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Chinese Chicken Soup

21 Mar

In three weeks I’m presenting my paper on sustainable architecture in China at my first political science conference.  Do you remember that paper?  You must, I think it’s all I talked about from September-November.  A movie I’ve been waiting four years for is also finally coming out but instead of being in Chicago seeing it and the director at the Music Box I will be in Normal, Illinois talking about buildings and the environment and China to people who are probably really confused about why architecture has to do with political science.

Ah well, I’ll see Upstream Color the day after I get back and it’ll be amazing and wonderful, and I won’t get to see the lovely director/writer/composer/co-star, but I can live with that.  I suppose.

I can feel this becoming a career, though.  Green architecture in China.  I’m already thinking about paper topics for next quarter, but I’m leaning heavily towards how contemporary art in China is an invaluable form of resistance against the government, particularly against the central government’s urban planning policies.  HOWEVER, I have to finish this quarter first, and I’m so close to the end now.

This quarter I actually had the foresight to make one dish that I could eat all week long and that didn’t require a lot of effort, and it has really helped sustain me.  I just finished it off a few minutes ago, and so now I bring to you: Chinese chicken soup!

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How is this different from American chicken soup?  Well the broth, for one thing.  The Chinese version has a lot more flavor, using rice vinegar and soy sauce instead of just chicken stock.  Also, the vegetables, which is the biggest draw for me.  I’m not hugely fond of vegetables, but will always eat them in Chinese food.  They’re just better.  Better variety and better cooking methods.

I got this recipe from a very lovely site called A Spicy Perspective and adapted it out of laziness, taking out some ingredients I didn’t feel like getting.  If you really want the full experience, check out the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, cracked
  • 1 lb boneless chicken… I used breast, but the recipe calls for thighs.  I don’t know what the difference is.
  • 5 oz rice stick/mai fun noodles.  You could use any noodles though.
  • 1 large bunch/1 package green onions
  • 8 oz. mushrooms
  • whatever other vegetables you want to throw in there

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To do:

In a large pot, bring the chicken stock, water, vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic to a boil.

Throw in the chicken and simmer for 5-7 minutes.  Stir, or the chicken will clump together and it’ll  be weird.  Trust me.  Chicken clumps are weird.

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Add the noodles and then remove from the heat.  Mai fun don’t need to be cooked so much as soaked.  I actually don’t like these noodles, but it’s what the recipe called for and I was on the phone in the grocery store so I wasn’t really paying attention… Also I went to the local grocery store which only sells mai fun.  I should have gone Uptown to the Asian grocery store… They have an entire aisle of noodles.

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When you’re getting ready to serve the soup, chop all the vegetables up and put them in little bowls if you’re sharing with a group.  If you’re just keeping it to yourself, chop whatever you need as you need it.

DSC_0336This can be stored… probably indefinitely, but I’ve had it for a week and a half now.  You just have to microwave and then throw some vegetables on top and you’re golden.

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Ta-daaaa.  (I went to sleep at 7 am, okay, so don’t judge me based on my coherency right now.)

 

 

Now, books.  I’m reading a bunch right now, but what I really want to recommend is this French book.  If you don’t speak French… sorry.  Because I don’t think it’s been translated.  To preface this, I saw a movie a few days ago called Monsieur Lazhar, which is this exceedingly lovely Canadian movie staring a gentleman by the name of Mohamed Fellag.  I really liked him so I looked him up and found out that he was also a comedian and a writer, and my library system happened to have his books.  Luckily I can still read French, and luckier still Fellag is a brilliant writer who is completely readable and very talented.

I’m reading his short stories in C’est à Alger.  They all have to do in some part with Algeria, whether with the Kafka-esque government or the mythology of the area combined with the current political climate.  I would compare it to Persepolis, actually, in the way it shows you this very beautiful portrait of a place in turmoil and its people who are trying to make a life in extreme circumstances.  Anyway, if you can find a translation, hurray, and if you can read French, even better, because the book is great and his writing is even better.

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Taro Chips

11 Mar

I am taking a break from various and sundry academic tasks to bring you this lovely recipe.  This is more for my benefit than yours, to be honest.  I spent the last hour and a half on a take-home exam trying to figure write in as many Downton Abbey references as possible.  After this, back to Japanese investment in China.

I don’t know how familiar you are with taro, but I know how familiar you should be: very.  It’s this little potato-type thing, usually used in Southeast Asian and Hawaiian food as a staple similar to rice.  It’s also used in desserts, like taro flavored bubble tea or popsicles, one of which I’ve had recently and the other of which hangs out in my freezer regularly.  I love taro.  It’s hard to describe its flavor when used in a dessert.

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Sweet, but not cloyingly sugary.  Fruity, but not tangy.  Full and robust, but with very subtle aftertastes of something indescribably excellent.  As a root, it’s also pretty good.  I found out recently that taro chips are a thing and that taro is $1.99 a pound at Whole Foods, and… it was pretty obvious what had to happen.  I found a recipe on Chowhound and so here you go!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound taro
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

How to:

Peel and wash the wee tubers.

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I got a new peeler just for the occasion, and isn’t it adorable?

Slice the taro very, very thinly.  How thinly?  Like a chip.  I would aim for pita chip rather than potato chip unless you have some mad knife skills.  I for one am a complete loser when it comes to cutting and chopping, so my chips were kind of thick and also not remotely uniform.  It’s all good.

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Also, a warning?  These ooze a really sticky substance that’s sort of a pain, so you’ll have to wash your hands a couple of times, and maybe run the roots under cold water every once in a while, patting them dry for easier handling.

Then, lay all your slices out on a slightly oiled sheet.  Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Bake at 400 degrees for about ten minutes, but be extra vigilant if you slice them very thin or if you slice them unevenly.  I actually just stood in front of my oven and checked every couple of minutes, picking out the ones that were done off the sheet.  It sounds like a pain, but it really doesn’t take long.

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And so.  They’re delicious and healthy (baked!), and super cheap to make, so really there’s no reason not to make these unless you can’t find taro.  And then… I’m sorry.  Because that probably means you live in the middle of nowhere.  Condolences.

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So I know I’ve recommended Jhumpa Lahiri before, but I just finished Unaccustomed Earth, which I actually liked a lot better than Interpreter of Maladies.  Basically, if you haven’t read her yet you need to get on this, because you are missing out big time.  Unaccustomed Earth is another book of short stories, and it took me maybe a couple of days to read.  I only wish I had savored it more, so don’t be like me and take your time with this book.

Orecchiette and Asparagus

2 Mar

It’s been a great week for movies.  I started a new research paper on the art by Japanese victims of the atomic bombings, so I went to pick up some book from my professor published by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.  She’s such a nice woman, and it was the first time I had seen her outside of class, so we talked for a bit and eventually hit on the fact that we both love the shit out of movies.  Her more than me, I think. But she got really excited, and asked if I had been to all these different theaters around Chicago, which… shamefully I had not.  But we talked about a movie she had mentioned in class, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring, and Pedro Almodovar’s movies, which we both love.

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And so I looked up all the theaters she mentioned, and today went to see Like Someone in Love at the Music Box Theater.  It;s such a gorgeous place, and I can’t believe it took me so long to get there!  It’s an old-fashioned theater with a red velvet curtain, gilt everything, molded walls and ceilings, and an organ that sometimes accompanies the movies.  What a fantastic experience.

Screen shot 2013-03-02 at 5.33.28 PM

Yesterday, also, I went to the movies to see Stoker, which was beyond phenomenal… It has limited release, and luckily it’s playing at our closest and favorite theater in this weird little mall.  I can’t even talk about that movie because it was so weird and wonderful, but if it’s playing near you, you should definitely go.

Finally, tonight we’re having a little get-together with movies and 2 ingredient pancakes with a recipe from the divine Top With Cinnamon.

Like I said… I good week for movies.  And in general.  Life’s been good, you know?

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Okay, so, last weekend I made this pasta, adapted from a recipe by Happy Yolks.  The original recipe calls for Jerusalem artichokes, which I could not find, so I used asparagus.

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz orecchiette, or other pasta (but why would you pick another pasta?)
  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 1 lemon
  • pat of butter
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Recipe:

First, wash and slice your asparagus.

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Now, Happy Yolks says to throw these in a steaming basket for 5-10 minutes, but I did not have this silly single-purpose tool.  I actually didn’t know what it was until I googled it and was like, “Oh, the dim sum wooden tower things”.  So I googled some more (TGIG).  I filled a soup pot with a couple of inches of water and put a sieve over the top, in which I put the asparagus.  Cover that with a lid and turn the heat up high on the stove.

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So it looks like this before you put the lid on.  The idea is to steam the vegetables without getting them wet, hence the suspension-sieve.

In the meantime, boil some water for the pasta.

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Put the butter and some olive oil in a sauce pan and sauté the asparagus for 10-15 minutes so that they’re nice and cooked but still a little crunchy.  Cook the pasta for however long it says on the box.

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Drain the pasta and toss into a large bowl.  Add the asparagus and mix together.  Squeeze out the lemon over all of this deliciousness and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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It makes quite a lot so you can serve this for a number of people at dinner or just eat it yourself for a whole week…

(Fun fact: I did not spell asparagus correctly on the first try even once in this whole post.  Except that time.)

 

Unfortunately, I am between books right now.  I finished Tokyo Vice and cast about for something else to read, but haven;t hit on anything that’s really sucked me in.  So I got nothing for you, but here are some movies I have either enjoyed recently or that have been highly recommended:

  • Stoker
  • Hiroshima Mon Amour
  • The Great Happiness Space
  • Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring
  • anything by Pedro Almodovar
  • City of God
  • Like Someone in Love
  • The Namesake
  • Winter’s Bone

Another Year, Another Novel

30 Nov

Winner-180x180

 

Woo-hoo!  This is my favorite novel yet, although it’s still not finished.  55K and counting!

Stuffed Artichokes

11 Nov

I am obsessed with artichokes.  I have been since before I ever ate one purely for aesthetic reasons.  What a good-looking, interesting vegetable.  I especially love that they are one of the few edible things in the world that have hearts.

I love that.  Artichoke hearts.  How wonderful.

What is also wonderful is the supreme ease of this recipe.

From the Tucci cookbook yet again, adapted slightly because I had no cheese like a total loser.  (Why is cheese expensive???)  Also adapted slightly because I made two artichokes instead of four.

Ingredients:

  • Two artichokes with the stems and tops cut off, and the spiny bits on the end of the leaves snipped away
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 quarter red onion, chopped finely (you can use more or less depending on your onion fondness)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salsa (optional, but I find this taste really good dipped in salsa)

Recipe:

 

Stick your artichokes in a small pot and fill with water to 1/4 inch below the tops.  Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for about twenty minutes, or until a leaf pulls away easily. Don’t overcook them or they’ll fall apart.

In the meantime, mix the bread crumbs, onion, and garlic together.  If you want, you can mix in two tsp of grated cheese as well.  I didn’t have cheese.  I have some now, but it’s reserved specifically for kick-ass sandwiches so.

Take the artichokes out of the water and turn them upside down so they can drain.

When they’ve cooled down, sprinkle the crumb mixture by the teaspoonful into the leaves, spreading them slightly to get the bread-y goodness in there.

Drizzle the artichokes with a tablespoon of olive oil each before placing them in a pan with about 1 inch of water in it.  Cover them with tinfoil so they don’t char and bake for thirty minutes.

The book says to then check on them, add more water if necessary, and then bake again for fifteen minutes.  I found that the water was a little too much and made the bread crumbs in the outermost leaves a little soggy, so do what looks right to you regardless of what the recipe says.  When you take the artichokes out, they should be lightly browned.

 

 

I would recommend stuffing your chokes way more liberally than I did.  Mine were delicious, but seriously, go overboard.  This recipe can definitely take it.

 

And in the background, an upcoming recipe!  Hopefully soon, but I have no fewer than four final papers to write at the mo, three of which as serious research papers.

So you know.  Fingers crossed.

 

Can I just tell you, though, how happy I am that the election is over?  I am the first to admit that I became a huge election junkie for three long months… but I am so happy to go back to studying international relations.  I never thought I’d say it, but global politics is so much less stressful.  Go figure.

 

I swear to god, I will recommend this book I keep not-telling you about next time, but for now, you should definitely read A Pale View of the Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro.  This guy is the one responsible for Never Let Me Go, which traumatized me.  It was so beautiful. Because Ishiguro writes these horrible, sad stories about individual people who are victims of some even more horrible circumstance.

In this case, he writes about two woman living in Nagasaki (I think I think) in the weeks after the atom bomb was dropped.  The book will make you think about the atom bomb as an abstract concept and a historical event, and in that sense it is a commentary on nuclear weapons.  But… not really.  It is simply a story about these two women.  (In fact, it might be a story about one woman, with the point of view split between a past self and a present self.  I’ll let you figure that one out.)  Just like Never Let Me Go was about a life-long love triangle, the story was sharpened to greater poignancy by making the characters clones whose main purpose in life is to serve as organ donors.  The circumstances inform the power of the story, and the story provides an indirect commentary on some greater political, ethical theme.

It sounds complicated, I know.  You’ve probably noticed that I tend to read complicated books that I most often describe as “terrifying”.  It’s not a difficult read, though.  It’s a very short book, and I actually finished it in a couple of hours sitting in the library.  This recommendation got way longer than I intended it to be, so I will leave you with this for now.  Next time, muffins and more books about China.  Story of my life.

Stop-Motion New York City Summer

1 Aug

Hello everyone.  So I was messing about with stop-motion today, using some photos collated from various jaunts around Manhattan, and this is what I came up with.  Music is credited at the original source on Vimeo.

Summer, New York City

 

The Most Epic Fried Rice Ever

13 May

You think I’m kidding?  You think I’m exaggerating?  You don’t even know what’s about to hit you.

Yesterday Haley and I tried this crazy think called cooking, rather than doing our usual baking thing.  We were inspired by the crates of rice at Whole Foods that we admired last week and that I like to stick my hands into (like Amélie).  So we knew we wanted to make rice, and thusly consulted Pitchfork.  Haley found this recipe, which we adapted the hell out of.  According to the recipe, the rice should look like this:

 (image from the site linked above)

Wait until you sees ours.  Just wait.  Maybe you think I’m hyping this up too much, but you weren’te there for the making of this rice, so I see why you wouldn’t quite understand.

It’s okay.  You will.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 of tofu (which I just saw.  We use the whole block. Haha… oops.)
  • 1 cup of white rice (we used Basmati), cooked
  • 1 cup of black rice (we used Chinese), cooked
  • 2 handfuls of bok choy (or baby bok if you are so inclined (we were)), stems and leaves sliced thinly
  • 4-5 spring onions or whatever onions you like/can find, since Whole Foods had a dearth of spring onions, diced into little rounds
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of Soy sauce or more if you are a sodium fiend
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of Rice Vinegar
  • Garlic paste, add to taste
  • One packet of Gobi Aloo seasoning mix (whatever that’s called… you can find it in the international aisle in Whole Foods)

Here’s how you do it:

Press the tofu.  I mean, press it.  A lot.  We had no idea what this meant, having never used tofu before.  The guy at the cash register told us that we really had to press it dry, or the outside would cook well and the inside would just taste like mushy tofu.  Which is true!  Oops.  You can google how to press tofu like we did.  What a pain.

This is how Haley feels about raw tofu.

This is not how press tofu by the way.

I was fascinated by this thing, so I took a lot of pictures.

While you’re pressing that, scramble the eggs.  When they’re just barely cooked, put them into a small dish and set aside.

In as much oil as you like, sear the tofu on all sides on medium-high heat.  While it’s searing, add the curry powder and salt to taste.  Once the tofu has browned, put that in a small dish also and set it aside.

Then fry the rice on medium-high heat.

This was before we cooked it, right after straining.  Isn’t it gorgeous?

Spread it around until it coats the bottom of the pan, making sure all the rice is soaked in oil.  (If you’re frying without oil… what are you doing.)  Wait for a few minutes and then scrape it all into the middle, mixing it well.  Spread it back out and wait for another few minutes.  Do this until it’s browned.

The rice actually was more purple than this, by the way.  I don’t know what happened to the picture.

Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and garlic paste.  You could use real garlic if you wanted to. It doesn’t really matter.  Anyway, mix that around.  Add the bok choy and cook until the leaves are a bit wilted.

Add in the tofu, eggs, and spring onions.

Onions.

Didn’t I tell you it waas epic?  This rice.  This rice.

Is purple.  And tastes like soy sauce and curry.  The greens are perfect, also, because they really offset the strong, salty flavors of the shit ton of spices we used.

Yes.