I am not one of those people who hate salad. Whether it is the lettuce and dressing variety or the pasta variety, I love a good salad. In fact I am such a salad lover that I don’t need lettuce or pasta, and often I forego both when I’m feeling adventurous or simply tired of them.
I don’t look at a bowl of arugula and tomatoes and see some restrictive diet food…unless of course you try to feed me iceberg lettuce. Contrary to what some of my dear friends believe, iceberg lettuce is crap. Sure it has almost no calories, but it also has almost no nutrients and if I’m gonna nosh on salad then I’d like some nutrients to go with my leafy greens.
When I was younger I guess I was like most kids and teens, equating good food with, what I now know is unhealthy crap. As such whenever there was a dish that contained both beans and rice—and no meat—I looked at it as Third World food. I would turn my nose up at it and once I got my first job at White Castle I’d use my own money to buy food I found more palatable.
These days as meat makes a more infrequent appearance in my meals, not to mention time spent in Louisiana and Los Angeles, I’ve learned to appreciate the subtle nuances of rice and bean dishes. Whether it’s dirty rice or Mexican style rice & beans I’ve discovered how delicious and healthy beans can be.
In my recently rediscovered love of all things whole fish I decided to give sardines a try. I mean, I’ve had sardines before but usually of the canned and packed in oil variety, but I’ve never had the actual fish in all its bony glory. So when I spotted these babies in the frozen section—not fresh but since I’ve no experience with them I figured it was good enough—I snatched’em right up.
Whenever I’m in the mood for something that is quick to make but tastes like it took hours, I turn to risotto. Ever since I watched Rachel Ray make it on 30-Minute Meals years ago and saw how easy it was to make, I’ve been hooked.
The best thing about risotto is that you can make it with tons of different things—for herbivores and carnivores—for meal variety. Add shrimp or chicken for meat eaters, or cheese and herbs or even peas for an easy vegetarian meal.
I got a good deal on a wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano and my plan was to just make some creamy risotto until I spotted a nice batch of shitake mushrooms. It would’ve been nice to find Portobello mushrooms or even crimini, but I do love shitake and I was happy to snap up a few hundred grams.
Growing up I wasn’t really introduced to many cuisines around the world. In my town there was Mexican-tons of Mexican—and there were plenty of Chinese restaurants. Not Thai or Vietnamese or Japanese, just plain egg rolls and fried rice Chinese food. But a few months ago I ate bulgur for the first time as part of a yummy Middle Eastern dish.
I was hooked.
The bulgur was fluffy with the perfect amount of salt and it was made with just a little bit of turmeric to give it a nice smoky flavor. Served with some succulent chicken and beef soaked with coconut milk and seasoned with cumin and curry and a variety of spices. Needless to say I have spent the last few months trying to perfect the taste of the bulgur to no avail. Although bulgur requires the same 2 to 1 ratio as rice, it requires much less time to become too soggy to eat.