Tonight I went to my friend David's house for dinner. The plan was to cook together, catch up, drink wine--you know, typical Tuesday night get-together. David recently moved into a fabulous one-bedroom apartment in the Mission district of San Francisco, with a beautiful living room, a huge bedroom, and a cute but small kitchen. The kitchen was minimally outfitted and he had few ingredients, so we got to participate in one of my favorite kitchen challenges--Camping Trip Cooking.
Allow me to explain. When you go camping--backpacking in particular--creativity is crucial for producing a tasty meal. It's important to be resourceful and flexible and to remember to conserve ingredients that you might need later. A similar experience can be replicated when one cooks in a kitchen with few ingredients and tools. Here's what we had to work with: a huge bag of cheddar cheese, left-over buttered noodles, a huge Costco bag of chicken breasts, and frozen mixed vegetables, which I apparently non-verbally judged because my reaction caused David to call me a "food elitist." Also in the kitchen was an aging bottle of soy sauce, 2 onions, minced garlic, lemon and lime juice in squeez-y bottles, peanut butter, protein powder, and dried whole-wheat spaghetti.
After some debate, we finally decided on peanut sauce noodles and vegetable-chicken stir fry. Whole-wheat spaghetti is reminiscent of soba (buckwheat) noodles, which are delicious with peanut sauce, so we got to work boiling the pasta water and making the peanut sauce (this one included peanut butter, garlic, lime juice, and the soy sauce, which I determined was just barely usable). Once that was underway, we chopped some onions and threw them into a wok with garlic, thinly sliced chicken and the frozen vegetables. The entire meal actually turned out to be pretty tasty, especially accompanied by a lovely chilled 2-Buck Chuck chardonnay.
The best part of cooking with David was really how much fun we had together. The food was great, but it's never really the point of hanging out. Anyone who makes me laugh hard enough to pass wine through my nasal cavity is the perfect dining companion in my book.