It happens, from time to time, that I simply get bored with food. It was worse in grad school, when I literally spent every minute of my day writing about food, reading about food, talking about food, serving food, and then eating food - it just stopped being interesting. In Italy, the arguable capital of passionate food lovers, this same boredom starts to creep in but for other reasons. I eat every meal, more or less, at the Cantina. Don't misunderstand this as a bad thing - our food is excellent, and it's wonderful having fresh, hot, delicious meals every day that I don't need to cook or, more importantly, clean up.
Having said that, being allergic to shellfish, shrimp, calamari and pretty much everything fun, coupled with eating dinner at midnight most nights, limits what I can eat or want to eat at such a late hour. There are, sadly, only so many anchovies one can eat. I try to mix it up with steak, local cheese plates, delicious salumi, sword fish, but I'm a girl who needs a little hoisin and sriracha in her life, and there are only so many weeks I can go without throwing harissa over something.
This week, using easy ingredients I found here at the town market, along with a little southeast asian and northern african pizzazz, I put together two easy lunches that served as dinners as well for a few days - at least until the curious staff at the restaurant got to them. These plates are easy, healthy, and delicious, and certainly helped brush off some of my food boredom.
Chilled Sesame Soba Noodles with Veggies
1 bundle soba noodles (buckwheat noodles that are wonderful for you and now quite easy to find - even here)
Two big handfuls of thinly sliced raw vegetables - I used one cucumber, one zucchini, a shaved carrot, and a head of raddichio
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp thai red chili paste
Juice of one lime
Handful of diced scallions
1 spoonful of grated ginger
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Cook the noodles according to package instructions, being careful to not overcook them (they get glue-like and that is never appetizing). Chill them quickly by leaving them in the strainer and running them under cold water. Mix in a bowl with the chopped vegetables, whatever you have around, as long as they are chopped thin and long, which makes them easier to eat with the noodles. Combine remaining ingredients in a separate bowl, mix well, and drizzle over your noodles and vegetables. Toss well, garnish with sesame seeds and a bit of hot sauce if you like.
Northern African Inspired Chickpea and Zucchini Sautee with Quinoa
1/2 Cup Quinoa
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red onion, chopped thinly
4 small zucchini, sliced thin
1 cup of chickpeas, rinsed well
1 small can of tomato puree
1 1/2 tbsp harissa (a Northern African spice blend you can find pre-made, or you can make your own - I use paprika, chili pepper, cayenne, garlic, salt, cumin, coriander and caraway)
Prepare the Quinoa according to instructions. While it is cooking, in another large sautee pan over med-low heat, cook the onion and garlic in oil. When the garlic starts to golden, add the zucchini and chickpeas, and cook until the onions and zucchini are soft. Add the tomato puree, and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Add the harissa, mix well, and continue cooking for another few minutes. When the ingredients are very soft, almost falling apart, turn off the heat and add the juice of half a lemon and sprinkle cilantro over the mixture, then mixing everything in. Serve hot, over quinoa.