When i took a break from posting from the end of November till January, i also took a break from reading my favorite blogs and i'll tell you now why. We tried to keep the Lent before Christmas, which is about 6 weeks, and for me it is pretty hard. Gabriel doesn't seem to mind or wonder like me. I always think about food and i always crave food, especially when i see beautiful photos, so i decided not to look, to make it easier for me and avoid the temptations. I feel sometimes is very easy to go thru the day without feeling hungry for something that i am not supposed to have, but there are so many other days when i feel i will faint if i don't eat some cheese or eggs or anything else, but vegetarian dishes. The food doesn't have to be boring during Lent, but it could be, especially if you feel that you are running out of ideas and i always feel like that. I wrote down so many recipes and ideas so i could have them handy for fasting before Christmas or Easter, but when time comes, i feel so uninspired for the majority of the time, and in the end, there are about 15 dishes that i keep on making, with small variations, for the whole 6 weeks.
At least during the Lent before Christmas you are allowed to have fish on Sundays, but for the lent before Easter, which is just about 5 weeks away, i think there are only 2-3 times when fish is ok. And since we really are not vegetarian people, just veggies and fruits, grains, beans, rice and no meat, fish, eggs or dairy could be cumbersome. That's why i have to confess that my success rate is not very good yet, but at least i am trying. And when we couldn't do it, we tried not to have meat, but just dairy, fish or eggs.
And in spite of our ( please read my) failure to fast the whole period, we felt wonderful every time when we succeeded, and i say that without a bragging tone, as that would defeat the purpose, isn't it?
Now, since we are here, the menu is richer because we have year round all these wonderful veggies, which taste pretty decent even in December. And on top of that, we have seafood. In Romania the shrimp, mussels, clams, squid and calamari are not food for Lent. But then again, they are not common foods at all, and until some years ago they were not available not even frozen. I know there is a big dispute about shellfish being allowed or not. The orthodox Greeks accept it and so do some orthodox Romanians who say that it is not the same with fish, it has not blood. This being said, you can't have shellfish during lent to the point where you stuff yourself and indulge with this food which for some is even better that meat, because again, that is no abstinence. But from time to time, i make a soup or different dishes, using shrimp, mixed shellfish, mussels or clams to have a more consistent meal. I haven't cooked squid or calamari at home, except for some rings, only once, and if i remember it right, it wasn't during Lent.
Before i go on with my shrimp stir fry, i remember when 2 years ago, my friend Lili wanted to fast, too. We went to her house one night and she was happily telling us how she was able to do it for about a week, while she was eating some meat, so we started laughing. And she replied serenely that meat is not a problem for her, she could give it up at any time for weeks, without craving, (and indeed there were weeks when she didn't eat any), so that's why she didn't feel she had to stop eating it. But for that whole week she gave up eggs, which are her favorite food, and she was proud for being able to abstain from them for so long, and that's how she was fasting :))).
Back to the shrimp. I have told you so many times that we like Chinese food. And Gabriel really loves Chinese food more than any other ethnic food that we found here in LA. I don't think there has been not even one dish that he would say he wouldn't order again. I like Chinese food too, to the point where i started buying all these ingredients, sauces, condiments, and cookbooks to try to make some recipes at home. And some of them came out really good. Others, not so much, but i am not giving up.
I love the stir fry, i like that the veggies remain crunchy, and i find the recipes versatile - it could be shrimp for the two of us, but chicken, beef or pork for Clara, too, and i could whip something up depending on what is in my fridge, or i buy ingredients especially for one recipe or another.
This time, i had the snow peas and some red bell pepper, but they could be replaced with anything you like - broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, bok choy.... I love adding some fresh ginger, garlic, bamboo shots, water chestnuts, and bean sprouts, depending what i make and if i didn't forget to get some. I got a full load in my pantry of oyster sauce, black bean, garlic-chili, hoisin, sweet & sour, cornstarch and soy sauce, and i use them either following a specific recipe, or not really.
Snow peas are one of my favorite greens. I never had them before back home. We have pea pods (which here are called sugar snap peas), but we buy them to shell the peas, or at least that's what i knew back then and i've seen everybody do. For those of you who don't know what snow peas are, here are some things i found online: snow peas are also called Chinese peas, Chinese snow pea, edible-podded pea, mange-tout pea (i love this mange tout, i found them called this way in some european cookbooks)The snow pea is a legume, a variety of pea eaten whole in its pod while still unripe. Snow peas are thin, crisp, bright green pods, almost translucent. They are tender and sweet and have a crisp, firm texture. The tiny peas inside are small and flat. Sugar snap peas on the other side, are sweet, tender pods that have fully developed plump, rounded peas inside. They are thicker and could be cooked as they are (sometimes they need to have the string on the side removed) or they could be shelled and only use the peas.
Shrimp and snow peas stir fry
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
half an onion, cut into thin wedges
1 medium red bell pepper cut into strips
2 cups fresh snow peas, tips and strings removed
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon black bean sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
Add the cooking oil to a wok or a large skillet and cook the ginger and garlic over medium-high heat about 15-20 seconds. Add the onion, bell pepper and snow peas and cook and stir for about 3 minutes or until the vegetables are crisp tender.
Take the vegetables out of the wok with a slotted spoon. Stir together in a mixing bowl the soy sauce, oyster sauce, black bean, cornstarch and water. Add to the wok and let it cook until slightly thickened and bubbly. Add the shrimp. Cook and stir about 3 minutes or until the shrimp is pink. Stir in the vegetables for one more minute, until heated through. Make sure you are not overcooking it, as the shrimp will be chewy and the veggies soft and wilted. Serve with plain white or brown rice.