1/2 cup water (separated)

3 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoon oyster sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon Chinese peppercorn

8 slices ginger

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1 green chili pepper

1 red chili pepper

4 small Thai red onion or small shallots

1 carrot, sliced diagonally

6 oz. snow peas

Cilantro leaves and chopped green onion for garnish, optional

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Preparation:

Soak the processed fish maw.  They come deep fried into crispy chips, much like the pork skin crackling chips.  When they become soft, wash them and squeeze out the water 4 to 5 rounds.  Cut them into 2 inch or smaller pieces.

Mix cornstarch, 1/2 cup water, sugar. Set aside.

In a wok, heat 2 teaspoon oil and sauté on medium high ginger, garlic, pepper, peppercorn until aromatic and add sliced fish maw.  Give it a few good stir and add the wine and soy sauce and water and cover the lid.  Lower heat to medium and let cook for 5 to 8 minutes. 

In the meantime, in a separate pan, sauté the shallot, carrot and snow peas until tender crispy.

When the liquid in the wok with fish maw is reduced to almost nothing, add the sautéd vegetables and the cornstarch mixture.  Toss to mix and coat.

Garnish and serve hot with rice.

I added a few pieces of tofu to braise together with the fish maw, thinking that if someone did not like fish maw, he could eat the tofu, but everyone who tried loved the fish maw.

Serve hot with rice or noodle.

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Cauliflower Fried Rice

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I am beginning to pack again for the last leg of my European travel — Slovakia.  As I often do before a trip, I went to the library to borrow a book that I otherwise would not read if I wasn’t stranded midair on a transcontinental flight — Simone Weil’s Gravity and Grace.  I leafed through the pages and found the following sentences, “Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love.  Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.”  Weil believed in the meditative power of the inner supplication we call “attention” as a superior tool for self-transformation.  Instead of will, she suggested we try to “cure our faults by attention.”

I was piqued by the topic of attention because it seems to be the hardest thing to have in this age of multi-tasking and non-stop stimulation/distraction from every direction.  Sometimes my entire family is glancing at different devices and returning emails and texts when we eat our meals.  It is not that we need it all the time, but I think it would be nice to truly pay attention to each other as if we are all on our first date with someone we like.

In another of Weil’s books First and Last Notebooks she writes, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”  This was true for her time, but much truer for ours — a time when attention is often carved into little snippets and thrown at whichever way the wind is blowing.

On the day the DOW fell nearly 600 points, let’s pay “absolutely unmixed attention” to the part of lives that are not and can never be commodified — our most intimate relationships, our moral fortitude, our spirit and our understanding of what it means to be human — and be thankful that that essential part of us is well. 

For food, I cooked cauliflower fried rice.  The versatile cauliflower did it again! This “fried rice” is absolutely delicious.

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Cauliflower Fried Rice

Ingredients:

1 medium cauliflower, florets only

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1/3 carrot, finely chopped

5 to 6 stocks green onion, chopped

4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

2 to 3 thin slices peeled ginger, minced

2 eggs + 2 egg whites, beaten

1 red Jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1/4 cup frozen peas

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon yellow curry paste

1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon or less fish sauce

1/4 teaspoon brown sugar

3 tablespoon canola oil or other cooking oil, separated

Red pepper flakes to taste and for garnish

Preparation:

Pulse the washed and dried florets in food processor in small batches.  Make sure the florets are completely dry and don’t over process.  I hand chopped a small batch to give it a little more texture.

Beat the eggs and egg whites with a pinch of salt and a pinch of minced green onion, garlic, and ginger.  Let it sit while you prepare the other vegetables.

Mix curry paste, soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar in a small bowl.

Heat a non-stick pan on medium high with 1 tablespoon of oil.  Stir fry the egg mixture for about 2 to 3 minutes.  Using the spatula to cut the egg into small pieces while stirring.  Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a large wok on high.  When the oil is hot, add garlic, ginger, onion, jalapeño, white part of green onion and stir until aromatic, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium high or medium if the wok becomes too hot and the content begins to brown too much.

Add cauliflower rice into the wok and continue to stir for about 3 minutes.  Add frozen peas and continue to stir for about 2 minutes.  Add the green part of the green onion and stir for another 2 minutes. 

Pour in the soy sauce mixture and stir until well coated and dry, about another minute or two.  Make sure the cauliflower race is not over cooked and mushy.  It needs to be al dente.

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Honey Spice Glazed Salmon

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There was an article on yesterday’s Wall Street Journal titled Television Habits That Put Family First.  Apparently a new study showed that a family that watches TV together stays together.  Everyone is supposed to put their individual devices away to bond over TV.  There was a time not too long ago when TV watching was a vice for children, especially for tiger mothers.  The question from other Asian mothers such as “What?  You let your children watch TV?” used to make me feel very ashamed.  Well, nowadays  there are so many other unproductive or even harmful activities that TV watching is considered a remedy, at least when the family watches it together.

Tonight, we watched Sixth Sense, a film that I really enjoyed but hadn’t seen again since it was first released.  It was fun to see it again with the girls, especially when Audrey got so scared that she had to cover her eyes with my hand.  The problem is that now she refuses to go anywhere in the house without me.  She is afraid that she will see dead people.  As a matter of fact, she is sitting next to me right now holding one of my hands.  She insists that she must sleep with us tonight.  This is the type of bonding I didn’t expect.

For food, I made honey spice glazed salmon, which Peter and I ate for both lunch and dinner.  It’s delicious hot or chilled.  The smoked paprika gives it a smoky flavor that is perfect for a salad or sandwich if there is leftover.

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Spice Honey Glazed Salmon

Ingredients:

1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

3/4 tsp dry mustard

1/2 tsp (1 tsp for spicier) ground cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground oregano

3/8 tsp black pepper

1 lemon, separated

2 tbsp or less honey

1 wild sockeye salmon fillet, with skin (1/2 whole fish)

Olive oil cooking spray

Oregano sprigs for garnish

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Preparation:

Turn the oven on high Broil.

Mix the first 7 ingredients in a bowl to make the rub.  Scrape off the scales on the salmon skin in the sink.  Rinse and then dry the fish with a paper towel.  Squeeze some lemon juice on the fillet.  Sprinkle the rub on the fish generously on both sides.  Rub with your fingers.  Let sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Mix 1 tsp lemon juice with 2 tbsp of honey in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Line the baking with with foil.  Spray the foil with oil.  Lay the fish on the pan and spray the fish with oil.  Put 4 slices of lemon on top the the fillet.  Broil it for 4 1/2 minutes.

Open the oven and pull the rack out half way.  Pour the lemon honey mixture on top of the fish and return to broil for another 1 1/2 minutes or until slightly charred.

Transfer fish to serving platter and garnish. 

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Black Bean Salad with Corn Avocado Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette

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A friend is visiting me from Los Angeles.  It’s her birthday, and we decided to celebrate by taking the cruise to Alcatraz Island.  I tend to take this amazing city for granted until a friend or relative shows up and I take them sightseeing.

It was a glorious day.  The sun was shining, and the flowers were blooming, and there was a provocative art installation in some of the old prison buildings.  I found that these dilapidated buildings with broken windows and peeling paint were perfect settings for an art exhibition. 

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The last time I went to Alcatraz there was a bad storm.  We couldn’t have picked a worse day.  My parents came to visit us from Shanghai, and it was their last day in San Francisco.  Against Peter’s advice, I took them and the girls to Alcatraz.  Everyone got dreadfully wet and cold, and we shivered all the way home after only staying on the island for one hour. It was quite miserable. That was almost ten years ago.  When I visited my parents in Shanghai last month, they talked to me so fondly of the time they spent visiting us.  Even the Alcatraz trip became a wonderful adventure. 

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“Blossom”

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Looking at the eroded buildings around me today, I thought of my parents, my children; I thought of time — its relentless and indifferent march.  And yet in my subjective world, once seized, time is also malleable.  It becomes our memory and stretches to fill our imagination.

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Black Bean Salad with Corn Avocado Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup frozen corn kernels, cooked

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons minced red onion

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, best quality such as Colavita

1 teaspoon lime zest (be sure to zest limes before juicing them)

6 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish

2 Hass avocados, chopped

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Instructions:

Combine all ingredients except for avocados in a large bowl and mix well. Cover and chill for a few hours or overnight. Right before serving, add avocados and mix gently, being careful not to mash avocados. Garnish with a more chopped cilantro if desired. Serve at room temperature.

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 Recipe adapted from : http://www.onceuponachef.com

Baked Coconut Yam Fries

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I caught Audrey listening to Taylor Swift while practicing piano a couple of times.  I also caught her practicing with one hand while snacking with the other a couple of times.  Finally I decided that her playing piano was a futile effort for everyone involved.  Peter and I sat her down a couple of weeks ago and told her that we were letting her off the hook, that it was okay with us if she didn’t play the piano any more.  Unexpectedly, she said she didn’t want to stop.  She insisted on continuing to take lessons.  We told her that it would be her choice to either practice much more conscientiously or to stop entirely.  We told her to think it overnight and let us know her decision the next day.  The next day Audrey solemnly declared that she would practice everyday and with focus, that she wanted to continue piano. 

It’s been about two weeks since her own decision to continue playing the piano and I am hearing a marked improvement in her playing.  Life is full of surprises.

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Baked Coconut Yam Fries

Ingredients:

1 yam (spiralized or sliced)

2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil (melted)

1/4 cup unsweetened shaved coconut

1/2 tablespoon xylitol or sugar (optional)

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Coat the spiralized or sliced yam with coconut oil and shaved coconut in a baking pan.  Spread a thin layer of yam in the baking dish. You may need two baking pans for this.  The fries will not be crispy if the layer is too thick.

Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes and then flip over. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until browned. 

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Carrot Noodles with Lean Turkey Sausage & Mushroom in Cashew Cream Sauce

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Today, our family attended an event hosted by the 1990 Institute, an organization I am on the board of.  There was a lively discussion with the upcoming ABC series Fresh Off the Boat star, Hudson Yang and his father Jeff on the portrayal of Asian Americans in the national media.  Fresh Off the Boat is a story of a Chinese American family based on chef Eddie Huang’s book Fresh Off the Boat, a Memoir.  I’m sure there will be lots of cooking in it — one more reason for me to check it out!

Today

Hudson Yang is the 11-year-old boy between me and his father Jeff Yang.

When I got the female lead Mei Mei in Taipan in 1985, I was fresh of the boat myself.  I began acting to support myself through college and never thought that I would still be acting 30 years later.  Back then, there were no meaningful parts for someone like me in American cinema or television.  I used the Taipan contract from Dino De Laurentiis to get a loan for a little house in North Hollywood, where I was going to open a home for seniors.  I heard that the US government would pay me to cook and care for old people.  That was one thing I was confident I could do as a FOB.

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Photo from Taipan, my and Kyra Sedgwick’s first film

From Taipan to today, we have come a long way in getting our faces shown and our stories told on the large and small screens in America.  I am proud of and happy for Hudson and all his co-stars on the show and I’m so looking forward to watching it!

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Ingredients:

  • For the pasta:
  • 2 large carrots, sliced with a vegetable peeler
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups sliced baby portobello mushrooms
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 1/2 lean turkey sausage links, skin removed
  • 1/4 sweet onion, thinly sliced

For the sauce:

  • 1/4 diced sweet onion
  • ½ cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and then drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons of low-sodium vegetable broth + more for thinning as needed
  • salt and pepper, to taste

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Preparation:

Place a medium saucepan filled halfway with water and a pinch of salt over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add in the carrot noodles and cook for 2-3 minutes or until al dente. Once cooked, drain into a colander and set aside.

While the carrots are cooking, place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add in the olive oil. Once oil heats, add in the onions and cook until onions softened, about 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate and set aside, keeping the skillet over medium heat.

In the skillet, add in the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cover and cook for 5-7 minutes or until wilted. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate and set aside. In the same skillet, add in the sausage and cook 5-7 minutes or until browned and cooked through. Transfer to the plate with the mushrooms and set aside. Wipe down the skillet and keep off heat on the stovetop, for later use.

Place the cooked onions into a high-speed blender along with the cashews, garlic cloves, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, broth and season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust to your preference or thin out with more broth, if too thick.

Place the same large skillet back over medium heat and add in the mushrooms and sausage, carrot noodles and toss. Pour in the cashew cream sauce. Toss to combine thoroughly until the cashew sauce is heated through.

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Recipe adapted from Inspiralized.com

Marco Pol(l)o

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Marco Polo just got renewed for a 2nd season!  Yay!  Reunion with my Mongolian Beef and hordes of international eye candy.  And of course playing the wonderful Empress Chabi. This is exciting news for everyone involved, myself included.

But what about my family?  Though my girls act as if I annoy them all the time, they are at an age when they most need a mother’s guidance and influence.  In my younger days, I used to love this caravan life of a circus person — traveling the world while doing something I loved to do.  Having children has changed everything. While I believe many can do my job as an actress or filmmaker, only I can be the mother for my children.  There are times I become paralyzed by the prospect of a great opportunity, knowing fulfilling my desire and realizing my dreams professionally also mean abandoning the people I love.   P1020077

Work is a double edged sward for me.  Perhaps it is so with most working mothers.  I realize that I am lucky to be in this dilemma.  Many people don’t have the choices that I’m facing.  The ingredients of fulfillment is difficult to balance, but I have a secret ingredient in life — my husband Peter, the best husband and father anyone could ask for.  He is my lobster.  He is my salt.

And he does dishes.

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To celebrate Marco Polo’s 2nd season, I made a delicious Chinese dish called Three-Cup Chicken (三杯鸡).   Historically, it was made of 1 chicken with 1 cup each of soy sauce, cooking wine and sugar.  The dish has evolved through time to its contemporary version.  Mine was adapted from the recipe from rasamalaysia.com.

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Ingredients:

1 lb. chicken drumsticks (I used 1 lb. of skinless thighs)

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil or toasted sesame oil

2-inch piece old ginger, peeled and cut into thin pieces

2 to 3 dried red chili pepper, without the seeds (optional)

7 cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 shallot, sliced

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon corn starch

1 tablespoon xylitol or sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine + 2 tablespoon to marinate the chicken

A big bunch Thai basil leaves

(I added 2 small boiled red skin potatoes, halved and peeled.  This dish ordinarily does not use potatoes, but I improvised this time because I had two boiled potatoes lying around. I added the boiled potato after I poured in the sauce and before I cover the lid.  They tasted yummy with the chicken.)

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Preparation:

Cut the chicken into pieces and marinate in 2 tablespoon of cooking wine for 10 to 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry.  Add 1 tablespoon of corn starch to the chicken and mix well.

Heat up a wok or clay pot on high heat and add the dark sesame oil. Add the ginger, garlic, shallot, chili pepper and stir-fry until aromatic.

Add in the chicken and do a few quick stirs. Add the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, xylitol or sugar and continue to stir-fry the chicken. Cover the chicken and lower the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add the basil leaves and stir well with the chicken, dish out and serve immediately with steamed rice.

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Nietzsche and a Vegetable Sauté

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Now that the holiday vacation is over and the house is quiet, I could take time to reflect upon the important events of last year and give thanks to all the good that has come from the bad.  There was a period of time last year when both Peter and I were stressed out and in crisis mode because our children were going through difficulties in their young lives.  We worried about and feared for them. Peter’s hair turned grey seemingly overnight.

I feel fortunate that we have endured and life is thriving again.  I’m sure our children will face many more challenges in life, but I hope having overcome severe obstacles has made them more tenacious. 

When I was going through a very difficult time in my late 20s, a friend gave me Nietzsche’s The Will To Power as a source of strength and comfort.  I took it off the shelf today and opened it to a passage that my friend had underlined and bookmarked for me a long time ago, “To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities — I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not — that one endures.”

I’m a mother and I could never wish any suffering upon my children, but I understand the value of all the “bad stuff” that happen to us in life.

I don’t have a New Year resolution, but I do have a New Year Prayer.  I pray for the wellbeing of my loved ones and I pray for courage and strength to endure and triumph in the face of adversity.

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Vegetable Sauté Ingredients:

8 to 10 oz. green bean

1/2 red bell pepper (sliced)

1/2 yellow bell pepper (sliced)

1 pack of Wildwood Savory Tofu (2 pieces)

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 to 2 tablespoon canola oil

4 thin slices of ginger

Preparation:

Poach the green beans in boiling water for about 3 to 4 minutes or until tender but not too soft and discard the boiling water. Rinse cold water over the green beans to stop them cooking.  Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok on high, add the ginger slices and let sizzle.  When the ginger slices are a little browned, add the bell pepper and stir for about 4 minutes.  Add the poached green beans and the tofu and stir for a minute.  Mix in the soy sauce, oyster sauce and sugar.

Serve immediately with rice.

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As I write, I could almost hear Nietzsche stir in his grave as he is being quoted next to a vegetable stir-fry.  As a matter of fact, the very act of blogging one’s life would be conceived as “the constant fluttering around the single flame of vanity.”  But then again, maybe not.  His New Year resolution for 1882 was to be a yea-sayer and a beautifier of life: “For the New Year—I still live, I still think; I must still live, for I must still think. Sum, ergo cogito: cogito, ergo sum. To-day everyone takes the liberty of expressing his wish and his favorite thought: well, I also mean to tell what I have wished for myself today, and what thought first crossed my mind this year,—a thought which ought to be the basis, the pledge and the sweetening of all my future life! I want more and more to perceive the necessary characters in things as the beautiful:—I shall thus be one of those who beautify things. Amor fati: let that henceforth be my love! I do not want to wage war with the ugly. I do not want to accuse, I do not want even to accuse the accusers.Looking aside, let that be my sole negation! And all in all, to sum up: I wish to be at any time hereafter only a yea-sayer!”

End of Splurge – Back to Broccoli and Kale

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We have been eating incessantly over the holidays.  There were boxes of Belgium chocolate and Panettone from Peter’s patients.  There were the dinner parties with extended family and friends.  And this morning, Peter’s mother served us leftover chocolate mousse cake for breakfast.  I must say it felt wonderfully decadent with a cup of coffee in the Southern Californian morning sun.  But the splurge ends today.  It must or else.

In Alexander Dumas’ Dictionary Of Cuisine, he named three sorts of appetites:

1. Appetite that comes from hunger. It makes no fuss over the food that satisfies it. If it is great enough, a piece of raw meat will appease it as easily as a roasted pheasant or woodcock.

2. Appetite aroused, hunger or no hunger, by a succulent dish appearing at the right moment, illustrating the proverb that hunger comes with eating.

3. The third type of appetite is that roused at the end of a meal when, after normal hunger has been satisfied by the main courses, and the guest is truly ready to rise without regret, a delicious dish holds him to the table with a final tempting of his sensuality.

The third type was all we indulged in during the past 10 days.  I declared it over by making the Broccoli Kale White Bean Soup for dinner tonight.  Eating the soup felt like a cleansing ritual after the holiday transgression. 

I used the roasted garlic from a few days ago and made some garlic Parmesan toast with Ciabatta bread.  They made a satisfying meal together with the soup.

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Ingredients:

1 large Onion (chopped)

4 cloves garlic (chopped)

4 heads of Broccoli (florets chopped; stems peeled and chopped)

7 cups Vegetable Stock

1 bunch Kale ( stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch ribbons)

2 15 .5-ounce Canneloni Beans (drained and rinsed)

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Preparation:

Place a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then toss in the garlic, stir for 1 minute, then add onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until just translucent. Add the broccoli and again season with salt and pepper.

Pour the vegetable stock over the broccoli and bring up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the broccoli is fork tender.

Let cool slightly and then transfer, working in batches, to a blender. Cover the blender with a towel to ensure it doesn’t splatter, and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Place another heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the kale. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the beans and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes.

Pour the broccoli soup in kale and stir to combine. Let cook for one to two more minutes to let the flavors meld. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve while hot.