Sunday, June 7, 2009

Learning to Love

In many ways the man I date is my dream dude. Soulful, warm, affectionate, creative, and smart. With a wicked sense of humor and a penchant for late night dancing and grub, he is the bees knees in my book. Sure there are differences; obstacles and annoyances on both our parts. But it seems to get worked out in the midst of a great deal of fun and who can ask for more.

When you have good love, it more than makes up for the fact your lover has an aversion to most vegetables, when you yourself could not live without them. You can let it slide when he expresses his momentary craving for KFC, the mere thought making a gag well up in the back of your throat.

He is not interested in the arduous shopping process of fine picking fruits and veggies from the local farmers market. He finds it ridiculous and time consuming to frequent several different shops for necessities and special ingredients. He is a sucker for bland and meaty, super sweet and saucy, and is wary of anything green and oddly shaped. He loves food, no doubt. But not in the way I love, obsess, and NEED food. He does try to support my habit and attempts to keep me well fed every few hours, so you can see why I stick around.

He has stood by his valid excuse to keep a fridge stocked with packaged items and frozen treats. His kitchen is makeshift in his studio/dark room, consisting of a toaster oven, a one burner camping stove, and a very large sink. One might find this restricting, keeping meals simple, reheat-able and effortless but I find this a welcome challenge and a way to slowly creep in fresh seasonal food that is worth the small extra effort to shop for and prepare. And he has been eager to make a shift and to be healthier.

So I start slow in his hopeful transformation.
Yesterday we made our way to the Saturday market and spent approximately twelve dollars on a good selection of produce. He kept an open mind as we chose ingredients for his favorite standbys; tacos, fajitas, stir fries, pasta. Let's not get too adventurous at the risk of scaring him away.

Zucchini goes into our bag, along with a shiny Japanese eggplant, a bright red pepper, and carrots (of which he is not fond but attempting). He bravely chooses a knobby root of ginger on his own. He opted for the baby spinach because the mesclun mix looked "jagged and spiky". To my delight he picked up a fresh head of garlic contemplating throwing his jarred (oh, the horror) garlic out.

We picked up a red onion and cilantro, an herb I am grateful he likes. The pluots were gorgeous but he opted for a honey melon instead.

Then on to Trader Joes, where I wrestled fish sticks and frozen gyoza from his hands, settling on marinated mahi mahi and a veggie burger that was not saturated in corn by-products.

I picked up some organic chicken breasts and marinated it overnight in greek yogurt, cumin, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and lemon.

Searing the chicken in the pan first, I then managed to fit it in the tiny toaster oven on broil setting. I chopped and salted my eggplant, allowing it to drain and prepared a pot of wild brown rice.

Small ceramic colorful bowls are a favorite while I prep, so I filled one with minced garlic, ginger, and red onion and then thinly sliced my other veggies. I cooked the eggplant first, starting with a healthy guzzle of olive oil and stirring till tender and a slightly fried crust.

I throw my garlic, ginger and onion mixture and saute till the onions become translucent. The rest of the veggies get stir fried all together for a few minutes, then I put the lid on to encourage some steaming. Just a splash of soy sauce at the end. I am trying not to over season anything in hopes the taste and texture of fresh veggies influence his sensitive and warped taste buds.

I do some mushrooms in the pan on their own. Just a few minutes to brown slightly, then add the eggplant and vegetables. I fill a bowl with rice, top with veggies and diced chicken and finish with cilantro.

The flavors marry each other well. The salty caramel of the eggplant with miniscule bites of ginger. The earthy mushrooms against chewy nutty rice. The cumin in the chicken is subtle but rounded. I say be generous with the cilantro. I love the contrast of the fresh bitter herb with the cooked veggies. Your basic stir fry in under an hour. Success shows on a satisfied and grateful mans face. Maybe next time, he'll cook.