Szechuan Soup

Wow…I made a draft of this post on May 12, and the only reason I didn’t publish it that night was I was too lazy to process the photo of the soup. Everything else was written. OK, in fairness to me, I have NOT been lazy; I’ve been very much the opposite of lazy. But I never found the time to deal with that one photo, which is ridiculous since I’ve processed hundreds of photos since then. If anything I’m even busier now than I was then, but I made the time to publish this now while tonight’s soup simmers. 🙂

So here’s my old post:
——————————————————————————-
I feel like on those random times I actually manage to post a recipe here lately that it’s always soup. There are a few reasons for that:

  • I love soup.
  • I’ve had to eat alone most nights this year and making a huge pot of soup is an excellent way for me to have a lovely dinner and then a week of lunches.
  • I love soup.
  • I eat dinner ridiculously late year-round but as I have this weird thing about not eating dinner when it’s light out, my dinner hour just gets absurd in the spring and summer, so I like eating something lighter like soup.
  • I love soup.
  • Also since it’s spring, I usually go for a hike after work and usually eat something to tide me over for a while before doing so, so when I get home for dinner, I don’t want a large meal.
  • I love soup and shouldn’t have to explain myself.

As I’ve mentioned, we are moving to California in a couple of months, and it’s finally starting to feel real. I’ve started cleaning out the house of things that won’t move with us so I can donate them. I also need to start cleaning out the cupboards so I don’t have to either throw away food or move it across the country. Tonight’s soup used up all kinds of things from the fridge and the cupboard! Cans of baby corn and young jackfruit I don’t remember buying, the remainder of a cabbage that needed to be used up, a random hot pepper I found, a zucchini that was on its last legs, the rest of an open jar of tomato sauce. And bonus: it tastes awesome! And very spicy, just the way I like it!

Szechuan Soup

1 onion, cut into half-moons, then cut into quarter-moons
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1-2″ of garlic, peeled and grated
8 cups vegan “chicken” broth
12 oz tomato sauce
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp Chinese black vinegar
1/2 cup soy curls
1 small can young jackfruit in brine, drained and shredded
1/4 cabbage (green, Napa, or Savoy are all fine), cored and chopped
1 cup baby corn, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 medium orange hot pepper, sliced
Szechuan pepper, to taste

Heat some oil in a large Dutch oven, then add the onions and sauté for a few minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute, then add the broth, tomato sauce, soy sauce, and vinegar. Bring to a boil, then add the soy curls, jackfruit, baby corn, zucchini, and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for an hour or until everything is cooked. Add the Szechuan pepper to taste.

I am nearly finished the Virginia Master Naturalist training. We had our last field trip this Saturday at Huntley Meadows; we learned about birds on the first leg and herps on the second. We saw a lot of cool stuff, including this green heron:

And LOTS of frogs; this is a green frog:

Also lots of turtles. This is a totally adorable baby snapping turtle, probably born in September of last year. He’s smaller than a silver dollar and SUPER CUTE.

Here’s a different baby snapping turtle with some chapstick as a size reference:

And here’s a sign of spring: red-winged blackbirds mating:

——————————————————————————-
Back to the present: I just got back from California; if you want to see some pictures from there, tune into blog.renae.org; I’ll be adding a couple every day this week.

Comments (3)

Black Bean Stir Fry

Yeah, that’s right, I HAVE A RECIPE. It’s not the most exciting or innovative recipe in the world, but I figured it would help me ease back into actual food blogging at some point. 🙂

The secret ingredient in this dish is Chinese fermented black beans. You are supposed to rinse these before use but the brand I bought wasn’t too salty and I didn’t bother. I really simplified the preparation for this dish. As I had some cooked brown rice in the freezer, this meal took about 15 minutes to prepare, most of which was devoted to vegetable chopping.

Black Bean Stir Fry

12 oz seasoned baked tofu, chopped
1/2 small head savoy or Napa cabbage, cored and chopped into 1″ pieces
1 small head broccoli, chopped into florets
2 leaks, white parts only, cleaned and sliced
2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 hot pepper, chopped
1 small can sliced water chestnuts
2 scallions, sliced
about 2 Tbsp Shaoxing wine or sherry

For the sauce:
3/4 cup vegetable broth or vegan “chicken” broth
3-4 Tbsp Chinese fermented black beans
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp black vinegar
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1-2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger

1 Tbsp corn starch whisked into 3 Tbsp water

Prep the tofu and all the vegetables and set aside. Stir in all of the rest of the sauce ingredients (except the cornstarch mixture). Heat a wok over high heat and add a little oil. Add the leaks and stir fry for a couple of minutes, then add each of the remaining vegetables, except the scallions, and the tofu a minute or two apart in order of their required cooking time, stir frying the entire time (for the ingredients above, I went in the following order: leeks, carrots, celery, pepper, broccoli, tofu, cabbage, water chestnuts). Use the wine or sherry to deglaze the wok, then pour in the sauce and toss. Lower the heat a bit and let the sauce cook for a minute or so, then pour the cornstarch mixture into the wok, stir, and cook for another minute or so until the sauce thickens.

Top with the sliced scallions. Serve with chili garlic sauce or Sriracha on the side.

Aaaaand back to non-food matters. I’ve been suffering from photography withdrawal since returning from Africa. Yes, this is somewhat due to the fact that I’m sad there are no non-zoo lions in Virginia, but it’s compounded by the fact that it’s winter. We had such a FABULOUS summer that I got VERY used to going to a park every single night after work, but not only is it cold this time of year, worse, it’s dark when I leave work, so parks are out. It’s very depressing. I decided that to motivate myself I would attempt a “365” photo project, which means that every day for the next 365 days I need to take and publish a photograph. What’s more, I decided my theme would be self-portraits. Upon reflection I realized that people may think I want to take “selfies”, but that’s the last thing I want to do. I kind of see “selfies” as something you take with your phone at arm’s length. I can’t think of any reason I would take a picture of myself with my phone. The reason I chose to concentrate of self-portraits is, however, possibly more sad than a desire to take a good “selfie”. The reason is I used to take a lot of pictures of friends and I like taking pictures of people. Maybe not as much as I like taking pictures of animals, but I like it. The fact is, though, that I don’t go out that much any more, and I don’t particularly want to, which means if I want to practice taking pictures of people, that leaves me or Mark, and there’s no way Mark will agree to be my model, so I’m left with myself. Which is actually kind of appropriate because although I DID go out a lot in high school when I was teaching myself photography, there were still a lot of times when I was home alone with no subjects to photograph so I’d take pictures of myself. Like this one, which I like because THERE’S AN AWESOME PICTURE OF TIGER BEHIND ME in our living room:

Or more ridiculously, this one wearing my dad’s suit – and apparently carrying the mail – for some unknown reason:

Okay, I also like to play dress-up.

I don’t know, we might be heading into selfie territory with this one:

Anyway, I’m REALLY unphotogenic, increasingly so the further I get from high school, so I’m hoping that over the course of the year I’ll come away with at least a couple of photos of myself that I don’t hate, either because I improve at taking them or I come to terms with my appearance. One of those things. Although I have absolutely no confidence I will actually keep this up for 365 days. I’m surprised I’ve done it for three, quite frankly. The only reason I’m mentioning it here is to make myself a little bit more accountable by actually confessing that I’m doing it. It will actually be much easier to keep up with in the spring and summer when I’m out hiking every night as I usually take my tripod with me and I can just hop in front of it for a shot or two. I have absolutely no idea how I will possibly manage to take a different photo of myself every single night of the long, cold, horrible winter. That will require a lot more creativity than I have. But here’s to trying!

I assure you I will VERY RARELY, if ever again, post any of these self-portraits here. This is supposed to be a food blog and most pictures of me will make you lose your appetite! But here was photo 1 of 365, taken while I was figuring out how to tether my DSLR to my laptop in Lightroom. Gomez thought he’d assist with that endeavor.

And today’s:

I’m kissing her little paw!

An outtake from today that shows Torticia, who NEVER looks bad in a picture, better:

I said I don’t take “selfies” (because I’m snobby and I take “self-portraits”), but that’s not entirely true. I can’t be trusted not to take pictures of myself with my underwater camera just because I CAN take pictures of myself underwater and I think that’s awesome. In the pool at the lodge in Zanzibar:

See what I said about being unphotogenic?!

Okay, NEXT, a request. So I’m going to apply for the Virginia Master Naturalist program this spring and although there aren’t really any previous education requirements, I feel like it would be a good idea to do some reading before classes begin in February. Anyone have any favorite books on natural history, biology, or the like? When I read science books, I usually read physics or neuroscience books, so it’s sort of a new field for me.

Next stop: SERENGETI!

Comments (2)

Asian Mustard Greens with Tofu

Every year in October (although once I think it was November), vegans around the world unite and participate in a blogging event called Vegan Mofo, in which they strive to blog nearly every day of the month, and every year I think yeah, I should do that, but then every year I think HAHAHAHA HOW COULD I EVER DO THAT? I’m busy all the time, but it seems like October is THE busiest time of the year for me, even with the wildlife stuff winding down a bit. I also tend to travel a lot in October. Of course, I’m just a big whiner because lots of bloggers are just as busy as I am and a lot of them travel more than I do and yet they still manage to post every day for Mofo. I just feel as if I would get stressed out about it so I’ve never made the commitment, much as I admire everyone else who does it and enjoy reading all the blogs.

Anyway, that’s a long way of saying I’m not doing Mofo because I’m a big whiner. Ironically I’m suddenly brimming with blog post ideas over here and I have a bunch of meals planned this week and next that are new and possibly blog-worthy, so maybe I could have pulled it off after all. I honestly think I could have done a Month of Vinegar theme, I have so many post ideas involving vinegar alone. Wouldn’t that have been awesome? I’m kind of regretting not signing up and at least doing a food diary. Y’all care what we eat daily chez Renae, right? Fortunately, as wildlife duties have been slowing down, our daily meals have been getting more interesting. I don’t know how interesting tonight’s really is, but it features mixed Asian mustard greens that I got at the farmers market and I get really excited about things like bundles of mixed Asian mustard greens so here I am, sharing my glee with you. I’m pretty sure I’m going to cry myself to sleep when the farmers market ends at the end of this month.

Asian Mustard Greens with Tofu

1 bundle mixed Asian mustard greens, stems removed if necessary, and chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 lb extra firm tofu, chopped
3 cups soybean sprouts
1-4 chili peppers, sliced (depending on the type and how much heat you like)
2 green onions, sliced, white and green parts separated
1 small hunk of ginger, grated
4-5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup vegan broth
1/4 cup fermented black bean paste
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
2 drops stevia (or 1 tsp sugar)
2 Tbsp cornstarch whisked into 3 Tbsp cold water

First stir together the broth, black bean paste, soy sauce, wine, and stevia in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Set aside. Also set aside the cornstarch and water mixture.

Put some oil in a wok and add the white parts of the green onion, ginger, garlic, and chili peppers. I do this cold – although in general you heat the pan and then the oil before adding anything else – to prevent the garlic and ginger from scorching. Turn the heat to medium high and start stirring when it begins sizzling.

Add the onions and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes.

Add the tofu and cook, stirring for another couple of minutes.

Add the greens. Look how pretty they are! Stir and let them cook down a bit.

When the greens have wilted, add the sprouts and stir until they wilt as well.

Pour in the broth mixture and bring it to a boil.

Then stir in the cornstarch mixture, allowing it to thicken the broth and coat the tofu and vegetables. It will become shiny.

Serve with rice and garnish with the green parts of the green onions. Mine wasn’t very spicy so I heaped some chili garlic paste on the side as well.

As you’ve probably noticed, I tend to add a personal photograph or twelve to the ends of my posts. However, I don’t have much to share with you this week. I didn’t even take any pictures of raccoons this week (too busy trying to convince them I could clean their cages much faster without two of them on my head). So I could search for some earlier photo you haven’t seen – I only have a gazillion of them – but no, I’m too lazy to do that. Last night I was testing the remote control for my camera to see from what angles and distances I could get it to work and thus the following photos got imported from the camera along with tonight’s pictures of greens and tofu, so THAT’s what you get to look at. Pictures I took to test stuff and intended to trash. Wow, I’m really hurting for content.

I don’t think when I tripped the shutter on this one that I realized I was taking a picture of Mezzaluna, but you may recall several posts back when I mentioned that we play a game with him in which we place pipe cleaners in hard-to-reach areas that he has to hunt down and retrieve. If you can see it (it’s on the shade right above his head), this one looks easy but it’s tied on securely and is the more challenging than it looks. He kind of needs opposable thumbs for that one, but I’ve seen him get even harder ones by being clever, so he’ll get it.

DERRR does the remote work when I’m directly in front of and 6″ away from the camera? AM I A HUGE DORK?

Hm, okay, next time I’ll find some real pictures, or just give you a break from my mediocre-to-bad photography.

Comments (4)

« Previous entries