It’s been a while since I’ve recounted a week sabor de soledad, even though Michael has had several trips taking him all over the place in the last year or so. Two weeks ago he was in the fabulous city of Tokyo on a last-minute trip, and I have to say that I was pleased with the dishes I turned out while he was away. It’s funny—I’ve become more of a salad person over the last few years, but I’m never so prolific in making them until I’m on my own. I can only account the follow reasons as why I’m so Team Salad:
- Easy to scale down to one person.
- Cheese is often involved, especially the cheeses I love but only rarely indulge in.
- They are relatively fast dishes to prepare.
- Oh, I guess they are allegedly healthy too.
I feel like such a traitor to both Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson, but unlike fictional characters, eating vegetables on a regular basis is an unfortunate necessity.
Of course, I also like that the recipes I used over the week play a little fast and loose with the term salad and include such wondrous things like rice noodles, pork meatballs, pancetta, and Valdeón cheese. A good salad needs to have these kinds of things in order to make them complete meals in my eyes.
But before I went into full salad mode, I had to take another opportunity to work on my omelette technique, because I’m determined to make one perfectly before the year is out. This appears on the surface to be a pretty pedantic and/or silly kind of goal, but believe me—there is a reason why Wolfgang Puck and other chefs of his standing have the omelette test as a way to figure out which potential chefs are worth hiring. It’s all about striking the right balance of heat and egg manipulation in the pan and not browning the eggs too much, and my stove is so unpredictable in how it’s going to heat a pan that every venture forward is a gamble. This wasn’t my best effort, but I didn’t feel compelled to throw it in the trash and try again like the last time I went down this road, so for that I feel like this was a (modest) success. The deployment of nearly three ounces of goat cheese probably helped matters a great deal too.
But onto the salads: the first was one I pinned* but had yet to make, and it looked so straightforward and spring-like and delicious that I threw caution to the wind and got all of the ingredients. I forget sometimes how much I like a good spinach salad, and this was one for the ages: the dressing both gently wilted the greens and gave every forkful a piquant and crunchy bite thanks to the sherry vinegar and whole-grain mustard, and the other elements all played well together to the point where you wanted to never stop eating it. (I know this because I came back for seconds the first time I made it, and when I made it for Michael a week later, the much-larger bowl I made went back to the kitchen completely empty.)
The other salad was one I had made a few times before: known as bun cha (recipe at the link), it’s a Vietnamese noodle salad that combines little grilled pork patties, rice noodles, red leaf lettuce and fresh herbs along with a really simple chili-fish-sauce dressing that ties everything together. It’s not the simplest of meals to prepare because you have to do things like make a caramel sauce for the pork, but it’s worth the effort because it strikes the right balance between fresh, substantial, and light. It also makes for good leftovers: knowing that Michael would be home around lunchtime the next day, I made a full recipe’s worth and we enjoyed some together as I attempted to keep him awake for as long as possible.
Usually he doesn’t have much time to look for souvenirs on these trips, but I asked him to try to find some cool Japanese housewares if he had the opportunity. He came back with a really pretty ginger grater and extra-long chopsticks after he saw a hibachi chef make eggs for him with a similar pair one morning. Not bad finds for a trip that had him in the air nearly as long as he was on the ground.
And the best part, of course, is we can admonish each other to be careful with both of them, because they are from Ja-PAN. (I really wanted to find a GIF of Schmidt from New Girl saying this, but I can’t seem to find one! Internet, you have failed me.)
*Yes I pin stuff, and usually it’s pretty good/intriguing stuff. This is my recipe board on Pinterest if you’re so inclined to follow.