I just got back from Southern California a few days ago and my head is full of food intentions. I went down there for the Blogher ‘ll conference and then stayed on (and hopped a train) to visit with my sister in Los Angeles. I had a food plan going down there which was to eat nothing but: Mexican, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Greek, and Indian food. Here in McMinnville these ethnic foods are not done well when they are done at all. I should say that they aren’t done according to what I’m used to and what I’m used to is the best Mexicali food in the world from the Mission District in San Francisco. I say “Mexicali” because there are more and more people who feel the need to interject that what we know as “Mexican” food in the states is a bastardization of the real thing south of the border. I accept this distinction. Rick Bayless has accomplished what he set out to accomplish.
What ended up happening is that I ate a fair number of American-style breakfasts, a veggie burger here and there, some classic hippie food (it was so fantastic to reconnect with my tofu roots!), a extraordinarily bad Greek salad, some decent Mexican food which was good but didn’t compare to any of the Mexican food of the Mission District, some very good Japanese food, excellent Thai food (though it made me burp quite a bit so I’m thinking Pad Thai doesn’t quite agree with me), amazing high end Mediterranean style food (from Croce’s), and some really good wood fired pizza. Having an eating plan was fun and I’m glad for the focus but some things left me still wanting.
When you have food cravings that have gone long unsated it is necessary to take matters into your own kitchen. I didn’t get any Chinese food at all so my craving for garlic eggplant, vegetarian spring rolls, and vegetable chow mein has only grown more intense. There is a long list of cooking ambitions I have and I’m going to list them here. If any of you have recipes for the following dishes that you swear by-please share! (Bearing in mind that if your recipe requires meat or meat juices to make it good- it’s not for me).
- Vegetable Chow Mein
- Garlic Eggplant (don’t know the actual name of the dish- it’s got chilis and garlic and is sweet and sour and the eggplant melts in your mouth- skin and all)
- Palak Paneer
- Aloo Gobi (there are many recipes out there for this but I want the classic kind you find in Indian restaurants)
- Tamales – I was inspired by the green corn tamales I had at El Cholo in Santa Monica though those were WAY TOO SWEET, so my thought is to combine masa harina with fresh corn to keep the sweetness down but have the wonderful flavor of fresh corn.
- Red Enchilada sauce – I have tried several and have yet to find one that really satisfies me. I want one like you get in restaurants but a lot of the recipes I’ve seen are kind of creepy.
- Red Thai curry paste – but without shrimp paste or fish sauce
- Green Thai curry paste – but without shrimp paste or fish sauce
- Indian spice mix – I want to put together an all purpose Indian spice blend that I can just pour out and toast up on the spot. I have a book with different blends so I’m going to try that out.
- Greek style salad dressing – we used a basamic vinaigrette last night and that was good but the classic dressing used on Greek salads usually has some pretty sharp herbs in it and is lemony.
I’m going to be very busy in the next month juggling work (we’re going through some big changes that require everyone to really pitch in), food preserving, querying agents for my book, and through all of this I want to eat well and get some things in my repertoire that I can lean on. I plan to eat a lot of Greek salad while tomatoes and cucumbers are prolific. I need to make dressings in bulk to keep ready for use in the fridge. I’d like to make lots of enchilada sauce when peppers and tomatoes are flooding the farmer’s market. I’d like to have shortcuts in my freezer to Thai curries. Sometimes when I get really busy I start leaning too heavily on simple and fattening things like grilled cheese sandwiches. My plan is to truly get the most I can out of the summer produce while it’s still abundant.
In our own garden we’re starting to see tomatoes ripen and beans have been prolific while I’ve been gone and are already winding down (my mom steamed an enormous batch and I used half of them in a Greek-style salad last night), I have one artichoke ready to harvest, lettuce, kale, our first cucumber, some zucchini, and the blackberries are luscious and there are tons of them. Biggest score in the world is that my non-produce-eating child ate a handful of them yesterday. I plan to make some cobbler (my mom’s request), some jam, and if we have enough- some wine.
Time to get dressed and prepare the kitchen for canning!