Yesterday, February 19, 2015 was an important day recognized and celebrated by more than one sixth of the world. The longest and most important holiday in the Chinese calendar, the Chinese New Year. This holiday spans 15 days. The date is based on the lunar calendar, which is associated with the Chinese Zodiac. It has 12 animal signs that include: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. According to the following calculator I am a goat and it looks like 2015 and the year of the goat might just be my year. This holiday is a time for families to spend quality time together. I am all about family time. The Chinese New Year is also an ideal time to set off fireworks and do your dragon dance. Red is the main color of the festival and it can be seen everywhere! Certain symbolic foods are eaten during these two and a bit weeks including whole fish, which brings luck and money, and dumplings that are also eaten to bring wealth. Other auspicious goodies sought out include oranges and tangerines, spring rolls, long noodles, lettuce wraps and sweets. 

I hail from a long line of superstitious ladies on the Cooper side of my family. I know that my aunt most definitely is and ditto my mother. For example, she will not have 13 people sit around her dinner table. In short, party planning involves careful mathematics. I recall once upon a time we were left with 13 and it was a major scenario sorting this out. I read about some interesting superstitions that are believed to affect one's fortune for the upcoming year. Firstly, one must not wash their hair or clean their home during the first three days. Children's tears are a big no dice. No knives, scissors or other sharp objects are to be used on New Year's Day as it is believed to cut off fortune. Don't even think about gifting a clock, wearing black or telling ghost stories. Asking for a loan is completely unacceptable, praying in a temple should be top of the priority list and wearing red knickers need be in the cards. You read this correctly. Red underpants are "a must" in 2015 for those born in 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003. As soon as I am finished with this post, I am headed to Gilt in search for some red undies for him and her. Partner-in-crime is a '79 baby too, Happy New Year!

In recognition of this important holiday, I decided to further dip my toe in the Charlotte culture scene and ventured along Independence to the Super G Mart. The largest international grocer in North Carolina, it offers everything from frog legs to Peking duck to tripe to a myriad of oils, vinegars, sauces, rubs, pastes, spices, noodles, rices, teas, snacks and every fruit and vegetable under the sun. The fresh herb selection was incredible, I shall return. Ditto spices. They had spices for Africa! There was even a cooler of live crabs. Chinese characters, Japanese and Korean! I had such a terrific time Googling some of the goodies before me (the fruit Durian to name one). In order to ensure that I did not miss an inch, I started in the vegetable section and carefully made my way down each and every aisle. I picked up some valuable new kitchen staples including Shao Xing cooking wine (to be used in place of sherry), black sesame oil, chili oil, oyster sauce, soy sauce, tandoori paste and curry powder.  I also grabbed a bundle of lemon grass (an absolute steal at .99 cents), knobs of ginger, garlic galore, Thai green and red chilies, butchered pork shoulder and some tea that roughly translated into "weight loss". What's the worst that can happen? This place sure beats my local supermarket. We will definitely return this weekend to check out one of the food stalls. A group of engaged compadres were enjoying bowls of bibimbap, a signature Korean dish. Stay tuned.

For our Chinese New Year dinner, I committed a few of my new ingredients to a marinade, which I used to dress a pound of hanger steak chilling in the fridge. Pairs beautifully with chopped bok choy, asparagus, shiitake mushrooms and whatever else you have on hand. Also goes nicely with Caesar salad, which I will share with you all soon. Bon chance!

Chinese New Year Inspired Marinade


1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup of low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup of black sesame oil (sesame oil is also fine)
1 TBS chili oil
3 TBS honey
Juice of one lemon
3 cloves of garlic - chopped 
2 inch knob of ginger - chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp Chinese Five Spice Powder

Party Time

1. Mix the above ingredients in a small bowl. Now add the marinade to a big Ziploc bag along with the flank steak. Or throw the steak in the bowl with the marinade. You can then put it in the fridge and let it sit overnight or for a few hours. I opted for a few hours, like a couple actually. Pull it out about 10 minutes before you want to grill.

2. Given the Arctic temperatures outside, a certain someone did not want to grill. I cannot blame him. Instead, I used my new cast iron skillet for the first time. I bought it for making frittatas, which I have yet to do. I love it. Game changer purchase. The idea is to get your skillet nice and hot. Like sizzling. 1 TBS of olive oil in the pan. Throw on the steak and grill for 4 to 5 minutes on each side (or based on how you like your meat).

3. Pull the meat off and let it sit for a pair of minutes. Cut the meat against the grain and serve. #Boom

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