Actually, there are three holidays – today is President’s Day. But what do you eat to celebrate this federal commemoration, amalgamation of both Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays when the banks and post offices are closed? Apples in memory of George Washington and the national myth? MacDonald’s as we try to forget Donald Trump?
No matter, we celebrated Chinese New Year (year of the ox) and Valentine’s Day on the extended weekend with wonderful feasts.
I think I read somewhere that it’s auspicious to serve six or eight dishes to usher in the Lunar New Year. We had four, not counting dessert. I made soy sauce chicken, rice cakes with vegetables, longevity noodles, and gochujang vegetables from Trader Joe’s (thank you Marie!). The flavors were Chinese and Korean; I’m sure no one from those countries would recognize anything I cooked! But the deviations that came off of my stove were tasty (the real recipes are included in case you’d like to give them a try now or next year).
Soy Sauce Chicken. This recipe (https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/soy-sauce-chicken) called for a whole chicken, chopped up, and fried in a wok. In my efforts to clean out our very-full freezer I made changes to the recipe. I used a cooked turkey breast from the freezer.
I mixed together the sauce of ½ cup soy sauce, some rock sugar, 2 star anise, and about an inch of sliced ginger. The chopped turkey was tossed in the wok to heat, then the sauce added. Topped with sesame seeds.
Rice Cakes with Mixed Vegetables. The source of inspiration was not only a recipe on some newsletter or other, but also the partial bag of rice caked bought on our family excursion to the Asian grocery on my birthday the remained deep in the freezer.
According to the recipe (https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/soy-sauce-chicken), soak two cups of sliced rice cakes in 3 cups of hot tap water that’s been microwaved for 30 seconds; drain and save about 1/3 cup of water. While they are soaking, chop three cups of leafy greens (fortuitously I had baby bok choy in the vegetable bin). I did not have the shiitake mushrooms, carrots, or bean sprouts, so I added 2 chopped celery stalks. Mix 1 ½ tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of black bean garlic sauce (another missing ingredient).
Next, preheat the wok (I have only one, so I used a skillet) Add the greens, stir fry for about 15 seconds. Next, the other vegetables, celery in this case, another 15-20 seconds. Add the soaked rice cakes with the reserved water, soy sauce, and black bean garlic sauce. Stir-fry for 2 minutes or until the rice cakes have softened. Finish with 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.
Longevity Noodles, eaten to insure a long life. I used brown rice noodles from Aldi, cooked according to the directions, then tossed in chopped scallions and some sesame oil and soy sauce.
We ended our Lunar New Year meal in keeping with a haiku gleaned from the Times – “So I will have a/chocolate and I will be/better tomorrow” and chocolate covered strawberries, an amazing, early Valentine gift from Constant Companion.
Valentine’s Day this year was not a cooking day! Constant Companion wonderfully picked up on my two requests – the chocolate covered strawberries and dim sum. He and Daughter ventured out to an art exhibit, then drove south to pick up our next feast. And a feast it was. As good as our traditional “If it’s Christmas, we eat Chinese.” (See 12-25-20 post)
Mother Nature pitched in with the festive spirit as well. On Saturday some morning storms quickly passed through – rain only, unlike the snow and cold in much of the country. And, following the rain was a Lunar New Year/Valentine’s Day rainbow.