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Ronnie Paul: Hot rod days

 

The crunch of driveway gravel announced that my granddaughter Rio had pulled up in her second-hand Honda. As I watched her unfold from the driver’s seat, I remembered my own teenage driving mania.

I didn’t have my own car, so I was at the mercy of my mother’s generosity. Saturdays she allowed me to tool around in her green VW bug.

As soon as she gave me the keys, I’d jump in the car, turn up the radio, and drive to get my friend, Laurie.



Our cruise was down Palmer Avenue past Gristedes and the Pappagallo store. I’d slow when we drove past Richardson’s Pharmacy, and we’d crane our necks to see who was slurping cherry cokes at the counter. Should someone see us, we’d slink low in the seats and peel off.

As we didn’t drink beer or smoke cigarettes, we dorks didn’t feel comfortable at the Saturday afternoon tailgate parties that met in the school parking lot. I’d park on the fringe, but we were too shy to get out of the car.



I had a deadline for getting the car home, so Laurie and I would spend the rest of the afternoon lying across her bed, painting our nails and gossiping.

At dinner, my mother would ask what I did that day. “Oh, nothing special,” I’d mumble. “Just hung out with the gang.”

My kitchen hangouts are better than those I had as a teenager. Please give these recipes a whirl.

Rice-Veggie-Tofu Salad

Serves 4

While you wait for summer produce, make this dinner salad.

1 cup raw brown Basmati rice, cooked according to directions and cooled

12 ounces extra firm tofu, cut in 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large scallion, thinly sliced

¼ cup chopped red pepper

¼ cup thinly sliced celery

¼ cup grated carrot

2 tablespoons raw peanuts

Dressing

Whisk together:

¼ cup white miso dissolved in ¾ cup hot water

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon mirin

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 pressed garlic clove

Heat the olive oil in a pan over a low flame and add the tofu. Sauté it slowly, turning occasionally, until it turns a luscious golden brown. At this point, add about two tablespoons of the dressing and stir until the tofu soaks up all the liquid. For minimum splatter, I cover the pan as the tofu cooks.

To serve, either mix all the ingredients together, or artfully arrange them separately on a platter and let everyone take which item they want. In either case, don’t expect leftovers.

Pankoed Cauliflower

Serves 4

Cauliflower definitely qualifies as one of my comfort foods.

3 cups bite-size cauliflower florets

¼ cup panko ( If you’re new to this ingredient, it’s a good staple. Think Japanese breadcrumbs with a light flaky texture that provides better texture and fewer calorie than regular breadcrumbs.)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, pressed

Salt

Steam the cauliflower until it’s tender, but still crunchy.

Brown the panko in one tablespoon of the olive oil and remove it from the pan.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the garlic and cauliflower and sauté until brown.

Turn off the flame, stir in the panko and salt, and serve.

Ronnie Paul is a Nevada County freelance writer.

While waiting patiently for summer produce, try this rice-veggie-tofu salad.
Photo by Jeff Kane

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