Terrific Broth

Beijinger in Denver | 北京人在丹佛

Category: From Farm to Table (Page 1 of 2)

A Quick Green Onion Stir Fry

I have to give myself a pat on the back because I finally finished the new employee training today! As a scientific researcher, especially one who does animal research, there are tons of training I have to receive when I start working in a new institute. Even through I have been handling mice/rats for 15 years, done thousands of surgeries, and received similar training from institutes I worked for in the past. During the last three work days, I had to sit through dozens of online classes and go through quizzes!

Starting tomorrow, I will be taking bus to work, which hopefully will make my day much easier. What I will be taking is an express bus that have no stop between the park-and-ride next to my home and my work, and it will be running on the highway I used to drive to work. So it will take exactly the same time as driving!

I manage to start cooking again this week. I am the veggie cook in the family. So when I cook dinner, we eat mostly vegetables. I think it is important! Besides, we enrolled veggie and mushroom share from a local CSA so there has been much veggie every week. We HAVE to cook 2~3 different veggies every meal to not waste any.

For example, this week, we got a few turnips, four zucchini, four cucumber, half a dozen green pepper, two boxes cherry tomato, two heads of different cabbage, two eggplants, a dozen medium-size potato, some chard, and garlic and green onions. We have been cooking 2~3 different kinds of veggies every night! If you have not tried CSA program, you really should check it out, see if there is any near you. And here are why we love it:

  1. The veggies are more tasty: No matter what we get, leafy greens, or root vegetables, they are in season and properly ripen. The ones we buy from grocery stores are often picked prematurely, so they do not taste nearly as good. my veggies even make my car smell good! Once you taste a locally grown, picked at the right time, CSA cabbage, trust me, you will never want to eat store cabbage again!
  2. The veggies are fresh: The veggies we get are picked on the same day, so even being ripen, they last the entire week without looking sad.
  3. These veggies are grown organically. Regardless if the CSA farm is certified organic (ours is not because the paperwork is too much), the growing practice is usually very organic.
  4. The farms you get CSA veggies from are usually small and family owned. The farm we get our mushrooms from has been there for five generations! We would like to support local economy and small business owners like these farms.
  5. They are cheaper than grocery store veggies! Our veggies shares are for family of four (we prefer eating a lot so we got a double share) is 600 for the entire summer, that means for 20 weeks from June to October, we barely need to go to grocery store for veggies. Now we just go to Costco once a week for milk, cheese, meat and fruit, which cut down our grocery bill a lot. When we did vegetable shopping in grocery stores, we definitely pay more than 30 bucks per week, and we do not get nearly as much.
  6. Buying local cut down food waste in long-distance transportation. So you are not only cutting down your own grocery bill, but also save for the society.
  7. Getting CSA veggie is a great way of socializing with people in your local community! We talk to other CSA members and the farm owners all the time. And every time we get some valuable information about our community, food culture, events, and gardening pointers. Slav even helped out to write grants for some farms back in NC. He did it for free to help out because that particular CSA has a really good cause and we made some really good friends there.
  8. And more importantly, getting CSA shares force us to eat a lot more veggie than we otherwise would! We purposely ordered a double share so we eat more veggies, and it has worked so well for us. We are not vegetarian by any means – when we cook cabbage, potato and green peppers on grill, you bet there is a sausage link or two next to them. But we eat primarily vegetables, and I think it made us healthier.
  9. Last but not the least, CSA subscription forces us to try new recipes. Because you might get something you do not normally buy from the store. At the beginning of the season we got so much turnips, so we tried stew, cold salad, and grilled turnip, and they were so good! This week we got more than enough green onion, so I came up with this:

A green onion + mushroom stir-fry

1. Gathering green onion and mushroom (I got several kinds from our CSA mushroom share so I just throw all of them together regardless strains). Green onion really shrinks after cooking so you want to use lots of them. I also have a few pieces of BBQ pork left from Chinese take-out (they always give toooo much meat), so I decided to throw them in there too.

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Speaking of adding meat in stir-fries, it was the main way my family consumed meat when I grew up. We rarely eat a whole chicken or a big piece of ham cooked by themselves. A little bit meat in stir-dries, such as a little bit ground pork, a couple slices of sausage or shredded leftover rotisserie chicken – can add so much flavor and make the whole dish richer, yet the veggies still dominates the taste of the dish.

2. Cutting everything to bite size:

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3. Hot pan, cold oil, throwing green onions in and frying for a minute:

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4. Adding the mushrooms:

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and cooking a couple minutes until the mushroom softens. You can see how much the green onion has shrank:

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5. Throwing in the cooked meat and turn off the heat. Notice that I have not added any salt at this point. If the cooked meat is plain (which is never the case nowadays, everything is soooo salty!), add a bit salt to taste. The BBQ pork I used was salty and so I did not add any spice to the dish.

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It should go really well with some steamed rice. Enjoy!

Agrilicious

After moving to US from China, what I miss the most is the Chinese fresh markets. They look like Farmer’s Markets here in US, but imagine that having it everyday in both early morning and late afternoon, always in walking distance, with breakfast carts, and offering every fresh produce that you would need to cook an authentic meal.

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Chinese are used to getting fresh ingredients daily. When I was a child, my parents would stop at the fresh market on their way home, pick up a couple different kind of veggies and a strip of meat, and cook all into a dinner. They would also pick up a handful of eggs and a couple bags of milk for breakfast next morning. Because things are cooked and eaten the same day, many Chinese family have only a small fridge under the kitchen counter – there is neither fresh produce nor much leftovers to store. This practice does not only guarantee the freshness of the food, but also encourage the exercise of portion control and eliminate food waste.

Vegetables at Beijing fresh markets

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Meat and eggs

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Fish and seafood product

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One thing the fresh markets in China differs from American farmer’s markets, is that the produce sold in Chinese fresh market are mostly productions from industry-scale farms and factories. It is not guaranteed organic.

I do not think anything organic can grow to this size…

Size matters

The sellers at the booth are also not farmers, but distributors. Farmers near Beijing sell their produce to government-owned distribution centers outside of the city. At the distribution centers, goods are inspected, cleaned, processed if necessary, then picked up by fresh market sellers in bulk before dawn. The goods are then transported inside Beijing to all the fresh markets and sold in retail value. The price and the quality of the goods are controlled by the government, as part of the “Vegetable Basket Project”, which ensure low price for general public.

Fresh fruit at Beijing fresh markets

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Chinese fresh market offers not only meat, fish and fresh produce like vegetable and eggs, but also tofu, dry spices, ready-to-cook noodles, and Chinese versions of bread (ManTou, DaBing, and HuaJuan). So they are really the one-stop shop for all the food you need for a dinner. There are also many of them in Beijing – almost one in every a few city blocks. They are conveniently located near major traffic stops, such as subway stations, light rail stations, or outside of big apartment complexes. So people can easily pick up their food on the way home without making detours or driving.

Tofu stand – how many different kind of tofu do you eat?

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More tofu

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Cooking wine

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Spice – ginger, garlic, and onions and leek

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Dy spice heaven

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If you do not feel like cooking, fresh markets also offer ready-to-eat or ready-to-boil items. Cold cuts and smoked meat, hand-made noodles, frozen dumplings, steamed buns, and endless snacks.

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Pickles

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Hand-made noodles

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Dry goods, nuts

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Sunflower seeds in every flavor

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Mornings are the most popular time for Beijing fresh markets. Not only elderly and retirees choose to stop by to get food for the day, people who work 9-5 also stop by for a quick breakfast. Fresh market offers breakfast food carts, basically eliminated the needs for cooking breakfast at home if you have a commute. However, most of the people who have the leisure to slowly browse the markets, are still elder people. Walking to the market, having a sit-down breakfast, taking time to decide what to eat that day, poking fruits and veggies to make sure they are juicy to the liking, filling their small shopping carts, and walking slowly back to their apartments with the price, are the first exercise during the day.

Small shopping carts are necessity

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I miss the fresh markets dearly when I live in US. I miss the one-stop-for-all convenience, I miss the hot tofu soup and buns for breakfast, and I miss the people, the bargaining, and the noise. For the most, I miss the luxury of getting fresh produce everyday, which seems too time-consuming in my adopted culture. I wish that there were a small market I could walk to everyday, instead of driving 15 minutes one way. I wish that I do not have to do meal planning and end up eating half-rotten spinach for the second part of the week…Well, a girl can dream.

How often do you do grocery shopping? Do you eat fresh veggie everyday? Do you use meal-plan? Or you are lucky to live across the street to a supermarket where you shop a little bit everyday?

Saturday is for pies!

We have been having “Saturday Pie Day” for a while. Most of the Saturdays we do not work, so I have a pretty relaxing Saturday routine, including yoga in the morning, hearty brunch, long afternoon nap, and bake a pie in the evening.

So this is how our Saturday Pie Day works: we have a pie recipe book (more on this later); during the week, hubby picks out a pie he wants from this book, and I bake it on Saturday! This methods sounds a bit childish, but it works really well – for one, we get to try a large varieties of pies. if it was up to me, we would have peach pie every single week. (Fun fact: I have been having the same instant noodle, the exactly same flavor and same brand as lunch every workday for YEARS.) Hubby on the other hand, always picks a pie he had not previously had. He also tends to pick a pie with different texture or made in different crust from the week before. For me, it challenges me to try different techniques and learned a lot more about the traditional ways of pie-making.

Our experience on trying different pies are surprisingly positive. First the recipes in this pie book are pretty solid. Moreover, these recipes are very authentic – these are pies that you only see on the menu of family deli on the Great Plain. Hubby discovered his love for custard pie, and I just adore the process of make them. They are so easy to make (without turning on the oven!) AND they usually require overnight refrigeration, which gives me massive pleasure to watch how hubby waits that night out. 😉

Now back to the book. There are lots pie books out there and everyone of them received mixed reviews. I like the METHOD of having a pie recipe book so we can pick something new, which is not easy to do on the internet because you cannot search what you do not know. But I do not feel very particular about this book vs other recipe books. This one does give 300+ recipes so again it fits our METHOD better. And I have not tried a recipe that is not good. Hubby absolutely loves this book. He keeps it on his desk, probably because it makes him feel important – he is a bit addicted to the power.

This pie book also presents crust recipes that I was not familiar before. And interestingly, when I testes these crust recipes against the ones highly praised on internet, we actually liked the ones from this book better. Before, 99% of time for fruit pies I use double butter crusts, but after trying different pie crusts, I pair berry pie and peach pie with quite a few different crusts now. Some recipes are pretty traditional, which is great conversation piece for parties. I was surprised when older folks were reminded their childhood pie by the pie I baked from this book. So now, whenever I bake for a gathering, I always pick a recipe from this book.

It feels nice to have some regular family activity going on – it makes me feel more grounded and secure. We had a long-standing tradition of outdoor Saturday back to California. It will be interesting to see what strikes us next when we move to our next city.

So, what is your fun family activity?

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