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Category Archives: Musings

Thoughts on cooking, eating, shopping or life in general

Bonus post: What I Eat (Vegetarian Lunch)

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I recently bought an Indian tiffin box to carry my lunch to the office, because I wanted to get away from plastic containers. One problem is that you can’t choose to only bring part of the box, you have to bring it all. This is what I had for lunch one day in mid-October:

Aside from the salad, all of those things were leftovers. I overpacked a bit, but I just couldn’t leave the apples because they were too delicious.

Chermoula and Zhoug

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This summer, while travelling, I had lunch at a restaurant owned by an Armenian and a Syrian. The food was delicious and drew on the culinary customs of a wide region. One thing I found especially appealing was a green sauce which was served not just with grilled food, but also with bread.

Naturally I tried to work it out when I got home. I thought it might be chermoula, but I wasn’t sure. I’ve only had that with grilled food. So I whipped up a batch. Sadly it wasn’t what I was looking for. As nice as it is on the grill, chermoula isn’t so good with just bread.

So I tried another guess and made zhoug. It was just what I was looking for: nice with bread, as well as grilled foods.

The two sauces use similar ingredients, but there are important differences between them. Both require a 2:1 proportion of coriander leaves to parsley. Both use garlic, salt, lemon juice, cumin and olive oil. It’s the small differences that make all the difference when it comes to making a dip that’s nice with bread. While chermoula contains paprika, a pinch of cayenne and a little saffron, zhoug uses coriander, cardamom and a good quantity of chiles. I used 3 whole green chiles and topped it with dried chili flakes for a good measure.

Both chermoula and zhoug are great with the grill, but zhoug is also great with bread.

How I post so frequently

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I have been asked a few times how I post every two days. It is a combination of a few factors.

First, I don’t always feel like cooking, but when I do like cooking, I can easily add 3-6 blog posts a week. This lets me build up a backlog. Normally I have 20 posts (40 days) prepared, which means that if I go on vacation, fall ill, or don’t feel like cooking, the posting isn’t affected. As I post this at the end of July, I’m creating posts for October. (I do sometimes reshuffle to let seasonal recipes be posted earlier.)

Second, I do genuinely like to try new recipes. Cooking is a hobby for me, so I don’t tend to fall back on familiar dishes. When I bought aubergines with the plan of making a dip, I might have made baba ghanoush or mutabal, but while the aubergines were roasting I looked to see if there was a similar dip I hadn’t tried, and found melitzanosalata. When I have guests I usually stick with a familiar dinner, but often take the opportunity to try a new cake recipe.

Third, I engage in batch cooking. For instance when I made a green sauce, then tried it with asparagus, lettuce, and roasted vegetables. It was three similar dishes, eaten in three sequential days.

Fourth, I don’t spend much time on the blog. I don’t develop many recipes but try recipes others have posted, with my own modifications. When I do make my own recipes, I often post them casually, lest I lose my enjoyment of blogging. I don’t write a long story about the food. It doesn’t feel like an obligation.

Yet despite my appreciation for trying new things, I do repeat my favourite dishes. Because I usually don’t cook for many people, I usually reduce recipes, and also eat the same thing multiple times. However, I often dress it up with a side dish for the second or third time. Or I might mix things up a little, like dip celery in leftover peanut sauce from spring rolls. And that is the fifth point, which is that posts like oi moochim are dishes that I can make while I’m heating up leftovers, or which I can toss together in the morning and enjoy in the evening.

In fact, my diet is rather simple. In the summer, I enjoy eating lentils with rice for breakfast. Lunch might be a salad or a stir-fry or pasta dish or soup. Dinner might be meze or a salad, or something like noodles if lunch consisted of a salad. During the day I eat fruit – in the summer I keep either berries or chopped melon on hand. Or I might eat frozen grapes. I mostly drink tea (without sweetener or milk), water, or sparkling water.

I work full-time, and my cooking reflects that. My more leisurely cooking is done on the weekend, when I often prepare what I plan to eat early in the week, sometimes cooking for the entire week on Sunday. But I do work from home sometimes, and on those days I’m more likely to cook lunch. Then when I go to the office, I can pack a salad or leftovers, and some fruit.

I usually make one big shopping trip a week, and one or two small ones to pick up fruit or vegetables I may have run out of, like melon or cucumber.

 

I thought I’d give a description of what I ate for a few days, to demonstrate how easy it is to cook with as much variety as I do, even for one. The blog doesn’t really give a good impression of my diet, because I don’t include all the times that I eat the same dish, or the times I make something I’ve made before. This post was drafted in June and so this is what I describe.

Wednesday

On a Wednesday in June, I had a guest for dinner. I made lettuce wraps to start with, which doesn’t require much more than a bit of chopping. For the main dish we had bread with dips, as it was quite warm. I had some bread dough from Sunday in the fridge, so I made pita with it. I had made yoğurtlu havuç a couple of days previously, so I served that as one of the dips. I made Greek fava for a protein dip. For dessert I served mustikkakeitto which I’d made a few days previously.

I’d begun the morning with Caribbean yellow dal and rice.  Lunch was cucumber with olives and feta. Of all the food I ate Wednesday, only the fava was fully prepared that day, since I don’t consider making a quick salad to be cooking. I drank an oolong that day.

Food posts generated (2): lettuce wraps, fava
Dishes prepared (3): lettuce wraps, fava, salad

Thursday

The next day I also had yellow dal for breakfast. Lunch was fatoosh, made with the pita left over from the previous evening. For dinner I had a bit of pasta with some leftover tomato-based sauce. The only things I cooked were pasta noodles and fatoosh, and neither took me more than 15 minutes (if you count the minutes waiting for the pasta to boil – I spent them putting away laundry). I’d made both things before so I only posted the fatoosh as an extra post.

No regular food posts were generated.
Dishes prepared (2): fatoosh, pasta

Friday

On Friday I stopped by the greengrocer on my way home from the gym, because I needed a cabbage. While I was there I was entranced with strawberries, figs, chanterelles, and new season peas, and bought some. I also stopped by the bakery for a bread roll. I ate the fruit while I was preparing the chanterelles and peas, which formed the rest of my breakfast. I had it with a nice lapsang souchong.

For lunch, I made mung bean and glass noodle soup. This was a new recipe, so I posted it. For dinner made some tzatziki to add to my meze. I had bread with the three types of dip and a side of olives, light green Hungarian sweet pepper and red sweet pepper (pimento).

Of course I am not perfect when it comes to eating healthy food, and on Friday I went out for ice cream.

Food posts generated (2): chanterelles with peas, mung bean and glass noodle soup
Dishes prepared (4): chanterelles with peas, mung bean and glass noodle soup, tzatziki, salad

Saturday

I had meze for breakfast, along with the three types of dip I had. For lunch I had leftover mung bean and glass noodle soup. I also spotted a recipe for strawberry dressing (an upcoming post) and was reminded of how I had enjoyed berry salad, so I decided to try this simpler version, as I still had strawberries left from the previous day.

I finished the  yoğurtlu havuç, so I made some mushrooms in wine to go with my meze for dinner which was dinner. I also had some chocolates on Saturday.

Food posts generated (2): mushrooms in wine, strawberry vinaigrette
Dishes prepared (2): mushrooms in wine, salad with strawberry vinaigrette

Sunday

I made tomato coconut dal for breakfast, which I ate with rice. It will last through Tuesday, and on Wednesday I’ll need to make something new for breakfast. I finished my breakfast by finishing up the leftover mustikkakeitto. I had it with silver-tip tea.

After breakfast, I made chickpea tomato cabbage soup. I tasted it and photographed it, then put it away for another day. I also made a large pot of mint tea to drink throughout the day.

For lunch I had corn on the cob. For dinner, I finished up the meze I’d started the previous Sunday and kept going all week by gradually adding new alternatives. I finished up the fava, tzatziki and mushrooms in wine.

Food posts generated (2): tomato coconut dal, chickpea tomato cabbage soup
Dishes prepared (3): tomato coconut dal, chickpea tomato cabbage soup, corn on the cob

Monday and Tuesday

I had leftovers (coconut dal, chickpea soup, mung bean soup) and salad. I snacked on celery which was left over from the soup, dipped in the remaining peanut sauce from the lettuce wraps.

I didn’t cook, and I didn’t generate any blog posts. I still had leftover chickpea soup for later in the week.

Dishes prepared (2): salads

 

I hope this gives an example of how I cook and eat. As you can see, it is not very difficult to prepare healthy meals with sufficient novelty, without taking hours in the kitchen daily.

I prepared 16 dishes for 21 meals over one week, but so many of those were very simple: salads, tzatziki, corn on the cob. In all, I averaged about one dish which actually required cooking per day, but I didn’t cook every day. During the same time, I created 8 blog posts.

Spectacular Pictures from 500 Posts

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This is my final 500-post retrospective post. The dishes I’ve selected here were chosen simply because I liked the photos. Many of my favourite photos, like my favourite foods, have rich colours.

Vegan

blitva

Vegetarian

Meat

 

Repeated Recipes from 500 Posts

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Continuing my retrospective of the last 500 posts, these are some recipes that are among my favourites. Because I like to try new dishes, a recipe has to be special for me to remember to make it more than once.

Vegan

indiansoupvegetables2soupcupcake1

Vegetarian

roll2cheesecakesandwichcauliflower2pie1mezelasagnepie3moussakapapayasaladscone1salad

Meat

steakpadseeu

Recipes to Try Again from 500 Posts

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Now that I’ve reached 500 posts and about three years of blogging, I thought it would be a good time to look back through my pictures to to remind myself of dishes I enjoyed but haven’t made for some time. This is the first of three retrospective posts on 500 posts/3 years.

Vegan

vegetableIMAG0863chilligreenssoupstewrosetamaleindian platterpastatagineblitvamushroom1

Vegetarian

pasta2soup2tartgnocchi1tart2plum0bun1fungusIMAG4823piepastaapples3chickpeasCarrot kheer

Meat

stewdishsoto

Many Meals from a Repeating Selection of Vegetables

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If you cook for one or two people, it can be difficult to incorporate sufficient vegetables and retain variety. Sometimes I like to buy several different types of vegetables and try to make multiple meals out of the same ingredients while still providing variety. This is what I did with the last few posts. I purchased 5 tomatoes, a Savoy cabbage, a bag of carrots and a box of chestnut mushrooms. From these ingredients I made cabbage soup, cabbage rolls, and cabbage stirfry, although I did not include the tomatoes – which I had already used up – in the stirfry. Of course I incorporated other ingredients, such as onions, ginger, garlic and seasoning, but these are all ingredients I keep on hand. As you can see, the three dishes were visually distinct, and the flavours were distinctive as well.

soup2cabbagestirfry

I enjoy presenting myself with this sort of challenge, instead of my usual approach of making a few different curries, each featuring one vegetable, and eating them in different proportions for a few days.