I am a morning person. I naturally rise earlier than most. I love the stillness of mornings and am thrilled by sunrises. But calling myself a morning person tends to lead to mistakes like thinking I can think about tomorrow’s lunch tomorrow morning rather than just planning and getting it ready tonight. On a groggy morning the only thing that saves me is a fridge with lots of prepped ingredients that can be assembled into different things.
Instructions if you care to duplicate this dish: stumble into kitchen. Put one cup of rice and one cup of coconut milk along with a little salt in the instant Pot. Set on high pressure for six minutes and plan for 10 minutes of natural release before opening lid. Make sure the thingamajig on top is set to seal.
Meanwhile, pull out all the spiralized veg in the fridge from the last couple of days of spring rolls. Pack the cucumbers, yellow squash and carrots in a small weck jar. Note that you are finishing off the carrots and remember that you should look for fatter carrots next time – easier to spiralize. Dress the veg with the dregs of the bottle of nuóc châm and a splash of rice vinegar. Close jar and shake.
Snip herbs on hand – mint, chives, cilantro into small container. Pour a little coconut cilantro dressing left over from the Moosewood Restaurant Table African Grain Bowl recipe into a smaller container. Slice strawberries into container.
When complete, open instant Pot and taste rice. Decide to go for a bit more salt next time. Divide rice into single serving containers while realizing you eat rice too seldom to really know what a single serving ought to be.
Go get dressed. Remember that you have neglected protein on this plate. Open a can of black beans and portion some out. Eat one bean. Decide to count on the flavors in everything else to
make up for the blandness of the beans. Decide that “the blandness of the beans” is as good a summation of bleakness as you can imagine.
At lunch, assemble plate. Realize that your coworkers are fully aware of this odd part of your life so you are free to take your plate to an empty conference room for a natural light #notsaddesklunch photo. Wonder idly if it is cheating to then eat it at your desk under the fluorescents.
Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk and Saffron – Michelligatawny
Sometimes interesting things happen when working within limitations. A couple years ago I was cooking for a sick friend with a long list of food limitations and came up with this soup. She told me it reminded her of Mulligatawny so I’ve called it after her ever since: Michelligatawny.
Recipes are like the Pirate code from Pirates of the Caribbean – more like guidelines anyway. That said, it helps to know why particular ingredients are chosen before deciding on substitutes. Most lentil soups I make are thick. They break down in the cooking process and absorb liquid – creating a stewy texture. This soup is more about the broth and so I chose French Green Lentils. They are better at holding their shape and not taking over the bowl. So if you choose a different lentil you will want to keep that in mind.
Every time I’ve served or been served a dish flavored with saffron someone will talk about how it is ‘the most expensive spice in the world. Please pretty please for me – will you cut that conversation off? It’s tedious. If you have to discuss the saffron let’s compare how much saffron you need to flavor a dish to how much you need of one of my other favorite spices, dried dill weed. Pinches versus palmfuls. Or consider all the work needed to deliver it. Saffron delivers an awful lot of flavor for all it takes to get it to our tables. Maybe just enjoy that flavor without getting wrapped up in the dollars and cents.
Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk and Saffron – Michelligatawny
one can of coconut milk
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup French Green Lentils
one cup diced onion
2 tsp finely diced or grated ginger
1/2 a tsp fresh grated turmeric
pinch of saffron
1/2 cup diced tofu
salt to taste
Rinse and cook the lentils, simmering in the chicken stock (and a pinch of salt if the stock is unsalted) until tender – 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté the onions in olive oil until soft. Add the ginger and cook through.
When the lentils are done cooking, drain and return to the pot. Add the onions and ginger along with the turmeric, saffron, coconut milk and tofu. Cook over medium heat until heated through. Taste and add salt if needed.
I feel like in January soups and salads battle it out for prominence on our plates. Salads because so many of us are looking to balance out the overindulgence of the holidays. And soups because, well, nothing is better for balancing out the cold weather. For me, soups have to win hands down. After all I can eat a salad any day of the year. But I’m not going to go for a hot bowl of lentil soup in the heat of July. I embrace soup season wholeheartedly.
This soup from the New York Times has been a staple in my kitchen since it was published in 2008. I love it for its pantry friendly ingredients list, its freezer-friendliness and its easy set and forget nature. I like to top it with toasted spiced pumpkin seeds. Or a dollop of yogurt. Or lots of cilantro. What will be your favorite garnish? Find the recipe here.
My Brazilian uncle goes by Eric, Eurico or Rico, depending on who is shouting. He has a larger than life personality (hence the shouting). And this is his signature dish. I first remember having it the morning of the day he officially joined the family by marrying my Aunt Joan. The table in their house was full of food for people to nosh on but the thing my cousins (who grew up down the street) were excited to eat was this tuna. We ate it on perfectly toasted English muffins generously spread with butter and I immediately understood why my cousins had been clamoring for it.
Ever since that day this tuna has been a mainstay in my diet. I’ll eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner or afternoon snacks. I tweaked the ingredients and proportions a bit – I don’t think Uncle Eurico uses dill by the handful.
My college roommates called it orange tuna for the color the carrots gave it. When I lived overseas I ate it on soft subway style rolls with plain salty potato chips on top. For a while I ate it in a pita with shredded lettuce, a kosher dill pickle and sliced olives. Sometimes I swap the pita out for a flour tortilla, fresh spinach and a little mustard. And on days when I feel sluggish and overindulged a spoonful of this alongside some edamame drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar let me get my energy back so all is right with the world.
Tuna Salad with Carrots and Dill*
Yield: 4 or 5 servings
2 Carrots, shredded (this is the time to use the smallest holes on your box shredder) 9 oz Tuna (preferably oil packed) 3 Scallions, minced 2 Eggs, boiled and chopped 1 Tablespoon Dried Dill, or more to taste Salt and Pepper to taste 2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
Combine carrots, tuna, scallions, and eggs and dill. Stir. Add salt and pepper to taste and enough mayonnaise hold it together.
*There is no magic proportion on these ingredients. Measuring, in this case, is strictly forbidden. Taste as you go and all will be well.