Saturday, May 10, 2008

What Was That About Dinner?

All advice to the amateur food blogger that I've read, especially the advice that purports to lead to rich-and-famousness (or at least expanding readership), suggests that the most important thing a blog can have is an angle. I mean, who wants to see your dinner every damn night? Unless, of course, that's your angle... Wait. Ok, in angle terms, the hook of a blog can be almost anything, it seems to me, as long as it is either comprehensive or consistent. Comprehensiveness requires a full staff and a webmaster, as far as I can see, or far more time on your hands than I can muster. This endeavor is, after all, more of a procrastination tool than a 'legitimate' pursuit, although it is putting some fluidity back into my writing, which must be all to the good.

As to consistancy, the ostensible subject of this blog right here is bread--yeast, sourdough, rye, wheat, spelt, egg--you name it, I bake it. That was the original plan for the hook, and the original inspiration was indeed my near-daily adventures in bread. However, as the title Second Dinner indicates, my actual scope is a bit more diffuse. The true subject here is the food culture of my apartment, my little family and microcosm, as seen through the lens of my bread baking and increasing obsession with local food and food activism. When we start receiving our CSA share, I intend to post a weekly picture of our take, and there are also rumours of a foraging trip in the future.

But as to The Home, as we sometimes call it, there are four people living here, each with different tastes, schedules, habits, and food goals. Often, we eat separately for days or weeks on end, our yogurts and tofus and various greens elbowing each other in the refrigerator. We peek into plastic containers to investigate everyone else's leftovers, share spices and staples, and are generally companionable, but we are not always family-style. We are food autonomists.

However, these barriers, while real, are as much a product of schedule as of actual differences, and in reality, we love to cook together. Luckily, Libby and I have shared two rare nights off together, and both of them have resulted in elaborate dinners. What you see above is the beginning of Wednesday's dinner, Libby filling steamed vegetable dumplings.
By 'vegetable,' we tend to mean 'everything in the refrigerator.' My memory is that the filling above contains ginger, scallions, carrot, sunchokes, radish greens, garlic, and probably more, sauteed with a little sesame oil and tamari. The dipping sauce, not pictured, was a red curry peanut sauce.
While Libby was filling dumplings, I roasted this little chicken. Above, you see it trussed up, as Julie Powell would say, like a sex crime victim. I also made a very simple salad. Being hungry, we didn't stop to photograph the finishing steps, but as the shot below of Libby's dinner plate shows, everything was delicious. Last night, we repeated the extravaganza, adding Rob and some rhubarb cocktails. This time, the dumplings were chicken and the main dish was a tofu stir-fry courtesy of The Kitchn. The stir-fry was a fascinating little experiment in kitchen chemistry, exhibiting the best and the worst properties of cornstarch. Dredging the tofu in cornstarch before frying created a crisp crust with a creamy interior, just like the Thai restaurants do it. Now I know how, though I'm sure they deep-fry. Adding cornstarch to the sauce just made it uncomfortably gelatinous, which, although it cleaves to the theme of 'how the restaurants do it,' I could have done without. Still, it was a great dinner. What I'd really been craving most (been reading John Thorne again, more on that soon) was the rice itself, so I hauled out the rice cooker and made a ton of Jasmine rice, and I'm planning to have some fun with the leftovers.

So, it isn't bread, but it is (mostly) local and fresh, and it is us eating together, which is the metaphorical meaning of bread anyway. Right?


Unknown said...

Dear Katya,

What are sunchokes? They sound delicious!


Katya said...

Jessica, in the words of wisegeek, "A sunchoke is an underground vegetable like a cross between a rutabaga, potato, sunflower seed, and water chestnut." They grow in big bushes. Click the link above for more info.