yosenabe (Japanese hot pot)

If there’s a life conducive to food blogging, it’s being unemployed in a college town and newly attached. Conversely, if there’s a lifestyle conducive to letting that blog go stale as an opened box of wheat thins, it’s a nine-to-five job in a full-fledged city with your mate 370 miles away.

These things—with all their promise, exhilaration, and loneliness—have wrecked the most havoc here on these pages.

The excuses fly in: I don’t have the time. I’m too tired and too transient. I don’t have a car. I already spend my days thinking about and working on food. With three new housemates, there’s no space in the fridge for leftovers.

But every good excuse has a better antecedent: I have my weekends. I need the energy and the sense of home good meals bring. I have my bike, the metro, and a great co-op nearby. I can never get enough of food. And lastly, when you share life with great people, there are seldom leftovers anyway.

Perhaps without knowing it, my new housemates have helped eased my transition back into domesticity after more than a month spent country, county, and couch hopping. (Shout out to my wonderful sets of parents, June and Raul, and Rebecca and her parents for their respective hosting!)

They’ve been there with cookies at midnight after long days exploring the city. They’ve offered liver and onions before a treacherous bike ride through D.C.’s morning traffic. They’ve shared roast chicken and salad after a long day at the office, and left notes on perfectly-ripe avocados to spread on my evening slice of supper toast. And they’ve introduced me to Japanese hot pot: a first, and a delight to come home to one chilly Monday night.

As the chef herself put it, nabe is a “true communist meal”: each diner gives and takes according to their ability and need. There’s one big pot in the middle, steaming and stewing away with fresh cabbage, spinach, and seafood. Rather than tending your own little morsel, as is the case with fondue, you simply toss things into the pot at will and fish them out as you so desire.

In the end, everyone is amply fed.

I’m slowly relaxing into life here: exploring the smooth corners and rough edges of the communities around me, giving my hours to this new world and taking from its pool when I need to. There will be times, I know, when take-out will triumph and I will succumb to canned soup. But because I believe in and love good food, my fully-stocked (and darling) kitchen will call me back to a place I hope to never unlearn.

Until then, I owe it to my housemates.

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goan nostalgic for shrimp curry

One year ago today I was in a plane headed across the world for Delhi. I knew little then of the pleasures India had to offer, in spite of frequent visits to buffets on Ellice Avenue. I knew little as I relaxed for 15 hours in the cool aircraft — watching movies, chatting idly, and eating out of tiny geometric platters — of the variety and intensity of experiences awaiting me.

In a tribute to the year anniversary of our honeymoon, I decided to cook up some curry to honor that wild and indelible trip. Though we didn’t visit the south of India, this recipe is inspired by the cuisine of the southern state of Goa (go-ah), known for its seafood. (The regions we visited boast plates of either Mughal-inspired lamb and chicken or the vegetarian dishes reflecting the Hindu reverance for all life.) Goan food is characterized by the addition of creamy coconut milk and fish to traditional curries.

I found the recipe over at Eat Like a Girl — a pretty blog with a wonderfully cheeky name.  Since today was a double-whammy training day, I needed something quick and easy and so used this recipe as a jumping-off point. We had purchased some pre-cooked frozen shrimp (oh the lows I stoop to in the name of a sale!), and so integrating it into this dish was a no-brainer.

Next time I would spend the extra 3 minutes and cook raw shrimp; our little guys tasted a bit like a long-forgotten cocktail ring rescued from the bottom of a freezer. Oh well, chalk it up to cheap post-work out protein.

And thanks to the genius boxes of spice mixtures we found recently at our local Indian grocery store, this little cyclist had no spices to measure or grind when she arrived home starving. Having adapted this recipe to the slow-cooker earlier in the day (not to cook the sauce but simply to keep it warm), all it took to deliver the aromas of India to our palates was tossing the shrimp into the simmering sauce, a pot of my hubby’s perfect every time basmati rice, some fresh cilantro, and a table set with cooling yogurt and sweet chutney.

I was unfortunately too hungry to reflect on it properly then, but thinking about it now, the happy dance of chili, cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, cardamom, caraway and cloves on my tongue will always take me back to that radiant land. A land of scents and tastes and heat unimaginable, a place of passion and devotion, a destination where two young lovers set out on the journey to eat and love (and survive!) in the most important of ways — together.

 

Good thing I didn’t sacrifice him to the Ganges, otherwise who would’ve made me rice?

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