Growing up in a Chinese-Italian family, our food never sucked. There. I said it. Just when we thought we couldn’t take one more meatball or piece of lasagne, out came a batch of Curry Crab or Douchi Pai Guat (spare-ribs in a garlicky fermented soybean sauce). Even if dinner was a heaping pile of shrimp–heads on, of course–and some rice with Shi Geum Chi (a Korean spinach dish—I’ll make it for you), it was always head-over-heels delicious. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we made up for it with skill and hard work in the kitchen.
Even as kids we helped with meal prep. Usually it was just washing the rice before graduating to smashing and peeling garlic. I have many fond memories of time spent in the kitchen together and learning family secrets for perfecting our hallmark recipes…
In fact, here are some of the lessons I learned from my grandparents and my dad:
- Don’t be timid with seasonings, but keep the dish in balance.
- Ginger should be considered a vegetable.
- Smell is just as important as taste when determining if balanced is achieved.
- Fat is your friend.
- Often the cheapest cuts of meat yield the most flavorful dishes.
- Get good at using big knives.
- Garlic cures almost anything.
- Cook high and fast or low and slow.
- Try everything once.
- Curl your fingertips under and rest the side of the knife blade against your knuckles. You won’t cut yourself no matter how fast you chop.
- Chew with your mouth closed or you’ll get popped in the head with chopsticks.
I’ll end my nostalgia there. How about a super duper easy side dish that you will even want to feed non-Paleo people?
8 oz package of broccolini (yes broccoli can be substituted, use one head of organic)
1 TBSP fresh ginger root, cut into matchsticks
2 cloves garlic, chopped (about 1 TBSP)
1/4 cup coconut aminos
1 TBSP coconut oil
Optional garnish: sesame and chia seeds
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan to medium high and melt the coconut oil. Trim about a half inch or so from the broccolini stems. Peel the ginger and cut it into matchsticks, chop the garlic.
Place the broccolini in the pan and let it brown up—don’t move it around right away! The slight char is good. Give it a minute or two, then add the ginger and garlic and toss to combine.
Let this cook at medium heat for 3-5 minutes before adding the quarter cup of coconut aminos to deglaze. The aminos will reduce quickly so keep the broccolini (but especially the garlic!) moving at this point. Try to coat the broccolini as evenly as possible with the light glaze that’s developing.
Remove from the heat, transfer to a serving dish and garnish with sesame and chia seeds. I like the nod of nutrients the chia seeds offer and I like the tan and black contrast between the two seeds. All of that is optional though.