I’m back from the parched and strikingly beautiful canyon lands of Utah. Henning and I spent a week and a half driving between national parks to hike and take in a good ol’ dose of pure nature. We managed to log over 2200 driving miles and 100 hiking miles in the process, and all that in the heat of a summer desert. Needless to say, when we got back we were craving cool, fresh, exotic flavors. And we needed a vacation from our vacation. Somehow it always happens like this when Henning is in charge of the planning.
Henning bumped in to our neighbors in the laundry room, trying to get the smell of dusty red dirt out of our clothes. Since he was leaving for a month in Germany in a few days and he wouldn’t see them again before they move out, he invited them over for dinner. To appease our desire for fresh and exotic, I cooked up some Thai food—fresh spring rolls, green papaya salad, and pad thai. It was exactly what we needed after a week and a half of pasta salads, bread, and cereal. All those vibrant flavors danced across our tongues like it was carnaval in Rio.
I followed Pim’s beginner’s guide to pad thai. This is the third time I’ve made it and I can definitely vouch for its authenticity and deliciousness. She directs you to first make a sauce, tasting as you go, and then get all of your ingredients prepped. A few quick minutes in the wok is all that’s left at that point. Her instructions are lengthy, but very detailed and completely take the guesswork out of the process.
For the green papaya salad, I used Kirk’s recipe. This was my first time making this salad, and oh man I am so excited about having one of these papaya shredder dealios. They are totally fun—shaped like a peeler, but with a zig-zag blade just itching to slice some firm veggies into spaghetti-like strands. I picked mine up at 99 Ranch for a whopping $1.59, and now I’m looking for more things to shred. Papaya? Check. Carrots? Check. Ooh, I bet it’d make a mean shredded cucumber salad! *Mental note.*
As for the fresh spring rolls, I pretty much just winged it. These are so flexible, you can completely customize them to your taste. I chose to go the herb salad route, with lettuce, mint, cilantro, Thai basil, carrots, cucumber, tofu, and rice stick noodles. Making a big platter of spring rolls is a bit labor intensive, though I can imagine hosting a spring roll party where I prep a bunch of ingredients and allow friends to roll their own. I also made an easy-peasy peanut sauce for dipping.
Two other random notes:
I found out that my university housing complex has garden plots available for the taking, and I spent two hours yesterday working my own little piece of clay earth into a somewhat vege-habitable form. It’s a bit late to plant out, but today I platned six heirloom tomato plants, four bell pepper plants, one zucchini plant, and one cucumber plant. Fall is usually warm in San Diego, so I’m hoping to have still have enough time for a bountiful harvest. We’ll see, I guess!
Secondly, I had a phenomenal meal at the Linkery tonight. My sister, who is in town, has been itching to go there. She reads Jay’s blog, where he describes the ever-changing menu, because it often features meats from farms from her neck of the woods. She wrote about some of these places last week when she was covering for me. Tonight’s meal at the Linkery was the best I’ve had there, and the best meal I’ve had out in quite a while. My mom and I both had the fish special with plum salsa over a wheatberry salad. It was superb, but my sister’s reuben kept me picking at her plate. The cask beer tonight was Arrogant Bastard, and let me tell you, cask beer is something else—it has a completely different character than your ordinary draft or bottled beer. Definitely to be tried (and worshipped). Anyway, if you haven’t been by the Linkery in a while, do try to stop by before they run out of that delicious corned beef!