The inevitable has happened: I'm back at home, with the real world careening back into full swing. The difference is, I have a work week AND a school week taking off on Monday. There are going to be an array of challenges ahead, including the question of food. Sure, I could live like a stereotypical dorm dweller, stuffing my chest freezer with Tostino's party pizzas, Hot Pockets and Stouffer's Mac 'n Cheese. I could hoard cases of Top Ramen and 5 Hour Energy in the pantry, and bury them in take out menus for greasy chinese and Domino's.
Fie, salty preservatives! I will not give up!
I'm arming myself with an arsenal of simple recipes and fresh, flavor-packed ingredients with minimal prep, cleanup and cook time. Paninis, salads and pastas are going to be my best friends. When I surveyed our garden last night, I couldn't believe what a difference ten days could made. The lettuces had fluttered up and out into lush, vibrant heads. The tomatoes climbed and burst through their cages, the yellow flower buds hinting at the bountiful harvest to come. With the ingredients in my very own backyard, summer may not be a wash.
Looking back, I see I've been making a lot of burgers. And why not? They cook on the barbecue, my best friend for speediness, ease, and minimal cleanup. You can mix them up with different meats and seasonings. And who doesn't like flavor and carbs? Tonight I marinated Boca burgers in teriyaki sauce, which added a little more moisture, and topped them with swiss cheese.
My favorite feature of the meal, the way to make any of the usual burger/grilled chicken/shrimp skewer suspects pop, was the grain salad. They're those beautiful concoctions in New Seasons delis and Whole Foods' world buffet that always feature a gorgeous grain and flecks of color. They're fast to prepare, you're almost guaranteed to have some leftovers for the next meal, and they're ten million times better for you than boxed rice mixes. Here's a handy guide for grain salads:
-Cook your grain (orzo, quinoa, couscous, Israeli couscous, bulgur, barley, Trader Joe's Harvest Melody) according to directions. Use chicken stock in place of water for extra flavor.
-Let it cool to room temperature
-Add your toss-ins (dried cranberries, golden raisins, dried currants, diced dried apricots, sliced almonds, chopped walnuts, roasted garlic, minced scallions, green onion, minced carrots, roasted pine nuts)
-Add your chiffonade/minced fresh herbs (basil, tarragon, thyme, mint, thyme)
-Add your oil (olive, sesame for an Asian flair, or try a nut oil: macadamia, hazelnut, walnut, almond)
-Add your acidity (lemon, champagne vinegar, red wine vinegar)
-Add your salt and pepper (I used Goya Adobo seasoning, which is a salt-based seasoning with some cumin, cayenne and other spices)
Mix and chill, preferably for at least an hour before serving.
Now off to read books with good syntax and write some excellent sentences!