by Wraith6, SuSu, Rosie
Menu: Pressured Spicy Beef Stew | Quick Mashed Potatoes, Under Pressure | Creamy Tuna Noodle Casserole | Slowly Simmering Lentils & Vegetables | Honey-Flavored Creamy High Pressure Rice Pudding
Lara Notsil knew that she was going to burst. Her brain was in conflict with itself, and she discovered she had a heart -- something she didn't realize she had. She had successfully infiltrated Wraith Squadron on her own initiative. She'd done it to be more marketable to one of the former Imperial warlords, like Admiral Zsinj or Daala. But now she realized that she didn't want to leave, and she certainly didn't want to betray them!
She had even been assigned Commander Face Loran's wingman, a position of intense and incredible trust, considering her original motives. Lara used to sneer at them for their naïvité, but over time, she came to count on that reciprocal trust. It was a strange feeling; she had been trained as a spy, to trust no one. But now she not only had to trust them, she WANTED to trust them, and just as importantly, for them to trust her.
Lara forced herself to prove their trust in her -- little tests, like positioning herself into having a clear shot at Wedge Antilles's back, but not taking it. Or having KP, able to poison or infect them all, but refraining. Or revealing bits of herself, being comfortable enough to peel back some of her armor. Like using Coruscant slang phrases when she had told them she was a farmgirl from Aldivy; she never would realize that she'd done it till after she'd done it. But it didn't seem to matter -- the other squad members trusted her enough not to notice.
Now Face Loran was injured in battle. He had undergone some surgical procedures, as well as an extended bacta dip. He must have been shot in the throat, because he was having trouble swallowing. Face had been told by the medics that he needed to restrict his meals to liquids and soft foods for the time being. Dia Passik, his girlfriend, had offered to nurse him, but was too busy to cook especially for him. Lara offered to prepare his food, so he wouldn't be forced to resort to the restricted medcenter diet of synthetically flavored jellies, bland or salty broths, and tea.
She thought of it as simply another test. Lara was learning to trust herself more, but once in a while, Gara Petothel -- her actual real self that behaved like an evil alter ego -- would pop out ... and Lara didn't trust her ... Lara tried to concentrate on the task, rather than putting herself under so much pressure to prove herself trustworthy. I AM trustworthy! I AM a good person! I AM! I swear I am! Was she simply protesting a bit too much? Time to put the pressure elsewhere ...
Pressured Spicy Beef Stew
Dia smelled the spices from the pressure cooker before Lara clamped the lid down for the main part of the cooking. She frowned in disapproval, reminding Lara that Face's throat was essentially an open wound and he couldn't take spices. Lara smiled and assured here that it was the pH of the liquid that was important, not so much the spices. And these were more fragrant spices than mouth-searing ones. She promised it would be fine, and Dia decided to trust Lara; she was Face's wingman, after all. Lara didn't have the nerve to admit, even to herself, that she HAD used the spices, acrid onion, and big pieces of vegetables to inadvertently hurt him ... fortunately, even though "Gara" intended to do harm, "Lara" had stopped her. She replaced the normal onion with a sweet one, pounded the spices fine and roasted them well before adding the meat and liquids, chopped the vegetables smaller, then finally at the end, tempered the heat with coconut milk. Face declared it delicious, with all the meat and vegetables bits cut small enough, and softened by the stay in a pressure cooker. Lara was relieved that Gara hadn't ruined her relationship with Face!
In a pressure cooker, brown the beef in the oil, in batches. Remove to a bowl and reserve. In a mortar and pestle, pound the coriander and cumin to a powder. Roast in the pot that the beef had come out of, and add the sharp mustard, until the fragrance develops. Add the onions and sauté till translucent. Add the paprika, tumeric and curry powder. Stir till combined well. Add the beef, mushrooms and all associated liquids back into the pot. Stir to loosen the bits browned onto the bottom of the pot. Add additional water to cover, if needed.
Lock down the pressure cooker top and cook under low pressure for about 45 minutes. Make a slurry by putting cornstarch and half the coconut milk into a jar and shake well. Dump all at once into the pot and stir to thicken. Add the remaining coconut milk and stir well. Serve over rice, or noodles or mashed potatoes. Serves 10 to 12.
Quick Mashed Potatoes, Under Pressure
Lara decided since a pressure cooker was good at speeding up boiled dishes, it could cook up potatoes quickly -- 5 minutes instead of nearly an hour! Also, since the high pressure tends to "deaden" some flavors, food needs to be re-seasoned when it comes out of the cooker. But for an invalid, a blander flavor is just the right thing, and anyway, Lara was going to serve it with the rich gravy of the curried stew, above. But Gara tried to add lemon juice to the final product to season it up -- an innocent enough addition to pressure cooked food. Lara, knowing that the open sores in Face's throat wouldnt be able to tolerate that addition, could be heard scolding herself for the attempt. Runt just assumed she had two brains in conflict. He was right, of course, but he didn't think it was a big deal ... Doesn't everyone?
Creamy Tuna Noodle Casserole
This is a smooth, comforting casserole that has sharp edges only on the top. "Gara" was just going to serve it up to Face with the crunchy browned bits in the serving -- hey, they look appetizing and appealing! An innocent enough mistake! Lara saw it on his tray and picked them all out just before Shalla came to get the meal for Face. Shalla also noted the replacement of the corn niblets for the usual chunked carrots and celery, and commented that Face could probably swallow the rounded, small vegetables better than the bigger irregularly shaped ones. Lara was surprised she made the substitution, and wondered if Gara had done that for some reason? This was getting very confusing ...
Slowly Simmering Lentils & Vegetables
A slow cooker is something the squadron used a lot to prepare their meals -- toss ingredients into a pot, turn it on low heat and forget it till dinner time. Lara didn't like it though; she would check it compulsively, twiddle with the dials, peek under the lid ... in short, it wasn't a convenience tool for her. Knowing Face really needed to eat some vegetables, she tried to make this in a pressure cooker, but it kept clogging the steam vents and no matter how little time she cooked them, they came out gray and liquidized. Not at all appealing! So she decided to try the slow cooker. She spent the time mind-wrestling with Gara, who tried to add acidic flavorings and to get her to peek at the cooker to keep the vegetables crunchy and difficult for Face to swallow. Anyone looking in would have seen her sitting absolutely still on the floor on her hands, muttering ... as the stew slowly simmered, so did she!
Honey-Flavored Creamy High Pressure Rice Pudding
So far, so good. Gara was not getting the better of Lara ... partially because the menu selections have been mostly safe. Lara figured rice pudding -- sweetened with liquid honey rather than granular sugar -- would be even safer from Gara's interference. Frustrated, Gara added large raisins to this recipe, and the high pressure plumped them up. Upon seeing them, Lara panicked, having no time to pick them out, but she needn't have worried. Face appreciated the texture, and if he swallowed it in his eagerness to eat this tasty pudding, it slipped past his wounds easily. Lara was very happy to have passed this test of her own making. She *was* trustable, after all! Though Gara wasn't finished quite yet ...
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