Millet Porridge and Other Convenience Foods

Monday, March 24, 2008

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that convenience is a good measure of food value. Many of the least expensive and healthiest foods take work - fresh vegetables need washing and peeling, beans need soaking and long cooking, grains ditto. The great thing is that a lot of this work can be done ahead of time so that when mealtime or random hunger strikes the prep and cleanup is minimal. Last Sunday I took a few hours in the afternoon and did a bunch of prep so that during the week I would have lots of quick food options in the fridge:

Kidney Beans: hot soak and cook, for use in tostadas and in kidney bean sandwich spread

Potatoes: scrubbed and cooked (skins on) to make home fries and Eggs Cooked on Top of Things

Skillet Grape Tomatoes: Put a pound of grape tomatoes in a wide frying pan over high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil and about a teaspoon of salt. Shake pan, covered, til tomatoes get blackened and juicy. Can be warmed up to eat with a few crumbles of feta or alongside a grilled cheese.

Roasted Calabacita: Cut calabacita into wedges (or slice zucchini); drizzle with oil or melted butter and a little salt. Roast in a toaster oven til tender and a bit charred. I was going to save these for use in tostadas too but ended up eating them. Amazingly good.

Roasted Red Peppers: These are very fun to do by yourself; they smell amazing and the vivid red/black is beautiful. Take a red pepper and char it all over under the broiler. When cool enough to handle, peel and lift out the stem and seeds. Use on eggs or tuck into sandwiches, or save to make roasted eggplant, tomato and red pepper dip.

Millet Porridge: Cook millet in 4X water (by volume) and a little salt. Keep cooked cereal in fridge and warm up with a little water mixed in for breakfast. Last time I made this I stirred in cooked sweet potato and honey, but it is just as good plain.

Green Peppers and Onions: Slice into slivers for stir fries. Red Cook is a great new Chinese food blog which is now running a stir fry series.

Noodles V: Ran Mian (燃面)

Saturday, March 08, 2008

We finish up the noodle series with a snacks post. Left front is the star of this post - a bowl of ran mian. In the rear is a slightly more expensive bowl of dan dan mian. In front is a little dish of pao cai and peeking in the far left is a bowl of noodle water to drink. Dan dan mian is one of the only things I could read on a menu when I first got to China so I ended up ordering it a lot and quickly got sick of it. I still eat dan dan mian from time to time but much prefer ran mian, noodles with similar spicy and oily condiments but which are vegetarian and have added tang from the ya cai and crunch from the peanuts. They cost about thirty cents for a little one oz bowl like this.

I haven't made ran mian yet - it is too cheap and easily available at the snack restaurants. But I will miss it a lot when I leave China so here is a recipe that I want to try when I can no longer get it on the street. It is from this Chinese food site, which gives quite a bit of background and explanation of the snack.

You need 3 oz of fresh Chinese wheat noodles, 2 tbs of chopped ya cai (芽菜, a type of preserved vegetable), 2 tbs of chopped roasted salted peanuts, one chopped green onion, 1 tbs of chili oil, 4 tbs of sesame oil, 2 cloves of garlic, 3 tbs soy sauce, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp of vinegar, 1 pinch ground Sichuan pepper, MSG to taste.

Boil the noodles til al dente (texture is important) and drain; then toss with the sesame oil so they don't stick. Pile noodles into 2 bowls and top with remaining condiments. Everyone stirs the condiments into the noodles with chopsticks before digging in.