Today I did the dirty deed.
Yes, that kind of dirty deed.
Already. Before 6am.
In the backyard.
Even worse, though, is that it involved squash.
And no, I am not talking getting dirty from doing plain old gardening.
Artificial insemination, baby!
I took matters into my own hands. While I have very prolific kabocha squash plants, I have yet to see any squashes. Lots of blossoms but they seem to wither away. Further investigation told me that squash plants have two different kinds of blossoms: one male and one female. The one with a plump mini-squash is the female flower and needs to be fertilized by the male flower. After some careful examination, I quickly realized there are way more male to female blossoms. Only 2 open blossoms were female, whereas I have at least 20 male blossoms.
I did not want to leave it to the birds and the bees. I took a stick and wiped a male blossom to get the pollen and smeared it into a female blossom. Cross your fingers for me, ok? Hopefully they aren’t as complicated as humans, which have an abysmal 20% fertility rate.
Apparently once you have a few growing squashes, you don’t need the male blossoms anymore. This is what people eat when you see “zucchini flowers” for sale. Dispensable, edible male parts.
My zucchini plants are much smaller and only have a few male blossoms, but I may need to give them a hand for reproductive success, if only to make sure we don’t end up with mutant kabocha-zucchini hybrids. ;)
I should be telling you about how I fried up some squashes flowers, but I am paranoid. I am keeping the males around until I am certain I have lots of kabocha squashes. Maybe in a week or two, I will give you an update?
In the meantime, I have been cooking up a lot of quick, simple meals, like this asparagus and tempeh stir fry. Pick your favourite vegetables and fry up some tempeh in a simple Asian sauce with garlic, ginger and fermented black beans. The fermented black beans add a very authentic salty dimension to the dish. Enjoy!
My choice of bedtime reading usually includes a cookbook. Rob actually reads novels. Books with chapters, a beginning, a middle and an end.
When we packed for Colombia, we debated how many books to bring. I typically read 1 book while on vacation: my travel guide. Rob was adamant that he would likely read a bunch of books. In the end, we brought 5 books, including the travel guide.
After 2 weeks, I had read the travel guide and 1 book. Rob had plowed through all the books.
While I don’t read many novels, I really enjoyed my book: The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. It is a collection of short, thought-provoking essays about American culture through the eyes of Chinese food. Lee starts off by exploring people’s thoughts on fortune cookies after a national lottery gets pummeled with too many winners- they had all picked the same numbers from a fortune cookie. In a dizzying around-the-world tour-de-force, Lee visits the home of the real General Tso, puzzles together the origins of chop suey and the first fortune cookie and crowns the world’s greatest Chinese restaurant. This isn’t a flippant ready-for-the-masses book, though. It is smartly written in an accessible manner. Have you ever thought about the dangers of being a delivery person? Or the lives affected through human trafficking? Or why the Chinese food in the US cannot be found in China?
To be honest, I did not really like Chinese food take-out but as a child, we had the occasional visit to the local Chinese restaurant. I can see how Chinese food helped to embrace the worldly culinary culture we now have. With its emphasis on saccharine-sweet and cornstarch-goopy sauces, I haven’t been to a Chinese restaurant in ages, though. I have made a handful of Chinese meals at home, usually healthier vegetable stir-fries, where I can reduce the sauce myself without cornstarch and keep any sweeteners to a minimum.
For this month’s Random Recipes, we had to randomly pick a cookbook and cook the middle recipe. My chosen cookbook was Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health and at 348 pages, the middle page was 174. No recipe on that page. I rounded down to find the first recipe: Cabbage with Fermented Black Beans (page 171). No stranger to stir-fries with fermented black beans, I thought this looked like a great recipe to try. However, a meal it wasn’t, so I tweaked the recipe to include julienned five-spiced seitan, as a nod to my favourite Braised Cabbage with Chorizo Seitan Sausage.
I am really digging veggie-centric stir-fries lately, and this was no disappointment. Quick to put together, dinner was served in under 20 minutes. The fermented black beans add the depth of flavour ones expects from authentic Chinese food which is highlighted with rice vinegar and sake. The ginger and garlic add a nice hit of flavour and feel free to add Chinese chili paste if you want it hotter. The Chinese five-spiced seitan was a perfect complement to the wilted cabbage, conferring sustenance to the dish with a major protein component.
So, tell me. Did you grow up eating Chinese food? Do you still eat it? What is your favourite Chinese recipe?