We had a bit of a mishap at the Krauss residence last week. Or rather, our entire building had a really major mishap. The previous Saturday morning, our water heater decided to die. Like all of us, the winter did our poor little water boiler in, which meant that we spent the rest of the week without a drop of hot water. Hand-washing dishes in freezing cold water left a sheen of grease over every pot, pan, utensil, and plate. My icicle fingers took a good hour to thaw. Clothes came out of the machine half-clean. And my morning shower turned into a lesson in 18th century hygiene. By the end of the week, I had it down to a science: 1. Run an inch of cold water in the tub. 2. Boil two pots of water on the stove. 3. Carry carefully to bathroom to avoid pouring on naked toes. 4. Add to water in tub. 5. Get in immediately. It will be warm for five minutes. 6. Don’t bother pretending that your hair and body aren’t covered in a layer of soap scum. 7. Embrace it.
Life certainly isn’t perfect, but life goes on. And despite the retro bathing situation, it was a better than average – a truly fantastic – week. We went out for BBQ for Matt’s birthday on Wednesday, followed by a fancy pants anniversary dinner at Nora on Thursday night. Matt seemed pretty darn happy about his presents, which made me pretty darn happy, too. As if that weren’t enough, it’s Spring in DC! There are crocuses and daffodils, grape hyacinths, forsythia, and pansies galore. Matt sent a brimming bouquet of cherry blossoms and tulips to my office and I spent half my working hours ogling it and inhaling the sent. And on Friday night, when the hot water returned, I had the most amazing shower. Hot water streaming directly from the shower head – ah! – it was pure bliss. The joy of modern plumbing!
Returning to the kitchen after a week of eating out was similarly satisfying. Sometimes I convince myself that I don’t enjoy cooking as much as I think I do, but a few days away from the pots and spatulas and I fall back in love. Pulling pans out of the cupboards, chopping vegetables, grating lemon zest, it felt like a homecoming, cozy, familiar, and calming. I made our favorite salad and a cold fish dish that felt reminiscent of pickled herring and Jewish childhood. It was a lovely meal and a beautiful end to a fabulous, if not so perfect week. Matt’s anniversary card to me said it best, “Life isn’t perfect, but love doesn’t care.” Love won this week, a thousand times over.
Marinated Sweet and Sour Fish from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi
3 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and cut into 1cm slices
1 tbsp coriander seeds
3 peppers (a mix of yellow and red), cut into 1cm slices
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 bay leaves
2 tomatoes, chopped
1½ tbsp curry powder
1½ tbsp sugar
3 tbsp cider vinegar
Salt and black pepper
1 lb pollock fillet (or other white fish), cut into four pieces
Seasoned flour, for dusting
1 large egg, beaten
1/3 cup chopped coriander
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large ovenproof frying pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and coriander seeds and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the pepper and cook further 10 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaves, curry powder, and tomatoes and cook for another 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sugar, vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and some black pepper and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a separate frying pan set over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the fish with salt, dip in the flour, then in the eggs, and fry for about 3 minutes, turning once. Transfer the fish to a paper towel lined plate to absorb the excess oil, then add to the pan with the peppers and onions, pushing the vegetables aside so that the fish sits on the bottom of the pan. Add enough water just to immerse the fish (about 1 cup) in the liquid.
3. Place the pan in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until the fish is cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to cool to room temperature. The fish can now be served, but it is actually better after a day or two in the fridge. Before serving, taste and add salt and pepper, if needed, and garnish with the cilantro.