Lately, I’ve been riding the lightning, which is how a consultant perfectly described the experience of being a doctor in training. And thanks to having taught public high school, it just so happens that I appear very nonchalant while thousands of volts pass between my limbs. Several times I’ve been with delirious patients in accelerated states of agitation and belligerence, and my team has told me afterwards, “You really should have gotten out of your chair. They could have hit you, and you need to be ready to run.” Maybe the years of lightning strikes I endured at Rabouin High School in New Orleans have frizzled out my fear receptors. Or at least, I feel pretty attuned to when I’m about to be hit, and if a patient is just yelling, that doesn’t quite set off my red alert. I’m not afraid of storms. In fact, I prefer to ride the storm out because, inevitably, the clear sky is so fresh, and the warmth of the sun feels most rewarding after the rain. Speaking of which, it’s raining jalapeños in my backyard.
The other key note for today is that I don’t think I got any new bug bites. Mosquitos have been their own rainclouds this summer, thick and sinister. If I make it through August without West Nile, I will be thrilled. Meanwhile, I’ll be eating tropical dishes such as the following. When in a rain forest, eat as the Thai do.
Drunken Noodles with Tofu and Jalapeno
Adapted from Food and Wine
12 ounces firm tofu, cubed and dried
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
2 TB red curry paste
1 teaspoon tahari sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 large jalapeño, seeded and sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red Thai bird chile, minced
1/2 pound pad thai rice noodles, cooked and cut in half crosswise
Thai basil leaves
Lime wedges, for serving
In a nonstick skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil. Add the tofu and cook over moderately high heat, turning, until crisp, 5 minutes. Drain.
In a bowl, whisk the stock, oyster sauce, fish sauce, chile paste, soy sauce and sugar.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the bell pepper, jalapeño, garlic and Thai chile and stir-fry over high heat until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add the noodles and stir-fry until browned, 4 minutes.
Add the sauce and toss over moderately high heat, until absorbed. Fold in 1 cup of basil and the tofu. Garnish with more basil and serve with lime wedges.
The tofu in this dish is perfectly inert–a vehicle for all the spicy and savory flavors of garlic and chile peppers and jalapenos. I’m just stoked that half these ingredients came from my backyard.