Saturday, February 23, 2008

Stop, Look, ....

Simply look with perceptive eyes at the world about you, and trust to your own reactions and convictions. Ask yourself: "Does this subject move me to feel, think and dream? Can I visualize a print - my own personal statement of what I feel and want to convey - from the subject before me?
Ansel Adams

Last night I went with friends to hear on talk at a local downtown gallery on "Vision and Creativity". He had many good things to say and like many older photographers in this area is a disciple of Ansel Adams and had even met him. Much of his work was landscape and he offered many insights, so it was a worthwhile few hours. I spoke to him a few minutes before I left as he was also a psychotherapist and he felt that it was important to listen to what your heart is telling you and to follow the art you fall in love with. In addition, he felt it was never to late to change.

We also found a great "mom and pop" Thai restaurant for supper before the talk. Unbelievably my friends had never tried true Thai cuisine. I ordered some of the more well-known dishes and they fell in love so here are the recipes for them on how to prepare the 2 dishes they liked best:

Tom Kai Gai Soup (adapted from Shiok Chef Notes)

Makes 2-3 bowls of soup Preparation time: 15-20 minutes
Good quality Chinese chicken stock
1 cup Coconut milk
1 cup Fresh or frozen lemongrass
1/2 a stalk Galangal - fresh - 6 slices (If you don't have any at home, you can order some online) Kaffir Lime Leaves
2 (hand-torn) Thai bird's eye chillies (or Serrano chillies) - 2-3 (big slices so you can avoid them easily)
(If you don't have any of the above, Amazon ships a package of all the fresh ingredients you need for the soup.)
Fish sauce - 1 tbsp (The saltiness can vary a lot across brands, so start with less always.)
Lime juice - 2 tbsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Coriander (cilantro for the Americans) leaves
8 oz Boneless chicken breast (chopped)
Straw mushrooms (or regular button mushrooms) - 4 (sliced)

For the lemongrass, use only the bottom white part (about 6 inches) and discard the woody grass part of it. With the flat side of a cleaver or a heavy object, pound and bruise the lemongrass so it releases the flavour. Cut into 2 inch segments. (Watch yourself with the cleaver, please. We only want to bruise the lemongrass, not your fingers.) Put the stock into a pot and bring to a boil. Toss the galangal, lemongrass, sugar, and lime leaves in. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, chillies, fish sauce and simmer for another 5 minutes. Finally, add the chicken and mushrooms and cook till the chicken is just cooked. The moment you see it turning all white on the outside, it's 90% done. Turn off the heat, add lime juice and garnish with coriander leaves. Test for saltiness and sourness. You should get the earthy flavour of galangal, noticeable amount of saltiness, sweetness from the coconut milk, and a fair bit of lime flavour, with a hint of chilli in the background. If required, adjust with more fish sauce (salt) and lemon juice (sour). (Why do I add the lime juice at the end instead of adding it with everything else, you ask? Because the flavour of the lime gets mellowed when it's cooked. You need it fresh and bursting on your tongue.)

Green Papaya Salad

1 cup green cabbage, shredded
2 cups green papaya, grated
1-3 dried red chilies, chopped, depending on heat desired
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp lime juice
3 small tomatoes, cut into wedges
5 tbsp peanuts, roasted and crushed
4 tbsp cilantro leaves, chopped

On a large serving platter, arrange in layers the cabbage and papaya In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, chiles, sugar, soy sauce and lime juice. Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and garnish with the tomatoes, peanuts and cilantro.

Yield: 4 servings

The Stylistics, "Stop, Look, Listen":

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