I love cooking once its done. I don’t even mind the during when its meditative or musical. But I hate cooking when my husband keeps saying things like, “Don’t forget; you have zucchini in the drawer.” I’m the albatross who flies the zucchini up to the milk shelf where I can see them–in front of the milk, say–which drives my husband bat-shit because zucchini belongs in the crisper, not blocking the milk used daily by “everyone but you.” So, said veg remains in its proper drawer, and I feel like a negligent mother if I don’t give it a worthy recipe.
Perky thin skinned zucchini, cilantro, ground pork, a heavy eggplant. They all need cooking. I have a knob of fresh ginger, bulbs of garlic, shallot and three more types of allium. I don’t want to waste my lovely ingredients by just cooking them simply, no. Nor do I want to execute a sub-par recipe. Instead, I want to appoint each ingredient to a recipe worthy of repeating: a keeper. But in my pursuit to find a keeper recipe, veggies wilt. Fresh basil goes limp, arugula yellows.
This morning I finally narrowed to a highly-rated recipe from “Ottolenghi Simple” for Pork with ginger, green onion, and eggplant. Just yesterday, I went for our weekly groceries at an Asian market, following my Alexa shopping list to secure oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, soybean sauce, hoisin sauce, and shaoxing rice wine. I keep a fully-loaded pantry, so I have the luxury of pulling up any recipe I’d like, never fearing I’m missing a crucial component. Today’s recipe from Ottolenghi calls for eggplant, scallions, ginger, garlic, ground pork, mirin, and…
“2 tbsp dark soy sauce (avoid premium dark soy sauce, which is too dominant for the dish)
2 tbsp keçap manis or other sweet soy sauce”
Dear reader, if you could imagine me at an Asian market, masked and socially distancing, you must assume I’ve spent a good 25 minutes examining labels, and therefore know with all certainty that when tasked with choosing between “dark soy sauce” and “premium dark soy sauce,” I chose premium. Why would you chose an unspecified dark soy sauce when the premium option was available? Sucker. I now own thin soy sauce (not to be confused with low-sodium or lite soy sauce) and premium dark soy sauce. Know what I don’t have? Ordinary motherfucking dark soy sauce or sweet soy sauce.
Know what else I don’t have? A recipe for the fucking zucchini. Abigail says she wants ratatouille, as featured in the Pixar feature film of same name, which was not ratatouille at all, but was confit byaldi, fanned vegetable rounds accordion-style a la Thomas Keller’s French Laundry.
Last week I successfully made Ottolenghi’s Turkey & zucchini burgers with spring onion & cumin with a lemon sumac yogurt sauce, because yes, I have sumac in my pantry, despite the fact that it sounds like a poison. It called for shredded zucchini, the secret to keeping ground turkey juicy. They were devoured. A keeper.
And yet, the last thing I want to do is repeat it? What in the what what? I need to have my head examined again. Instead I am on the hunt for another keeper recipe to add to the keeper list. And how anyone doesn’t murder me in my sleep is beyond me. Now, I need to go shower, then prepare the eggplant and pork dish before I hear, “Don’t forget; you have an eggplant on the dining room table.”