Tuesday, November 9, 2010

And then Julia stopped over

Did I tell you that before we left for HK, Mark's sister, Faith, gave me a birthday present? Julia Child's My Life in France.  During those first blurry days of our relocation, Julia's joie de vivre and absolute love of her time in France encouraged me to tackle my new life with enthusiasm and curiosity. If she ever felt doubt, fear, loneliness or Twilight Zone side effects of jet lag, she never mentions it. Every page is her greeting each challenge with zest and fortitude. In fact, it is during this time in France that she discovers her love of and gift for cooking. What a grand ol' gal she was! What is it like to "think nothing of it"? I wring my hands over the slightest event - lemon or lime? Up or down? Today or tomorrow? Ridiculous. As I have settled into my new world, I have tried to take in her words of wisdom, infuse my mind with her energy, and pray for one ounce of her courage. And, I decided I should improve my cooking. Lucky for Mark.

In considering this post, I decided to take you on a pictorial journey to the store then share some pics of my achievements.

Here, in order, are the steps I take to reach our local grocer, Taste, and a few shots of the Wanchai Market:

 Starting on the path down to Hopewell...
About to walk by St. Francis' school on the left.
This is so narrow only one person fits at a time. So we have to turn and sort of squeeze in when passing. I wish you could see how close the cars come to the fence...
Bamboo. I just love walking by, reaching out my hand, and touching bamboo growing in the wild. Well, as wild as my walk to the market can be.
The mighty Hopewell Center. The very top floor is a revolving restaurant and you can take a "sightseeing" ride in an elevator up to that floor. Our grocery store, Taste, is in the bottom of this building. I walk to Hopewell, go in at the 17th floor, take the elevator down to 3, and the escalator down to 1. Turn the corner and down one more escalator to the store. Coming home, just reverse it.
View from Hopewell, 17th floor entrance.
Entrance to Wanchai Indoor Wet Market. Wet means fresh fruits, veggies, fish, poultry, beef, and pork.
Leaving the indoor market and heading to the outdoor market. That very first stand is where I buy my sai bau (small bag) of dried apricots each week.

Okay- nice tour of the neighborhood! So, what have I made thus far?

I started with making my own salsa. Surrounded by all these fresh markets overrun with every color, size, shape, smell, texture of vegetable and fruit, its nearly impossible not to want to be up to elbows in foods mashed, sliced, grated, and chopped.  And I couldn't find Paul Newman's Pineapple Salsa anywhere. It took me a couple of tries, but one day, I hit on it: that perfect combination of tomato, onion, cilantro (Chinese parsely over here), lime and pineapple. I served it with chicken fajitas and it was amazing. 

Oatmeal Raisin cookies (no picture available, but you can guess what they looked like). I've never made them before and these were okay - not as flavorful as I would have liked, but I stuck to the recipe because, as a newbie, I'm not sure when or by how much I can stray.

Witches Fingers (for Halloween). These are made from an almond cookie dough. I learned a lot while making these little angels. I don't have a real "mixer" (well, I do, but you know that its tucked away until we are back in the USA) so I bought a hand held one. I don't know a lot about the various speeds so just went with it and created a big bowl of dough that looked like cookie crumbs. Threw it in the fridge with hopes of it miraculously adhering together and was not surprised when I came back after the recommended 20 minutes to see it looked the same. Undeterred, I scooped out a few spoonfuls, returned the remaining dough to the fridge and mushed what I had together. It took a few tries and playing with the oven temperature - we work with Celsius here- (notice the crispy brown fingers on the right), but I finally got it! I learned to roll the dough into a ball in my hand and break off sections that I then rolled between my hands like when we used Playdoh to make snakes. At first I made little fingers but as I grew tired of the project, the fingers got bigger. I did try using green food coloring, hence the asparagus-like fingers. The finger tips are sliced almonds held on with red decorating gel. 

Next was homemade pizza - the dough was from scratch, the sauce was not. Mark was able to use his Super Pizza Making Powers to spread the dough evenly in the pan and all the way to the edges. He brushed the crust with melted butter and sprinkled it with garlic powder. I added turkey pepperoni, mushrooms, onions and peppers. The dough was a little bread-y, but good. A winner in the Hanna household!

I made ribs with homemade bbq sauce that used hoisin sauce for the base. A few shots of honey, soy sauce and ketchup blended with the hoisin to create typical Chinese ribs. They were good ribs but the sauce was not quite the sweet/zingy bbq Mark and I enjoy. Will continue trying other bbq sauce recipes - forward yours on if you care to share!

This is Mexican Lasagna. This dish is great for a quick meal on a Saturday night, but not much to write home about....except for in this blog. Put a layer of tortillas down in a lightly greased pan. Add one layer of browned ground beef (or chicken) mixed with browned onions and peppers. A layer of taco shredded cheese, and another layer of tortillas. The last 1/2 of the browned meat, onions and peppers. Another layer of cheese. Bake until cheese is melty. Serve with a side of lettuce, sour cream (we used plain Greek yogurt) and salsa. We couldn't find the shredded taco cheese so used some form of cheddar - I think it would have been more visually appealing if the cheddar was yellow. 

Have I learned anything? Patience, a sense of humor, and a small glass of red wine are key when trying out recipes for the first time. And, if I ever have occasion to say, "Save the liver!" ala Dan Ackroyd/Julia Child, I will consider my cooking education complete.

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