Archives for posts with tag: healthy lunch meat chronicles

How to turn a sandwich into a $12 meal was, I think, the project of the fern bars of the 1970s. Put it on a croissant and add avocado, voila, something not necessarily good to eat but expensive.

Restaurants are still making money on the very composed sandwich, and I fall for one every once in a while. Last fall it was the roasted carrots, goat cheese and tapenade on black sesame bread I ganked from Alice’s Tea Cup in Manhattan (who has a mouthwateringly creative sammie menu).

I came across another staggering composed sandwich the other day, and I am making dahl to recreate it. Leftover dahl will be part of my new Mediterranean diet regime of fish, fish, fish, and beans and greens. A recent New England Journal of Medicine study showed the Mediterranean diet reduces stroke and heart attack by 30 per cent. I remember an awesome dish of lentil salad with grilled salmon served at the Hay Adams Hotel in D.C. The other thing lentil salad was made for is cantalope. Schlurp.

So this is what the Satellite Coffee Shop up on Louisiana is serving. I forget what they call it. It’s on a ciabatta:

Smashed garbanzos,
artichoke hearts,
and red bell pepper.

It’s taking me a while to get it together. I am making the delicious Bangladeshi dahl from the Coriander Club Cookbook of Spitalfields City Farm. Part of the pleasure is shopping for bargain spices at the Vitamin Cottage, where I got two or three pounds of turmeric for like 75 cents. If you need any, let me know. I have repackaged in it in clean old olive bottles and I have plenty for you. Ditto ground coriander which, along with yellow lentils from the Asian grocery (another four pounds for 75 cents), plus some soaked chickpeas which can only be cooked in under three days at this altitude in a pressure cooker will be cooked together with a bucket of onion and garlic, and finished with more of same, plus Paspiron. Which I don’t have yet, and which I should get. It’s a five seed combo. Wiki calls it panch poron.

Panch poron or paspiron: fenugreek seed, nigella seed, cumin seed, black mustard seed and fennel seed in equal parts.

Dahl may not be precisely Mediterranean, but it is one of the sublime creations of beans which add to our health. The Bengali ladies call for jalapenos, which I omit. This dahl will be my healthy lunch meat for the week.

For the tapenade, I’m using a can of Trader Joe green olives and white figs for this recipe. It’s delicious — stinky and unctuous, like you want it to be — with canned black olives and I’ma see how it goes with sourer green ones.

Pesto I got in a plastic thing at Trader Joe (which has all kinds of cute stuff but no actual dried beans, which is annoying) along with frozen artichoke hearts I will be cooking and marinating in lemon/garlic vinaigrette.

Eliminating the mozz. Looking forward to leftover dahl with leftover cold garlicky pork, and one of those broccoli slaw bag salads I am doting upon these days. Also part of the greens ‘n’ beans regime, my darling Sam Giancana’s last supper, which while it wasn’t so good for Sam’s health, is the all time winner in the beans ‘n’ greens category. Using bulk Italian sausage from Keller’s Farm Store. Kiss me, Guido.

What’s good to eat Thanksgiving week is favorite no-cook food, and lite faves. I’m getting fresh home style cottage cheese from the supermercado, maybe mix with shredded carrots, capers, scallions and maybe not. I also scored a deal on mangoes and papaya chunks.

My favorite peanut butter for grownups sandwich, the Tineka,  my candidate for one of the best sammies of all time,  from Cafe Lula in Chicago. It is electrifying with chili paste, sweet soy sauce, cukes, red onion and sprouts.

Ima cook one big meal, aside from the turkey one, and eat it all week, including Ottolenghi’s sweet slaw (with lime, papaya and mango, eat your heart out).

Roast pork shall be eaten hot, cold, shredded, stirfried or nuked until it’s gone. I am lucky to love fruit and eat a bunch of it, clementines and honey crisp apples now. Hummus for healthy lunches.
I think maybe after the turkey Ima go to Costco, get a crate of mangoes and make mangoneada popsicles. The supermercado has the sekrit ingredient, chamoy sauce.

Ottolenghi is the man.

Yoram Ottolenghi, the fusion chef, right, with head chef Sami Tamimi.

He’s got sweet potatoes, my go-to food. He’s got sweet potato salad, a recipe for which that didn’t send me screaming to the raw green crunchy purlieus. He’s got a luncheon salad, my very favorite kind, of cooked vegetables with fruit. He’s got that awesome fruit and balsamico thing going — you remember those delicious desserts of golden balsamic vinegar on strawberries with a touch of fresh cracked pepper? And the immortal fresh fig, balsamic, mint, pepper, hazelnuts?

Finally, he’s one of the two chefs I’ve ever run into who took the coarse indigenous fusion cuisines — think goat, butchered into 5-inch cubes from head to tail, port to starboard — with which they grew up and turned it into something not just 100 per cent better but a true incarnation of melting pot culture. The other one is Steven Raichlen, who single-handedly created a Caribbean/Cuban/central American/Florida cracker cuisine in Miami Spice. What Raichlen did for guava cheesecake, or cole slaw with carambola and Scotch effin’ bonnet pepper, Ottolenghi is doing with the many cuisines of his native Jerusalem.

Further he has a column for The Guardian called The New Vegetarian — good news for all who claim that sometimes healthy lunch meat is a salad —  in which he brings all that and his London restaurateur polish to the table. They are gathered in his Brit best seller, Plenty.

I am making the sweet potato fig salad, and I am making it with my homegrown Chimayo chiles and local figgies. I am very excited.

This picture is from the Guardian piece.

Next up, his celery salad with soft-boiled egg. Celery floats. my. boat. And he’s got a kohlrabi salad for winter to die for.

I  could eat sandwiches and nothing else for the rest of my life. This includes tea sandwiches and canapes. One of my most treasured tearout recipes, and the only remnant I know of of Rosie O’Donnell’s magazine, was fanciful and delicious kids’ lunchbox recipes.*

There are dozens of blogs on bento box lunches for kids which  a.) are terrifying in their samurai tiger momness and b.) lack sandwiches and c.)  are therefore inherently boring. Terrifying and boring is not my bag. It’s pretty much the definition of hell and in-laws, as far as I can make out.

The sandwich of all sandwiches is of course, Ernest Matthew Mickler‘s potato chip sandwich, in White Trash Cooking: “Pardie Tickette says: ‘Wash it down with a Pepsi, it’s some good!'”

The three best sandwiches I know of carry a heavy cargo of vegetables. Iceberg lettuce has its delights, basically, I think, in a wedge under homemade Iowa Maytag blue cheese dressing, but I don’t like it in sandwiches. Even shredded in tacos. (I have discussed the transcendent virtues of Sammy Gugino’s cabbage slaw for fish tacos qua Mexican cole slaw. I think pretty much every taco would be better with Sammy’s fish taco slaw instead of limp iceberg.)

I once had a discussion over at LiveJournal on the very best sandwiches of all time. The very best were concocted by a Sinophile from New Orleans, who added mint or coriander to every sandwich as a matter of principle — learned, I think I recall, from her shrimp-fishing Vietnamese neighbors on the bayou.

You know that banh mi sandwiches, with French bread, Vietnamese pickled vegetables and grilled meat or pate, the aforementioned mint or coriander, are the best sandwiches in the universe.

Here is Gourmet magazine’s recipe for a chicken and liverwurst banh mi:

Ruth Cousineau’s Vietnamese Chicken Sandwich

1/2 pound daikon, peeled

1 carrot, peeled

1/2 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)

1 tablespoon sugar

1 (24-inch) soft baguette

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1/4 pound liverwurst

2 fresh jalapeños, thinly sliced

1/2 sweet onion, cut into 1/4-inch rings

3/4 cup packed cilantro sprigs

2 cooked chicken breasts from a rotisserie chicken, thinly sliced

Lettuce leaves

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Shred daikon and carrot in a food processor fitted with medium shredding disk. Stir together vinegar, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and toss with shredded vegetables. Let slaw stand, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat baguette on rack in oven until crusty, about 5 minutes. Cut off and discard round ends, then split baguette.

Mix together oil, fish sauce, and soy sauce and brush on cut sides of bread. Spread liverwurst on bottom layer of bread and top with chiles, onion, and cilantro.

Drain slaw in a colander.

Arrange chicken, slaw, and lettuce on cilantro. Spread top layer of bread with mayonnaise and cut sandwich crosswise into fourths.

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Aside from the incredibly delicious daikon/carrot slaw, and the combination of liverwurst and chicken the very idea of which makes me swoon, I think the take-away genius technique of this recipe is the spreading of the bread with the oil/fish sauce/soy sauce mixture. That could make any sandwich worth eating,  even a scaled-back, budget, skinny, or semi-vegetarian banh mi consisting just of slaw, coriander, and fish sauce. Mmmmm.

I do believe the flavoring on the spread, and the care with which the spread is taken to the very edge of the bread, and beyond, is the secret of a good sandwich. Just as anchovy butter is the real secret of every tea sandwich you have ever eaten, whether you know it or not, and whether or not you like anchovy, another just-let-me-die-now sekrit spread is miso mayonnaise. Oh god.’s_Relish

Mrs. Grieder of the famous Gay Head luncheonette in Martha’s Vineyard wouldn’t let anybody else make her lobster rolls, according to Louise Tate King. The secret was — aside from buckets of hour-old lobster — carefully spreading the hot dog roll to its edge with butter, and grilling it very slowly. Add lots of finely minced celery, and a touch of grated onion if you’re feeling less Puritan, mayo, and the lobster.

Almost as delicious are my two candidates for Healthy Lunch Meat, one from the late Griffin Market, at 28th and P in Georgetown, and one I ganked from the over-explanatory food-trendy menu at Cafe Lula in Chicago.

The late, great Griffin Market in D. C..

The Griffin Market one isn’t particularly calorie- or budget-conscious, so I save it for very special occasions. The Cafe Lula one I save to eat until there are real tomatoes ripening on the vine. It’s a summer sammie.

Griffin Market Special

Two slices wheat bread

Russian dressing (mayo, catsup, sweet pickle relish)

Sliced avocado

Havarti cheese

Smoked turkey


Spread one slice with Russian. Layer on avocado (salt and pepper), thinly sliced Havarti, smoked turkey, sprouts. Cover with slice two, cut into triangles, and enjoy.

Cafe Lula Tineka Sandwich

Two slices wheat bread

Crunchy peanut butter

Sambal bajak (Indonesian chili relish)

Sweet soy sauce (not optional, no subsitutes)

English cucumber

Red onion

Vine-ripened tomato


Spread one slice with peanut butter, a scant 1/4-inch. Spread 1/8 teaspoon sambal over peanut butter — and do not flatter yourself, Jalapeno Boy, that you’re bigger than sambal.

Drizzle a modicum of sweet soy sauce over.

Add cucumber, red onion, tomato and sprouts (I like “spicy sprouts”) — I like my veg thinly sliced up to three layers, rather than one layer of chunky. Awesome sauce, thy name is tineka sandwich.

I’m still working on the recipe I ganked from Alice’s Tea Cup , for a sandwich of cumin-roasted carrots, olive tapenade and goat cheese on black sesame semolina bread. It is quite the project, but roasted carrots and tapenade together are a ravishing combination, to the eye and to the palate.


*This is from a 2002 post of mine elsewhere. Rosie magazine kids’ lunch recipes:
Mama Mia Lunch Box
make-your-own pepperoni pitzas
green beans with creamy parmesan dip
orange quarters
lemonade juice box

Pitza Kit
2 T thick pitza sauce
2 mini (4 in.) whole-wheat pita breads
2 heaping T shredded pizza-cheese blend
8 thin slices pepperoni
(from 3.5 oz.) pkg

Pitza Kit:
Pack sauce in container with lid. Pack in insulated lunch box with ice pack, along with other kit ingredients, each wrapped separately. Spread 1 Tbsp sauce over each pita; top with cheese and pepperoni.

Green Beans with Creamy Parmesan Dip

1/4 c + 1 Tbsp light sour cream
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp each olive oil and 82 % less fat mayonnaise
1 1/2 t cider vinegar
1 t soy sauce
1/4 t sugar

4 each green beans and yellow wax beans, cooked until crisp tender, drained, cooled

Dip. In mini food processor, blend all ingredients until thick an creamy. Makes about 2/3 cup dip, enough for 3 servings. (Can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

Place 3 Tbsp dip into small plastic container with lid. Pack in insulated etc.

Finger-Lickin’ Lunch Box

oven-fried chicken drum sticks
macaroni and cheddar cheese salad
raspberry applesauce cup
frozen portable yoghurt stick

Oven Fried Chicken Drumsticks
8 drumsticks (2 1/2 lbs.)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 tsp garlic flavored hot red pepper sauce
non-stick cooking spray
1 box extra crispy coating mix for chix (4.2 oz.)
1/4 c grated Parmesan

In 1-gallon resealable plastic food storage bag, combine chicken, buttermilk, and pepper sauce; seal bag. Refrig several hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 400. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Coat foil with spray. In bowl, stir together coating mix and cheese. Drain chix; coat with coating mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet.
Bake 20 mins; turn over. Bake 20 mins or until crispy and chicken is cooked through. (Can be refrig for up to 2 days.) Pack in insulated lunch box with ice pack.

Macaroni and Cheddar Cheese Salad
1/3 c rotelle (wagon-wheel shaped pasta)
1/2 oz yellow cheddar cheese, cut into small dice
2 Tbsp each finely diced seeded plum tomato and celery
1 1/2 tbsp frozen green peas, thawed under running water and drained
1 Tbsp each 82 % less fat mayo and light sour cream
2 tsp each milk and sweet pickle relish
1/4 t yellow mustard (DO NOT OMIT!!!!)

Cook pasta following package directions; drain in colander. Rinse under cold water, drain. In bowl, toss pasta with remaining ingreds until evenly coated. Can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated. Pack in insulated etc.

Hippie Lunch Box

strawberry banana smoothie
homemade granola bars
mozarella-cheddar string cheese
portable pudding stick

Strawberry Banana Smoothie
1 small ripe banana, cut up
1 8 oz. container low-fat strawberry-banana yoghurt
1/2 c sliced strawberries, hulled and rinsed (FROZEN!!!!!!)
1 t honey or to taste
1 c ice cubes, crushed if large

Place all ingredients in blender. Process until thick and smooth. Pour into 2-cup plastic drinking cup with tight-fitting lid and built in straw. Refrig until ready to pack in lunch box. Pack in insulated etc.

Homemade Granola Bars
Nonstick cooking spray
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cook)
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
3/4 cups each dried cranberries, finely diced dried apricots, and raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 c toasted wheat germ
1/3 c packed light brown sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325. Line a 13 by 9 by 2 in baking pan with foil, extending foil 2 in beyond each short side of the pan; lightly coat foil with cooking spray. In large bowl, combine all ingreds for bars until evenly moistened and blended. Spoon granola mixture into prepared baking pan; firmly press mixture to form compact, even layer.
BAke for 45 minutes, turning pan 180 degrees on over rack once, halfway through baking, or until top is golden brown. L:et bar cool in pan on wire rack.
Carefully remove bar from baking pan by lifting ends of aluminum foil; carfefully peel off foil from bottom of bar. Transfer bar to cutting board. Cut bar lengthwise into 6 long strips; cut each strip cross-wise into 4 bars. (Can be stored in air tight container at room temp for up to 3 days.)

‘Souper Stickwich’ Lunch Box

creamy tomato soup
ham and cheese stickwiches
fruited gelatin cup
raisin snack box
yoghurt drink

Creamy Tomato Soup
This soup is delicious hot or cold.
1 lb ripe tomatoes, in small chunks
1 1/2 cups canned vegetable broth
1/3 c each finely chopped onion and celery
1/4 c tomato paste
2 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1 tsp each soy sauce and sugar [DO NOT OMIT!!!!!!]
Dash hot red pepper sauce
1/4 c light sour cream

In a medium saucepan, bring all ingreds except sour cream, to a boil stirring to blend tomato paste into broth. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover. Simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion and celery are tender. Let cool slightly. Transfer mixture to blender; add sour cream. Puree until smooth. Fill small thermos (1 cup) with some hot soup, or chill soup overnight and serve cold.

Ham and Cheese Stickwiches
4 very thin slices Virginia ham
4 very thin slices Muenster cheese
2 (8-in. long) thick cheese straws or plain or cheddar bread sticks

On work surface, arrange 1 slice ham and 1 slice cheese, both slices lengthwise and overlapping, so combination slice is about 5 inches long. Top with another 1 slice each ham and cheese, putting ham over bottom cheese slice and cheese over bottom ham slice. Place one straw at bottom left edge of stack on diagonal; roll stack around straw. Wrap in plastic. Repeat with remaining ham, cheese, and straw. Pack in insulated etc.

What’s Up, Doc? Lunch Box

veggies with cream cheese dip
sesame bagel crisps
chocolate-vanilla swirl pudding cup
wild cherry juice drink pouch

Veggies with Cream Cheese Dip
1 (3 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp light sour cream
1/4 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp each sliced scallion and chopped parsley

Veggie Dippers (choose your child’s favorites)
2 cups celery sticks, grape tomatoes, broccoli florets, carrot sticks, bell pepper strips, cucumber slices, zucchini spears

Dip: In mini food processor, blend cheese, sour cream and garlic. Add scallion and parsley; pulse 3 or 4 times to blend. Scrape into 2 small containers; refrig. Divide veg dippers into two containers. Pack 1 container dippers and 1 container dip in insulated, etc.

Kids’ Club Lunch Box
pb&j banana club sandwich
snack-size bag baby carrots
pretzel sticks
v-8 splash fruit medley juice box

PB&J Banana Club Sandwich
3 slices cinnamon-raisin bread
2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
2 tsp raspberry jam
1/2 banana, sliced
1 Tbsp Nutella (hazelnut spread)

On one bread slice, spread 1 T peanut butter evenly, all the way to the edge; spread with jam. Spread the remaining peanut butter on second slice of bread; top with banana slices, then spread evenly with Nutella. Place on top of peanut-butter and jam slice, banana side up. Top with remaining bread slice for triple-decker sandwich. With a serrated knife, cut sandwich into quarters. Wrap in foil. Pack in insulated, etc.

Gimme Five Lunch Box

tuna “handwiches”
crisp vegetable sticks (Terra Stix)
white chocolate-dipped fruit

Tuna “Handwiches”
1 (3 oz.) can solid-white tuna in water or oil, drained
3 Tbsp 82 % less fat mayo
1 Tbsp each finely diced celery and sweet pickle relish
2 tsp minced red onion
pinch each s + p
4 large slices 10-grain whole wheat bread (each slice about 4 1/2 x 4 1/4 in), toasted
Hand-shaped cutter (4 1/2 x 4 in)
In a small bowl, mash tuna, 2 T mayo, celery, relish, onion, s + p.
Cut toasted bread into “hands” with cutter; save trimmings for snacking.
On work surface, line up 2 toast hands as left hands, 2 others as right hands. Spread each hand with the remaining mayo (3/4 t per hand). Spread tuna over left hands. Top with right hands. Gently press together. Place handwiches on paper plates; wrap. Pack in insulated etc.

White Chocolate-Dipped Fruit
1 (8 oz) microwavable carton creamy white shell coating (Dulci frutta)
2 large strawberries, preferrably with stems, rinsed, dried
3 navel orange segments
2 clusters green seedless grapes (about 4 grapes per cluster), rinsed, dried

Open coating carton. Microwave on medium power 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds with rubber spatula until melted and smooth. Dip fruit into coating halfway, letting excess drip back into container. Place on waxed paper; let stand until hardened, about 15 minutes. (Dipped fruit can be refrig up to 2 days.) Let remaining coating cool and harden in container; cover with lid (can be remelted and used for more dipping). Pack dipped fruit in shallow 2 cup plastic container with tight-fitting lid. Pack in insulated, etc.

Wrap Star Lunch Box

bbq turkey and cheese wrap
carrot-currant slaw
cocoa rice cereal treats
apple juice box

BBQ Turkey and Cheese Wrap
1 (10-in.) tomato-flavored flour tortilla or sandwich wrap, softened according to directions
1 Tbsp each BBQ sauce and 82 % less fat mayo
1 large green-leaf lettuce leaf, center core removed
2 thin slices deli turkey breast
2 very thin slices tomato
2 slices American cheese [NOTTTTTT!!!!]
Place tortilla flat. Spoon mayo and BBQ sauce onto center. Spread to cover tortilla. Top with lettuce. Place turkey in center, leaving 1 1/2 in. border around the edge. Layer on tomato and cheese. Bring tortilla edge closest to you up and over filling to enclose. Fold sides in; roll up, burrito style.
Wrap in waxed paper. Cut in half diagonally. Wrap halves (keep in paper) tightly in plastic wrap. (Can be made 1 day ahead and refrig.) Pack in insulated, etc.

Carrot-Currant Slaw
1 carrot, peeled, shredded
1/2 small Golden Delicious apple, cored, coarsely shredded
2 Tbsp each dried zante currants and 82% less fat mayo
1 tsp each distilled white vinegar and sugar [DO NOT OMIT!!!!]

Mix ingredients. Pack in plastic container (can make 2 days ahead). Pack in insulated, etc.

Cocoa Rice Cereal Treats

Nonstick cooking spray
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 (10-oz) bag marshmallows
1/2 c creamy peanut butter
1 t vanilla extract
6 cups toasted cocoa-flavored rice cereal
1/2 cup min candy-coated chocolate baking bits (M&Ms)
Line 13 x 9 x 2 in. baking pan with foil, extending foil 2 in. beyond each short side; coat with cooking spray.
In a 6-quart pot, melt butter over low heat. Stir in marshmallows until almost melted. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla until blended and smooth. Stir in cereal until evenly coated.
Press marshmallow mixture into pan. Sprinkle with bits; press down.
Let cool. Cut into 24 squares. Store up to 1 week in air tight container.

I am waiting for my heirloom native American O’odham keli baso melon to ripen. I sniff it every day. I have no way of knowing when it is going to be ripe, since I’ve never seen one before. I think it’s supposed to be yellow outside. The meat is exceptionally sweet and is white. It’s grown in the desert by the O’odham Indians of Arizona, and I got the seed from Native Seed/Search.

Which brings us to our healthy lunch meat recipe for the day — lentils. People mostly think of hot lentil soup as something for a winter lunch. I remember once, however, eating a cold lentil salad with a piece of grilled teriyaki salmon on top of it, with lots of nice fresh chervil at the Hay Adams Hotel in D.C.. Lentil salad is also absolutely unsurpassably delicious, seriously, one of the top — twenty, let’s say — eats when served with melon. Any kind, slightly cooler than room temp.

The secret of lentil salad, as I’m sure you know, is the secret of potato salad. Season it when warm. (Don’t put mayonnaise or hard-boiled eggs on hot potatoes, but do sprinkle it with chicken broth, or add your vinaigrette if that’s how you’re dressing the salad, and the onions. Add the egg-based stuff when it’s cool.

(You’d also do the same with green bean salad, or chard with pine nuts and white raisins, leaving out the vinegar or the lemon juice which would discolor it, until serving time.)

I have consulted the great connoisseuses of lentil salad — Elizabeth David (Summer Cooking), Claudia Roden (A Book of Middle Eastern Food) and Deborah Madison (Greens).  Roden and Madison both advise a lemon vinaigrette for lentil salad, which is my preference too. Only Madison calls for lemon zest in the vinaigrette, and for this she deserves a point. Greens, her masterwork, suffers from a certain vegetarian/Buddhist rococo touch, as if loading on the ingredients made up for lack of meat. Madison’s lentil salad has all kinds of Stuff in it, including mint, roast peppers and feta cheese. None of those strike me as specially ‘licious. David’s awesome austere lentil salad is seasoned warm simply with onion and olive oil and garnished with hard-boiled eggs, a perfect taste and visual counterpoint to the lentils.

Claudia Roden, a Sephardic Jew expelled from Egypt by Nasser, recreated a whole civilization in exile with her classic, and revolutionary cookbook.

My favorite lentil salad, for serving  with either grilled salmon or cool melon, has carrots in it, because their sweet smoothness and orange color add pleasure. And it’s dressed warm with something like Roden’s lemon vinaigrette. Since I’m on a lemon-zest-in-everything mission, I add the zest to:

Claudia Roden’s Lentil Salad

1/2 cup lentils, soaked overnight if necessary (check package directions)


3 T finely chopped parsley


7-8 T olive oil

Juice of 1 1/2-2 lemons

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed [she says they’re optional; I don’t think so]

Black pepper

1/2 t ground coriander or cumin [optional]

Use the large, dark brown lentils for this salad. Drain them after soaking, and boil them in a half-covered pan in fresh water until barely tender. This will take 3/4 to 1 1/2 hours. [Or get yourself a pressure cooker and liberate yourself from bean cooking times.] A pressure cooker [yeah, Claudia!] will reduce the cooking time to between 10 and 20 minutes, but care must be taken not to overcook the lentils. Add salt only toward the end of cooking time. Drain well.

Mix the dressing ingredients and pour over the lentils while still quite hot. Stir in parsley, and arrange in a serving dish.

A Book of Middle Eastern Cooking

But it would be good in the Elizabeth David version too. I bet she had hers with a few well-chosen bottles of rose.

I am also going to be making Armenian Lentil Soup, which uses fruit in a savory mixture, a combination that sends me. It has eggplant in it too. Seems to be a lot of them around lately.

Sam Cooke – You Send Me

Summertime, and the less Mama cooks, the happier everybody is. Last night, for dinner, I had mango sherbet and honey Dijon almonds from Walgreen’s. Yeah, baby.

Today I’m back to more or less real food. Surimi, to be precise. Louis Kemp brand bought in a four-pack from Costco. They say not to freeze it. I freeze it.

The Japanese have long worked many ways to extract different kinds of food from the sea and soybeans, there being not a lot of arable land in Japan. One of the things they’ve come up with is surimi, a paste made of pollock which is then flavored with artificial crab or lobster flavorings and formed into crab-like and lobster-like textures. It’s delicious, cheap, and low-fat. The Costco packages have recipes on them  that sound delicious for somebody who feels like turning on the stove.

I prefer not to.

Hence, insta-crab salad for an East Coast girl far away from home, dreaming of Vineyard lobster rolls. The key is celery, lots of it, and buttered grilled hot dog rolls. Louise Tate King, the goddess of all food Vineyard style, calls for 1/2 cup celery per two cups lobster per Mrs. Grieder’s Gay Head luncheonette formula. Lemon juice, a half cup of mayo and a touch of curry powder complete Mrs. Grieder’s awesome minimalist recipe. You may add grated onion as you please.

I lightened 1/4 cup mayo with 1/4 cup yogurt, added Tabasco and the absolutely crucial lemon juice and let the curry powder and the grilled hot dog rolls go. Maybe next time. Lots of really good organic celery makes this special.

Louis Kemp Crab Delites, aka surimi.

We love Louise Tate King here at the Rancho Atomico not least for the wonderful tribute she pays to the Portuguese, who are the world’s greatest sailors and whose delicious food can be found in ports the world over. The Martha’s Vineyard Cookbook has recipes for Holy Ghost Soup,  Portuguese sweet bread, linguica concoctions and the immortal Caldo Verde kale soup which probably kept the Portuguese sailors’ teeth anchored while all the limeys’ teeth fell out. In addition, there are ancient New England recipes and lore, including one of my favorites — it reminded me of the civil rights hero John Lewis’ preaching to the chickens as a boy — of an eccentric New England spinster who loved her chickens and wrote poems to them.

All this you can get for one cent off Amazon. Bawk BAAAAWWWK.

Here is the Homesick Texan’s Texas caviar I talk about all the time. She’s really good with assertive, balanced flavors.

Texas caviar with the first fruits of my heirloom Chimayo chile, which I am drying per Laura Hudson’s instructions at Mas du Diable.

At this altitude (Macondo is the other mile-high city >:-() cooking beans is something that pretty much does not occur. I don’t know how the millions of Mexis here do it — and they do do it, but me I never could get them cooked in under three days. So I got a pressure cooker and they’re cooked to perfection in 10 minutes. I got the one recommended by Cooks’ Magazine, the Fagor Splendid 6-quart pressure cooker.

I always feared pressure cookers but that was stupid. Soak beans overnight, have them cooked in 10 minutes = instant bean-based soup, chili, humus, what have you, much less expensively than canned beans, and with more delicious beans, too. I cook a pound of dried whatever — the one$ from the food coop are, in fact, prettier and ta$tier — and stick half in the freezer. There’s nothing more delicious for dinner than Hoppin’ John, if you’re wondering what to do with extra black eyed peas.

My other Healthy Lunch Meat Chronicle discovery was at the prepared food cold case in the local hippie dippie food coop. They call it Burmese Crunchy Ginger Salad, but Uncle Google tells me the Burmese call it gin thoke.

My name is Jeannette, and I’m a crunchaholic. Honest to God, I need to crunch at least every other day or there’ll be hell. to. pay. As in, sleepwalk to the 7-11 in my footed pajamas and rifle the potato chip rack in my sleep, awakening with a circle of Cheeto-colored salt around my lips that can’t be accounted for. Weight Watchers and Lean Cuisine could make you want to slit your wrists mainly for the LACK OF CRUNCH.

Gin thoke to the rescue. There are several recipes for it on the internets. The ingredient list from the Fante Se hippies who make it is as follows:

Here’s one with tomato and sesame with chick pea flour sprinkled over it:

And one with toasted chickpeas as part of the crunchies, as well as toasted chick pea flour, and not as nummy a fish sauce/lime dressing as most:

This one is my favorite so far, with sauteed dried lima beans and Napa cabbage:

The Fanta Se hippie gin thoke comes with the ginger and jalapeno nestled on the very finely shredded cabbage, with the sauce in a little lidded cup and the crunchies in their own baggie. I have to say, there is nothing, nothing, like crisp sizzled thin slices of garlic, carefully drained. Something I was making called for a garnish of these and I acquiesced to what seemed like another eon of labor just for decoration.

But no. Crunch Nirvana.

So any version of gin thoke that goes down here at the Rancho Atomico will haz garlic AND shallots, crisp fried. The peanuts, coconut and shrimp flakes are keepers too. The crisply fried yellow split peas are hilarious and absolutely delicious. Those Burmese!

I wonder what the toasted garbanzo flour is all about? I have some.  Maybe I’ll try it. I think I’ll try toasted chickpeas and tomatoes too.

But this week it’s Texas caviar, mmmm hmmmm.

Doing foodie research lately into the influence of Edward Espe Brown and the San Francisco Zen Center (Tassajara cookbooks, Green Gulch Farm, Greens restaurant) on Alice Waters and the food revolution. Right now tracing the ancestry of recipes, to see the bloodlines, has me confecting one myself.

Offal is one of the great healthful and inexpensive meats. On today’s march, I am going to be cooking me a potful of tripe a la Paul Bertolli, Alice Waters’ second influential chef (the first being Jeremiah Tower).

Bertolli’s recipe in Chez Panisse Cooking is the best ever tripe recipe, after Jane Grigson’s in Good Things, Bertolli’s in a long-simmered minimalist tomato sauce, to offset what tripe does to a sauce, and Grigson’s French dish, Tripe de Gourin aux pruneaux, baked for hours with a bucket of shallots, carrots, prunes, thyme and butter, one of God’s gifts to the world. Yum. O.

Good Things, for its adventurous but unpretentious palate, its arrangement by chapters of Grigson’s favorite ingredients — Prunes, Carrots, Celery — is, I think I am now after 30 years prepared to assert, the best cook book of all time. A protege of Elizabeth David, who revolutionized British cooking in the early 1950s, when food was still rationed, Grigson was also a translator and the wife of the poet Geoffrey Grigson.

Jane Grigson, with the publication of English Food in 1974 set off the heirloom growers, locavore movement in Britain. In one of my favorite blogs, Neil Cooks Grigson, a young PhD. postgrad is doughtily cooking his way through English Food.

Jane Grigson, food hero.

But there are few sustained contemplations of pork neck bones. Not precisely offal but deeply inspiring and very cheap. Googling, I find mostly Kentucky mountain folks longing for home with their recipes for pork neck bones and poke sallit. Delicious, I have no doubt. In her early and authoritative The Art of Charcuterie, Grigson has a whole chapter called “Extremities”, with at least three recipes apiece for ears, tails, brains, tongues, heads, and feets of pork. But no neck bones.

But me, I am thinking, come fall and cooler weather, of browning them in the oven. Then making a Shanghai beef noodle flavor broth, with wine, soy sauce, star anise, fresh  ginger, scallions, orange peel. Then strain, defatten, pick off the meat, and serving boiling hot over cooked noodles, sliced kielbasa, cilantro, scallions, sizzled brown garlic slices, garnished with those outrageous pickled mustard greens. Bones to the dog nieces next door, Olivia and Maisie.

Mmmm hmmm. Mmmm hmmm.

Lunch. Texas caviar awaiting its homemade pita chips.

Dinner. The first hors d’oeuvre in Elizabeth David‘s Summer Cooking, a work of genius.
A.) I was way too hungry to style this properly. B.) Eggs for dinner only if you have two dozen farm-laid ones given by friends.

Next up, omega threes per the really stinky French healthy lunch meat, anchoaide de Croze, which is even less photogenic.

I wouldn’t say meatless is cheap. The fresh ingredients for the Texas caviar, the olives, radishes, French bread, cultured butter and some other non-meat groceries ran me nearly $60 at Whole Paycheck. But both are meals I can have a couple of times — let’s say they’re six meals. I really should work out the financials. Next year in Jerusalem.

Nothing I’ve eaten lately falls under the cuisine dolce far niente rubric. Except that really excellent, sublime, actually, dinner of mango sherbet and honey-roasted almonds on a day I didn’t feel like cooking. Mmmm.

This is my quest, for budget, health and happiness, in 2012. I don’t want to fall back on purchased lunch meat or leftovers, but rather to have something special for lunch, with an emphasis on omega threes and greens. The previous fallback has been home-roasted org turkey breast, which is very easy and which I’m very fond of, but which can be pricey and less greeny and fishy than variety suggests.

So far we have had

  • home-made Spam (Fannie Farmer‘s ham loaf with Costco ham ground at home and frozen in 1 lb. packages),
  • ditto salmon loaf (not cheap, but better and cheaper than the traditional canned salmon, with frozen wild-caught filets: I need to investigate Costco’s farm-raised filets),
  • home-brined tongue
  • ricotta spinach pie (>:-P)
  • very garlicky hummus made in 10-minutes with beans soaked overnight and cooked in the pressure cooker, served with demi-peeled cucumber dice
  • Cafe Lula’s awesome peanut butter, sambal, sprouts, cukes, and when in season, tomato Tineka sandwich,
  • chick pea and lentil dal, with Basmati rice, broccolli, and tamarind-date chutney, which may be the perfect vegan meal…except for the quantities of CLARIFIED BUTTER in the dal
  • Fergus Henderson‘s lima bean/cauli/leek salad with lemon/garlic vinaigrette
  • and etc.

Goals have been to steer away from cholesterol and nitrates. (Successful: I had a slice of bacon about two months ago and I nearly passed out. WOW.) And to up fish and greens. (Remind me to add sardines, smoked, in oil, to my grocery list. Licious.)

The least successful of the purpose-built for lunch dishes was the ghastly ricotta-spinach pie, which was also too ugly to want. Given two dozen farm-laid eggs two generous friends gave me, I splurged choles on a frittata with a ton of Parm and broccolli rabe, which is possibly among the best leftovers on the planet and full of greens.

Some of my favorite greens ingestion methods are

  • Glory brand canned collards, nuked for lunch, with Vidalia onion chopped on top
  • a bag of defrosted frozen spinach mixed into a nutmeggy, garlicky turkey/pork/beef loaf
  • beans and greens, like chard in pureed white bean soup, or escarole sauteed with garlic and white canellinis and, finally,
  • a huge veg soup, tons of celery, carrot, onion, beans, thyme with a bunch of kale in chiffonade.

A big veg soup, with beefy stock and tomato and a few beans with lots of veg makes a very satisfying light hot cheap lunch. As the Asians know. Salad I find disheartening for lunch.

I have re-invested in this cookbook, which I deacquisitioned two moves ago, because as I recall she has great menus, good recipes for cold green soups and summery picnic dishes for keeping in the fridge, and obvs everything is cooked ahead. I like to cook every two days and freeze my own Lean Cuisines. I think this book will work for me.

Maybe I’ll cook my way through this and Elizabeth David‘s Summer Cooking this summer.  There’s an anchoiade with figs I’m up for. Mmmmm.

Elizabeth David, circa 1960

Elizabeth David, circa 1960 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, it’s Texas caviar, with frozen home-cooked black-eyed peas, and the Homesick Texan’s bumpin’ recipe. You have got to try it. Do the Rotel. You know you want to. And read the chile’s blog.

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