Dinner is sometimes complicated. I'll often spend the quiet part of the afternoon while Felix is napping cooking an overly ambitious (for a Tuesday) dinner (yesterday I scrambled for a hot dog bun recipe an hour before emergency hungry time), but lunch is always simple or preferably instant. It's some sort of leftovers or a combination of food stuffs pulled straight from the fridge or freezer. Kids like simple. I like simple.
Sandwich roll-ups, edamame, grapes.
I love a good sandwich, and this is my current favorite. You chop up a small handful of fresh basil and smash it into a ripe avocado with a little lemon juice, salt, and peper, and some walnut parm if you have it. You thickly smear that on some excellent toast and top it with drippy slices of summer tomato and maybe another sprinkling of salt and pepper. And you've got a meal. It was breakfast on Monday before taking the dudes to swim lessons and lunch on Tuesday with a side of cold melon. I think you could even stick an ear of corn next to it and call it dinner - perfect for the sweltering days of ripe tomatoes.
Avocado Basil Sandwich Spread
makes: a scant cup or enough to generously spread on 4 sandwiches
takes: less than 5 minutes
- 1 ripe avocado
- about 3 tablespoon chopped basil
- 1/4 cup walnut parm
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
Mash that all together and spread on good bread.
My current obsession with raw zucchini dates back to that weekend that Paul and I didn't go to Palm Springs. I was rallying, remember? That Sunday afternoon, with the resilient two-year-old having completely recovered from the gungarunga, we took our children to the most kid-friendly bar in town, Golden Road Brewing. There, between witnessing a spontaneous toddler dance party spring up on the huge patio, watching enormous (and louder than my youngest child!) trains barrel by, sipping a beer, admiring the hats on hip dads patiently escorting fledgling walkers up and down the ramp out front while stylish moms sat in the shade, and marveling at how well-behaved our children were as they enjoyed their vegan kid's meals, Paul and I shared a young coconut noodle salad in a spicy creamy coconut milk dressing. It was just excellent - the perfect thing to eat with a beer on a patio in the summer. We rallied.
And then I went home and experimented with the only thing I could find in my fridge that would pass for a raw noodle - zucchini.
A few weeks ago, late on one of the hottest afternoons of the summer, with two boys getting into all sorts of trouble, not much in the way of groceries in our kitchen, dinner time rapidly approaching, and me feeling grouchy and uninspired, I sat down on the couch to take a break. And there, on the side table next to me, I discovered the solution to all of our problems.
It came from a yellowing old food section that I had set aside for some indeterminate time in my future when I would have a second to sit down and read it. Right there on the first page was a big platter of onigiri. Sort of the Japanese equivalent of the peanut butter sandwich, these stuffed balls of rice are obvious lunch box filler and a nice change of pace from the usual American Mom staples.
So that afternoon, while the rice cooker did most of the work, I whipped up a filling for our onigiri. I found some edamame and peas in the freezer and a couple perfectly decent carrots in the drawer of the fridge. Quickly cooked, roughly pureed, and seasoned simply with a little onion, soy sauce, and sesame oil, the vegetables were stuffed inside of the sticky brown rice and the savage beasts were tamed.
It made a fun and unexpected dinner. We dipped some in sesame seeds, wrapped others in seaweed, grilled a few to get a chewy, charred crust, and then, of course(?), returned to the chosen path of the small set - just plain. And now that September is here, egad, I imagine these little rice balls will make a fairly regular lunchbox appearance.
But we've used the tasty filling for more than just onigiri.
Deconstructed, it makes a great lunch for grown-ups (or a really messy one for my children) - pack some brown rice, the filling, and toasted seaweed, use the seaweed to scoop up the rice and flavorful vegetables. It's perfect to eat at room temperature. Along with a simple salad of shredded lettuce and carrot tossed with seasoned rice vinegar - you have a super satisfying and simple lunch.
And last weekend, for one of our final summer picnics, we packed the filling to eat as a dip with wonton chips. It was a total hit with the kids and grown-ups alike.
Vegetable Filling for Onigiri
makes: about 3 cups
takes: about 10 minutes (not including stuffing your onigiri, which with practice is pretty quick and easy - here's a good tutorial)
In a medium pot, bring about a quart of water to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and the frozen edamame. After 2 minutes (set the timer), add the peas and carrots. Cook for 3 more minutes and drain. In a food processor, pulse the vegetables with the onion, tamari, and sesame oil until you have a coarse paste.
Copyright 2006 - 2012 Trina Jaconi Biery