meal in three thoughts

Messermeister Park Plaza 8" Chef's Knife

1. In my family, we didn't sharpen or hone our knives. We either sawed away on our tomatoes with dull blades or bought new ones, cheap ones, culminating in a whole mismatched drawer full of mostly dull knives, a situation that improved somewhat once my handy step-father came on the scene and after the emergence of the TV-Ginsu, never-need-sharpening knives, which look like small saws. Growing up, I don't remember imagining what it would be like to knife (verb) someone, but if I had, I probably would have envisioned sawing on them, rather than piercing clean through, lacking the concept.

As an adult, I limited my knife collection to two, a paring knife and a chef's knife, but they were still the never-need-sharpening kind with tiny teeth. I figured someday I would splurge on a real knife set. I had hinted more than once to my ex that I would love a good knife set as a gift, but all he did was order a cheapo knife from Amazon, paying as much on next-day shipping as on the knife itself, since he hadn't planned ahead. That was towards the end of the relationship, when the giver no longer gave a shit, so when the marriage ended, I sent the thoughtless knife off with him.

A couple years later, my friend Jeff gave me a chef's knife for my birthday, a real knife with no teeth, the kind that draws blood when touched, that has heft in the hand, the kind that needs to be sharpened and honed. He honed my knife for the first time this weekend after I realized I'd been sawing on my vegetables the past couple months. He said that honing smooths out the jagged microscopic particles on the blade edge, different from sharpening. Sharpening should be done by professionals. But even honed, tonight my knife cut cleanly again into the flesh of my produce.

crookneck squash & ice cream scoop

2. Kitchen Tip: Use an ice cream scoop (mine's probably 10 years old from IKEA) to carve out the seeds and spongy core of overgrown summer squash or the stringy, seedy innards of winter squash. That way, no spoons get bent.

curried vegetable-sesame quinoa on thrifted Heath Ceramics

3. Recipe:
Curried Vegetable-Sesame Quinoa

This is one of my current too-few dishes in rotation, but it's easy and relatively quick to prepare, and showcases the umami power of sesame.

Cook 1 cup of rinsed quinoa in 2 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring it to a boil, turn it down low, and simmer the seeds for 15 minutes. Then turn off the heat and leave the pot covered till needed.

Meanwhile, dice half a block of cubed tofu and sauté it in olive oil till lightly browned, along with some chopped garlic, half a bunch of chopped scallion, and a good heaping of curry powder (sorry—I'm not a purist). Add in whatever diced vegetables are on hand, starting with the vegetable in need of the longest time in the pan. (Tonight I used sweet red pepper, carrot, garden crookneck squash, and zucchini.) Add a little water and cover, if needed, until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Salt to taste. Stir in a dollop of tahini and a handful of chopped cilantro. Mix the seasoned vegetables with the quinoa. Enjoy the colors.

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