Like a lot of people, I suck when it comes to grocery shopping. I have grandiose plans of well-balanced, easily prepared dinners filled with vegetables and protein and deliciousness, and they never materialize. I cannot tell you how many nights my husband and I have peered hopelessly into our fridge, hoping for...what? Delicious Orchards in there? Instead, what we find in the freezer are egg-free waffles for our son, sweet potato fries aforementioned son CLAIMS he will eat but in fact will not, and multiple half-empty pints of ice cream. The fridge seems to have a lot of cheese and a plethora of Capri Sun juice pouches, and that's it. And yes, I have seen the story about mold in juice boxes and I say that a little mold bolsters the immune system. Maybe.
I mean, we have stuff to cook, but it all requires effort and patience. At the end of the day nobody got time for that. So we eat something with cheese melted on it and call it a day...and then feel both fat and guilty, which is a good time. As for lunch? Please. The lunches I bring to work take 3209924 years to make because I can't figure out what to bring, and then they still suck.
So when I read Mark Bittman's column about making lunch in last week's Food Section of the New York Times I was interested. Now, I should admit, I have Mark Bittman's cookbook and did not particularly enjoy it. It's very serious and sensible. There's no fun food essays, there's no pretty pictures, and it makes me feel like I have ADD. That said, I made two of the three recipes in the article and they were Dyn-O-Mite.
Now, to be fair, they were not "easy" because Mr. Bittman assumes I am not a pig and have leftover vegetables and cooked chicken at my disposal, and I don't. I mean, I AM a pig. I have cheddar cheese and Schweppes Ginger Ale and possibly some Lake Champlain caramels. And three billion vats of the melted plasticine that are Danimals.
So I bought two chickens and a ton of veggies, which completely defeats the purpose of using leftovers, but be quiet. I roasted the chickens using the old Joy of Cooking recipe-- basically, heat up the oven to 425 degrees or so, coat chickens in olive oil, salt and pepper and then stick something inside (I did a halved lemon and mashed garlic) and then throw them in, lowering the heat to 350. Cook 20 minutes per pound and use a damn meat thermometer to make sure you don't kill your loved ones (165 degrees). Baste every twenty minutes or never, or all the time, if you have OCD.
Now, see, I had one chicken for a nice dinner, and one to make the damn lunch thing. Chicken 1 was dinner Labor Day night. I served it with steamed green beans and asparagus tossed in a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper, and then some sauteed yellow squash and onions (they don't taste good unless they're burned. Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Snootbasket, I meant CARAMELIZED).
The leftover veggies, plus the meat from Chicken 2, went into Mr. Bittman's Escabeche Salad:
True, it reeks of garlic, but it is really good-- the vinaigrette is not too overwhelming and goes well with the vegetables. Plus, it's a way for me to eat vegetables and actually enjoy them because they are coated in something tangy. NO YOU ARE.
So fresh from that triumph, I embarked on the Cold Sesame Noodles.
One note. I bought a can of cheapo tahini that had one of those metal ring pulls, which promptly flew across the kitchen. I then had to figure out how the hell to get the goddam tahini out of the can, because my can opener was totally ineffective. Like an ape, I was. It didn't help that I decided to make this ten minutes before I had to go to work-- my husband had to work, my son had no school, and I was tag-teaming with my husband to race out the door once he got home. My poor kid kept on saying plaintively, "Mama? You said you'd draw Darth Maul for me."
Eventually, with much cursing and sweating, I managed to get this all tupped up and run out the door only looking a little like a Hobo. Go me. Plus, I began the infinitely wearisome job of drawing Darth Maul's head. Do you know how many black squiggles and horns that man has? My God.
The noodles were great. Spicy, a little peanut-y, a little whatever tahini tastes like-y, and filled with very crunchy vegetables. I used very quickly steamed snow peas, red pepper, and these grim shredded carrots we buy because they are the only vegetables my son will eat. We ate them for dinner instead of lunch, just because I am spiteful that way.
So I guess there's something to be said for sensible recipes, huh?