My friend Janet lasted two days on the cross-state bike ride.
After her tent was flattened by rain and hail Monday night, she did what anyone would have done: she called her mother.
Her querulous little old mother called me.
“Could you pick up Janet?”
Janet’s mother is the kind of person who asks you to come over and pluck the whiskers out of her chin. Once she asked me to pick up Chinese food for her, which exploded in my bicycle pannier.
“Sorry, I don’t drive.”
I really don’t. I ride a bicycle.
Janet dropped over yesterday after her mother drove her back from the campground at “about ten miles an hour.” She cares, but not that much, about leaving her boyfriend to bicycle with her not-very-trustworthy fitness freak sister, who, when last seen, according to Janet, was “making cow eyes at him and looking like a cow, too.”
“Janet, have you actually ever seen a cow?”
As she points out, she has plenty of other men, since her boyfriend lives in Milwaukee and only sees her twice a month anyway. Other men take her to concerts, take yoga with her, and even attend her poetry readings.
“Any other man would have dropped out of the ride and taken me to Canada or somewhere after that dreadful experience.”
And so I did the nicest thing I’ve ever done for her: I cooked her the best vegetarian meal we have ever had, Green Beans and Tofu with Cruncy Thai Peanut Sauce (from Mollie Katzen’s Vegetable Heaven).
We have green beans in our garden. Absolutely delicious! Here is the recipe, and below it are my improvisations, which makes it slightly easier.
1 1/2 cups peanuts (unsalted or lightly salted)
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 pound firm tofu, cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Red pepper flakes to taste
Place the peanuts in a blender, and grind briefly until they form a coarse meal. Set aside.
Heat a medium-sized heavy skillet. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, and the ginger and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes, then add the crushed peanuts and the lemon zest. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the peanuts are lightly toasted. Remove from heat and set aside.
As the peanut mixture is cooking, heat a large, nonstick wok or deep skillet. Drizzle in a little oil. When it is very hot, add the tofu and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook over high heat for 10 to 15 minutes to let the water evaporate, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with lemon juice, reduce the heat, and cook for a few minutes longer. Transfer the tofu to the pan containing the peanut mixture, and set aside.
Scrape out the wok or skillet if necessary, and return to the heat. Let it get very hot, then add the remaining scant tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add the green beans. (The pan should sizzle when they hit.)
Stir-fry over high heat for about 5 minutes, then sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and a small amount of red pepper flakes.
Stir-fry just a few minutes longer, or until the beans are divinely tender-crisp (mostly crisp, but just tender enough). Add the peanut-tofu mixture and toss everything together. Serve right away, over rice.
IMPROVISATIONS: My tofu always falls apart in the wok, so I skipped that step, and added it to the peanut mixture without stir-frying first. Then after the green beans had been stir-fried for four or five minutes, I scooped the tofu with a slotted spoon out of the peanuts and added it to the wok. I stir-fried a few minutes longer till the beans were done. The tofu didn’t fall apart!
It all turned out wonderfully. Every bite was eaten. I can’t recommend this dish too highly.
You should probably try Mollie Katzen’s recipe first, but my improv worked for me!