August 2006
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Day August 24, 2006

Dinner and a Sunset

  Originally uploaded by mmadsen.

It was another truly stunning sunset tonight, after a cold and windy night last night. 

In truth, this picture isn’t tonight’s sunset, but the one from Monday evening.  I missed snapping a picture of tonight’s "peak" sunset because I was stir-frying Sui-mi ji  out on the deck while the light held.  The dish in question is Szechwan chicken with peanuts, cabbage and red pepper strips, and was incredibly delicious. 

I used the recipe from Robert Delfs’s book, "The Good Food of Szechwan," out of print but available from Amazon and other used book stores pretty cheap.  The book was recommended by my friend Bryan, who writes the blog Soup Noodles, and has immense expertise at Chinese cuisine and cooking methods. 

The dish went together fairly quickly — it is, after all, just stir fried chicken (marinated in a cornstarch, soy, wine sauce), shredded green cabbage, chopped peanuts, and thin strips of red peppers (dried or fresh, but somewhat hot).  To this is added garlic, ginger, scallions, and hot black bean paste.  The latter I found at Ranch 99 on my way to the ferry the other day; any specialty Chinese or Asian market will have some.  I defer to Bryan on the choice of brands, however.  I used what I found, but Bryan’s blog can advise on some of the imported choices for best results. 

I am, however, adjusting to the techniques, timing, and "moves" needed to work with the big wok on the high heat provided by the propane wok stand.  The stand doubles as a turkey frying rig and was about 50 bucks at the hardware store, and the wok a large 22" steel one, covered initially in grease but costing only 25 bucks.  I found a leather glove this trip down to Seattle, which gives me better grip on the small hoop handles on the wok than the silicone mitt I’d been using, and I think practice and better tools are improving my technique.  The dish was delicious — easily the equal of a similar dish served at "Sichuanese Cuisine" in the Sears shopping center by the Microsoft campus, and incredibly tasty.  Probably the best Chinese dish I’ve done thus far. 

The sunset has faded into full darkness now, with only the faint lights of Vancouver and the stars to light the sky off the northern deck.  I find, increasingly, that I can’t go inside until it’s getting truly dark and I can’t read anymore.  Watching a movie or doing indoor things, while there’s still a "show" to be seen in the sunset sky seems just….wrong.  A waste of precious days where it stays light into the evening, a waste of a moment where I look out at where I’ve found myself and just start laughing at the pure amazement of it all.  How and why I’ve ended up here is a story for another evening, but one I do promise to write.  But for now, the citronella candles are making little pools of light on the deck tables, and the stars are coming out in earnest, so it’s time to step away from the computer…