Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Random Garbage I Found In My Fridge

Some of the best meals come from my deep sense of urgency about rescuing old food from the back of my fridge. I didn't grow up during the Great Depression, and neither did my parents (though they did grow up fleeing to the mountains to escape Japanese bombers during World War II), but I have a strange Depression-era anxiety about wasting food. Don't ever do it. Something was born, grew up and died so that you could take pictures of it, post it on your blog, and eat it.

I tried this amazing-looking dino kale and quinoa salad recipe I found here. It's crisp and refreshing, though you'll need a bit of a taste for mildly bitter kale. You know quinoa has hit mainstream popularity when my disdain for hippie-wannabes isn't enough to stop me from finding it delicious.

Quinoa and kale salad: Two days in the
fridge and it still looks delicious.

I also had a chunk of beef in my freezer for months, so I used it in one of my mom's specialties, Taiwanese beef noodle soup, or hong sao niu rou mian. This recipe is the closest to my mom's. She doesn't use any of the chili ingredients because she has never liked spicy foods, so for years I thought this was a savory but not spicy dish. Also I've never seen tomatoes used, but for some reason the recipe calls for it. Strange and unnecessary, in my opinion.

The key flavor in beef noodle soup comes from Chinese five spice powder, a very standard flavor in many Taiwanese dishes. In terms of my list of comfort foods, anything with Chinese five spice ranks up there with fresh ginger and scallions, and sesame oil.

Any kind of mild leafy greens can be used in the soup, though bok choy is the most popular. I found some Swiss chard wilting in the fridge so I used that tonight, but I've also used spinach, napa cabbage or watercress in the past.

Finally, I boiled up a few eggs and threw them into the soup, then let them simmer on the lowest flame possible for about 45 minutes. We called them "brown eggs" just because they turn out brown, but I guess they're actually called lu dan, or soy sauce braised stewed eggs.

My rendition of beef noodle soup, with Swiss chard and a braised egg.

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