Posts tagged ‘lunch ideas’

April 10, 2012

Beet and Fennel Soup with Kefir

After a weeklong trip to New York City, I come home to find my pantry completely barren and my refrigerator empty except for a bin full of beets and fennel. They’re the same beets and fennel I was avoiding before I left for spring break. But now they’re staring at me and saying, “Cook us already. Make something different. Cook us together if you have to, and kill two vegetables with one pot.”

I quickly Google “beet and fennel” and this beautiful soup from Epicurious pops up. I’m sold. Plus, I know I need to detox after a week of chicken and duck pate, delectable macarons in every flavor imaginable, homemade Nutter Butters from the famous Bouchon Bakery and potstickers from a hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown. Not to mention: too many glasses of wine.

I start chopping an onion, and dicing the beets and fennel bulb into 1/2-inch cubes. Since I’m almost drowning in root vegetables, I decide to double the recipe and make 8 cups of soup. First, I sauté the onions, fennel and fennel seeds in olive oil. After 5 to 8 minutes, I add the beets and low-sodium chicken broth. It all simmers for 20 minutes in a covered pot. Now that the beets are tender, I drop in my immersion blender and let it do its magic. Ahhh, puree perfection. Lastly, I whisk in some unflavored kefir and season the pink soup with a little salt and pepper. Not only is the soup the prettiest I’ve ever made, it’s also delicious. It has just the right amount of tang, thanks to the kefir, and it ends with a nice licorice note because of the fennel. I have two bowls for lunch and C licks his bowl clean, telling me he also wants it for dinner. How could I not oblige? But truth be told: S turned her nose up at it after a few spoonfuls.

Even after doubling the recipe, I still have two fennel bulbs and eight beets in my fridge. I see more pink soup in my future.

CLICK HERE for the recipe.

February 23, 2012

Quinoa Salad with Grilled Chicken

Leftovers! I love leftovers, because it makes packing lunch a cinch. Last night’s quinoa salad and grilled chicken went straight from my Pyrex dish in the fridge into S’s LunchBots container.

Quinoa is a high-protein, gluten-free grain (actually, a seed) that’s easy to make and very versatile. I had a plethora of cucumbers and grape tomatoes, so I decided to go Greek with the quinoa salad. I like to make quinoa in my rice cooker because it’s perfect every time and I don’t have to think about it once I hit “Cook.” After letting it cool, I tossed it with finely chopped cucumbers, halved cherry tomatoes, minced flat-leaf parsley and red onion, chopped and pitted Kalamata olives, and crumbled feta. Then I made a vinaigrette with olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic and dried oregano. I gently mixed it all together and let it chill in the fridge, while I grilled chicken breasts that were marinated in pesto.

Along with the quinoa salad, I packed some carrots, fruit and blue corn chips.  All done and all gluten-free.

February 7, 2012

Thai Fish Cakes

It’s a feast of leftovers at my house, after hosting a Thai food party on Saturday evening (I’m kicking myself for forgetting to take pictures!). I was so worried there wouldn’t be enough food that I sort of  completely overdid it. I made 100 Thai fish cakes, 100 skewers of chicken satay, a large mound of papaya salad and a vat of vegetarian green curry. And that was for 15 skinny women. On top of that, a friend of mine brought two rice noodle dishes, one cold and the other warm. Plus, another made Thai coconut and mango sticky rice. In my defense, I had a handful of moms who at the last minute couldn’t make it.

My kids love Thai fish cakes, especially after dipping them in a sweet chili sauce. It’s a good thing they dig them, because in addition to having them for dinner and snack time, they’re also showing up in S’s lunch today. Fish cakes are one of the very few foods I deep fry. But they’re so quintessentially Thai and so delicious that I give myself a get-out-of-jail pass for serving them to my kids. And I make them only once or twice a year.

The secret to a good fish cake is using kaffir lime leaves. I like to throw in a few extras for extra flavor, and I use a very generous tablespoon of red curry paste. Then, I also add some minced lemongrass, even though the recipe below doesn’t call for it. Add a tablespoon of fish sauce, a beaten egg and some thinly sliced snake beans or green beans and you’re ready to mix and shape them into little patties. I deep fry them in a wok, and drain and blot them on paper towels after they’re cooked. Serve these to your family warm, and I promise they’ll think you’re a culinary goddess. But don’t forget that dipping sauce. It comes in a glass bottle, often in the international section of grocery stores and at Trader Joe’s.

Fried Fish Cakes with Green Beans (from The Food of Thailand)

Makes 30

Ingredients

1 lb. firm white fish fillets

1 generous TB red curry paste

1 TB fish sauce

1 egg

2 oz. snake beans or green beans, finely sliced

5 makrut (kaffir) lime leaves, finely shredded

peanut oil, for deep-frying

sweet chili sauce to serve

Directions

Remove any skin and bone from the fish and roughly chop the flesh. In a food processor or a blender, mince the fish fillets until smooth. Add the curry paste, fish sauce and egg, then blend briefly until until smooth. Spoon into a bowl and mix in the beans and kaffir lime leaves. Use wet hands to shape the fish paste into thin, fat cakes, about 5 cm (2 inches) across, using about a tablespoon of mixture of each.

Heat 5 cm (2 inches) oil in a wok or deep frying pan over a medium heat. When the oil seems hot, drop a small piece of fish cake into it. If it sizzles immediately, the oil is ready.

Lower five or six of the fish cakes into the oil and deep-fry them until they are golden brown on both sides and very puffy. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Keep the cooked fish cakes warm while deep-frying the rest. Serve hot with sweet chili sauce.

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