Saturday, May 16, 2009

Practice What You Preach

Nightfall and we still haven't had dinner. Through a concatenation of things -late hours at the office often playing a role- E and I find ourselves sitting down to a late dinner on a weekday. A meal taken during the ebbing hours of the day is intrinsincally pleasurable; daytime activities drawing to a close, I relax in E' s company, savoring the last forkfuls of nourishment.

From the perspective of a physician, though, I am not practicing what I preach- many a times have I enjoined my patients to avoid eating late in order to prevent the dreaded specter of acid reflux (often to be countered with but can't I just take the purple pill instead?). Notwithstanding this less than salubrious practice, many pleasant memories I have are of supping in the waning hours of day.

On my first trip to Europe at the age of sixteen, along with my aunt, uncle, and three cousins, we stayed at a rented cottage in a Spanish hamlet overlooking the Mediterranean. For weeks, languid days were spent reading in the sun, swimming, and of course, eating. An occasional trip to nearby Valencia infused urban excitement into an otherwise pastoral sojourn. A particularly balmy night found us, al fresco, savoring a large pan of paella. Of all my memorable gustatory experiences, this is high on the list. Suffused with heady saffron and studded with a largesse of succulent pieces of seafood, this was a perfect one-dish meal. Surrounded by city bustle, the calm star-lit night, and my relatives' company, the paella became much more than a novel dish to discover.

So on a more recent afternoon, I again invoked the desirability of a one-dish meal: a lusty tofu salad -headily spicy- that combined the bright colors of a springtime harvest of yellow peppers and cilantro along with the last remnants of winter's hardiness found in red cabbage and sturdy carrots.

Steaming cups of chrysanthemum tea -actually, a tisane made from the infusion of the flowers plus bits of rock candy- nicely complemented the salad. Florally sweet, it was a ballast to the riot of savory flavors present in our dish. Purported to be a digestive as well, the tisane may even usurp that purple pill, knocking it down from its hallowed niche.

Tofu Salad
(adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook)
Easily serves 4
The Marinade
3 Tbs sesame oil
5 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs dry sherry
1 Tbs sugar
3 Tbs soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
Other ingredients:
1 lb tofu, well-drained
1 medium head of red cabbage, finely shredded
10 medium-sized mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, julienned
1 yellow pepper, sliced into strips
1/2 medium-sized onion, sliced into small pieces
a bunch cilantro, minced
1) Combine marinade ingredients in a large shallow bowl.
2) Cut the tofu into cubes and add to the marinade along with the vegetables. Stir gently.
3) Cover and let marinate at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Serve cold or at room temperature. Great by itself or with chunky artisanal bread.

No comments: