Today, the eve of my birthday, has been a pretty good one. A couple of days ago the topic came up with my host of my cooking a western-style dinner one night, and we went to the local department store-cum-supermarket to stock up on supplies. I knew I wanted to make something involving cheese, and something involving pasta, and didn’t really know what else to do. Although unusual, I settled on a ratatouille-ish pasta dish and a side of cheesy potatoes. A starchy meal. But I felt like making only one dish might seem sparse to those used to several dishes per meal, and I didn’t want to bother dealing with meat. In the same trip we also bought expensive, imported Frosted Flakes. Mmmmm.
I had to be a tidge creative in terms of what tools were available. Supplies: two medium-sized bags of Spanish penne pasta. Six small-to-medium-sized potatoes. Two Chinese eggplant (ie the long, skinny kind). Four medium-sized tomatoes. Two smallish red bell peppers. One big reddish onion. There was also some wackiness concerning zucchini, which could not be found, and for which I ended up substituting some long green Asian squash-like vegetable. Few cheese options, so I ended up opting for the cheapest: sliced American sandwich cheese.
Limited pot options, no oven, no Western spices. First my “sous chefs” (LYY and her cousin) peeled potatoes and cut veggies to my specifications. We cubed the potatoes and boiled them, and simmered the veggies in a little unspecified oil. Then I set the potatoes aside and boiled the pasta. Some wackiness over the cooking style.
I sort of hoped to just put the cheese slices over the potatoes, heat them all back up a little, and have the cheese melt in a nice rosti-potato kind of way. Cheese was placed on potatoes, cheese sat on potatoes and globbed up. Milk and oil and a little salt added, cheesy potatoes delishously ensued.
The food seemed to be a hit, although one of the girls wouldn’t really eat the cheesy potatoes. That’s OK, I figured they might find it weird. And even without any spices, the pasta dish turned out excellently. “What do you call the dishes?” LYY inquired a couple times. “Uhh…how about cheesy potatoes and pasta with vegetables?” Not quite satisfactory in a land where every dish has a name, but whatever.
Tomorrow I turn 24! LYY may or may not have something planned, I am unclear. But she knows I have no other plans. Saturday will be a going-out night and a reprise of our trip to the expat bar, likely. And thank you to Ro for the special delivery of a big basket of flowers, stuffed bear, Dove chocolates, and a magnum-sized bottle of Chinese “champagne.” I was milling around the Peace Corps office today after a shot and noticed a bike messenger delivering said packaged, and knew it could only be destined for me. Toting said goods through the market, to class, etc., for the rest of the day was also a treat….