I made a huge stink about going to restaurants and out to eat up until I was about 13. There was nothing I wanted to eat (I did after all survive on peanut butter sandwiches and not much else), grownup conversation was boring (it still is sometimes), and there were much better things to be done (anything involving horses). I would whine, complain, throw hissies, and even once I bit holes in the vinyl upholstery of our old Civic's doors. I was old enough to know better.
Potlucks were hopeless; my mom socialized with what seemed like millions of coworkers, and we always provided her with an excuse to leave early. Let's just say we didn't get invited back very often. According to my parents, I was very vocal about my dislike for this type of activities and how much they bored me; when they resigned to leaving my sister and I at home with babysitters (we had over 30), we didn't behave well for them, either.
Tonight my parents asked me at dinner how I came to love the stove, going out to eat, and social events revolving around food. I guess the experiences I had in boarding school gave way to an interest in different worldly cuisines, and soon I found myself eating vegetables and dishes I never imagined I would like. While eating soft, tender, disgusting veal on a visit with my grandfather, I learned I preferred the home churned ice cream the restaurant offered. The chef came out to ask how the meal was, and I told him it was the best ice cream I had tasted. Around that time, I started building up my "taste library." One of the most important components of such categorization are the experiences related to food, and what memories and feelings eating a certain dish provokes in each one of us. After all, what I taste when I eat veal is completely different from what you experience when you try it.
Yesterday, the start of a long weekend (aren't all weekends long for me these days?) we were set to leave at 5:45 so we could get to Mary Kate's house at 6. Mom's German chocolate cake in tow, we headed out the door, trying to not let the pups out. I had hastily thrown on my favorite long black sweater shirt with a striped tee underneath, leggings, and simple black flats. Wearing a blue scarf to give some color to the outfit and make my eyes stand out, I realized that this was the first social event I had been to in a while. How I crave that.
The night was a blast, filled with refreshing Riesling (and a little Pinot Noir), a pesto pasta salad on the back deck of Mary Kate's house, and lots of good dinner party convos. I felt fulfilled- although this is something to be savored once in a while (too many dishes to clean!), I realize that I absolutely love entertaining. I generally stress out when preparing the food, worrying if everyone is comfortable, and getting everything coordinated- but I know that will come with experience, and everything always turns out delightful. This holiday weekend, I hope you are enjoying time with family and friends and the people who matter most to you. If you're wondering what to serve hungry folks, try this flavorful dish, it might just be the key! It's super simple and quick to make, and I can't imagine anyone (not even a picky child like myself) not liking the mild sauce and the fresh ingredients.
3 TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (I used 3 very large cloves)
1 tsp ginger powder
¼ tsp cayenne or a few drops of hot sauce
2-3 cups broccoli florets (I used about 3 and it was perfect; however, you could use less and still be fine!)
1 block firm or extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into 1 inch cubes (use organic if possible)
3 TBSP cornstarch
¼ cup soy sauce (use gluten-free soy sauce if you are celiac, also, I would recommend low-sodium)
1 cup water
In a large skillet, sauté the onion in olive oil over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, until the onions turn clear. Add the garlic and sauté a minute more. Stir in the ginger powder and cayenne for 30 seconds, until combined.
Add the tofu and broccoli to the skillet and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is cooked, about 8-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the sauce by mixing together the water, soy sauce, and cornstarch in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. I found out the hard way this is probably easiest if you whisk the cornstarch slowly into the liquid ingredients.
When the broccoli is cooked enough, add the sauce to the pan. Cook until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally, another few minutes. It should a thick coating for the tofu and broccoli. Remove from heat and serve with (brown) rice or other whole grains.