EXCERPT: 'The Recipe Club'

Reminder number 62 zillion: I still never even kissed a boy yet. I haven't even hugged anyone, except to close-dance a couple of times. And the only "date" I've been on has been a fake date with my fake brother. Do you think they let Jewish girls join convents?

Love, Sister Val

Ga-Ga-Gai Pan Serves 2 to 4

for the marinade: 1 tablespoon finely chopped, peeled ginger root 2 teaspoons sesame oil 2 teaspoons oyster sauce 1 teaspoon soy sauce ½ pound skinless, boneless duck breast, sliced crosswise into ¼-inch strips

for the sauce: ¼ cup chicken stock 2 teaspoons oyster sauce 2 teaspoons cornstarch 1½ teaspoons soy sauce 1 teaspoon sesame oil ½ teaspoon lemon juice Pinch sugar Pinch salt Ground black pepper

for the stir-fry: ¼ cup vegetable oil 1 tablespoons minced, peeled ginger root 1 garlic clove, minced 5 ounces sliced mushrooms (about 2 cups) 6 ounces snow peas, trimmed (about 2 cups) ¼ cup bamboo shoots, drained ¼ cup water chestnuts, drained Cooked rice, for serving

1. Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add the duck pieces and toss to coat. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients.

3. In a wok, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil until it just begins to smoke. Add the ginger and garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and cook, tossing, for 30 seconds. Add the snow peas, the bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts. Cook, tossing occasionally, for 2 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a plate.

4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the wok until it just begins to smoke. Add the duck breast and the marinade. Cook, tossing, until just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Add the vegetables and cook for 1 minute more. Add the sauce and cook until the mixture thickens, 30 seconds to 1 minute more. Serve hot, over rice.

Dear Val, Look, no matter what you say, and I appreciate that you're trying to make me feel better, last night with Luke was a total disaster.

Just the same, it helped to talk to you. Except that when I hung up I felt even more alone.

So, how do you fix a broken heart? Maybe with ricotta cheese. That's why I just spent the whole afternoon making lasagna. Believe it or not, my father even helped. And you know the only thing he knows how to cook is martinis.

He called what we made "Lovelorn Lasagna." I guess he figured out something was wrong even though I didn't exactly tell him about me and Luke breaking up. He probably guessed because of how I was sighing and singing sad songs in a fake Italian accent.

At first my father tried to be helpful in his usual unhelpful way. You'd think I was some textbook case he was studying. He said something like, "Classic melancholia is often sublimated rage. What are you really angry about?" He stared at me, waiting for an answer. I had no idea what he was talking about, and at the same time I hated that he was kind of right. I am angry.

Of course at Luke. But it's more than that. I feel trapped. Why can't anybody see I'm not a child anymore? I got so furious I threw down the oven mitt and started to cry.

Then my father did something so unlike him—completely honest and real. He said, "Sometimes people we love can't love us in ways that we wish to be loved. Not because we aren't worthy of that love, but for other reasons, beyond our control." He put his arms around me. I wanted to stay there forever.

Your sad and lovesick friend,

Lilly

Lovelorn Lasagna Serves 8 to 10

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