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Some days are just so completely beautiful. Yesterday was one of those days for me. The sky was grey and the rain came down in steady, soaking waves , but nevertheless I had awoken early that morning with a light mood and spirit. You see…it’s nearly my birthday. My 35th birthday, and while the pace at which time seems to move ever forward is sometimes way too fast, I have to say that my 30’s so far have been pretty damn good.
So, back to my day.
My husband had the day off and as part of my birthday he took me to the Frist Center for Visual Arts. I have been craving art of late. Dying to see the creativity of other people in real life to hopefully help feed my own creative spark. The Frist only had one exhibit; unusual for such a large place, but we happily took the free admission and journeyed in to see the lone work.
The piece was by an Icelandic artist named Ragnar Kjartansson and is called The Visitors and it is single-handedly the best art installation/performance I have seen in 20 years (granted, I don’t get out much). I won’t tell you too much about it. You really have to experience it. Its a video piece that involves music and beautiful vignettes…it’s just…awe-inspiring.
After that, you couldn’t have ruined my day if you tried.
We traipsed around Nashville, getting our feet wet, getting kicked out of boat shows (we snuck in before it was even open. How scandalous!), and finishing our escapade with a trip to a couple ethnic grocery stores that we had never been too.
I cannot be contained in a grocery store and as soon as you surround me with ingredients that I am unfamiliar with, I tend to go a little crazy with my purchases. Our first stop was an Asian market that encompassed everything from Korean to Japanese to Thai cooking. The place was full of little unreadable packets of spices, powders, sauces and noodles. And in the back was some of the freshest, most unusual produce I have ever encountered. Now, I like to think of myself as someone who is pretty familiar with her fruits and veg, but the selection at this market had me scratching my head. Herbs I had never heard of and fruits I had never seen. It was truly fun and felt much like a trip to an entirely different country. I’m sure the little Asian lady who was there (obviously doing her weekly shopping) thought I was a little ridiculous walking around saying things like, “What is THAT thing? Let’s get it!” or “Is that a whole bag of frozen duck heads? What do you do with that!?”.
Our last stop was at a Russian market. I didn’t even know Russian markets even existed and I was so happy to find myself in one. The place was loaded with pickles and honey and the freezer was packed with pierogies and fresh farmer’s cheese. We got a couple of things from the meat and cheese deli they had and drooled over the expansive caviar selection. By then, rush hour had begun and it was time to get out of dodge.
We came home, snagged the kids and I headed eagerly to the kitchen. One of my finds had been a bag of black “forbidden” rice and I was so excited to get to use it. I put the rice on to boil and then I got to work chopping up my fresh bok choy that I had purchased at the Asian market as well as chicken, bell peppers and broccoli. The dish that came forth was delicious and so refreshingly different. The black rice has a wonderful slight natural sweetness with a little nutty flavor too. It paired well with the shrimp and hoisin sauce of the stirfry. I can’t wait to try even more of the new ingredients that we found on our adventure.
- 2 cups black rice (or brown rice)
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 6-7 mini bok choy
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 1 large red bell, pepper, sliced
For the Sauce
- 3 Tbsp hoisin sauce
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp water
- 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 Tbsp fresh chives, minced
- In a medium saucepan, add the rice, salt and 3 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low and simmer for 35 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked through. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
- While the rice is cooking, heat a large skillet over high heat. Thinly slice the chicken and sprinkle with the soy sauce. Set aside. Add the oil to the skillet and then add all of the veggies to the pan and cook and stir frequently. Add in 1/2 cup water and cover with a lid. Steam the veggies for 5 minutes, then remove to a bowl.
- Add the chicken to the pan and cook until no longer pink in the middle, about 7 minutes. Remove the chicken to the bowl and add the shrimp to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes until the shrimp turn pink. Add the chicken and the veggies back to the pan.
- Whisk the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and add to the pan. Stir everything together until it is all warmed through. Remove from heat and serve over the rice.