I”m going out of town of this weekend and leaving Matt home alone. Matt is a very capable man. He can manage a load of laundry just fine. He can grocery shop like a pro. He makes a good frittata and excellent chicken fajitas. He can follow a recipe better than I can because he has qualities I lack, like diligence and patience. And yet, whenever I leave town, I find myself stocking up on food, making extra meals, doing an extra load of laundry, and cleaning the house from top to bottom, so that Matt has everything he needs while I’m away.
I’m not sure when or where I picked up this neurotic habit. It wasn’t from my parents. My mom did most of the cleaning, yard work, and laundry, but my dad did most of the cooking and food shopping. He also did all of those weird chores that no one likes to do, like cleaning the second floor windows in the two-story living room (which was just an excuse to buy a fancy extendable squeegee tool with lots of cool attachments). Despite their division of labor, my parents were also totally capable of of managing life on their own. Every summer, my mom and I headed to Rangeley for two months, but my dad could only join us on the weekends and for a week or two here and there. They survived these summers just fine.
I know Matt would survive just fine, too. And yet, here I am dicing pineapple in advance because I know it’s his favorite. Making a big batch of oatmeal for his breakfasts. Baking extra croutons because he loves those too. Cooking a big meal every night this week so that he has lots of leftovers and lots of options. Tonight for dinner we had chicken sate with peanut dipping sauce and a soba noodle salad served in lettuce cups. There was some assembly required, so I made sure to patronizingly explain what went with what. (“The peanut sauce if for the chicken, not the noodles! You can’t eat the noodles without the lettuce!”) It’s unnecessary, it’s excessive, but seeing Matt’s eyes light up at the sight of the pineapple in the fridge made my day. So, I’m leaving him with a dozen Tupperwares of food, a freshly Windex-ed bathroom mirror, watered plants, and a giant Ziploc bag full of garlic croutons, not because he needs it, but because I love him and doting on him makes me ridiculously happy.
Soba Noodle-Vegetable Salad from The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger
4 ounces soba noodles, or whole-wheat spaghetti
1 large shallot, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups shredded carrot
1 red pepper, julienne
1/3 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup shredded fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Bib lettuce leaves for serving
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon walnut oil (or canola oil)
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce, or 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
Boil noodles according to package directions. Drain and cool. In a medium to large bowl, combine noodles, shallot, carrot, pepper, basil, mint, and cilantro. Combine all dressing ingredients, season with salt to taste, add to noodle mixture, and toss lightly.
Snap off Bibb lettuce leaves and wash and dry. To serve, scoop spoonfuls of noodle salad into the lettuce leaves.