Wok-fried rice noodles - vegetables, herbs, garlic, and tofu cooked in a wok with rice noodles. Aromatic, spicy, infinitely variable, and an excellent way to use up odds and ends from the vegetable drawer. I prefer the lusciousness of fresh noodles, but it requires a special trip to Oakland's Asiatown to buy them, so I often use dry noodles. Some of my favorite flavor combinations include
- lemongrass, galangal, garlic, and Thai soy sauce ("Healthy Boy" brand)
- garlic, ginger, curry powder, and Chinese soy sauce
- garlic, ginger, Japanese rice wine (mirin), and Japanese soy sauce
Red chile enchiladas - I think the first time I tried these was a few years ago. It took a few tries to get them right, but now they are on my top 10 list. Deceptively simple---a humble corn tortilla dipped in a vibrant sauce of rehydrated dried red chiles and spices---the complexity of the flavor can be astonishing, especially when combined with roasted squash, black beans, and aged Mexican cheese.
Tomatillo salsa - slightly sour, spicy, rich with flavor, it is great on a flour or corn tortilla with a bit of melting cheese.
Dal- warm, interesting, easily modified for whatever ingredients are on hand, a dal soup or stew can be an amazing thing.
Cookies - especially chocolate gingerbread, shortbread, and ultra chocolate like Black Gold. I have a serious sweet tooth, and love most kinds of pastries, but there is something calming and uniquely satisfying about a good cookie---the way it breaks apart, the texture, the portability (eating a delicious cookie while on a break from a hike in the local parks is a great experience).
Insalata caprese - this simple salad of fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, fresh basil, and fruity olive oil (and maybe a splash of balsamic vinegar) says summer to me. In the peak of tomato and basil season, it can be sublime, and I could probably eat it twice a day. But in the middle of winter at a (misguided) restaurant it is an atrocity.
Masala dosai - A thin, crispy pancake made from a naturally leavened batter of ground rice and lentils, stuffed with a spicy filling, and served with sambar and fresh coconut chutney. Along with sourdough starter, dosai are one of the foods that I am very hesitant to try cooking. Long before I learned about Indian food---and long before I had eaten a properly made dosa---I tried making them at home. Except for the part about measuring ingredients, I bungled every step of the process. Perhaps someday I'll try again---there are plenty of excellent Indian food bloggers who have posted recipes and tips.
Oranges - it is not easy picking a favorite fruit from the many that I enjoy, but I would have to say that oranges are my favorite. And by oranges I mean the range from tiny satsuma mandarins that almost peel themselves, to blood oranges, to the basic navel orange. Sweet, sour, and nutritious: a great combination.
Pizza - besides cookies, this is the only food of my childhood is on my top ten list. But the pizza of my childhood---loaded with bad sausage or pepperoni on an insipid crust---is nothing like what I make today. I have experimented with thin-crust home-made pizza for years, and my current technique is an amalgam: the dough is from the May/June 1995 Cooks Illustrated; the toppings are inspired by The Greens Cookbook or Chez Panisse Vegetables; and the technique is from the Cheese Board Collective Works. This week, though, I'm making a big break and trying the Peter Reinhart's pizza dough, as posted at 101 Cookbooks. The "Best Pizza Dough Ever" title for the post caught my attention, but when I saw that the water for the dough needed to be at 40 F (4 C) and the "rising" occurs in the refrigerator, how could I not try it? That instruction goes against most of what I know about yeast, but I will trust Mr. Reinhart (author of the award winning The Bread Baker's Apprentice).
To continue this meme, I'm tagging The Timid Cook, Anthony at Bachelor Cooking, Banana Tikka Masala, Avinash at Garam Masala, and Lynne J at Mixed Masala.
[*] The word meme is a shortening of mimeme, which is based on the Greek mimma, something imitated. The shortening from mimeme to meme is analogous to the shortening of genome (or genetics?) to gene.