- Purchase affordable groceries on my way to work
- For a lunch that I could make with no more than a steak knife and a microwave
- That was healthy
So I went to United Fruit Brothers, an open-air food market on 30th Avenue in Astoria, and picked up cucumber, tomato, green and yellow bell pepper, red onion and fresh basil. Then I headed down the block to Trade Fair to pick up olive oil, vinegar, feta cheese and Greek yogurt.
It was the first day of my laptop-to-make-me-healthy-and-more-productive plan and I had put together a starter kit for the week inspired by the simple salad my sister’s Bulgarian friend made for a recent cookout. At lunch I searched the office kitchen for a bowl, chopped a salad of most of the ingredients that would last me for a few days. (It got a little soggy in the third day, but having a delicious salad already prepared deterred me from taking extra field trips to the basement vending machine for peanut M&Ms.)
The weekend posed some challenge and distractions: drinks Friday night at Death & Co., which is well-known for its cocktails but has a selection of delectable “bites” that should not be overlooked; drinks Saturday afternoon at The Lot on Tap, a seasonal pop-up beer garden underneath the northernmost part of the Highline by Collichio & Sons that features a delicious specialty beer by Brooklyn Brewery named “Brooklyn High Line Elevated Wheat Ale;” and dinner with friends at Persepolis, a Persian restaurant in the Upper East Side my halal-strict friend and I stumbled into after seeing a hijabi woman dining on the patio that was nothing to rave about.
But the weekend also offered some opportunity. Saturday morning I made an elegant breakfast of yellow bell pepper stacked with feta cheese, basil leaves and two sunnyside up eggs; lunch was another Greek salad with the addition of chicken and lettuce and eaten as a picnic in Central Park beside a rousing jazz band. Sunday morning was truly inspired – two eggs over easy with a salad of tomato, yellow bell pepper, feta and basil and toast. The meal ideas just kept coming.
From a few simple ingredients which, excepting the pantry items, cost only $12, I was able to prepare several healthy meals. The starter ingredients of onion, bell pepper, tomato and basil provide the flavor base for salad, pasta, rice, meats and fish. For those who keep a well-stocked fridge, freezer and pantry, a quick bodega trip on the route home could produce a meal.
Grains are the only food I buy in packages and I never buy frozen. But these starter ingredients remind me that some ingredient combinations can extend themselves to such a range of dishes that one could learn a breadth of cooking skills and recipes while still focusing on the same flavors.
What are your favorite and most often used flavor combinations?