One of my last nights in Beijing and I got a craving for pasta. This is a casserole using roasted vegetables and pasta with a homemade marinara sauce (we get some nice canned Italian tomatoes here), and then I top it with chopped sausage from Harbin.
It is a nice example of comfort food that goes well with a good red wine. This, a nice little desert and a movie night are all we need some times.
Dessert was a simple lemon loaf that I punched holes into and then covered in a Gran Marnier glaze. Its not beautiful, but it was very tasty. I don't always go all out every night with the full blown gourmet effort, sometimes its just a simple dinner for two.
We have been working on eating healthy and trying to stay away from eating in restaurants. When I am not in China Annie eats out almost every day, so when I am in Beijing we like to eat at home. Restaurant food is not only ridiculously expensive, its oily and you have no idea what is going on in a Chinese kitchen. Shopping in Beijing is not like in the US, first of all I do not have a car so everything has to be within walking distance. And second, there are no large grocery stores like in the US, instead you have little markets that do not always have everything you need. But with a little bit of patience and time I can usually create a good breakfast and dinner. The dinner almost always has leftovers and those get packed away for Annie's lunch the following day.
I really got into cooking Thai food this trip, or at least Thai style dishes. Almost all of my dinners have been some type of Asian style cuisine. It makes more sense to cook what is more easily available, and it is great practice with the wok!
We took delivery on a Boskey Shuttler today and it looks to be a great find. Boskey is a very small company northeast of Beijing in Shunyi and they specialize in adventure bikes. They also have some other models and the Shuttler is one that my wife thought would be a good fit. Once we got her on it and riding she was really excited and truly loved the bike. Its fun seeing someone who has never owned a real performance bike suddenly realize what it means to be able to go fast. And have something that actually fits her. I really like the bike, it has some nice details and of course I am a believer in steel frames.
I got a call around 1pm saying that a friend of my brother-in-law was going to drop off a whole lamb at the apartment if I was willing to process it. It was hard to turn down a whole Mongolian lamb, especially when I had never seen one before so I told them to come on over. It was still partially frozen so I worked as fast as possible to pull the frozen parts off and bag them for the freezer. It was a job, as in about a 6 hour job. I made a couple of gallons of lamb stock from the weird parts, and froze most of the rest. As we ate some of this later in the week it was really obvious this was a fresh lamb. Super tasty. The rest was divided up among my wife's family to eat later this year. With the vacuum bag storage it should last up to a year.
I made a special infusion for my in-laws and the Chinese New Year. Every year they drink this Chinese baijo which tastes like kerosene, so this year I made a bourbon infusion. I have made it for them before and they really like it, and it gets me out of having to drink the kerosene. This batch was made with green apples, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and vanilla beans. Infused into what we hope is real (not fake) Wild Turkey.
I have been terribly sick with both a chest cold and giardia at the same time. I have been sick with giardia twice this trip which is very unusual for me. I almost always get it one time, but I have gotten it both times this trip almost back to back, barely 10 days between each round. I think there may be something wrong with our water purifier.
I have really stopped working on complex recipes and am mostly focused on providing us with as many meals per day as possible so that we don't have to eat in restaurants. I love Chinese food and going out, but the cooking in most of these places is high in oil and the hygiene is dubious at best. By knocking out steady, tasty meals we can spend time at home and save money. Plus we just enjoy being in the apartment, unwinding without having to deal with the hassles that come with traveling in cold weather. Mostly I do Asian dishes but once in a while I will throw in something like this veggie pasta thing with a scratch made marinara. I cranked up the green beans with some fresh Harbin sausage. Nothing complicated but still a good healthy meal.
It was a huge relief to have the air clear up after January 1st. Today was crystal clear and I took off on a 30 mile ride through the city even though it was only 18F. It was a super cold ride and my toes were not happy by the end, but it was absolutely worth it. You know its cold when there isn't any crowd in front of the Forbidden City. Coming home I tucked in behind an electric scooter that was carrying two parents and a baby. We rode for about 4 miles before they turned.
I have a thing for Vietnamese Pho and as cold as it is outside it seemed like a good time to try some out. I used a recipe from the chef at The Slanted Door in San Francisco and made a few changes to it was doable in Beijing. I love boiling a whole chicken for half the day as it brings up the humidity in the apartment and the smell is awesome. It was an extremely good soup, I really nailed the flavor.
Since Annie's favorite spot has some great clay pot dishes I decided to try and create a couple of recipes. It is an interesting technique and when done properly the rice has a crunchy flavor on the bottom. It is her comfort food and its darn tasty. Tonight I did a lamb rib version along with a couple of other dishes. Still not quite right but I was afraid to fire the clay pot directly on the stove top. But after talking with some people it seems these clay pots should be safe directly over a gas flame.