Friday, September 26, 2008

Trying New Things

I like to think I'm a pretty adventurous eater, but my forays into new and unique foods are typically contained to restaurant eating. I rarely buy new types of food when grocery shopping, preferring to stick to my staple vegetables, meats, pasta, etc. But once in a while, something will catch my eye and I'll be compelled to buy it even if I don't have any idea what to do with it!

This time, it was figs. I don't think I'd ever had a fresh fig before. In fact, the only form of a fig I'd ever had was probably in a Fig Newton. I had never even SEEN a fresh fig until Harris Teeter had them in stock last week, a pile of gorgeous black mission and brown turkey figs, three for 99 cents! I bought three of each type and stuck them in the fridge pending further research for good fig recipes. I soon realized the ideal way to eat them was as-is, without any embellishment.

brown turkey figs (black mission behind)

I tried a black mission fig first. Mine were perhaps a touch on the overripe side, but the sugary taste was undeniably satisfying. The brown turkey figs were a better texture but not as sweet. Having had a taste as-is, I decided to try them with cheese. I broiled a few with slices of parmesan cheese on top, then drizzled them with honey. The honey improved the taste of the brown turkey figs while the sharp flavor of the cheese paired nicely with the sweet black mission figs. But ultimately, I think I prefer them fresh.

I'm happy to say I've now had fresh figs and perhaps I'll had a couple more weeks to enjoy them before they quickly go out of season! I even managed to incorporate them into a bento:

top: raspberry cookies in the lid
middle: corn, tuna/tofu burgers, soy sauce
bottom: figs and edamame

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bento Backlog

It seems that all I do on this blog lately is post pictures of my bentos. Should this become BentoOverload? Or are two O's superfluous? Bentoverload... that looks strange, somehow.

Anyway, on to the bentos!

Leftover Thai bento: fried rice, straw mushrooms (picked out of the bf's leftovers), fried tofu dumpling, bottle of soy sauce

top tier (which was really the bottom tier): cube onigiri and edamame
bottom tier: fried spam slices, avocado and tomato salad, clementine wedges, bottle of soy sauce
notes: This was a really weird combo and I decided that I dislike leftover avocado

Another make-your-own fajita bento: black beans, shredded chicken, flour tortillas, peppers and onions, a clementine, shredded cheese in a snack-size plastic baggie (not shown)
notes: I love how everything fits in this box! I used the subcontainers from another box and they fit rather well.

Hard-boiled egg shaped like a star (but looks like a flower), apricots, zucchini gratin covered with parmesan, black beans, curry couscous with sausage, green beans
Notes: There was too much food in this box. Also, I put too much parm on the gratin and you can't see the pretty yellow/green zukes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Favorite Sandwich

I'm not a huge fan of sandwiches for lunch - they seem so monotonous in both flavor and texture. A good deli sandwich can be appetizing when made fresh, but somehow prepacked sandwiches look bland and lifeless when removed from their plastic baggies.

I vastly prefer a grilled or pressed sandwich. The toasty bread and melted cheese transform an otherwise boring meal into a delicious treat. Grilled cheese is the universal favorite but my twist on this adds avocado and deli meat for an out-of-this-world sandwich for which I occasionally develop huge cravings!

You can use any kind of cheese or deli meat but the key to this sandwich is mashed avocado (I like mine slightly chunky) which provides moisture, eliminating the need for mayonnaise. I also add a bit of garlic salt, pepper, and lemon juice to the mash. Above, smoked provolone and turkey give the sandwich a burst of saltiness that pairs well with the creamy avocado and toasty bread. I've had this with tomato soup too (a la the classic grilled cheese/soup combo) and it's fantastic for dipping!

Now if only I had a portable sandwich press to take to work... I'd have grilled sandwiches every day!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Rediscovering Rice

When I was little, my mom had to force me to finish a bowl of rice at dinner. I refused to eat it plain and had to top if with some kind of sauce. My dad was offended by my rejection of his beloved rice and frequently scolded me for drowning the rice in sauce, turning it into a stew or soup. As I got older, the rice became an expected part of the meal, not a burden but not a delight.

It wasn't until my recent forays into bento that I realized the endless possibilities of rice. I'd always liked it as a base for stir-fry but now I'm also using it as a portable snack and a shell for savory fillings. Additionally, rice is easy to freeze and defrost, making it a quick and convenient addition to my lunches. Now I'm using it almost daily and really enjoying it!

Top tier: stir-fried tofu cubes, leftover chicken, peas
Bottom tier: rice cubes with salmon furikake, string cheese

Pork mango picadillo, rice with furikake

Pork mango picadillo, rice, mooncake, Laughing Cow cheese and crackers

Spam musubi (minus terikyaki glaze)

Furikake mixed rice in adorable bear, star, and heart shapes

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Lazy Bentos

I bought frozen mini-meatballs from Trader Joe's, thinking they'd be good for a quick spaghetti and meatballs dinner. Instead, I discovered that they are perfect for a few bites of meat in my bentos! The instructions said to microwave on high for 4 minutes which resulted in extremely hard, burnt, and smelly meatballs. Next I tried 2 minutes which worked initially but in subsequent trials also resulted in overcooked meatballs. 1 minute turned out to be just right!

mini-meatballs over orzo, laughing cow cheese and mini nutter butters (crackers underneath)

I've also been buying all varieties of premade pasta from Harris Teeter. So far, the only one that's appealed to me is the veal-stuffed agnolotti, while the cheese and veg stuffed versions have been slightly too chewy and unappetizing. Last night, I tried a five-cheese tortellini which did not taste very good, even with the addition of a ricotta tomato sauce.

tortellini with peas in ricotta tomato sauce, meatballs, mini red pepper, laughing cow cheese with crackers underneath

What other lazy foods can I use in my bentos? I've got frozen mushroom turnovers in the fridge, courtesy of Trader Joe's. They need to be baked but could probably be refrigerated after that and reheated in the microwave at work. I'm out of edamame but that is one great space filler which will be used more frequently in my bentos once I remember to pick some up at the store. I love lazy food!