dinner at momma's

last night, lauren and i drove to maryland (we still call it delaware) to have dinner with our mom and her husband kevin and with our grandparents who were visiting from yonkers. hardly 5 minutes through the door, i destroyed a snack of homemade hummus and pletzels (more on these later...like when we get the recipe from grandma). then we sat around and had cozy present exchange time. around 8 we cracked a bottle of champagne, toasted to 2009, and proceeded with a three course feast!

we started with a shiitake and scallion soup adapted from the candle cafe cookbook. i actually prepared this dish the previous evening and it was ridiculously simple. basically you just soak an ounce of dried shiitakes for half an hour (this makes the broth), then add some fresh shiitakes, a couple splashes of soy sauce and a bunch of scallions and simmer briskly for another 30 minutes. i also added some arame seaweed, and finally spiked the broth with rice wine vinegar, cayenne pepper, hot sauce and white pepper. it was mild and very, very mushroom-y.

the next course was one of my favorite dishes of all time. you see, my mom's husband kevin is a great cook, specializing in the szechuan style of chinese cuisine. the man can make a mean cold sesame noodle...creamy, spicy, and just perfect, i am infatuated with them. some time back when he and my mom first started dating, he made a big batch of these and instantly won me over. i hope and pray that one day he will share the secret technique with me so that i can make them literally every day. behold these golden sesame threads (two thirds devoured):

the entree was another kevin specialty: orange sesame glazed tofu and peppers. the smoke alarm went off four times as the wok sizzled loudly over a super hot flame. we peeked over his shoulder at the dancing fire, oil and tofu, as lauren sang a little mantra, a la Unk "now wok it out, wok it out..."

as far as i can tell, this is the way it goes: get the wok oil (peanut oil!) super hot, and rock those tofu triangles in batches until crisp friedness has been achieved. lay them on paper towels to let them rest and cool. the green peppers and scallions get a quick tour de wok, followed by sliced ginger, orange peels, and dried hot peppers (totally edible but not for the faint of heart). then everything gets thrown back in and doused with the OJ sesame glaze. once it's all coated and shiny, serve with a mountain of white rice and attack with chop sticks.

by the end of the meal, i was kind of too full to move but happy as i'll ever be. i'm tempted to vow to never go to a crappy chinese restaurant again, so unholy it is to compare greasy broccoli or salty bean curd to the light, perfectly seasoned dishes we savored at the table that night...

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