On a recent Saturday I went to a cooking demo given by Ming Tsai, local celeb and pal of our Governor Deval Patrick, after a bike ride to demonstrate the benefits of Mass In Motion, diet and fitness program created by the Massachusetts department of health (I'd say an innovative program that should be a national model, but then I'd have to add that my spouse is the state health commissioner, so I'm prejudiced). It was a surprisingly loose, fun event that even yielded cooking tips and a recipe pretty much everyone there planned to use. Two in particular that yielded universal "Ooh"s from the crowd, and one that has had me wondering since I heard and saw it.
I shouldn't have been surprised at how professional and lively the results were. Tsai is a master of the TV demo, of course, and known to all--though I discovered him as the ambitious chef-owner of a brand-new suburban restaurant, Blue Ginger in Wellesley, that knocked out sophisticated suburban friends who tipped me off that I had to go and get the jump on what would be a major find. He quickly came to national fame on a cooking show that was in the works when he opened Blue Ginger, he told me; he has since built an empire you can read about at his Website . He also told me that we had gone to the same college and he'd been a squash star--a sport he now helps promote as an unlikely route to college for low-income students in Boston, through a group he enthusiastically told me about after the ride, Squash Busters .
He'd passed the headquarters on the bike ride, which ended in Jamaica Plain--center of the right-minded universe--at Bikes Not Bombs , which supplies donated and rebuilt bikes to students and communities around the world. As proof of just how right-minded, my friend and Atlantic contributor Bill McKibben had just given a lecture that a big poster promoted, and when I emailed him to marvel at the coincidenc--I live less than ten minutes away by foot--he told me he was crazy about "BNB," as its fans call it. (No, I didn't bicycle over--my excuse is that I'd come from a spin class.)
It provided a congenial setting for Tsai, who knows exactly how to project into any event high energy and a can-do spirit, to make a simple marinated chicken-breast stir fry with a couscous salad. He was assisted by a beaming, good-natured governor--and Deval Patrick is himself a renowned cook, though he amiably played celebrity sous-chef. The cameras were rolling, and we've waited to post this until the state was able to post its links to the video, and here it is :
The recipe itself is fresh and easy, with stuff that's usually on hand like orange juice, brown sugar, and soy sauce, and things that are easy to get: Greek yogurt, mint, and fresh ginger. Tip number one that made everyone exclaim "Oh!": peel fresh ginger root with the back of a spoon.