Look Mom, No Ricecooker!

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on Flickr” href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/worldtotable/3902753286/”>homecooked chinese dinner

Hello World (to-Table fans). My name is Kelly, and I’m writing to you from my home away from home, Poughkeepsie, NY. My real home is actually in an apartment with my sister Veronica, creator of this blog. But I currently live with three friends in a house near Vassar College, where I am a student.

That’s enough about me. What about FOOD? Like my sister, I have acquired quite a refined palate, which is a blessing and a curse, as the dining hall that “nourished” me for four semesters is not cutting it anymore. Good-bye meal plan and hello kitchen!

After eleven hours of epic cleaning, the kitchen we inherited bloomed from a museum of ancient pot lids and broken George Foreman products to the real heart of the house. We cleaned and restocked the fridge, stuffed our pantry with bags of pasta and rice, and hung up new cutting boards and pans. This is where raspberry flapjacks are made at two in the morning, borscht is stewed between classes, and tea and coffee flow endlessly. Here is where the magic happens!

Last night, instead of reading books, I was thinking about the magnificent stock of produce we had in our refrigerator. My housemates and I purchased a farm share from the Poughkeepsie Farm, so every Saturday, we bring our tote bags to the farm and pick out ten pounds of fresh vegetables and then excitedly brainstorm recipes on the short car ride home. Having chosen three plump long Chinese eggplants, I was moved to introduce some of my mom’s home cooking to the house. One of my favorite dishes is incredibly simple: steamed eggplant stuffed with chopped scallions and drizzled with soy sauce and hot oil.

eggplants topped with scallions and chili sauce drizzled with hot oil

So I pushed all books and syllabuses aside, descended to the kitchen, turned on the radio, and began making dinner. I sliced our eggplants in half and steamed the halves for twelve minutes, making sure to also tend to the pot of Thai rice cooking away on the adjacent burner. After steaming the eggplants, I arranged them on a dish and gently cut each half longitudinally like a hot dog bun, creating a piping hot opening for me to stuff with chopped scallions. Then I heated up a couple teaspoons of canola oil. Having had a recent bad experience with oil while frying arepas, I made my housemate David spoon the oil over the dish of eggplant while I delighted in the sizzle of scallions instantly cooking upon impact from a distance. I then whisked up a mixture of soy sauce and chili sauce and poured it over each eggplant half.

tomato and egg scramble

The dish was served up with another simple favorite of mine: tomato and egg stir-fry. I sliced up an assortment of tomatoes from the farm and sautéed them in canola oil with a little salt and a sprinkle of sugar. While they cooked, I beat three eggs together and then added them to the wok, making sure to turn down the heat a little so that they didn’t cook too quickly. This way, the scrambled eggs mix with the juices of the tomatoes and develop a soft, silky texture.

baby corn and spinach stir-fry

For a third dish, I drained one can of baby corn, cut them into more manageable, even more baby-like pieces, and sautéed them lightly with garlic, spinach and a little bit of chicken stock. When the final dish was done, we brought them all out to the porch with a big steaming pot of rice and a pitcher full of Poughkeepsie’s finest tap water.

The vegetables from the farm were amazingly sweet. The steamed eggplants came out soft yet firm. They soaked up the sauce on the plate, leaving not quite enough for all of us to spoon over our rice. The juices from the cherry tomatoes flavored each tuft of scrambled egg, and the spinach and corn retained a crispness that accompanied the other dishes wonderfully. My housemate Lily declared this was “way better than Hunan Village!”

Eating these dishes (and hearing the clinking of chopsticks against rice bowls) reminded me of having dinner with my own family. As the four of us chowed down, I felt so contented that I had left the dorms to come live in this house. Here, I can evoke the comforts of home and share them with friends. And better yet, my friends did all the dishes and I was gifted an ice cream sandwich for dessert.

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4 Responses to Look Mom, No Ricecooker!

  1. May says:

    Well done Kelly. In all my life I only cook rice once without rice cooker. So you quite good .. however so I can’t test the quality of the rice as now looks good .. taste? ahhhhh!

  2. Wendy Chan says:

    You sure made your mama proud!

  3. Wilf says:

    Great job Kelly! You’ll have to do a West Coast night and make us even prouder.

  4. Marc says:

    The pics are beautiful, and your vegetarian dishes have given me some inspiration for new dishes that I can bring to a Buddhist group I frequently attend — during the afternoon break from services we all share a potluck lunch. I somehow got designated the “salad guy” but like to deviate from the norm on special occasions!

    Thanks very much for your inspiration. Hope you’re warm and cozy, and doing just as well at the end of the Fall school term as you were at the beginning.

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