Eating better food for less and other tales from a no-moneymoon

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Out of the Box Cooking

Although I love teriyaki and California roll as much as the next person, what I really enjoy about bento boxes at a Japanese restaurant is that little section with the surprise dish. Sometimes it's shumai or a type of pickle I'd never think to order. And "surprise!" it's usually delicious and the part of the meal I remember most.

So when Mr. Lemon and I picked up our first batch of veggies from our CSA this week, the whole shopping trip was filled with little surprises. I'd anticipated some lettuce (check) and some spring onions (check), but then we found ourselves bagging up kohlrabi. Surprise!

Later that day we happened upon a good deal for sweet potatoes, which reminded me of the delicious cooked squash at our favorite Japanese spot--the one with the green walls and handwritten menu on 8th Street that we wander up and down the street to locate. It was enough to get me making up a bento "bowl" dinner. (Bento refers to a boxed meal, but we can use some imagination here, I think.)

Kohlrabi with Garlic and sesame seeds
Cut away rib of Kohlrabi leaves (about 8). Blanch kohlrabi in boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Remove and place in ice water to stop cooking (an ice bath, how fancy!).

Cut the blanched greens to bite sized pieces, and saute in a frying pan with olive oil (two good glugs) and two cloves of minced garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. If this tastes bitter to you, add some rice wine vinegar to soften the taste.

Scatter sesame seeds on top.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Miso and Scallions
Epicurious had a recipe for sweet potato and miso paste, here. I took the idea and went in a slightly different, healthier direction:

4 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon white miso paste
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoons water
1 scallion, cleaned and sliced

Roast sweet potatoes with olive oil at 425 F for 20 minutes until tender.

Mix miso paste, olive oil and water together and drizzle on sweet potatoes. Return to oven for 1-2 minutes.

Top with scallions.

Edamame: We keep a bag of frozen edamame on hand for speedy snacks and fast protein fixes. Japanese groceries are a great and inexpensive source for freezer staples.

Cucumber Salad: On-sale cucumbers sliced thin, plus equal parts rice wine vinegar, sugar and water. I used a 1 Tablespoon measure to go light on the sugar. This is my family's PA Dutch recipe but uses rice wine vinegar in place of our beloved apple cider vinegar.

Pantry staples from the Japanese grocery come out to party
Surprise ingredients from the CSA inspire a veggie-centric meal
Variety keeps us from missing meat
Frozen edamame offer a great healthy and thrifty protein

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