Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I can't taste but I can dream of tasting

I'm in Kate-hell right now. The cold has knocked out my taste buds. I can't taste anything. I made very strong coffee this morning and it could have been chamomile tea. I smeared apricot preserves on my toast out of habit before I realized that it was just for looks since I couldn't taste the damn stuff.

And two days ago, I made intense vanilla ice cream with the intention of affogatto-ing it (word mutilation comes with the territory when I'm sick) but it is going to have to wait until my sense of smell and taste return for its espresso bath and in the meantime I know it will become less ideal in texture (homemade ice cream without all the guar gum glop in it is best as soon as it firms up in the freezer; after that it starts to form ice crystals and get kind of stiff instead of creamy).

Rather than sit out this period of sense-loss I've been planning for its return. I've been reading back postings of The Traveler's Lunchbox which is such a lovely food blog. And I have been organizing some recipes I want to try while the season is right. I have a load and a half of swiss chard in my garden, a significant quantity of cherry tomatoes and it is still Red Haven peach season. So the menu for when I return to the world of taste goes like this:
Sounds like a dreamy way to consume the waning days of summer, yes?

On a positive note, and one I think Jillian will appreciate, this cold has got me out of eating in Frankenmuth. I still have to go up there tonight (we're selling our cabin on Lake Huron to some folks who live in Saginaw and the closing is taking place in Frankenmuth this evening) but I will get out of the food portion of the visit. I do plan to try and save up enough energy to track down the treasures buried beneath the kitch--specifically something in the line of Jillian's taco Christmas ornament, and maybe a little more yarn since we all know that yarn is key to recovering from sickness.

I have been knitting and reading a great deal in all the time I've saved by not cooking. Both can be done while lying on the couch and since I'm still feeling kind of weak (yea, that's the reason the house is a sty....) that's where I want to be. My Ribby Cardigan is getting close to the point where I attempt to attach the sleeves to the body and try and knit the whole thing, from the armpits to the neck, in the round. And last night I finished a wonderful book: Making an Exit : A Mother-Daughter Drama with Alzheimer's, Machine Tools, and Laughter by Elinor Fuchs (whose Death of Character book was one I actually enjoyed reading while in grad school). The writing in the memoir is wonderful--precise, funny, moving.

So now I am off to another day of child-neglect, couch lolling, reading The Historian, and dreaming of tasting again.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Touched by his noodly appendage

Thanks to Kim, I have been touched by the noodly appendage of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Bobby Henderson's brilliant response to the Kansas School Board. I received my Flying Spaghetti Monster T-shirt yesterday and in his honor I made this for dinner:
Ok, so it isn't spaghetti but it is very noodly--Korean Chap Chae with tofu. Unlike a lot of Korean food this one is very mild--no hot peppers and just a small amount of garlic. It is noodly comfort food which is what I needed yesterday as I have come down with the dreaded summer cold and in particular a sore throat. Nothing like bean thread noodles for slipping down easily. If you are not under the weather, you could punch this up by serving it with a good cucumber salad and some fiery Kim Chee. And the recipe is easy enough that you can still make it even when feeling less than capable in other areas (say, child rearing and maintaining a hygienic atmosphere in which said children are currently living).

Chap Chae with Tofu

1 big cake of firm tofu
some soy, rice wine vinegar, ginger and garlic for marinating tofu
1 T vegetable oil

6 oz bean thread noodles
1/2 C good soy sauce
3 T Asian sesame oil
3 T sugar
1 T chopped garlic
1 T vegetable oil
1 1/2-2 C onions, sliced lengthwise
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/4 lb mushrooms, sliced (go for Shitake if your budget allows, if not plain old white will do just fine)
4 C baby spinach

Cut up the tofu into cubes and put in a tupperware--douse with a reasonable quantity of soy, a dash of vinegar, 1 decent sized diced clove garlic, and some ginger (powdered or fresh). Put on the lid and shake gently to coat. Pop in the fridge and let marinate as long as you want. Give it a toss every now and then.

Soak noodles in a bowl of warm water until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain. Cook noodles in boiling water until just tender--about 1 minute--then dump in a colander and rinse under cold water until cooled. You don't want the noodles fully cooked because then they won't absorb the sauce well when stir fried.

Blend soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and garlic in a blender until smooth.

Heat oil in a deep 12 inch heavy skillet and saute onion and carrot until softened (about 3 minutes), add mushrooms and stir fry until softened and most of their liquid has evaporated (another 3 minutes or so), add spinach and stir fry until it is wilted. Add noodles and soy sauce mixture and stir it all up. Simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the noodles and/or evaporated (you don't want it soupy).

Meanwhile, drain the marinated tofu. Heat a T of vegetable oil in a nonstick pot and when hot, chuck the tofu in the oil (it will splatter so hold a lid like a shield to protect yourself from flying droplets). Let one side sort of firm up and crisp a bit before stirring it up. When fried up to your taste (I am way too lazy to make sure each side of a cube of tofu is cooked until crisp), scoop the tofu out of the pan and drain a bit on a paper towel.

Transfer noodles to a shallow serving bowl (necessary because all the spinach and carrots and stuff will have sunk to the bottom of your frying pan) and top with tofu. Serve warm or at room temperature.