Monday, November 21, 2011


I am not a high-maintenance kind of gal (in my humble opinion--hah!), but I do love my mani/pedis. It took me a while to find a nail salon I liked after relocating to Cambridge. I had been going to Finger Nails salon in California for almost fifteen years. Through those years, my manicurists have come and gone, but Mary has been my go-to lady for the longest stretch. She is, as are all the women there, very sweet, hard-working, and Vietnamese. Part technician, part sounding board, Mary always has a smile on her face, and a giggle in her voice. Once I “pik my colah” I am ready to go. We often chat about her family, my family, and the other customers in the store. It's a nice diversion from my life outside the door. Town Nail Salon in Beacon Hill is the salon I have chosen most recently. There too, most of the manicurists are very lovely Vietnamese women, but I don’t feel quite at home as I did at Finger Nails--not yet. The one thing I do love is that they use hot stones to massage my feet when I get a pedicure, and that is definitely a deal clincher.
I usually walk across the Longfellow Bridge into Boston to get to the salon. It takes about fifteen minutes, and on a nice day, it’s a lovely walk. I carry my flip flops in a bag (can’t keep them in my glove compartment any longer as I did out West), and I wear them on the walk home so that my toes don’t get smudged. By the time I get back into Cambridge, the polish is dry and I am a changed woman. It’s funny how a simple thing like a mani/pedi can make me feel pampered and relaxed, and depending on the “colahs” I choose, chic.
Now that the weather is growing colder in Boston, I am perplexed as to how I can get pedicures without having the polish smudge. The walk across the Bridge on a cold, windy day is not pleasant, and I will have to eventually take mass transit.  I  am worried about being amongst so many people for fear that one of them might step on my toes!! And even worse, when the temperature dips below freezing (which it still has not), or heaven forbid, when there is snow or ice on the ground, how can I walk around in flip flops?? (Believe me, I do concern myself with less shallow issues, but please indulge me for now.) I imagine putting my Uggs on over perfectly polished, and seemingly dry toes, and arriving home with miserably hairy toenails  looking like those of Sasquatch! The good thing is that I only get pedicures once a month, so this earth shattering problem will only vex me every four weeks. In time, I am sure I will adjust, but right now, a dilemma is a dilemma. (And don’t expect me to give up my pedicures, I am not that low-maintenance!) If anyone out there has a solution, please let me know.
And I am sure you are wondering what type of recipe I am going to come up with right after I blog about feet and toenails...well, here it is:
In honor of all the wonderful Vietnamese women I have met in all of the nail salons I have visited, here is a nontraditional, but wonderful nonetheless recipe from Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks. It's like an inside out Spring Roll. Heidi serves this with a Tamarind Dipping Sauce.
(serves 8)
3/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons shoyu (or substitute black soy sauce)
4 ounces (4 cups loosely packed) fettucine-style rice noodles
2 carrots, sliced into matchsticks (1 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Roasted Shallot Peanut Sauce (recipe follows)
Tamarind Dipping sauce 
1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375.
Cut the stems off the shiitakes and discard them (or save them for stock). Thinly slice the caps; you should have 5 cups. Toss the shiitakes in a bowl with the olive oil and shoyu. Then spread them out on a parchment-covered baking sheet and transfer it to the oven. Roast, stirring twice, until the mushrooms are shrunken, browned, and fairly crisp, about 40 minutes. Place the mushrooms in a small bowl and set it aside.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Remove the pot from the heat, add the noodles, and let them sit until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain, and rinse the noodles for at least 30 seconds under cold water to prevent sticking.
Toss the noodles in a bowl with the carrots and herbs. Mound a portion of noodles on each plate, and drizzle the dipping sauce and the peanut sauce over the top. Sprinkle with the mushrooms and peanuts. 
3 medium shallots, unpeeled
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon shoyu
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the shallots on a parchment-covered baking sheet and roast until they are very tender and the juices have started to ooze out, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the shallots cool slightly, and then squeeze the pulp out of the skins. Place the shallot pulp and all the remaining ingredients in a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth. The sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated for up to a week. Warm before serving. Makes 2 cups.

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