Food Buzz

Because maybe you do care what I had for lunch...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Finding your comfort level with mediocrity

I was amused by Dave's post a couple days ago on the proper heating of convenience foods. There are people who will eat only dishes that Alice Waters would approve. But most of us have a certain level of tolerance for convenience foods. You'll never catch me tearing into a Lean Cuisine or opening a can of Campbell's chicken noodle (not without irony, anyway). But there are many convenience foods that I find tasty enough for a weeknight given a bit of doctoring.

One of these is frozen ravioli and tortellini (fresh is better, of course, but the Coop doesn't carry fresh). Tonight we had feta and hazlenut ravioli. After cooking the pasta I heated a little olive oil and added some chopped garlic and the walnuts and herbs from the other night. (Don't let yourself be troubled by mixed nuts.) Then I added the pasta back in and combined before serving. As a side we had mineola tangeloes. They are the best thing about March. So tangy! I love them so.

Sometimes going "ethnic" pays off. We're also quite fond of the kofta curry made by Deep Foods, especially topped with chopped tomatoes and red onion with a squirt of lemon. Who knows what's in that sauce. If I ate more Indian food I might not like it as much. I also like trying the frozen dumplings you find in most Asian delis. Some are admittedly awful, but the shumai (shrimp or crab) are usually good. The Coop carries some chicken dumplings that are flavorful and MSG-free, if the dough is a little lumpy. And there's always the freshly-made dumplings at May May in Chinatown. Not really convenient when you consider the schlep, but wonderful and easy once they're in the kitchen.

Naturally, the Coop carries several healthy and flavorful convenience foods. There's some empanadas you can bake (can't remember the brand), freshly-made curry sauces, soups, and cheese tarts. Another quickie meal is hummos with pita bread and some olives, chopped cucumbers, onion, and tomato (or tabouleh salad). Yes, you can make your own hummos and it's not that much trouble. But if you don't want to there's plenty of palatable premade hummos out there.

And there's also the rapid gratification of antipasto/tapas-type meals, in which you pull out a package of prosciutto or cured sausage, a chunk of cheese, some (good) canned peppers or artichokes, maybe some tinned or cured fish, good crusty bread, and something fresh and in season.

Two final favorites: rotisserie chicken and pbj. I usually try to buy organic, free-range chickens that received counseling before being humanely "harvested," but Key Foods makes a tasty rotisserie chicken. And Lane has taught me the best way to eat peanut butter and jam: open-faced, with Smucker's natural and Bonne Maman.

You've seen examples of many of these on my blog. What do you like to eat when you don't have time to cook?


shaunamama said...

I haven't learned yet that I need to read your blog right after a meal or with a snack. Your blog makes me very hungry.

When I find I don't have time to do cooking at my regular time, I usually crockpot something like soup or a roast. When I don't do that, I like to make smoked turkey rollups in flour tortillas from the store with a fresh tossed greens salad.

Swizzies said...

Oh lordy, many's the occasion when a timely Costco roasted chicken has saved Scott and I from certain starvation. But those chickens have cost me THOUSANDS of dollars, as I'd get a hankerin' for one of them damn tasty birds, and then buy like a computer or a TV on the same trip. But I still love those chickens...and miss them too.

Mary Ellen said...

I like Tasty Bite's Bombay Potatoes atop steamed rice. Ready, set, devour.

I also like piling a plate with pita, tahini, spinach, roasted red peppers, cucumber, cottage cheese, and baby carrots.

Trader Joe's is my convenience food source for emergency sushi, Corn Maiden designer tamales, salads that inspire self-congratulation that I made a healthy choice, and spinach/artichoke/sun dried tomato calzones.

Writermama said...

Great title, by the way. Coincidentally, I just bought the most delicious frozen Chinese dumplings from a shop on the edge of Chinatown. Three minutes of boiling and they were perfect, filled with chopped shitake mushrooms and bok choy.