Hot Arugula Tropical

This will not be a dour or wiseass or boo-hoo I-Hate-Valentine’s post. Yes, I dislike Valentine’s Day under any circumstance. But solo, as I am, it’s a nasty piece of cocoa butter and lecithin solids.

A million years ago someone told me that “It may be Valentine’s Day next week, but every day is Valentine’s Day with you” or something to that effect, which wasn’t as Nutrasweet as it sounds today. It was apt and hinted at the deeds and actions proving the love of someone.

It’s a verb thing, love. Talk is cheap; loquacious folks do it well. Sometimes it means something and sometimes, not. Without actions as armature for words exchanged, it’s all a slurry, or as an English prof of mine once wrote about a poet he disliked, “There’s no beer under all that foam.”

Of course I freaking love to talk, or yenta it up, gesticulate, yak. If you know me, you know that.

Also, if you know me, you know that for me, food and cooking are not always a slam dunk into casual chomping.

I recently discovered a neat online hub for people cooking dinner. It is called dinnerlist and it is helmed by NYC chef Faye Hess. I discovered Faye on Food Network’s Chopped and immediately noted her presence, a chutney of urbane/urban/joy. She’s very impressionistic and sensory in her food and her food writing, and, as a mom (her kid is named Ferdinand — how cool is that?), she is very conscious of the realities of real food being prepared and eaten by real people. In your real home.

Faye loves to cook things until they are “delicious.”

So many culinary blogs reek of precious or appearances or kitchen-as-politics. Not Faye’s. Faye is very joie de stove. I hope she’s writing a cookbook, is all I can say.  I post sometimes at dinnerlist.

Tonight: Valentine’s Dinner for One. The entree: Hot Arugula Tropical.

The recipe:

Spent much of today and tonight helping my terminally ill mother-in-law, who is still my mother-in-law ten years post divorce. Left her house at 8pm. I’ve been so busy with kids and work and helping my mother-in-law, I haven’t cooked, really. The way I like to cook, that is. Not hungry tonight, but did go to the store for milk. And looked at some arugula. Bought some things. Went home (kids at dad’s) and put on Hercules and Love Affair, low.

Three cloves of garlic, slivered. Heat in bit of canola oil in large cast-iron pan. Add one plastic container of pineapple pieces in juice. Turn up heat, reduce. Squirt some honey mustard around. Stir, reduce. Cube half a container of firm tofu. Add to pan. Shake cayenne, grind pepper. Throw handfuls of fresh arugula into pan. Stir, let the liquid rise, reduce, throw in more leaves. Grab handful of cherry tomatoes (in So Cal we have many neat varieties) and toss in. Try to apply tomato surfaces to hot pan, for char. Cook until tomatoes almost burst.  Refreshing, tropical, peppery, sweet. Far better than the six-inch Subway turkey with honey mustard and cucumbers I had planned.

I am spending a lot of time lately with someone who is not going to live for long. Since this has been a month of thinking about death in new and frequent and maddening ways, the timing of my mother-in-law’s decline is, well, I don’t know. Sensible I guess. Right in line with the whole schmear of fear-of-death, head-in-my-hands, feeling my throat constrict just like Babette Gladney (death phobic extraordinaire) in White Noise.

We sit and watch TV and discuss Whitney Houston. I make her English muffins and subtly spray Lysol and try not to trip over oxygen tubing. And she is so much smaller than she was, just a month ago.

If love is verb, and food is love, and cooking means you love someone, then I came home and cooked myself some Hot Arugula Tropical. I cooked it until it was, as Faye would say, “delicious.”

And now I’m going to wash my happy orange pan.

Wilted salad, arugula, pineapple, cayenne, tofu

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