Hungry! Food... good.
July 31, 2005 10:39 PM   Subscribe

Tell me what to eat!

I need to learn how to make more than just stir-fries and sandwiches. Tell me what I should be making.

My particulars: I’m not vegetarian, but I’ve been avoiding animal products more and more because industrialized animal production sketches me out – I’m much more comfortable with organic animal products, but sometimes they’re too expensive. I like vegies, (broccoli, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, onions, etc.), chicken, fish, bread, rice, couscous, hummus, cheeses, etc.

Favorite cuisines are Japanese and Lebanese.

I often enjoy spending awhile making something, but in general I prefer dishes that minimize shopping and prep time. And, of course, I’m on a tight budget. I’m in downtown Toronto (the annex).
posted by slipperywhenwet to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Hmm, where to start. If you like veggies...I would start there. Roasting/grilling/sauteing... in the summer I cook zucchini with tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic on the stove with olive oil all the time. Sprinkle some feta on top, and it's great.

Or...fajitas? Again..super easy. Peppers, onions, oil, and taco seasoning...and then add whatever meat you want or tofu, or nothing.

I've recently started making homemade pizza..I will never buy frozen again, and my pizza could probably still be way improved.

I would also suggest trying beans...garbanzo beans are a good place to start. (In case you can't tell already all this advice is coming from a non-meat-eater...)
posted by jetskiaccidents at 10:58 PM on July 31, 2005

... well, just in case, here are some really good sandwich ideas you probably haven't tried yet
posted by fourstar at 10:59 PM on July 31, 2005

I have a great recipe that I calll moroccan (though your average moroccan would probably be appalled). Fry onion, garlic and eggplant in olive oil, then add spices - cumin, paprika, maybe cinnamon, coriander seed, sumac if available. Then add some vegies like carrots, capsicum, zucchini, a tin of tomatoes and a cup of stock (chicken, beef, vegie, whatever), boil for 10 minutes or so, and add chickpeas and sultanas. Use the excess liquid on couscous and dinner is served.
posted by wilful at 11:07 PM on July 31, 2005

This AskMe thread contains pages and pages of vegetarian fare (including my own suggestion). You can easily add seafood (tuna, shrimp, etc.) to these recipes.
posted by Rothko at 12:24 AM on August 1, 2005

Wilful's recipe is also good in a crock pot, where I build a similar construction with cauliflower mini-florets and a baked acorn squash added, and occasionally some chicken breast cubes browned with the onion and garlic. I also throw some brown mustard seeds in to pop in the frying pan. But no damn raisins.

This is so good a mathematician will follow you home.
posted by Sallyfur at 12:49 AM on August 1, 2005

posted by philmas at 4:24 AM on August 1, 2005

Pesto is pretty cheap, really easy to get right, and a quick job. Just combine garlic cloves, fresh basil, olive oil, pine nuts and some parmesan in a food processor in a ratio that suits your palate. Use it with slices of tomato, fresh mozzarella and grilled or baked peppers and zucchini to make an excellent sandwich.
posted by shoos at 4:44 AM on August 1, 2005

I like Cooking Light, and the way I'd tell you to try it out is to buy a copy at a newsstand (bookstore, whatever) and then use that to get access to the online site (hafta subscribe or buy a copy to have access to the whole database). Then you can poke through their offerings online, see if you like what they have to offer well enough to subscribe, and then hey-presto -- an endless supply of New Things to Try. I imagine it would be somewhat similar with other cooking magazines.

For specific suggestions . . . Pesto is good for pizza -- pesto (not too much!) as the "sauce," add chopped tomatoes and provolone, bake it up -- tasty. Also margherita pizza is stupid easy at home and tastes really, really good. Fresh basil is the bomb-diggity, if you will. We're making a grits casserole tonight that is non-meat-ful(you can email me if you want to know if it's any good!). Black beans and rice can be a very filling and tasty meal -- we sometimes get the "Black Bean Soup" mixes that are in the grocery store - I believe Lysander's was the last one we tried, which was tasty with some steamed rice.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:46 AM on August 1, 2005

I've learned to cook a pretty wide variety of food just by watching a lot of the food networkl. Unless you're a 'nervous cooker', you don't need to mad-dash write down the recipes in front of the TV, you can just get ideas of what goes with what, and how certain things should, generally, be cooked. Its a great idea-starter, if that's a key problem.

I've also learned to cook new things by looking at the ingredients I have, then googling a string of three or four of them that I think would go together, somehow. I end up with a list a recipes for dishes that I never would have thought of otherwise (and that I actually have on-hand ingredients for.)

Or borrow/buy some cookbooks and follow the directions! (As my mom says, "if you can read, you can cook.")
posted by Kololo at 6:10 AM on August 1, 2005

Roasted roots: Dice a potato (leave skin on!), slice 2 carrots, toss in about 3-4 tbsp oil. Dump into a greased or Pam'd pan. Add lots of pepper and salt (I like sea salt). Roast in 450-degree oven, sitrring once or twice, for 20-40 minutes depending on how crunchy you like it. It's ok if the potatoes start to shrivel or blacken on the corners. Serves one light eater as a whole meal or two as a side dish. Yum!
posted by scratch at 6:19 AM on August 1, 2005

This Page at links to over 100 quick recipes of fast, healthy foods that use just a few, fresh ingredients. I don't think any of them take longer than 20 minutes to make, and almost all are vegetarian, chicken, or fish. I've made several of them and haven't found a dud yet.
posted by bibliowench at 6:22 AM on August 1, 2005

posted by Pollomacho at 6:29 AM on August 1, 2005

Your question is, if read on its face, one about meal makeup, not about what to make. In other words, you want to branch out of sandwiches and stirfry, to other types of dishes, even if the ingredients remain the same.

First there are some twists on your sandwiches and stirfries --

1. Make "melts" by taking a regular cheese (or turkey, though I'm not eating meat right now either) and tomato sandwich and pan frying it for about 3 minutes on a side. Sauteed onions (in the other side of the same pan!) can be a great addition.

2. Make stirfry but go mediterranian instead of asian. Make couscous instead of rice (even easier because it cooks in 5 minutes instead of 30). Then make your stirfry lebanese, or what have you, by adding pine nuts, sun-dried tomato, cardamon, etc.

3. Make open-faced sandwiches.

4. Make sandwiches on different bread -- tortillas, wraps, pita-bread, and bagels come to mind

5. Stirfry sandwich. A friend in college used to do this all the time with his "sandwich maker" (a griddle/toaster that makes 2 sandwiches at a time -- I bought mine at EverythingMart for $8). Take stirfry leftovers, place on bread in sandwich maker. Toast until ready. Enjoy! Weird, but I liked it.

Then you could branch out into other types of preparations entirely:

1. "Meat and Potatoes" : This is the classic protein source (slab of pan-fried tofu or whatever) and starch and vegetable. Make couscous or rice. Or roast potatoes as per the recipe above. Then wilt some greens (kale, or even chard) and sprinkle them with lemon juice, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper.

2. Casseroles : These are dishes made in a pan where all of the ingredients mix and there's some liquid or near-liquid to make it all "gel." Examples are: tuna casserole (basically just tuna and noodles and cream of mushroom soup), lasagna, and other baked pastas (ziti is a classic, but I like baked spaghetti, too).

These take longer to cook, but the whole dish is in one pan, so clean-up is fast and easy. Plus, leftovers.

3. Stews and Soups : Vegetables are great for soups. There are many veggie-only options, but I like some cheese soups and definitely some bread soups, too. Rice or beans can go in, too. Also, in this category, don't forget chilli, which is a lot easier to make veggie than stew.

4. Asian Noodles : Many different dishes here. Pho from vietnam, Glass noodles (hot, cold, in soup) from Thailand, Japan, China. Also Pad Thai from Thailand (with peanut sauce and some tofu -- top it with avocado).
posted by zpousman at 6:48 AM on August 1, 2005

I vote for starting with cookbooks. You can work your way through them and then, once you have an idea of the basics, branch out, improvise, whatever. A good cookbook is a joy; you keep it forever, the pages get nicely stained, and, unlike the internet, it's okay to spill melted butter on it.

My first cookbook was the Alices's Restaurant Cookbook (yes, the Alice's Restaurant) and it's a delight; you can read it like a novel. It's kind of meat heavy though - my favorite vegetarian cookbook is the Horn of the Moon cookbook, hands down. It's fabulous, full of great new ideas and really delicious food.

Googling Alice's Restaurant Cookbook, by the by, turns up a bunch of interesting links as well as the fact that it seems to have been reprinted. Apparently I'm not the only one who loves it!
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:28 AM on August 1, 2005

Quiche is my mainstay. It's damn easy, can be eaten cold in a packed lunch or heated up during the week for dinner. Plus, by varying the cheese and main ingredients, it's like a hundred recipes in one. I make mine crustless, just layer a pie pan with shredded cheese, add veggies (usually pre-cooked) and maybe a little chopped deli meat (turkey, ham) if I feel like it, poor in a mix of 3 eggs and a cup of milk, pop it in the oven for 35 minutes at 375...presto!
posted by girlpublisher at 7:32 AM on August 1, 2005

Just remembered: We made this Queer Eye recipe, and it was very tasty:

Asparagus Torta or "Man Quiche"
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:58 AM on August 1, 2005

I recommend two cookbooks by Sarah Kramer and Tanya Bernard. How It All Vegan and The Garden Of Vegan are good, fun cookbooks. They cover more than "just cooking" and are chock full of cookable meals. Of course, both cookbooks are vegan, but vegan food isn't just for hippies and beardos you know! (The authors are tattooed punk rockers!)

What you should be making is soup! Pea and mint soup, spicy butternut squash soup, lentil and carrot soup, butterbean and tomato soup... the list goes on.
posted by xpermanentx at 8:18 AM on August 1, 2005

Two words: Indian Food.

It's not nearly as complicated to make as it might seem from the taste. In fact, the secret to making Indian food is all in the spices. Find a good source for spices (real spices, not the McCormack crap) and you're more than halfway done with the dish. Your friends will think you're a daring culinary genius, and will like you more and give you free stuff.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:00 PM on August 1, 2005

I'll second the Cooking Light suggestion. Their recipes vary across all types of food and are generally really good.

I like the Moosewood cookbooks. Really good food and easy to follow recipe directions. (The Cook's Illustrated people make a great book. There is an article on Slate, covering a variety of cookbooks, here.)

Finally, in general I'd advise you to go out and get a wok. It doesn't have to be fancy, something from Bed Bath and Beyond will do. Stir-fry is a great way to cook, healthy and easy.
posted by oddman at 12:27 PM on August 1, 2005

Lentils and Quinoa are easy to cook, healthy, and moderately tasty.
posted by euphorb at 12:53 PM on August 1, 2005

go here, and begin your culinary education

the site is full of information about nearly everything food related. if, by sheer accident, you can't find the information you desire, just ask. the community boasts members held in high regard amongst foodies (N.B. i hate that word)
posted by markovitch at 2:01 PM on August 1, 2005

If you're willing to use eggs I highly recommend making a frittata (I went through a HUGE frittata phase for a while).

They're the same basic idea as omelettes but more foolproof and they always seem like more of a dinner food to me. Like omelettes you can put pretty much anything in 'em. Just get yourself a good oven-safe skillet.
posted by awegz at 7:54 PM on August 1, 2005

One of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks is "Quick Vegetarian Pleasures" by Janet Lemlin--$6.99 @ Amazon. My favorites include excellent recipe for a spinach, tomato, cous-cous cassarole and the zuchini, tomato swiss cheese pie. There are also quick recipies for cold sesame noodles and other Asian style entrees and appetizers. Happy eating.
posted by teddyb109 at 4:02 AM on August 3, 2005

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