I met Cindy at a bar in the Village. We soon discovered we had more in common than enjoying a cocktail or two in the evenings. We both lived in small, cluttered apartments a few blocks from …
I met Cindy at a bar in the Village. We soon discovered we had more in common than enjoying a cocktail or two in the evenings. We both lived in small, cluttered apartments a few blocks from Washington Square Park. The walls of each apartment were decorated with hanging strands of multicolored necklaces and quirky artwork. Both astrological water signs, she and I collected shells of all sorts and sizes.
Food was a subject we could talk about endlessly. I found in Cindy a fellow adventurer. She, like me, loves trying new dishes and is drawn to ethnic food, particularly Asian. Together, we have had Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean cuisine.
We have never had a meal where we didn’t explore new tastes, textures, and flavors. And the best part is that we want to share every dish we order.
We often concentrate on foods from Asia, but Middle Eastern, Indian, Mexican, African and Spanish dishes also appeal. It’s all about taking chances, expanding our food repertoire, and discovering to our mutual delight that crispy pork belly slathered with hoisin sauce, tiny breaded and fried crunchy smelts, and seared tuna slices drizzled with spicy wasabi mayonnaise are eye-opening delicacies we would never experience if we weren’t open to trying new and unusual taste sensations. Which is why Cindy is my best dining companion.
Generally, before we meet for a meal, I do research on various restaurants, often in downtown locations, especially the East Village and Lower East Side where there is a plethora of interesting eateries. I always make sure that each restaurant I’m considering has a large selection of appetizers or small plates, because that is where we most often do our ordering. More is more. We’d rather share seven or eight little bites than a couple of entrees.
After I’ve done my investigation, I email Cindy with a few choices for her to pick from. I’m happy with whichever place moves her, because I was drawn to them all.
As we settle in and sip our pre-meal drinks, we simultaneously silently peruse the menu. We are each looking for dishes that appeal. Eventually, we look up, and when our eyes meet, I know it’s a signal to start making suggestions.
One evening, we were dining at a restaurant specializing in skewered meats, vegetables and fowl grilled over a charcoal fire. Kebobs of any sort have always been a favorite of ours.
“What about some teriyaki skewers?” I asked Cindy.
“Definitely chicken skin, lamb meatballs, and wild mushrooms,” she responded.
“Yeah, yeah, perfect, and what do you think about trying either the beef tongue or pork belly?”
“Both!” Cindy said with enthusiasm.
Rarely does one or the other take a firm stance against an item we’re considering. “I won’t touch beef liver,” I said, and Cindy reminded me she’s allergic to crab. “No biggie,” I responded, “we’ve ordered way more than enough for two people.”
Cindy smiled. She disagreed, I know. I eat less than she does, and I have an aversion to leftovers. She’ll happily leave the restaurant with a doggie bag of assorted take-out containers filled with the evening’s picks that we couldn’t finish.
When Janet and I moved upstate, it didn’t much change my experience of dining out with Cindy. Whenever we made a trip to the city I’d call her and set something up for our upcoming visit.
But then the pandemic hit and that did indeed affect our getting together. Janet and I rarely drove into the city, and when we did it was often for an appointment we had, and we would turn around and head back upstate directly afterward.
It’s difficult to imagine we will ever be able to return to our past dining endeavors. Every meal we experienced together gave us so much joy and brought us closer.
But my dozens and dozens of outings with Cindy over a couple of decades will forever stand out in my mind, and I will always remember that click of glasses at the start of a meal and the words, “To friends. And to food.”
Chicken teriyaki kebobs
Serves 2 to 4
You will also need:
Cut the chicken into 2-inch pieces and set aside. Combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Mix well.
In a medium saucepan, add the remaining marinade ingredients, along with the cornstarch/water mixture.
Bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring frequently. Cook until the sauce thickens and turns dark brown. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
Place the chicken pieces in a large resealable bag, and add half the teriyaki sauce. Let the chicken marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes. Place remaining sauce aside for later.
Meanwhile, soak 8 10-inch wooden skewers in water. The best method for this is to fill a gallon-sized resealable bag with an inch or so of water. Submerge the skewers in the water and set aside to soak.
Preheat the broiler (or you can grill the kebobs if you prefer).
When ready to cook the chicken, line a large jelly roll pan with aluminum foil, and spray with cooking spray. Thread four pieces of chicken on a skewer and lay on the jelly roll pan. Continue until you’ve used up all the chicken.
Broil the chicken for about 8 or 9 minutes, turning the skewers a few times and basting with the leftover teriyaki marinade. When the kebobs are cooked through and charred, remove them to a platter and scatter the scallions over them. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.
Chicken satay kebobs
Serves 2 - 4
You will also need:
Cut the chicken into 2-inch pieces.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, curry powder, hot sauce, garlic, shallot and ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken pieces to the sauce and stir well. Cover and marinate, refrigerated, for 1 to 2 hours.
Meanwhile, soak 8 10-inch wooden skewers in water. A convenient way to do this is to fill a gallon-sized resealable bag with an inch or two of water, and place the skewers in the bag, submerging them in the water.
Preheat the broiler (or you can grill the kebobs if you prefer). When ready to cook the chicken, cover a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking oil.
Remove the chicken from the marinade, and thread 4 pieces onto each skewer. Lay on the jelly roll pan. Continue until all the chicken is used up.
Broil the chicken for about 8 or 9 minutes, turning 4 times, until cooked through and charred.
Layer the skewers on a platter and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with a ramekin of mango chutney for dipping.
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