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.
Chicken Stir-Fry with Broccoli, Ginger, and Eggplant
1 medium eggplant
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp fresh turmeric, peeled and minced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 lb (about 2 large halves) boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 large yellow onion
2 small heads broccoli, rinsed
3 carrots, washed
1/2 pound mushrooms
salt and pepper
chili flakes (optional)
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp white wine
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil (optional)
1 cup white basmati rice, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp coconut oil (optional)
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 oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Once the oil begins to smoke, 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 the 1/4 tsp salt over the eggplant. Cook, stirring often, until the eggplant is no longer white and seems slightly limp. Ideally, some pieces will become a bit browned. Set aside.
Meanwhile, mince the garlic, turmeric, and ginger. Set aside. Cut the broccoli into small, bite-sized florets and place in a large bowl. Wash the carrots and cut off tops and bottoms. Slice the carrots diagonally, trying to achieve 1/8 – 1/4 inch thickness. Add to the bowl with the broccoli. Slice the onion and mushrooms into bite-sized chunks and place in the same bowl.
Cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise. Then slice into bite-sized pieces.
Bring a small pot of water to boil. Once the water boils, add 1 tbsp coconut oil* and the rice and cook at a gentle boil for 10–12 minutes, or until the rice is cooked but not mushy. Drain, then add butter and salt, or simply serve it plain.
Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large pan (or wok, if you have one) over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken, 1/2 tsp salt, a few good cracks of the pepper, and stir. Cook until all pieces of chicken have turned pale, with no pink spots remaining. Add the vegetables, minus the eggplant, another 1/2 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. Add the eggplant and cook for another few minutes, stirring often.
While the vegetables are cooking, mix the sauce. Place the cornstarch, soy sauce, wine, broth, and oil in a bowl and whisk to combine. Once the vegetables have softened, pour the sauce into the pan. Cook for another few minutes, until the sauce has thickened slightly and everything is evenly coated in the sauce.
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.