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.
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
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
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.
and simple stir friesmake me happy.