As I write this entry, our country is experiencing a traumatic pandemic. Because the surest way to avoid contracting Covid-19 is to avoid contact with others, many of us are remaining at home most of the time. Interestingly, this period of isolation has triggered an enhanced interest in cooking.
Food is nearly everything: it is how we nurture ourselves and others; it reflects our ethnic backgrounds; it influences the quality and length of our lives; it requires us to engage our brains to follow directions, and be creative. During uncertain, stressful times, the much needed distraction of following [or inventing] a recipe, preparing the ingredients, and sampling the finished product gives us a sense of pride and accomplishment, even as we experience the sensual pleasures of aroma, taste, and texture. Food is comfort, and we need plenty of that now.
During this time, I created a new approach to using an old standby in the kitchen- oatmeal. By thinking of this ubiquitous staple as a substitute for risotto, I created a comforting, delicious, nutritious, and economical dish that can be served for lunch or dinner. My general guidelines for my dish were to use prepared broth [chicken, vegetable, or water mixed with light miso paste to taste] as a substitute for the water called for on the oatmeal box’s instructions. I added to the broth, frozen spinach or frozen cauliflower [small florets], and diced chunks of marinated tofu. I cooked the mixture until quite thick, and before serving, topped my portion with about 1-2 TBSP. of grated Locatelli Romano cheese. At times I have added a small amount of leftover rice, making it even more like a risotto.
Any seasonings could be added to this savory version of oatmeal, as could any vegetable. [I’m enjoying using the miso paste with its salty complexity, but with a fraction of the sodium in table salt.] While I added flavored tofu, any lean protein could be added to the bowl…perhaps shrimp. The result is steamy, creamy, and savory comfort in a bowl…a one dish meal containing grain, vegetable, and protein. It sticks to the ribs too.
I hope these recipe alterations trigger ideas to reinvent old standbys while offering good health, comfort, and deliciousness without adding unwanted weight.
Dateline: Latham, Albany County, New York.