Like many of my dishes lately this one comes from a discussion with my wife Jan. She is on the Noom program and instructs me on changing my cooking style to meet her needs. She has also been posting my dishes on the Noom group chat and she got a very positive response from the Noom councilor for my grilled shrimp tacos.
When we lived in China we were introduced to a vegetable that was not commonly used in the U.S. pea tops (sometimes sold as “pea leaf”)—the tender ends of the pea shoots. Pea tops is not something you will find in Western supermarkets, you will only find them Asian markets—in season. Frequently, I would use these in a soup, but today wife Jan asked for them in a stir fry. Lately, there has been a bowl of Mandarin oranges on my counter and—as I was gathering ingredients for my stir fry—I decided, “Why not throw a couple into the mix?”
This meal started with my wife Jan noticing that I had a ripe avocado on the counter. “We should have tacos, hmm, grilled shrimp tacos,” says she. I know that she is also very fond of grilled corn, so I suggested grilled corn salsa to go with the tacos. Thus a meal was born.
In the morning, I had decided to reheat the leftover chili for dinner. When my daughter Eilene finally woke up, she said, “Oh yes, I forgot to tell you that my friends are coming over tonight”—dinner for six, not three. I could have thinned out the chili with more beans, but one of her friends does not like beans. After a discussion, we settled on Thai red curry chicken soup.
Mapo tofu is wife Jan’s favorite dish, so this is a common meal in our house. The tradition way of making it is with just tofu and sauce with just a bit of pork, green onion, and of course Sichuan pepper. I usually make a stir fried bok choy dish as a vegetable side, but over time I have gotten lazy and combined the dishes into one—adding the bok choy directly into the mapo tofu. Today, Jan asked me to buy some mandarin oranges and I thought, “Why not add them to the dish?”
When wife Jan recently bought me blue corn meal, she also purchased some blue masa harina. Masa harina is corn that has been soaked in calcium hydroxide (AKA slaked lime) in a process called nixtamalization. This process has many benefits, making it easier to remove the hulls, breaking down toxins that may be present in the raw corn, and altering the corn’s chemistry—allowing for easier absorption of key nutrients like niacin and letting the corn flour to absorb water to make a dough. The freshly ground corn dough—masa—is dried and then reground to make masa harina.
Wife Jan is on the Noom program and is still giving me lists of recipe names from her app. Many of these recipes are directly from Prevention, but I could not find this one on-line so I decided to wing it. Starting with the idea of a grilled seafood soup—the recipe name my wife gave me—I thought about what would go into it.
Wife Jan and I were wandering around the local Japanese market and she said it had been a long time since I had made sukiyaki. This is one of the dishes my mother, Claudia, would make as I was growing up. Since I was making this as a weekday dinner, I pared down my original recipe to feed three people—you may also increase the number and kinds of vegetables to feed more if necessary.