When I was getting ready to talk about Chinese food and sustainability last week on the China-US Women’s Foundation Women’s Power Tool Kit series (postponed because of the hurricane, which knocked out our internet for 2 days) and posting the podcast from LouisianaEats!, I discovered that I had no photos of myself in the kitchen. Since I seem to be doing more on food all the time, I decided to get some taken while I prepping supper. I wish you could smell the garlic chives I was cutting!
I used to think of Chinese food as something for winter nights, but thanks to eating in China and some great coaching, I know that there are almost infinite ways to enjoy Chinese dishes no matter how hot it is.
And the fact that even cooked dishes can come together very quickly expands the range of what I think of in August. Admittedly, my menu depends a good deal on what’s outside these days. The garlic or “Chinese” chives, a perennial, are coming into bloom and that inevitably means a quick stir-fry with ground pork. Some recipes are so simply that they literally include nothing but chives, pork, and a bit of sauce (oyster or soya). Chives are also great with scrambled eggs, and I’m going to try growing some under an upturned flowerpot now, to get some of those “blanched,” or golden, chive shoots that one can buy in an Asian market.
It may be a while till I get to an Asian market, and it seems providential that the last time I stopped at the market on Route 9 in Holyoke I swung an extra jug of soya sauce and a few extra bottles of wine and sesame oil into my cart. The clerk’s eyebrows went up. “I don’t live near here,” I said. Weeks later, the lockdown began.
As I planned this meal, I wondered whether there were Chinese recipes for purslane or New Zealand spinach, the greens most plentiful now. Indeed, count on Carolyn Phillips for an enticing Sichuan cold purslane. And you can see that cooking any green vegetable can start with essentially the same recipe, if you compare these two from the Asia Society’s website and from SimplyRecipes.com: garlic, soya sauce, sesame oil, and a little sugar. But don’t follow the SimplyRecipes instructions, which come from Mark Bittmann and are WRONG. One never fries in toasted sesame oil, because it’s already been cooked and is used as a seasoning. The Asia Society’s recipe, actually from the Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998), is accurate. Quickly fry the garlic in a little vegetable oil, add the greens and cook over high heat till wilted, then add the other ingredients.
The photos show (1) garlic chives in the garden, surrounded by 2 kinds of catnip, wild arugula, and a hollyhock that barely survived the hurricane, (2) New Zealand spinach (there, a weed called Warrigal), and (3) purslane, which we’ve been eating in all kinds of ways this year. Carolyn Phillips writes that it is “one of those vegetables that tries to disguise itself as a weed. Most times, this is a successful ruse.” I can’t wait to try it with her Sichuan spicy dressing.
People ask about my apron, which my son Tom bought me in China – in fact, I have two, one in a pink pattern and the other red. This is a traditional folk pattern, but the aprons were sold by Shanti Christensen (unrelated to me), who was then living in China. You can read about her here: https://www.showshanti.com/faqs.html.