Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Something's (Vegetarian) Fishy

Mr. Toro is on his 4th consecutive day of being ill. He visited a physician yesterday, but they told him it was a (non-H1N1) flu so there was nothing to do but treat the symptoms with over-the-counter medication. So, it may be that I end up eating his lunch myself (again) but I still had fun making it.

Today's bento is another vegetarian (though not vegan) offering as there is a little cheese in the pasta dish.

The salad is a fairly standard mix of veggies, but with a little play value added with the 'fish.' Underneath is a bed of green leaf lettuce. The decoration on top consists of green onion 'kelp,' flat-leaf parsley 'seaweed,', and shredded carrot 'coral.' The 'fish' is leveled on some shaved cucumber, and is crafted out of oyster mushrooms with a slit cut for his gill and a cucumber seed for an eye.

In the other box is fettuccine with oyster mushrooms, leftover from dinner. I originally started with this recipe but made some changes.

I love Mario Batalli's cooking (Mr. Toro took me to Pizzeria Mozza last weekend--it was amazing), but, to be frank, I'd rather not wind up quite as round as he is :) So I made a few changes to lighten the recipe up. I left out the olive oil and instead sauteed the garlic with some cooking spray. Then I reduced the butter from four tablespoons to one. These changes surely made my version much less rich and luxurious, but as a daily dish, I'm okay with making that trade-off. Perhaps I would try the full-fat version for a special occasion.

Other changes were for convenience and availability of ingredients. I used sherry rather than vermouth as I had a bottle in the house. I also used flat-leaf parsley in place of the arugula as arugula was not available at the market. Finally, I used dry pasta rather than homemade. I know this will lend a different texture and flavor, but on a weeknight I just don't have the time or inclination to make pasta or bread from scratch. I also cut the pasta back to 1/2 pound (~225 gm) for four servings.

On the whole, I think it was pretty successful, though surely far removed from the original dish's flavor.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Bentocracy is Back!

Hello to anyone who is still visiting the Bentocracy! I'm terribly sorry about the big break between posts, but I should be back up to posting four days a week. I appreciate your patience with me. I'm back home in San Diego after my internship in Los Angeles. It went really well. I learned a lot from my projects and met a lot of great people. It was a great experience overall. I'm very hopeful for an offer for a permanent job once I graduate, so everyone keep your fingers crossed.

As to today's Bento, we have thai-style spring rolls with peanut-chile dipping sauce and green papaya salad. Today's bento is totally vegetarian...I'm not a vegetarian, but am definitely trying to reduce the meat in my diet. So, lately I've been experimenting some with veggie meals.

The spring rolls are made with rice paper, and are filled with soy-protein "chick'n" strips, Thai basil, coriander (cilantro), grated carrot, cucumber, mung bean sprouts and enoki mushrooms. The sauce is made of peanut butter, chile paste, soy sauce, brown sugar, and fish sauce. It has just a nice little bit of kick beneath the rich creamy peanutty-ness. I used a natural ground peanut butter from my local market instead of a jarred brand--I personally think it's better for thai dishes and cooking in general. It does not have any added sugar like the supermarket brands, so it tastes more like peanuts, and I prefer its slightly grainy texture as well.

The salad is julianned green papaya, thinly sliced tomatoes, mung bean sprouts, Thai chiles, coriander, and Thai basil. It is tossed in a dressing made of fresh lime juice, honey, and soy sauce, and there is a sprinkling of dry-roasted peanuts on top. I really enjoyed this salad--crunch, sour, a little sweet, and spicy.