Sunday, April 29, 2007

The restorative powers of a jicama salad

It was an intense weekend of food for me, if somewhat laid-back in terms of cooking. Friday, my friend Leslie came over for drinks and snacks. I had originally planned for crudites and other pantry antipasti, but I got all worked up sitting in the office thinking about spiced pork meatballs with guacomole that I rushed to the Coop right after work to get groceries for a bigger, Mexican-flavored meal. The Coop was a madhouse, though, and I only got home seconds before Leslie arrived, too exhausted to carry out my grand plans. So we had a slap-dash dinner of meatballs, guacamole, store-bought salsa and chips, and some quick quesadillas with monterey jack cheese and spicy yellow peppers. Leslie is, thankfully, the kind of friend I can ask to grate cheese and chop vegetables, and it turned out prosecco goes surprisingly well with semi-Mexican food. Easy and satisfying, and I got to use my new griddle.

Saturday, I went to a dim sum birthday brunch at Dim Sum Go Go at 11 am, followed quickly by a daytime wedding at 1. By the time I left the wedding at 6, I was so stuffed (and tipsy) I could barely see straight. I waddled home and went almost immediately to bed.

On Sunday, a big group of friends and friends of friends gathered at Spicy & Tasty for lunch. We were overwhelmed by the menu--what was "luscious duck"? "Enhanced pork"? How much should we order? What to do?

I felt like I had to take charge, since I had organized the outing, but to be honest, I felt too nervous to order what I truly would have ordered if I had been alone and had four stomachs. We got two orders of dan dan noodles, one of my favorite things to eat in the whole wide world; two orders of cold sesame noodles; two orders of tea-smoked duck; eggplant in garlic sauce; enhanced pork; seaweed with garlic; beef with peppers; and an almost disgustingly bland soup of soft bean curd and zucchini, our attempt to order something we had seen at another table that looked a lot tastier. (If I had been alone, I probably would have also ordered jellyfish, maybe some tripe or tendon, and some more cold, spicy dishes.)

The dan dan noodles were perfect, with that strange, subtle flavor so unique to Sichuan food.

The "enhanced pork" and the beef with peppers were big hits, as was the tea-smoked duck. And when the bill came, we were stuffed, but we seriously considered ordering more so we could help the restaurant pay its rent--$11 per person! I'm dying to go back.

By Sunday evening, I was exhausted from all the eating I'd done. I could have skipped dinner, I suppose, but that didn't really occur to me. I knew it would be good to have a refreshing salad, something raw and crunchy and clean. I already had all the ingredients for the jicama-melon salad I hadn't gotten around to making on Friday: jicama, cantaloupe, blood oranges, cilantro, and fresh limes. (No pomegranate seeds for me, since they're a winter fruit in NY.) I threw everything together, let it sit for an hour in the fridge as recommended, and ate a big bowl while watching a PBS documentary on dogs. You know you have serious dog-fever if you find yourself cooing to the TV by yourself. But the salad was good! Next time, I'll use a little less lime and hope for a riper melon.

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