Culinary alchemy for incompetents

Student Living by

After a gruelling day on campus, coming home to a kitchen filled with random food items that don’t seem to relate to one another can be incredibly infuriating. In this situation, many revert to take-out or perhaps to pasta for the fifth night in a row. But even the barest of fridges or pantries can contain the basics for just about any meal. Whether you only have eggs, milk, butter, a starch, a few fruits and vegetables, or some form of protein, there are infinite combinations you can put together for a healthy, hearty, and delicious meal.

For instance, the other day I was working with one sweet potato, a half-eaten container of tofu, feta cheese, an onion, and a small can of chickpeas. I first boiled the sweet potato (as little can be done with an inpenetrable potato) while I chopped and sautéed the onion in a generous amount of olive oil, curry, and turmeric. Note: Indian spices are great for turning any bland dish into something satiating and flavourful. Afterwards, I added the tofu and left it to brown on both sides. I then added the softened and cubed sweet potato and the chickpeas. If you enjoy a more stew-like consistency, adding a little milk or cream would also work well.

When all of the ingredients were sautéed together on a low heat, I sprinkled in a few pieces of the feta. Any kind of cheese would work well in this case, as the salty, sharp, and tangy qualities complement the South Asian spices nicely.

Other times when I’m too lazy to buy groceries, I just make a salad. While you may think you have no salad ingredients on hand, let me just say that my definition of salad is a loose one. Lettuce, cucumbers, and peppers are all well and good, but there are lots of stray ingredients you can throw together to create a more satisfying one-course meal.

Chickpeas, walnuts, dried cranberries, croutons, and fruits like strawberries, pears, or apples all taste great in a salad, and more importantly, add substance. If you happen to have some tofu or a chicken breast, sautéing either one in oil and pepper is the perfect way to add protein. A dash of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a bit of garlic powder and salt is always an easy dressing. For a sweeter dressing that works better with fruitier contents, you can use balsamic vinegar and a little sugar.

I am a big believer in the idea that most ingredients work well together. Just don’t be afarid to experiment, and you’d be surprised how you can make a delicious dish out of almost anything.