Wednesday, May 19, 2010

10 months and 4 days (300 days)

I feel more mixed up, turned around, sad, angry, guilty, distraught this month than I have in the last few.

Just when I thought the roller coaster was coming to a stop I've taken another sharp turn around another blind corner and I have no idea where I'm headed. 

The closer we come to a year the more frightened of a future without my Mother I become and the more angry that I have to contemplate one at all.

I'm also finding myself panicking as I see what I perceive to be signs of other people putting their lives back together. It feels like an insult to Mom, it feels wrong and my anger builds some more.

There are so many emotions swirling around in my head these days that I can't focus on anything.

It's like starting all over again.

Monday, May 10, 2010

soy lemon salmon with shitake mushrooms

SeaBass and I first had a version of this dish the year we lived in Halifax, NS. I took him out to a Teppanyaki restaurant for his birthday (totally cheesy but fun...and yummy) and we both fell in love with this salmon dish.
Have I ever told you about our year in Halifax? How we got together as a summer fling at home in Toronto (I had no interest in anything serious knowing I was returning to school in Nova Scotia) and then, come September, SeaBass totally followed me out which point I couldn't seem to get rid of him. So we moved in together after approximately three months of dating and five years later here we are. Still stuck together.

It's a love story for the ages really.

Anyhoo, since that birthday celebration I've come back to this salmon recipe time and time again. It has good memories attached to it but mostly it's just damned tasty. The salmon is sauteed in soy sauce in lemon juice, making it salty and sweet and tangy all at once. The tender, flaky flesh of the salmon absorbs the flavours of the soy and lemon but holds on to its own character at the same time. 

The shitake mushrooms are prepared basically the same way, sliced and then sauteed in soy and lemon, with a little butter thrown in at the last minute if you're feeling indulgent.

This is one of my more interpretive recipes - mostly because it's never actually occurred to me to stop and measure out the amount of soy sauce that I'm using - but also because I personally like my salmon heavier on the lemon that SeaBass does.

He's salty, I'm tangy. We balance each other out.

So, here's the loose recipe. Please play with it and make it work for you.
Soy, Lemon Salmon with Shitake Mushrooms

1 tbsp olive oil
2 salmon fillets (skin removed)
1-2 cloves garlic finely diced
1 cup soy sauce
juice of 1-2 lemons
dozen shitake mushrooms
butter optional

Heat saute pan with 1/2 tbsp olive oil.
Add minced garlic.
Add salmon.
Pour 1/2 cup-3/4 cup soy sauce over salmon and into saute pan.
Add juice from 1 lemon.
Saute salmon on med. heat for approx 5 mins on one side.
Watch soy and lemon juice to  ensure it is not cooking down too much - you want to stay very liquid in the pan.
Add more soy and lemon if necessary - taste to be sure you're happy with the combination.
Turn salmon over and continue to saute until cooked through.
Allow the soy and lemon juices to cook down at this point.
Spoon the thickening liquid over top of the salmon as it is thickening.
Remove salmon from pan.

Slice shitakes.
Heat saute pan with 1/2 tbsp olive oil.
Add mushrooms to pan.
Add remaining soy sauce and lemon juice to pan.
Saute mushrooms until cooked through.
Serve with salmon.

Friday, May 7, 2010

more babble and some actual cooking (muxi pork)

My creative juices have been frozen. I haven't been cooking as much as I normally do let alone writing about cooking as much as I normally do. 

I'm not sure exactly why that is. I believe it has something to do with the time of year. 

Good god, could we please get some fresh, local veggies around these parts? 

No? It's still far too early? This crazy spring of ours has not finished fooling with us yet and tomorrow there is a chance of flurries?

Alright then, I think I'll just go back to bed 'til mid June-ish.

I'm still eating my wild leeks constantly - also SeaBass is getting really fed up with the pervasive garlic-iness that surrounds me. I think it might be doing serious damage to our relationship.

And now excuse me as I take a small blogging break to snack on a cracker with leek pesto.

Don't judge me!

I've had no luck in my hunt for morels, which I'm blaming on our very strange spring. It's been very dry, alternately very warm and very cold and very unpredictable. Mother nature is quite obviously enjoying herself messing with our vulnerable little human emotions; chuckling as we all get excited about gardens and planting and days in the sun and then falling on the floor laughing as she yanks the rug out from under us with another cold snap.

Basically I'm feeling a little lost in limbo. Sensing the abundance of fresh summer produce just around the corner is making it difficult for me to cook with what is here now.

All that being said, the last time I was down in the big city visiting the in-laws - a lovely day trip of the sort that causes me to

a) lose sleep
b) pop anxiety meds
c) bury myself deep in consecutive glasses of wine

I made sure to take a little of the edge off the visit (you know, in case the valium and alcohol weren't doing the job) by making a stop at a nearby Asian grocery store.

While I have definitely noticed a kind of cosmopolitan shift around here in the time since we moved up here, soy sauce and rice noodles are often the most Asian ingredients I'm likely to find at local stores.)

I could have spent a good hour (and a good hundred dollars) roaming through the store but SeaBass was keeping me on a tight schedule so I limited myself to a few dried ingredients that I've been wanting to try.

My favourite ingredient so far?
Yep, dried lily flowers also known as Golden Needles for their beautiful yellow colour. 

They are the dried buds of the day lily and add great texture and  taste to traditional Chinese stir fries and soups. 

You simply reconstitute the dried flowers in hot water and they are ready to be added to any dish.
I find them slightly earthy with a burst of tart almost vinegary hit in the reconstituted bud.

I wanted to make something very traditional as my first dish featuring the lilies. I always like to start that way with a new ingredient, it gives me an idea of where the ingredient comes from, its role in tradition and history. Once I'm comfortable with the history of an ingredient I'm ready to make it my own.

Right, so enough babbling about what I'm sure is my ever so intriguing food tendencies ('cause obviously I totally know what the hell I'm talking about.) Back to the food.

The first thing I made with my bounty of lilies was Muxi (Moo Shoo) Pork. 
I actually made it twice. SeaBass loved it so much he made me cook it for him again the next day (sometimes I feel like I'm in a relationship with an 8 year old picky eater!)

I can't really blame him though. The lily flowers were a harmonious part of the dish but definitely their own texture and level of flavour to the end results.

As with all Chinese recipes it is important to get all your prep done ahead of time and be totally prepared when you start the cooking, 'cause although the ingredient looks long and the recipe might at first appear complicated, it's actually very simple. And things move incredibly quickly once you get the ball rolling.

Muxi Pork
1/2 lb. pork tenderloin

Marinade for Tenderloin
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp dry sherry
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp cornstarch

Stir Fry Sauce
3 tbsp water
3 tbsp chicken broth
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp dry sherry
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp corn starch

Stir Fry
handful shitake mushrooms
1 portabello mushroom (or handful crimini)
2 tbsp dried lily flowers
1/2 cup bamboo shoots (rinse if canned)
2 green onions finely chopped
2 thin slices ginger cut into strips
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp oil for frying
1 tsp sesame oil

Mix together all marinade ingredients - *add cornstarch last.
Cut tenderloin into thin strips and cover with marinade.
Marinate for 30 mins.

Mix together sauce ingredients - add cornstarch last. Set aside.

Cover lily buds with hot water and allow to soak for 30 minutes.
After 30 mins. drain the lily flowers and remove any hard tips from them. Set aside.
Beat eggs with salt and set aside.
Heat wok over medium. 
Add 2 tbsp. oil.
Add beaten eggs and scramble until firm.
Remove eggs from wok.
Wipe down wok.
Add 2 tbsp oil back to wok.
When oil is hot, add ginger and fry until aromatic.
Add pork and stir fry until almost cooked through.
Remove pork from work.
Add 2 tbsp. oil to wok.
When hot add mushrooms and lily buds.
Stirfry for one minute.
Push ingredients to side of wok.
Stir the sauce you set aside and add to wok.
Stir sauce quickly to thicken.
Add pork back to wok.
Add scrambled egg.
Add green onion.
Mix all ingredients together.

Serve with hoisin sauce on top of rice or mandarin pancakes.
* As cornstarch is a thickening agent, if you add it to your sauce  before any other ingredient you will not get the texture and taste you are looking for.

Lily buds 

and simple stir fries 
make me happy.