So far, summer break has been great. I really haven’t done much of anything, which is what feels so wonderful. My days have consisted mainly of small art projects, cooking, eating, reading, and job-searching. The latter has not been entirely fruitful, but my spirits are still high.
You see, I am in that awkward position of having completed four years of college, yet technically classified as an upcoming junior at Otis. This means that many prospective employers, who are looking for either college-grads or near college-grads (AKA upcoming seniors), don’t consider me a viable option. It doesn’t help that, so far, my portfolio mainly consists of school work—not so impressive in the working professional world. If anything, this summer will be my chance to somewhat remedy that.
On a more positive note, this time off has given me a good chance to pursue some of my own interests. Last week I worked on making several small books, which is always fun. This week I focused on printmaking, which is a lot of fun but a heck of an investment to start out. An Etsy site may be up in the near future! I will keep you all posted. I have, quite predictably, also been baking more often. And I’ve been taking a lot more care with my cooking, since I have more time to peruse my excellent cookbooks. My new tactic is to go to the Farmer’s Market, buy whatever vegetable looks the best, and then look up recipes that include that vegetable. This method definitely pushes me outside of my comfort zone, and makes food shopping less monotonous. If you’re bored with your shopping or, even more sadly, with your food, I highly suggest trying this tactic.
One more exciting development in The Life of Hana: I have begun a new nerdy book series! The book that I am currently reading, The Way of Kings, is part one of The Stormlight Archives series by Brandon Sanderson. It is well-written and complex without being too confusing—I highly recommend it to other fantasy-lovers.
Jonji has been even more busy than usual, with a surplus of student council meetings nearly every night of the past couple of weeks. He got re-elected to his student-ambassador-type position, which he is very excited about. And he has his final round of finals next week! This crazy, distracting schedule did finally get to Jonji, who woke up one morning last week to find that he had left the milk in the glasses cabinet over night. Quite understandable in the present circumstances, I think.
Kitty has had the opposite of a busy, distracting schedule lately. Her favorite thing in the world is to curl up on her bed or blanket and snooze the day away. She’s taken to greeting me outside our bedroom door every morning with her tiny, raspy meow. That is my cue to pick her up and let her snuggle into my enrobed lap for several long minutes, while she purrs like a small motor. Quite a good life, that cat has.
The following dish was one of my go-to meals the last few months of school, since it’s extremely quick to make and satisfying at the end of a long day. One night, once I had served the stir-fry up over bowls of hot rice, Jonji took a bite, sat back in his chair and said, “You just make magic happen.” Being a young cook and a fantasy-nerd, that was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. I figured that if this dish was related to magic in any way, it must be good enough to share with the world.
Note: I prefer to roast my chicken beforehand—you get much moister chicken that way, and if you do it a few hours (or even a day) ahead of time it’s just one less step to do at dinner time. But if you’d rather cook it with everything else, simply slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces and stir-fry with the ginger and garlic mixture until opaque, then add the onion and carrot.
Stir-Fry with Chicken, Broccolini, & Eggplant
2 boneless chicken breasts
1 tsp salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup white wine or water
1 medium eggplant
olive or sesame oil
1/4 tsp salt
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 inch fresh turmeric, peeled and grated
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and grated
1 large yellow onion
1 lb broccolini, rinsed
3 carrots, washed
1/2 pound mushrooms (I love Shiitakes for this)
olive or sesame oil
salt and pepper
chili flakes (optional)
1/3 cup chicken broth or water
1 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp Chinese rice wine or white wine
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil (optional)
First, roast the chicken. Preheat your oven to 400°F. In a small roasting pan, rub the chicken breasts with a couple of glugs of olive oil to coat. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp salt on each breast and crack a decent amount of pepper over both. Pour the wine or water into the bottom of the pan. Roast for 40 minutes and set aside. Once it’s cool enough to handle, chop into bite-sized pieces. Reserve the juices left in the pan!
While the chicken cooks, make the rice (recipe below).
Trim the ends off of the eggplant. Cut in half, lengthwise, and then cut each half in half, again lengthwise. Cutting horizontally along each length, cut the eggplant into pieces 1/4 inch wide. Heat 3 tbsp olive or sesame oil in a medium pan or large wok over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the eggplant pieces. Stir immediately—try to coat the pieces evenly in oil. If the eggplant appears too dry, add more oil as needed. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp salt over the eggplant. Cook, stirring often, until the eggplant is browned and soft. Remove from the wok or pan and set aside.
Wash the carrots and cut off the tops and bottoms. Slice the carrots diagonally into 1/4 inch thick pieces. Roughly chop the onion and add to a bowl with the carrots. Slice the mushrooms into bite-sized chunks and place in a separate bowl with the cleaned broccolini.
Heat another 3 tbsp olive or sesame oil in the same pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute. Add the carrots and onion, 1/4 tsp salt, and some more pepper (add 1/2 tsp chili flakes now, if desired). Sauté for about ten minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have browned slightly and feel less firm.
While the vegetables are cooking, mix the sauce. Place the cornstarch, soy sauce, wine, broth, and oil in a bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk into the pan with the chicken juices to get all that good flavor.
Add mushrooms and broccolini and cook for another few minutes, stirring often. Finally, add in the eggplant and chopped chicken. Pour the sauce into the pan and cook for another few minutes, until the sauce has thickened slightly and everything is evenly coated in the sauce. As it cools it will thicken more, so try not to cook it until the sauce disappears.
Serve over hot white rice. Happy eating!
*The coconut oil is optional, but I’ve found that it lends a slight coconut flavor and results in a richer rice bowl. It is also supposedly better for us, but take that with a grain of salt—or perhaps a grain of rice.
Basmati Rice with Coconut Oil
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed and drained
1 3/4 cup water
1 tbsp coconut oil (optional)
Rinse 1 cup basmati rice until the water runs clear. Add to a small pot with 1 3/4 cup cold water and 1 tbsp coconut oil. Stir a couple of times until it the water boils, then turn the heat to your lowest setting and cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Let the rice sit, undisturbed, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and eat warm!