Yesterday was a special day for me. After 3 long years—which included the death of my mother; the decision to stop publishing my magazine, Wolf Moon Journal; my daughter Shannon’s wedding; and breast cancer—I have finally finished writing my young-adult fantasy novel, Maya and the Book of Everything. There is still a fair amount of tinkering to do, and Maya has to go to various readers to check for plot holes, grammatical errors, and clumsy writing. Then, of course, the really hard work begins as I try to find an agent who will promote the book to publishers.
Nevertheless, there was a real feeling of accomplishment when I typed the last paragraph, the last word. And a little sadness, too. I’ve grown quite attached to the characters and to the world(s) I created.
When my friend Kate Johnson heard the news, via email, she gave me a call to congratulate me.
“Now, what are you going to do to celebrate?”
Good question, and for me, a celebration means food. However, yesterday was a noncheat day, so my celebration had to be relatively nonfattening as well as delicious.
Since, as Kate pointed out, maple syrup season is nearly upon us, I toyed with the idea of pancakes, but then I had another idea—a shrimp stir-fry. Both my husband, Clif, and I love shrimp, and as we eat mostly vegetarian, it truly is a treat for us, and one that is not terribly fattening.
I have a handy-dandy stir-fry I make that can take a wide variety of ingredients—chicken, beef, pork, broccoli, mushrooms, peppers, onions, carrots, celery, well, you get the point. I always add peanuts, which I think give heft to a vegetarian stir-fry.
So here are the basic ingredients and technique:
2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 or 4 think slices of ginger, minced
3/4 cup cold water mixed with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. (Clif likes a sauce with his stir-fry.)
soy sauce to taste
Oil for stir-frying
Chopped cilantro or chives, for a garnish. (Optional but really adds another dimension, as Rosa at The Flaky Tart would say.)
When I use meat (anywhere from a half-pound to a pound), I stir-fry or steam the veggies first and have them ready in little bowls—mise en place—on the counter near my stove. Then, in a big frying pan, I stir-fry the meat, and when it is pretty much done, I add the ginger and the garlic, then the veggies, and stir-fry for a minute or two. Next come the cornstarch and water and the soy sauce. I don’t know how much soy sauce I use. I just shake it in until I get a color and a taste I like. Last added are the nuts and maybe a bit more water if the mixture doesn’t look “saucy” enough. I let everything get hot, thick, and bubbly but not mushy, and serve immediately over rice that I started cooking before beginning the stir-fry. When I have it, I use cilantro as a garnish.
Last night, with the shrimp, I used a different technique. I started stir-frying a quarter pound of sliced mushrooms. When they were soft but not entirely cooked, I added chopped, sweet red pepper (a whole one), and stir-fried them until they were quite soft but not mushy. Then I added the ginger and garlic and stir-fried for a minute or so. Next came the corn starch and water and the soy sauce, which I stirred into the veggies and heated it all until it became thick and bubbly. Finally I added a pound of raw shrimp, which were thawed and only take few minutes to cook. The peanuts were thrown in after the shrimp. (Note: Do not overcook the shrimp. I have learned the hard way that if overcooked, shrimp will curl until it resembles a little rubber ball and is correspondingly as tough.)
Clif’s response? “Pretty darned good.”
And indeed it was, a fitting way to celebrate finishing the rough draft of Maya.