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January 2010

Saturday night stir-fry

I have been largely unsatisfied with stir-fry recipes that are either too complicated or too bland, so I went through several and made a composite one to try, which turned out very well. Here's how I wrote out the recipe, and what I did last night to make it with what I had. It will serve 6-8 people, including rice and some fruit.


SHRIMP STIR-FRY


1/2  cup  chicken broth (I make this and keep it around most of the time. I'm sure buying some would be all right.)

4  tbs  rice vinegar (out of this, I used 2T white wine vinegar, 2T rice seasoning)

4  tbs  soy sauce (nearly out of this, I used 1T plus 2T hoisin sauce)

2  tbs  cornstarch

1 tbs  sesame oil (keep this in the refrigerator between uses)

1/2  tsp crushed red pepper (I would cut this in half if you don't like a little pepper on your tongue)


3  tbs  olive oil, divided

2  tbs  grated fresh ginger

4 cloves  garlic, minced


2  lbs  medium-large shrimp (1.5 would have been plenty; I used a thawed 2 lb bag of frozen tail-on shrimp from Costco)

1/2  tsp  salt


broccoli florets (3-4 cups)

snow peas (3-4 cups)

red onion (1/2 a large one, large dice)

red bell pepper (1, large dice)


Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic to pan; stir-fry 30 seconds. Sprinkle shrimp with salt. Add shrimp to pan, and stir-fry 3 minutes or until done. Remove shrimp mixture from the pan.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan. Add vegetables to pan; stir-fry 4 minutes or until broccoli is crisp-tender. Add shrimp mixture and broth mixture to pan; cook 1 minute or until thickened, stirring constantly.


Okay, that's a composite and doubling and changing of a couple of recipes, to suit my taste, family size, and vegetable preferences. When I cooked the vegetables, I was not satisfied with the time it was taking, so I splashed about a 1/2 cup of chicken broth in with them and kept stirring until it was absorbed, a couple extra minutes. Then there was a mild emergency, so I took the pan off the burner and came back a few minutes later to finish with the shrimp and broth mixture.  

I have a wok, but it wouldn't have been large enough for this recipe, so I used a 14.5 inch pan. You can easily make less of this recipe and just adjust the amount of oil and vegetables to your liking, as long as the amount of liquid you add at the end is adjusted the same percentage. You could use powdered ginger and dried garlic, but I don't know the equivalents.

I don't personally like chicken cooked this way, but I'm sure it would be fine. I definitely think it would be good with pork, beef, tofu, or some chunks of firm fish. 



On Agatha Christie

I don't quite say she is my favorite mystery writer, yet in many ways she must be. I have all her mystery books (she wrote a few other things under a pen name,) have seen most of the adaptations of them, and have read several biographies. I am always impressed at how her resolutions are rooted in a possible reality; there's no fudging, no deus ex machina, and the clues always turn out to have been there all along. She must have had an interesting mind. 

But her characters, they're not my favorite people, most of them, and that is why when I am feeling sentimental about mystery stories, I'm more likely to pick up a book by Dorothy L Sayers or Rex Stout, maybe a few others. 

I would be willing toabsolutely faire l'amour with Lord Peter Wimsey or Archie Goodwin. Hercule Poirot, not so much. There are lots of sympathetic characters in Agatha Christie's books, though, or else people wouldn't keep rereading them. However good the story may be, it's the characters that draw you back to it again. When I was younger, I didn't enjoy the Miss Marple stories as much as the Poirot ones, and largely ignored the books without either major character. Now I find some of those, such as Towards Zero, are among my favorites. They have a gripping depth to them that I can appreciate as an adult. 

I did enjoy the Tommy and Tuppence stories all along; they were more familiar to me in terms of character development. But they are unevenly written, some very good, some less so. These you read for the characters; less so for impressive development and denouement. 

Here's a nice brief biography of Agatha Christie, with a short examination of her writing and a good simple bibliography. 

The original Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Agatha Christie is a favorite book of mine to page through now and then; you can find used copies of it pretty easily: this is an updated version. There are other more complete companions, this one's just kind of fun and different. 

it's good to have a goal

I got distracted by something or other last year, but am beginning a full Agatha Christie reread, going through all her books, 82 on the American plan, and seeing how long it takes me to see it through. 

As I type this, it is 00:14 am, January 31. Smiley




This is the copy of The Mysterious Affair at Styles that I own. The book was first published in 1920; this edition is from 1991. It is narrated by the character Hastings, who is a friend of our newly-introduced detective, Hercule Poirot. Hastings is very Dr. Watson-like, but Poirot is more arrogant, yet less aware of it, than was Sherlock Holmes. 

This book is in the public domain and you can find it here at Project Gutenberg. It's a pretty easy story to read and follow. You discover all the clues right along with Poirot, but won't necessarily put them together as he does until the very end.




QotD: iPad

Apple unveiled their new tablet computer, the iPad, yesterday. Will you be dishing out $499 for this much-anticipated gadget?

I can see desiring the 32gb one with 3G, which will be retailing for $729. For the way I use internet technology, it would be very useful and enjoyable to carry about. I don't have an iPhone, but have been wishing to take advantage of some of the features of one. However, the small size is prohibitive for me, and I rarely use the phone itself, so this would have all the features I'd like, with the addition of an ebook reader and a keyboard and screen size I could really enjoy. 

The Powerbook I use was bought second hand last summer for 400 dollars. And we got the kids a super cool almost new iMac last week for $849 from Apple, which includes the one year warranty and the opportunity to purchase Apple Care. So "dishing out" for a new product like this is something I wouldn't do unless some random money fell in my lap. But I would if I could. 


Go metric, go SI

I'd like to have time to expand my thoughts on this later tonight. For now, this is what I've been tweeting about. Links open in this window unless you command them not to. 


For this year's personal cause I want the US to end our hapless measurement conversion. SI is the way to go.


When I was in 3rd grade, in 1973, we were told the whole world would be metric when we grew up. The US has been "metricating" ever since.


We use a ridiculous number of size and weight units, all awkwardly converted with fractions and disparate definitions. 


The US has been metricating for over 35 years. India did it in 2. We use metric money, why can't we drink metric milk?


Conversion is the problem. Ending conversion is the solution.