Kitchen Confessions: Friends with Benefits
They say you are what you eat. They also say that if you stay in a relationship with someone long enough, you’ll start to become the other person – like an animorph (kids of the 90s, you know of what I speak).
So there’s only one logical conclusion. If you are what you eat, and you are what you date, then, by the powers of the transitive property, you eat what you date. We are all in a relationship with our food.
Most of them are dysfunctional relationships.
There’s the needy type: the eat-your-feelings relationship. There’s the dismissive kind: the oh I totally forgot to eat today relationship. The complacent kind: the yeah, let’s just go to Greek Lady for the third time this week relationship. And, there’s the obsessive type: the neurotic calorie-counter, Sweet Green dressing on-the-side relationship.
But what if you just don’t want a relationship? What if, as a modern member of society, you decide you want to set your own terms of engagement?
Personally, I want friends with benefits.
That’s right. I want low commitment, no frustration food that is full of flavor. It’s what everyone wants, really. A no-guilt, quickie-in-the-kitchen kind of meal. Well, I’ve found it. And I’m sharing it with you.
I call it: “The Reheat and Eat” Relationship. And it’s the most stable relationship you’ve ever been in.
1. It understands your needs.
You like to cook. But that doesn’t automatically mean you’re willing to sacrifice your social life to the cult of domesticity. Just because you’re taking baby steps towards becoming an adult doesn’t mean you’re willing to commit to a routine life of supper at 7pm.
2. It wants you to be the best version of you.
Reheat and eat meals feel sad when you sit at home. Alone. Eating Nutella out of the jar while watching reruns of Judge Judy and guzzling down Franzi à la tap. It hurts them to watch you hurt yourself. Which is why reheat and eat meals take minimal time to make. Just throw some ingredients in a casserole dish, pop it in the oven, and reheat it when you want it, so you have the energy to move on with your life.
3. It’s very forgiving.
Don’t have scallions? Throw in regular onions. Forgot the sour cream? Use plain yogurt instead. Reheat and eat meals aren’t picky when it comes to how much time and effort you put into them. Never excessively needy, they give more than they take.
4. It’s low-maintenance.
Relationships are hard work, and it’s true that some meals require a lot of effort to keep up. (My first relationship – let’s call him… “Souffle” – comes to mind.) But reheat and eat meals feel effortless. They stay fresh, hot, and steamy without the blood, sweat, and tears. To keep things fresh, be sure to store leftovers in an airtight container. Tupperware containers may feel expensive, but they provide ease of transport and an element of freshness that can’t otherwise be duplicated. To keep things hot and steamy, forget the microwave. That’s right, reheat and eat meals may be cheap, but even they have standards. Invest in a toaster oven (or, just master the art of the broiler setting on your oven) for reheated leftovers that taste as hot and crispy as when they were fresh from the oven.
5. No messy aftermath.
Reheat and eat meals don’t last forever – they’re not supposed to. Part of their appeal is that they satisfy your craving for a short period of time – a week, maybe – and then you can move on to the next flavor of the week. And when your reheat and eat meal is getting stale, you need not fret over dumping it. With only one dish to wash per week, damage control is minimal. And if you’re having real commitment anxiety, use disposable tin foil baking dishes.
College is the time to experiment for a reason. You’re too hungry for life to waste time being hungry for food. So why commit yourself to the daily routine of having to figure out what’s for dinner tonight? Just find a dish to make on the weekend that whets your appetite, store it in the fridge during the week, and heat it up when you’re ready.
Reheat and eat: the new friends with benefits.
My current dish du jour? Greek mac and cheese. Check out the recipe here:
Greek Mac and Cheese
(adapted from a recipe by Angie McGowan)
1/2 pound orecchiette pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
One 10 ounce bag fresh bagged spinach
2 cups grated Havarti cheese with dill , or regular Havarti plus 1 tablespoon fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill
One 8 ounce package feta cheese, crumbled
6 ounce jar Kalamata olives, chopped
8 ounces of grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
Bread crumbs or panko crumbs for topping (about a ½ cup in total)
1. In a large pot, cook the orecchiette pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Swirl in 1 tablespoon olive oil and add onions. Saute until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute for an additional 2 – 3 minutes. Add spinach and tomatoes. Continue to saute until spinach is wilted.
3. Reduce heat and stir in the Havarti cheese until it is melted. Add feta and olives and continue stirring, feta will get melty, but will stay in chunks. (Kitchen Confession: If the cheese mixture is too thick for your taste, slowly drizzle milk into the pan until it reaches the desired consistency. If you put in too much milk, you can always add flour to the mixture to re-thicken it.)
3. In a casserole dish, combine all of the ingredients with the pasta. Mix well and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
4. When ready to reheat and eat, spoon a portion onto a piece of tin foil, top with panko bread crumbs, and broil in the oven or toaster oven until cheese melts and bread crumbs brown. (About 7 minutes at 500 degrees.)