Cleaning up the Bookshelf and Finding a Keeper

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Something that Nick and I each collected before we got together were cookbooks. We both came into the relationship with a stack of them, which have since sat, mostly unused, gathering dust on a bookshelf.

We still both enjoy cooking and experimenting with all kinds of foods, but these days, like most people probably do, we turn to the internet for ideas and recipes. So we thought a good place to start a purging session was with these books. We thought this would be an easy task, since we’d be dealing with things we hardly ever use, but it seems, we’re both kind of attached to our cookbooks. They are steeped in memories : of a time we were learning to cook, and of meals made long ago, perhaps enjoyed with ghosts from our past.

But they are taking up a lot of room and require effort to keep clean, and we’re still determined to get rid of what we don’t need. So we’ve modified the plan — we will pull a cookbook out at random, once a month or so, and then the person who brought the book into the home will choose a recipe and prepare the dish.

If nothing pops out or looks particularly interesting, the book will be moved to a pile for donation, and another one will be selected. If the book ends up with only one or two recipes which were the reason the whole thing was being saved, than I will transcribe those particular recipes, photograph the cover, and then donate the book.

Or, if the dish prepared is so delicious that we end up with a need to try many more of the recipes, the book will have won its keep on the shelf.

And that is what ended up happening with the very first book we picked, an old well-used paperback, called ‘Chinese Cookery’, by Rose Cheng and Michele Morris.

This one is Nick’s, something he picked up secondhand while he was a student. He tells me that this was a favourite at one time, the book through which he learned what he now knows about cooking Chinese food. And cook it he does, as we have Fried Rice, Peanut Noodles or Stir Fried Vegetables at least once a week, and then a second time when we have the leftovers. But those dishes don’t really require a recipe, so he hasn’t used the book in ages.

It is dated 1981, so I assumed that it would be long out of print, but to my surprise this book is still going strong and is available on Amazon here, among other places. It was reprinted in 1987 but the cover is exactly the same as the copy we have, as is the list of recipes. The reviews of the book are terrific, averaging 4.5 out of 5 stars. People love this book! And here we had it sitting unopened all this time.

The experience has lead me to conclude that if every book on that shelf is hiding at least one recipe that is as delicious as the one we made from ‘Chinese Cookery’, this whole cookbook purging thing is going to take a very long time indeed.

I guess I’ll have to move onto another area of our home that could stand to undergo some serious editing … that would be my closet. I’m going to try to follow the popular edict that if you haven’t worn it in a year, it’s time to let it go. Wish me luck!

Back to cooking, Nick prepared his chosen recipe meal for our Sunday lunch, and while he cooked we had a glass of wine, and I took pictures in the waning light.

These first ones are of the making of the stir fried vegetables that accompanied the main dish …

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The table was casually set with our everyday things, many of which were thrifted. It gives me an inordinate amount of pleasure seeing my thrifted things in use! See the posts about finding them – Green Melmac Tray, Oval Platter. Table Cloth, Plates, Big Bowls.

After a decade of use, the wooden chopsticks I had bought for Nick for our Wooden (5th) Anniversary, have broken, so he put these neat stainless steel ones in my Christmas stocking.

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Note : the remainder of this post will not appeal to people who don’t eat meat, pork in particular.

The recipe Nick chose to make was ‘Sliced Pork in Garlic Sauce’. He served it with steamed brown rice and stir fried vegetables.

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I learned an unexpected cooking technique from watching him make this, which is to boil the whole pork tenderloin in a seasoned broth, until its done. I’ve never thought to boil meat, except to precook ribs before barbecuing them. But I like the idea of it because, aside from being easy to clean up (none of those sticky, hard to clean, pans that go along with frying, grilling, roasting or broiling), there is no added fat. Since pork tenderloin is one of the leanest sources of meat protein there is, this dish not only tasted very good, but it was nutritious too.

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I couldn’t find the recipe on-line but since it’s still in print and belongs to someone else, I’m not sure if it’s right for me to post it here. I will though, with the notion that this recipe can be a little glimpse into the pages of this book, and temp people to purchase it. Of course, if I’m asked to take the recipe down, I will.

The recipe serves 4 so we only ate half of it during this meal, and saved the rest. The leftovers were just as delicious.

Sliced Pork with Garlic Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

Recipe from "Chinese Cookery" by Rose Cheng and Michel Morris

Ingredients

  • About 4 cups of water
  • 1/2 lb pork shoulder (we used pork tenderloin)
  • 2 slices fresh ginger
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine or dry sherry (we used rice wine vinegar)

  • Garlic Sauce:
  • 2 tbsp chicken broth (we used water and a bit of Knorr vegetable broth powder)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • about 1 tbsp chili oil, or an extra tbsp of sesame oil (to drizzle over top before serving)

Instructions

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add pork, ginger, onions and wine (or vinegar). Add more water to cover pork if needed. Cook about 40 minutes, adding more water if necessary. To test meat, pierce with a fork or skewer. If juices are not red, meat is done.

Remove pork from cooking liquid, cool and refrigerate for easier slicing (we didn't do that). Reserve cooking liquid.

Cut pork across the grain into thin slices.

To make Garlic Sauce, bring broth and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients, except chili oil or extra sesame oil, mixing well.

Bring pork cooking liquid to a boil. Place pork slices in boiling liquid about 10 seconds, Remove and pat dry with paper towel. (we didn't do that because we didn't chill the pork).

Arrange on a platter. Pour garlic sauce over pork slices. Sprinkle with Chili Oil or Sesame Oil (which we forgot to do).

https://www.loulou.to/recipes/cleaning-up-the-book-shelve-and-finding-a-keeper/

toast

Thanks very much for taking a look. Wishing you an excellent weekend. We have another interesting meal in store for us, as Andrea is coming over to prepare us an authentic Czech dinner. Yum!
xo loulou

ps. Nick just looked over my shoulder as I was proofing this post and said, ‘I’ve got lots of snow peas and some shrimp … I’m going to make that recipe on the front of the book.’

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