The myth of Lazy Sunday

Sunday, April 1, 2012:

5:30am (EDT): Wakeup call in Cleveland, Ohio. My direct flight back to San Francisco is supposed to leave at 7:30am. Key word supposed.

6:45am (EDT): Standing in the airport and staring in disbelief at the board that says my flight has been canceled. April Fools!…Not. I’ve already gone through security. Argh. Apparently I’ve been rebooked for a flight that will leave at 6:30pm. Since waiting around in Cleveland’s “lovely” airport for an additional 12 hours is just not acceptable, I go to stand in line in the United Airlines customer service area. No disrespect, but airline customer service must be one of the worst jobs ever. Luckily, I get rebooked for something much sooner.

8:00am (EDT): Hop on an express jet to Chicago, Illinois. My, the wings on this plane look small…

8:15am (CDT): Arrive at O’Hare International Airport. The time change freaks me out a little bit, but that’s probably because I’m still really sleepy a tiny bit cranky.

10:29am (CDT): Hop on a big ol’ plane to San Francisco. I try to stay awake because the in-flight movie is Hugo, but I fall asleep halfway through. I wake up to a documentary about laughing monkeys.

12:45pm (PDT): Arrive back at SFO and pleased to see sunshine.

1:30pm (PDT): Schlep my way onto BART and head for the Civic Center where I know that my only option for farmers markets on a Sunday afternoon would be.

Nothing was labeled–a conversation with the grower was warranted!

2:00pm (PDT): Arrive at the farmers market. I notice right away was the difference in size and diversity of the stalls from the market on Fillmore Street that I had gone to last week. There were many more vendors and varieties of food to choose from. Several tables have green leafy bunches with yellow blossoms and I wonder what they are. After hearing snippets of Vietnamese from one unmarked and unnamed table containing various herbs and greens traditionally used in Asian cooking, I decide to stop in and ask the woman there about them. My strategy: talk to this woman in Vietnamese just in case I end up having to call and ask my mom later about any words or cooking methods. Normally cooking terms and ingredients get lost in translation when I try to go from English to Vietnamese, so I figured I’d just skip a step and save some time. (Luckily I didn’t have to call her for anything.)

The lady told me it was Chinese broccoli, aka rau cải làn in Vietnamese, aka kai-lan in Chinese. No wonder I didn’t recognize it; my family isn’t big on Chinese cuisine. I ask her what the best way to prepare it is and she suggests either stir-fried with beef and garlic or simply steamed and eaten with soy sauce or oyster sauce. She then shows me how to tell which bunch would be the best: less flowers (a sign of freshness) and white at the bottom of the stems. Before taking my $1 for the bunch, she tells me that everything was homegrown from her place in Sacramento, California.

Schedules and recipes in flux

3:00pm (PDT): Arrive back at my house. Must resist urge to fall facedown into bed and sleep.

5:00pm (PDT): Take a baggie of frozen, pre-marinated beef my mom sent me back to San Francisco with after spring break and let it thaw in a bowl of water. At some point I Google “Chinese broccoli” to look for more specific cooking instructions and I find this. Perfect.

6:00pm (PDT): It’s Palm Sunday. Time for mass at St. Ignatius Church.

9:30pm (PDT): It’s going to be a late dinner. Since I’m out of rice (I used up the last of it from the last assignment), I’m glad to see that the blogger says any noodle would be suitable; thus I go with fettuccini.

With the Chinese broccoli, I use a trick my mom had taught me when I helped her in the kitchen with stemmed greens: rather than cutting off the ends with a knife, just bend the stalk and find the point where it easily snaps like a twig. This way, you won’t be left with the tough parts that aren’t fun to eat.

While the pasta is cooking, I cook the thawed beef in a pan over medium heat until it’s cooked all the way through. I remove the beef and add a bit of oil and teriyaki sauce (in lieu of oyster sauce). I add the Chinese broccoli, a little bit of water, and cook them over medium heat. I turn the greens over and over (I couldn’t find a lid big enough to steam them properly) until they look green and esculent. The knife cuts through the stem easily, so I know it’s done.

I probably should have cut the Chinese broccoli into smaller pieces. I guess this is my lazy part of Lazy Sunday.

10:00pm (PDT): Turn on Mad Men and try my dinner. I don’t have a problem with the way it tastes, but I quickly realize that I don’t like the stalks. I’m beginning to see a trend in my vegetable preferences: fleshy and watery stems or roots that go completely limp after cooking are not for me (I’m talking to you, bean sprouts). See you later, stalks.

Overall, I’m glad that I’ve learned how to make a new dish, but it’s not something that is going to make its way into my dinner rotation. The search for vegetables I will like continues!

Chinese broccoli with beef and fettuccini