Working together

lime peanut paste* Our thoughts and prayers to our friends and family and everyone in Sandy’s path. Stay safe guys! xo

When our vacuum started making a death-rattle a few weeks ago, Kyle and I had different reactions. He considered the volume of the monstrous noise, amortized the cost of owning the vacuum over the last many years, and said it was “time for a new one.” I imagined it abandoned in a landfill somewhere, taking eight hundred jillion years to decompose, the jammy fingerprints of two young boys gradually petrifying as armageddon came and went. “I think we should try to get it fixed.”

Neither of these is an entirely right way of making decisions. I can see that. But I am the bossier person in our marriage (yes, I can see that too) so to the repair shop went the vacuum. And actually, it was Kyle who took it there. Because he is often the nicer and more accommodating person in our marriage. (Yep, full on 20/20 here). I like to call this sort of thing, the likes of which keep our little family running smoothly, teamwork. Kyle might have another name for it.

The vacuum came home from the repair shop “good as new” – or so the guy on the phone told me before I urgently sent lovingly asked Kyle to go pick it up. But two days later: plug it in, power it on – a minute of glorious cleaning and then – how to describe the sound that came next? The vacuum was screaming at us, and apparently trying to explode itself into thousands of tiny sharp dangerous pieces. And then the “performance” light lit up blazing red. In case we weren’t listening I guess. I called the vacuum repair shop and told the kind lady who answered about my suicidal vacuum cleaner.

wok carrots

“It was supposed to be good as new! And obviously it is NOT!” She suggested we bring it in so they could have a look. I marched right down.

When they took it “to the back” to look at it, I followed along. No way were these con artists going to make another so-called “repair” and charge us for another part, not with me on the case!

wok veg

“Hm,” said the bespectacled older gentleman working the bench. He peered at the records he retrieved on his ancient computer. “Looks like I replaced the … hm … Well, you got a deal!” He chuckled. “We didn’t charge you for the labor involved because I hadn’t included it in the original estimate. Computers!” He chuckled again.

“Uh huh. Can you just take a look? Please?”

lime peanut paste

“Well of course.” He turned it on, listened for a moment to the horrible rattling screeching awfulness, and nodded. He turned it off, and chuckled again. “You’ve got a clogged machine. Boys at home?”

“I – yes. They’re actually in the car with my husband. That’s why I’m in a hurry.”

“Mmmhm.” He carefully turned over the machine and unscrewed a hose at the back. He reached his gnarled old fingers in, and pulled out a massive dusty clump. “Here you go,” he said, and tried to hand it to me. I did not take it.

“I – what?”

“Normally we charge you $20 for removing the blockage, but since you were just here, I’ll waive the fee.” He chuckled again. “Now you tell those boys, if they want to be mechanics and help fix things, they need to remember to take their tools out when they’re done. Tell them to STOP!” And now he laughed, uproariously. Once again the wad of gray was shoved at me. “They’ll probably want that back.”

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“Jacob, do you know anything about how this got into the vacuum cleaner?”

“I don’t! Lucas did it.”

“Lucas did what?”

“I turned it over and pulled out the hose and Lucas put it in there and then I screwed it back together.”

Teamwork. It’s how we get things done around here.

the photo they took for their Wall of Shame

Lime-Peanut Paste

This recipe came to us from our friends Danielle and Phil (and their sweet girl Ellie) in those wintry, blurry weeks after Lucas was born. Danielle dropped it off for dinner in the form of a vegetarian stir-fry (I’ve included her recipe below the paste recipe) with a big pot of coconut-scallion rice (replace the cooking water for your favorite rice with coconut milk, add chopped scallions at the end). I couldn’t stop eating it – a little punchy, super fresh and bright, with a complex flavor that I wanted more and more of.

That lime and peanuts would work so perfectly, wonderfully well together comes as a surprise to exactly no one who knows anything about Mexican, Thai, or Vietnamese food. But that something so special tasting could be so easy to make was a little surprising – and a lot awesome. It became an instant go-to, a once-a-weeker, a fall back. It became part of our family. It’s a little homely looking, but it has a nice bright greenness, and shocking good taste … if you give it a chance I think you might adopt it too.

Danielle found and modified this recipe when she was living in Europe, and I have tweaked her version only somewhat. The original calls for chili paste or Sriracha, but Kyle and I just serve that now on the side. But if you are cooking for a crowd where everyone likes a lot of heat, go ahead and add it right in to the food processor. We always have this as a vegetarian meal, with golden-fried tofu like Danielle makes it, or just with vegetables. But I have no doubt it would also kick butt on a stirfry made with chicken, beef, or even fish, depending on what you feel like eating.

A word on the herbs: the original recipe calls for all cilantro, and you can’t go wrong with that. But I like this combination of cilantro, Thai basil, and mint. I have also used cilantro mixed with some regular basil and a few tarragon leaves, and that is nice too. 3 cups total, and at least 1 of cilantro, should work well with most any herbs.

Finally: this makes what I think of as a triple batch (Where one batch = enough to cover a stir fry for 4 people. At our house, one batch means a generous dinner plus one lunch of leftovers). I usually divide it in thirds and freeze two portions in baggies. You can thaw one in a bowl of warm water in the time it takes to steam some veggies and heat some leftover rice, and boom – you have a dinner worth writing about.

Zest and juice of three good-sized limes
Optional: an inch or so of grated fresh ginger
2 cups cilantro
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce  (substitute shoyu to keep it vegan)
1-2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil, as needed

Optional heat: 2-3 tablespoons of chili paste or Sriracha 

In a food processor or blender, process lime zest, lime juice, herbs, garlic, and peanuts. (Add the ginger if using – it brings a nice twist on occasion, when I have a little extra ginger kicking around). With the machine running, add fish sauce and 1 tablespoon oil. It will end up looking like pesto. If it needs a little more to bind it, add the additional tablespoon of oil.

That’s it! :)

Danielle’s Basic Stir Fry Recipe for Lime-Peanut Paste
I lifted this right from the email she sent me after Lucas was born – she is a pro. Thanks Danielle! 

16 oz of extra firm tofu, cut into large rectangles (best to use extra firm so it will hold its shape during the cooking process). I usually brown the tofu, then chop it into bite sized cubes. I think it is easier to cook this way, but you can also just brown cubed tofu. Either way works.

One small onion, slivered
2-3 carrots, sliced
One bunch of broccoli, chopped into florets

To cook the tofu: use either a grill pan or a skillet and heat a little oil. Add the tofu and cook until it is golden brown on both sides. Remove from the pan.

Sautee the onion on high heat, add the carrots and broccoli for a minute or two. Add ½ c water to the pan and cover for 1-2 minutes to steam the veggies.

Once the veggies are cooked, turn off the heat, add the tofu, and stir in the lime-peanut paste to coat.

Serve over coconut-scallion rice.

9 thoughts on “Working together

    • Sherry, I’m feeling like we need to send these two out to you and E, so that they can take some lessons from a boy who has been raised right. It might not be evident here but they are an absolute JOY to have around – and they have good politics! Shall I book them a flight? :)

    • Aren’t they the best? I find I am constantly saying things to myself like “OK, this is just a really great demonstration of … ingenuity.” Or “This is just … because they have so much energy.” There is something about brothers …. !

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