What’s for dinner (lunch, etc) part 9
November 27, 2010 in Musings etc · No comments
Hi there! I hope those of you living in the United States have had a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you celebrate this holiday, you are probably still working on finishing all your delicious leftovers. When you’re done, though, give some of these lunch and dinner suggestions a try. All are quick and easy, reflecting my increasing workload at school and the corresponding decrease in the amount of time I can afford to spend in the kitchen.
- Meatloaf stuffed with hard-boiled eggs. I use a mixture of beef and pork for my meatloaf, adding some grated onions for flavor, raw eggs and flour to bind the meat mixture and to “stretch” the meat, and tomato sauce, ketchup, or mayonnaise for moisture. As is common in Russia, I like to stuff a hard-boiled egg or two in the middle of the meatloaf – it looks very pretty when you slice it.
- Chickpea and shredded carrot salad with dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and a vinaigrette dressing. Back when I lived in NYC and worked at the Columbia University Medical Center in Washington Heights, there was a nice little cafe on 168th St & Broadway called Cafe Jou Jou. Seating was very limited, you had to pay cash, and the prices were a bit too high to make it an everyday lunch spot, but their salads, sandwiches, and wraps never disappointed. Jou Jou’s hummus and shredded carrot sandwich (on sourdough, if I remember correctly) made me realize that there are other ways to combine hummus and carrots in addition to simply dipping the latter into the former. I believe they also offered this combination as a salad, with the hummus and shredded carrots piled on top of mixed greens or baby spinach. For my homemade take on Jou Jou’s salad, I skipped the greens (it’s late fall, after all, and I try to eat what’s in season – plus I rarely crave a green salad when it’s cold out) and added dried cranberries and sunflower seeds.
- Rice/canned peas/mayo salad. This salad is so simple that it’s almost embarrassing to post about. However, there is quite a bit of background to it. When I was growing up in Moscow, there was a large store not too far from our apartment called “Okean” (Ocean) that sold all sorts of fish and seafood products. (I believe it was part of a chain that operated across Russia – at least my husband tells me they had a store with the same name in his hometown, thousands of miles away from Moscow.) One of the things they sold was frozen squid, with its thin purplish skin was still on. At 8 or 10 years old, I was not a vegetarian and was not squeamish about helping behead and gut dozens of small capelin fish to be fried for supper, eating chicken feet and hearts and rooster combs, and enjoying stewed cow udder. Neither did I mind using my long fingernails to peel off the incredibly thin, film-like squid skin as the flesh thawed under running water in the sink. The trick was to peel off the skin when the squid was almost defrosted, but not quite. When the squid was fully frozen, the skin wouldn’t come off, and when it was completed thawed, it became so soft and slippery that it was hard to work with. Once the skin was off, we cooked the squid in boiling water, ground it up, and mixed it with cooked rice and canned peas for a delicious salad. I remember that the adults ate their salad mixed with mayonnaise, but for us kids it was dressed with sour cream – probably because it was a natural, preservative-free product and was therefore considered healthier. Even though I don’t eat squid any more, I still love the simple taste of leftover cooked rice, canned peas, and mayonnaise mixed together. Sometimes I add a pinched of cayenne pepper and/or smoked paprika; other times, I mix in a tablespoonful of grated Parmesan. If you decide to give this salad a try, be sure to use Russian-style mayo (recipe here) – it will be much tastier.
- Black bean, tomato, and rice soup with cumin and cayenne. This is quite possibly the simplest and quickest soup I’ve ever made. It has exactly four main ingredients: chicken broth, canned black beans, canned tomatoes, and cooked rice. The seasonings are salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper. A can of black beans (with the liquid) and a can of tomatoes (also with the liquid) are dumped into about 6 cups of chicken broth and pureed with a hand blender. Seasonings are added to taste, the soup is allowed to simmer for a little while, some cooked rice is added for texture (not too much), and that’s it! I used homemade tortilla chips and chopped green onions as toppings, but croutons, cilantro, and/or sour cream would work well too.
- Baked apples with brown sugar. With organic, Washington-grown Granny Smith apples on sale at a local grocery store at only a dollar a pound, I remembered a childhood favorite: baked apples. I made them the way my mom had taught me: split in half lengthwise, core, fill the center with sugar (we used white sugar when I was little, but lately I’ve been using brown sugar to make baked apples), put in a baking pan with a little water on the bottom to prevent bursting and burning, and bake at 350 F until done. To be honest, I’m still tweaking my methodology, as I can’t seem to catch the right moment when the apples are just done. I’ve made several batches in the past couple of weeks and they’ve been either undercooked or overcooked. Maybe I should stop doing 3 or 4 other things while cooking – or at least learn to use the timer…