Tuesday Dinner: Tom Yum Tofu

Tom Yum Tofu (Thai Hot & Sour Soup with Tofu and Chili Jam) • Fruit, Vegetable, and Herb Salad • Levain Rolls • Strawberry-Mango Mess

When we were in San Diego, my sister-in-law Kate very kindly let us use her Switch. We spent a lot of time (like, a lot of time) playing Animal Crossing. If you don’t count the 1994 version of Tetris, this is the first time that I’ve ever been really sucked into a video game. I was so dedicated to Animal Crossing during our week away that I played for two hours one morning before either of my children was awake. I even spent forty-five minutes weeding the island—which is about thirty-five minutes longer than I’ve ever spent weeding my actual, real-life yard.

Animal Crossing is now the undercurrent that runs below all my regular daily activities: while I’m waiting for egg whites to whip to stiff, glossy peaks, I’m thinking about hybridizing flower colors; I may look like I’m cutting up watermelon or mincing shallots, but I’m really wondering how long you have to play before unlocking the ability to terra-form; instead of politics or social justice, my idea of appropriate dinner conversation right now is a discussion of possible island names. Now that I’ve spent some time playing the game, I understand why it became such a quarantine trend. There are no police killers and no need to defund them, there is no sickness, everyone can make money (just go catch a fish!) and neighbors can casually walk right up to each other and chat face-to-face—no mask needed! It is a happy, escapist fantasy, and I can’t wait to play it again.

Credit for today’s menu goes to my mom. I couldn’t quite decide what to make this week, but when my mom suggested Thai hot and sour soup, I jumped on board. It’s got rice noodles, chunks of tofu, and bright cherry tomatoes that soften slightly when you heat the soup. But really, this one’s all about the broth: it’s tart and sweet (tamarind, tomato paste, lime juice, brown sugar), fragrant and flavorful (garlic, ginger, lemon), salty and pungent (fish sauce for the win!), and just a little bit spicy (red chili flakes). I dialled the heat way back, so that it’s friendly to even spice-averse folks, but then I made some nam prik pao (chili jam) for those who want more heat. My mom tasted the nam prik pao, and wants me to bottle it and sell it—it’s gooooood.

The salad is chock-full of fruits and vegetables. Yes, there’s lettuce, but there’s also daikon, cucumbers, and two kinds of melon: watermelon and honeydew. You’ll see that there are whole leaves of mint and basil; instead of cutting or tearing them ahead of time, I thought I’d experiment with leaving them whole and asking you to tear them into your salad. The leaves taste best when they’re freshly torn, but tearing them yourselves is an extra step. Let me know what you think!

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