Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dinner Assembly

If you are hosting the Gs this summer, as several relatives are, you will undoubtedly wonder what to feed them, as one is a strict vegetarian, and the other likes meat, rice and plain pasta. It's not easy, believe me, but one heuristic that helps is the concept of dinner table assembly. If everything arrives independently--pasta, sauce, meat, vegetable, it allows each diner to put exactly what s/he likes on her plate. This also works with salads, as it is easy to turn a bowl of lettuce and a plate of chopped vegetables with choice of dressing into a host of combinations, ranging all the way from a couple of carrot sticks to a spring salad with roasted almonds and crumbled blue cheese.

For example, last night I served some leftover grilled pork tenderloin, with peanut noodles and salad. The BG is a fan of the dish--a simpler version of the one in my 1997 Joy of Cooking--and would usually eat just the pasta with a side salad, while the OG would eat her pasta plain, with a couple of pieces of meat, a cherry tomato, and maybe a carrot stick, if prodded; and the adults can go all in. Plus, served cold, the peanut noodles make a great lunch, as my stomach would be happy to attest today.

We use this approach quite often with pasta, as well as burritos, and even stir fries, where plain meat on the side can be added at the table, or eaten independently, as you prefer.

I'm certain that this approach is better than the traditional eat-it-or-starve position, although I can see the advantages of the latter, both immediately, and in the long term.

Peanut Noodles

Blend in a food processor 2 cups peanut butter (chunky is better), 1/2 cup, white vinegar, 1/3 cup soy sauce, 2 cloves of garlic, minced, 1 tsp. chili paste, 3 tbs sugar, 2 tsp salt. Stir in 1/2 cup sesame oil, 1 cup freshly brewed black tea. Serve with pasta.

** If I'm making this for myself, I'll double the chili paste. At home, I make sure the Sriracha is on the table. If you are pressed for time or ingredients, you can substitute Sriracha for the chili paste and garlic.

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