Let’s face it, we all love eating. From burgers to bolognese, and from pizza to pancakes, we humans are always eating. And, I mean, can you blame us? We kinda gotta do it, you know, to survive.
But, eating is so much more than that. Animals eat because they have to. Dogs scrounge with rubbish bins looking for scraps because they desire calories to live off. Rats dig through the depths of your cellar nibbling away at year-old packets of who-knows-what, and they don’t care. For them, food is food.
However, for us, food is an experience. It is a social event, a way to connect and bond, food is culture. A learning experience, a pleasure, and a form of entertainment. A way to feel accomplishment and do an altruistic act for our fellow.
We can cook things we don’t even like just because the experience is fun, just like how there are people who will play an online casino without using real money. They just find the games to be fun even if they don’t get anything out of them. Or, we want to nourish the people around us with our cooking, even if we won’t eat from it ourselves.
This is why having a large cookbook in your head of easy and delicious meals is important. Something you can make on the fly that will satisfy, taste great, and make the people you make it for happy! (Even if that is just yourself).
By far one of my favorite slap-together meals is a hummus plate. Now, contrary to the name, it doesn’t necessarily have to be hummus. I’m just lumping all of these kinds of dishes together to make your life easier.’
The dish will consist of 3 main parts that will all work together to form a beautiful unity of flavors. First, you are going to have your main binding paste (I’m not exactly sure what to call it.) AKA the hummus. As I said, this doesn’t have to be hummus. It can be any form of bean paste you like or some other dish I can’t think of that fits the same role. It should just be something kind of bland on its own, but that brings a lot to a larger dish.
Next is the protein. This can be chicken, beef, beans, lentils, or even tofu. Really, whichever you want for the kind of flavors you want from your dish. The trick is to make sure this part of the dish is really packed with flavor. It’s going to be the main savory bringer of the dish.
One of my favorite options is ground beef. You simply fry it up in a pan with some middle eastern and/or Indian spices and add some crushed tomatoes to make it a bit saucier. Just don’t make it too liquidy. It should be rather thick. Most of this dish is going to consist of pasty things.
But, you could make this entire dish completely meat-free if you want. As I said, beans, lentils, and tofu are also great options. In fact, I really enjoy using chickpeas as a protein here. I know, that’s kind of like putting potatoes on my mashed potatoes, but it has a different taste and texture to it! Give it a try, believe me, you won’t regret it.
Finally, we need a sauce to give a bit more liquidity to this dish, and a punch of flavor. My personal favorite is Tahina. Just mix it up with some spices and water to make it the right consistency. Then, smear some hummus on a plate, pile on a nice serving of the beef (or insert protein you used here) and drizzle on some of that delicious Tahina. Serve with the bread of your choice, flatbreads work best in my humble opinion, but that’s up to you.
You don’t have to follow this exact recipe either. That’s why this article won’t include recipes, just notes. The idea is to learn the basic principles and apply them to the ingredients you have available to make a dish that suits your tastes. As you can tell, my palette enjoys middle eastern flavors, yours might not. You just need to experiment and find what works for you.
And voila! You just learned how to make a simple meal in less than 15 – 20 minutes! Now, whenever you are feeling peckish, you will have one more idea to keep in the kitchen and away from the takeout.
Tuna and Rice
Another wonderful go-to of mine is tuna fish and rice. It’s quick and easy, is filling and can be quite healthy depending on what you put in it. Again, we are going to go over the main ingredients that make up this dish, and then you will have the tools necessary to mix and match and modify to your heart’s content.
First thing you are going to need is tuna. It doesn’t really matter what kind of tuna you get, it is going to get mixed with so many other strong flavors the difference between cheap and expensive tuna won’t be so big.
However, one thing I absolutely would say is a must is to make sure the tuna you buy doesn’t have bones in it. The last thing you want to have to do is pick pin bones out of your wrap…
If you can afford it though, and it’s not so big a deal to get, getting the better quality tuna is worth it. The dish will taste better, and it will have a less “cheap fish” taste to it. But, it is not critical, so don’t go crazy worrying about it.
Next is going to be something like rice. You could try orzo, couscous, ptitim, or any other kind of grain or similar type of deal you like, but I like the taste and texture of rice with the tuna in this dish. When you start to add the ingredients together it all becomes one uniform dip that I personally enjoy.
Just make sure whatever you chose, season it well! The grain is going to be a large bulk of the food on the plate. If it isn’t seasoned properly (AKA you didn’t salt and spice its cooking water) you are going to be in for a meal that comes in stages. A bit of flavor followed by blandness.
After the grain comes the binder. This is going to be something goopy, creamy, and fatty that will work as a binder and a wettener to give some moistness to the tuna and rice. My go-to is a nice mayo, but you could theoretically use anything you like that fits the bill. Sour cream, greek yogurt, or anything like that are great options. I’ve always just used mayo as I mentioned though as it’s dairy free which I bet some people can relate to…
Finally, you are going to want something that will bring some brightness and sweetness to the dish. Or, at least, that is what I like. Some of my choices are relish or sauerkraut. They really add that little punch of acidity and sweetness that I’m looking for, with relish being my favorite of the two.
Of course, your mileage may vary. Perhaps you don’t like pickles. You could always add some lemon juice for brightness if that’s what you prefer. I know a lot of cultures like to add lime to dishes. Heck, you could even add a pinch of sugar if you are just looking for a bit of sweetness, I won’t tell on you.