Pad Thai

And then all of a sudden, things change.

You think everything is normal, and will stay that way, and then people come or go away or get married or grow up or grow young or chase a dream, and then things aren't the way they were. It makes you melancholy, leaves you nostalgic for a time which you didn't fully appreciate. I don't truly regret anything. Only the things I didn't eat and the stuff I didn't buy.

But Fate happens. And you really just have to deal.

The other day, I was with my family, and there was literally no food in the house. Let me tell you about my family. When they are hungry, they morph from humans into really pissed off werewolves. Hungry werewolves. We decided to go to our new favorite restaurant, a little green food trailer called Little Thai Food.
To add to the melee of general discontent, Little Thai Food only accepts cash, and between the four of us we had exactly $31. We ordered with abandon without thinking of the costs, begging for steaming egg rolls, burning hot curries, and slippery pad thais.
And you know what? All total, it cost exactly $31.

Like I was saying, Fate happens.

You can't fight it. I need to take the lesson of the Thai Food Trailer and just trust in the universe.

And regrets?

I wish I had known how to make pad thai much sooner.

Pad Thai
from The Gourmet Cookbook

I really liked this. Most pad Thais are a bit darker or more reddish in color than mine was, but I think that's probably due to the fact that I didn't have any tamarind. I also added mushrooms and bell peppers because I like mushrooms and bell peppers. Take control of your destiny and add those mushrooms. And make this. It really is that good.

1 cup boiling
2 tablespoons tamarind (from a pliable block)
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce, preferably naam pla
3 tablespoons packed palm sugar or light brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (7 ounce) package dried flat rice noodles (1/8 inch wide)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 small shallots, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound medium shrimp in shells (31-35 per pound), peeled deveined and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 pound plain baked tofu, rised, patted, dry and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 2/1 cups ( 1/2 pound) bean sprouts, rinsed and dried
8 scallions, quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1 inch pieces
4 tablespoons crushed unsalted roasted peanuts
1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
Lime wedges are tasty

Pour boiling water into a bowl, add tamarind, and stir mashing gently, for 3 minutes to soften. Pour mizture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing hard on solids; discard solids.
Combine fish sauce, tamarind mixture, palm sugar, granulated sugar and salt in a small saucepan and heat over moderate heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Soak noodles in 10 cups boiling water in a large bowl until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok ( or large deep skilet) over moderate heat until hot but not smoking.
Add eggs and cook, stirring, until scrambled and just cooked through, about 1 minute. Transfer eggs to a bowl and tear into small pieces.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in wok ( or skillet) over moderately high heat until just beginning to smoke. Add garlic and shallots and stir-fry until just beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Add shrimp and stir-fry for 1 minute, then add tofu and stir-fry until shrimp is just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl with eggs.
Heat wok over moderately high heat until hot. Add tamarind sauce and bring to a boil. Add noodles and stir-fry until tender and excess sauce is absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Add egg and shrimp mixture, 1 1/2 cups bean sprouts, scallions, 2 tablespoons peanuts, and red pepper flakes and toss well.
Mound pad Thai on a platter, top with remaining 1 cup bean sprouts, and sprinkle with remainging 2 tablespoons peanuts. Serve with lime wedges.

Tilapia a la Provencale

I woke up the other morning with a sick feeling in my stomach.

I'm facing a lot of decisions in my life right now, decisions about where I want to go and what I want to do, and it's just this incredibly dreadful feeling, this responsibility for myself and my future. And I know I'm being illogical. I'm not even 18 yet, and the choices I make right now probably won't haunt me for the rest of my life. But I'm just not a very logical person.

Anyways, it took me most of the morning get the shaky, worried feeling out of my body. I ate a lovely breakfast. I cleaned. I took a shower that lasted about half an hour. (It was a glorious, glorious shower.) I tried to draw and read, things that usually calm me down. But I just couldn't. I couldn't focus.

So I made Tilapia au Provencal. There is something about the rhythm of cooking that is so comforting. As I pan fried the fish, chopped tomatoes and looked for olives in the wilderness that is my refrigerator, I felt my anxiety drift away like plumes of steam.

And you know what else? This tasted wonderful. It's a french recipe: Lightly panfried fish, that is then baked and tossed into a bright tomato sauce. At the risk of being morbid, I would like to request that my final meal have lots of tomato sauce. Tomato sauce cures all ills.

And then I went and had a beautiful day.

Tilapia a la Provencale
adapted from I Know How to Cook by Ginette Mathiot

The beauty of this kind of recipe is that it leaves lots of room for improvisation. The original recipe suggested using salt cod, but this would be lovely with any white fish. Salmon would be interesting... I forgot the onion and instead added bok choy and spicy olives and peppers. It's your life. Do what you want.

3 tablespoons oil
3 1/2 ounces onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 pound 2 ounces tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Generous 1 cup black olives
2 tablespoons chopped parsely
1 pound 2 ounces tilapia filets

Preheat oven to 500 F.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan, lightly cook fish, about one minute on each side, or until the fish begins to look less pink and more white. Remove from pan and place in a baking dish. Roast in oven for 5-7 minutes, until fish is cooked through. (It's difficult to explain doneness. Just trust yourself, also because most ovens run at slightly different temperatures, you may want to check fish sooner or later, depending on the fickleness of your oven.) Remove from oven. In the meantime, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in pan. Add the garlic, onion and tomatoes. Cook over low heat and stir occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add olives, parsley, season with pepper and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Flake the cooked tilapia and add it to the pan. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, then serve.