Kitchen Purge: A Romantic Comedy

A little creativity and basic food knowledge can take you pretty far.  Sometimes, I manage to make something truly delicious out of the most random crap.

I’m sure we’ve all had those times were there is just an accumulation of stuff in the kitchen. In the fridge, on the counter, in the cabinets, etc.   On one recent evening, for example, I came home from work and spent about two hours trying to decide what I wanted to do for dinner since H was at a work event.  I knew I had food in the house and it would have felt distinctly irresponsible to get takeout. So I took an inventory:

Counter: one super-ripe mango, one pineapple that needed to be cut, one cantaloupe that needed to be cut [I am soooo lazy sometimes], one Russet potato that was beginning to be questionable, and the ever-present garlic, onions, and shallots

Fridge: Crikey. Um…some sliced crimini mushrooms (which turned out to be gross and I had to throw them out), cooked brown rice, turnip greens, asparagus (some cooked and some raw), Trader Joe’s soy chorizo (FAVE), an unopened package of tofu, a baseball-sized chunk of cauliflower (why?), some past-due edamame hummus, and a mango-flavored coconut yogurt

Cabinet: let’s not go there

Eventually I formed a loose plan, incorporating the cauli-ball, some garlic, the cooked asparagus, the brown rice, and the soy chorizo.

I started the cauliflower first, since it would have to cook the longest.  Since I didn’t feel like turning on the oven, I just sauteed it in a little bit of olive oil on the stovetop, and covered it with a lid to help it cook faster. I tossed in a clove of chopped garlic about 2/3 of the way through, and toward the end I added a dash of garlic salt and a couple of dashes of red pepper flakes (and then I spent the next hour coughing. I knew that was going to happen when I put the flakes in, yet I continued breathing. How stupid of me.)

Anyway, I just heated the chorizo through in a pan with a little cooking spray. I cut the asparagus into pieces and was going to heat that in a pan too (stuff reheated on the stove is SO much better, in my opinion) but then I got impatient so I just nuked it, along with the rice.

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What I should have done

When everything was done cooking, I put it in a bowl and VOILA:

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I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but this was a giant bowl of food. Since I am not exactly svelte, I thought to myself that I should probably only eat half, but of course I ate the whole thing, and then wished I had even more. Sigh.

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Anyway, I was pretty happy that I managed to make a really tasty, filling dinner (despite starting with only a loose plan), make some room in the fridge, and incorporate some stuff that needed to be used (my battle against wasting food is ongoing, but that’s another tale for another day).

I do feel that this is important, because even if one does not have the time or resources to shop for and cook a big, fancy meal each night, a little resourcefulness and some standard ingredients can go a long way!

Let’s review: anything sauteed with olive oil and garlic is good, amirite?! Hello, cauliflower. Add some texturally-pleasing and flavorful ingredients (here, chorizo, though I could have definitely been healthier and used beans or non-rotten mushrooms. With either of those, I would have added some more spices and maybe a touch of tomato sauce or veg broth, but I didn’t need to do that with the chorizo because it is a processed food that is pre-flavored). Finally, a mild starch (here, brown rice) provided the vehicle on which to enjoy it all.

Of course, now that farmstand/farmer’s market season is here (rejoice!), I’m guaranteed to have loads of random produce laying around on any given day.  Maybe I’ll start my own Chopped competition of one.  Poor H.

Anyone else have any tips for incorporating various ingredients from around the kitchen? Or any examples of seemingly-incongruous stuff you’ve thrown together in a pinch?

Roasted Veggiepalooza

Is it still pigging out if you’re bingeing on vegetables?

I went a little crazy at our farmstand last week. I got sweet potatoes, parsnips, and Brussels sprouts, and decided to try something new-to-me: cheddar cauliflower! I filled two whole baking sheets with vegetables, which I tossed with olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, and finely chopped garlic.

Everything came out perfectly roasted–tender and just slightly caramelized–and the house smelled so good!

I couldn’t have imagined a more delicious dinner–a big bowl of roasted fall delights.

Also I loved the cheddar cauliflower! It is much like regular cauliflower except that it has a lovely orange hue and also a slightly earthy aftertaste, much like cheddar cheese. Delicious! I will definitely buy this again.

I still have a giant butternut squash on my counter and am open to suggestions as to what to do with it…

Whopping Shopping

Day 5 of bar prep, complete.  Only 51 days to go–woooo!!!  Ugh.  Seriously, I cannot believe how exhausted I already am!  Even though law school amazingly does not in the slightest way prepare one to take this most important of exams, it luckily does turn one into a master of diversion and methods for taking mental breaks.  Case in point: today before sitting down for hours of practice essays, I commandeered H’s car and drove to Heaven Russo’s Market for a shopping bonanza.  For $19.85, here is what I got:
A head of Romaine lettuce, a 2-lb. bag of yellow onions, two carrots, a giant parsnip, a jalapeno, a chunk of ginger, a head of cauliflower, 4 bananas, a 5-lb. bag of Yukon gold potatoes, a buttload of fava beans, a giant head of the most fragrant cilantro imaginable, two limes, a tomato, a giant beet bulb, an avocado, and a huge fresh Syrian flatbread.
Not too shabby.

I know I’ve mentioned before how much I love Russo’s, but…dear Lord, I do love Russo’s.  It is a sprawling paradise of incredibly fresh and varied produce (including some things I’ve never heard of), yet somehow every time I go to the cash register, I get reverse sticker shock–disbelief over how little it costs.  The only possible drawback is how nauseatingly crowded it can get on the weekends.  It’s totally worth it; I just always make sure to swallow a heaping tablespoonful of patience before heading in there.

Anyway, now that I have all of this wonderful food in my kitchen, and a Sunday afternoon to myself, I’m excited to do some food prep for the week ahead.  I plan to eat a wonderful salad every day with the head of romaine I bought, so I’m going to roast the beet and shell the fava beans to throw into that, along with avocado, chopped carrots, and cilantro.  A very exciting prospect indeed!

I’m super-excited to eat the fava beans in particular. They’re waiting to be parboiled at the moment:

Giant, perfect favas! I went for big, sturdy pods this time. Seriously, look at the size of this fava bean pod! (No, I didn’t take this picture just to show off my ring :))

And check out the size of the flatbread.  This is it stretched over my stove:

I used a pizza cutter to slice it into portions, which I wrapped in cling wrap and put in the fridge for H and I to use this week.  But not before I had a flatbread “pizza” for lunch:
Spread with Tribe Forty Spices hummus and topped with artichokes, sundried tomatoes, and chili garlic sauce.  SO GOOD.

I’m also cooking tonight–yay!!!  Red Lentil and Cauliflower Curry from Veganomicon.  It’s going to make a giant vat of curry that H and I will be eating for days.  I’ll post the results later this week!

Finally, I want to briefly touch on something important that’s been on my mind.  I am approaching my three year blog anniversary (June 20th).  Though I have not always posted regularly since starting the blog (oh hay, 2010), it has always been important to me, and I love that it gives me a way to look back on so many great meals and memories.  And actually, the last time I went back to my 2008 posts, I started feeling really nostalgic, though it wasn’t clear why. Then, the other day, I read this post on Chocolate Covered Katie’s blog.  I realized that the thing I used to love the most about blogging, in fact the thing that made me want to start a blog in the first place, was my extreme newly-vegan enthusiasm for trying new foods and recipes from amazing cookbooks and blogs.  I don’t think the enthusiasm even went away, but I guess once law school started and my lifestyle changed so drastically, I just let it fall by the wayside.  When I picked up blogging again this past January, I thought that maybe changing the theme a little (to include restaurants and products I was trying) would help me regain my previous enthusiasm.  It did, to a certain extent, as my ensuing blogging regularity demonstrates.  However, from here on out, I want to place the ingredients and cooking, my true passions, at center-stage, and occasionally include the other stuff as extras.  Thanks, Katie, for helping me come to this realization–I had a lot of fun writing this post!

Red Lentil

On Monday, I had a wonderful evening out with a group of veg friends at Red Lentil in Watertown, MA.  It is an all vegetarian restaurant, with a menu full of vegan options (clearly labeled) as well as vegan-izable options (clearly explained).   My group consisted of four ovo-lacto-vegetarians and two vegans (myself included), and we were all very happy at the end of the night!

What follows is a rave review and a more photo-heavy post than I normally do, so enjoy!

Red Lentil
The interior of Red Lentil (love the bright green color!)

We started with appetizers…
Sesame Encrusted Seitan Strips
Sesame Encrusted Seitan Strips (with miso horseradish dipping sauce)

Gobi Manchurian
Gobi Manchurian

Grande Nachos
Grande Nachos (not vegan)

Then the entrees

Shepherd's Pie
Vegan Shepherd’s pie

Special Salad
Salad with mango, avocado, and grapefruit (it was on the specials menu so I’m  not sure what else exactly was in/on it…vegan though, I think)

Mexican Pizza
Mexican Pizza (not vegan)

Special Lasagne
Lasagne (also from the specials menu…not vegan)

Three Bean Burrito
Three Bean Burrito (not vegan)

And obviously, dessert!

Peach Almond Cake
Peach Almond Cake

Choco Banana Cake
Choco-Banana Cake

Carrot Cake
Carrot Cake (with one bite out of it…someone couldn’t wait!)

Whew!  I’ll start with the appetizers.  The Gobi Manchurian was awesome; I am sure that I could have eaten two plates of it by myself.  I also was a big fan of the seitan strips; the texture was dense and chewy, and I loved the complement of the scallions and especially the dipping sauce.  I didn’t eat the nachos but the others said they were pretty good.  (I think they all preferred the vegan appetizers though!)

Earlier in the day, I checked out the menu online, and when I read the description of the Shepherd’s Pie, my jaw dropped.  I knew I had to have it.  The other vegan in our party actually ended up ordering the same thing, and we both LOVED it.  Look at that picture.  No, seriously, scroll back up for a second and soak it in.  It was gorgeous.  And huge–I got two meals out of it!  But most importantly, it was delicious.  There were so many complex flavors and textures…I was in heaven.  It took alot of self-control to stop eating and save enough to take home for dinner the next day…

All of the desserts on the menu were vegan.  We decided on the three slices above to share around the table.  My favorite was the Peach Almond, second favorite was the Carrot Cake.  The Choco-banana one fell a little short of my expectations.  It seemed a little dry to me.  Also I think I just really, really liked Red Lentil’s  “cream cheese” icing, which topped both of the other slices.  Sorry for the less-than-stellar pictures of dessert…the table was so full of stuff by the time it arrived that photographing them was sort of awkward! 

I wish I lived closer to Red Lentil.  It is a little on the pricier side (for this little student’s budget) so maybe it’s good that I don’t.  I would really like to eat there again some time though!