mistress mix a lot

First, I’m a slacker for not posting in a while and apologize. Grad school has kept me busy! But I’ve made it through mid-terms and am moving tricity back up on the priority list.  Our classes meet from 1 -4pm, which is not ideal for a mid-day feeding. I’ve been trying to make things that travel well and could be eaten cold during lectures or class breaks. Since I think cold cut sandwiches are whack, I decided to experiment with some different salads.

The first was a Thai-style beef salad. I found a simple recipe from an America’s Test Kitchen 30-minute supper cookbooks you can get at the grocery store. I love that show and these quick dinners come in handy when you want to eat, but are almost too tired to cook. The salad dressing required me to purchase my first bottle of fish sauce and I was proud. My palette has evolved! I’m so cultured  🙂

Brown your meat. I used fajita-like strips because they were on sale and made for easier cutting to make the salad eating-in-class friendly.  Once the beef has cooked through, pour a bit of the dressing (scroll down) over it and let it rest.

Ingredients for the dressing/sauce: salt, brown sugar, lime, fish sauce, chili garlic sauce. Whisk them together and make adjustments to your liking. This simple dressing was kind of a big deal for me because it was the first time fish sauce entered my kitchen. Even though I order dishes like this all the time, I never attempted to make them myself. Thai was not a staple in my diet growing up in Salisbury. My mother (bless her heart!) is a bit scared of Thai food because it’s so foreign to her. She’s gotten more comfortable after going to a Thai/sushi restaurant that a family friend loves.  I know what you’re thinking…..Thai and sushi?!?! Yes. It exists. In Salisbury! It is pretty good food and, to add to the confusion, is operated by an incredibly nice Laotian family. I’ve actually had the sushi and been pleasantly surprised.  But I digress…..

My final product didn’t look much like the recipe or even the standard dish, but it was a random mix of goodness nonetheless.  The mushrooms, onions and green peppers hanging out in my frig needed to be put to use so I sautéed them together and added them to the beef.  I had seen another recipe for beef ramen and thought the noodles would be a nice addition.  To balance the soft noodles, I served the beef, veggies, and ramen over cabbage from one of those bagged coleslaw mixes. Add a bit more dressing to the coleslaw.  Final step: sprinkle some peanuts over the top. I know the ingredients might sound like a hot mess, but it worked for me. I kept the coleslaw separate from the saucy goodness overnight, but added everything together in the morning before I left for class.  This allowed for a nice blending of flavors, but kept the coleslaw crisp.

Round 2 of the grad school salad challenge: something Italian. I am a big fan of pasta salads because they can be eaten cold and you can put a lot of stuff in there.  I had some tortellini, prosciutto, sundried tomatoes and mushrooms to get me started.

Saute the mushrooms with a bit of olive oil, basil and garlic.

Getting the flavor right. Have y’all used these amazing Dorot frozen herb packets? They rock! You can get them at Trader Joe’s and there is a nice variety. The basil, garlic and cilantro packets are staples in my freezer. I like them better than those tubes of herbs you can find in the produce section.  The Dorot packs come in handy for last minute dinners.

Add the tomatoes, prosciutto and some peas into the mushroom mix.

Prepare the tortellini.

Get ready to combine all the goodness. I did a bit of arranging here to allow for the presentation. I love all these colors! You’ll notice that I added some pine nuts (sorry Jojo, but I love the texture they add) and parmesan.  The orange glob in the bottom left-center of the bowl is Trader Joe’s Roasted Red Pepper and Artichoke Tapenade and was a last minute touch. I tossed everything together and used the tapenade and sundried tomato oils as the dressing.

Isn’t this such a pretty sight against that white plate?!?! It even looked nice in my tupperware! The flavors get better as the salad sits longer so the Day #2 serving was tastier.

Both salads had nice flavors and met the demands of being able to travel well and be eaten at a desk.  My classmates were impressed and, I must say, my lunch looked much more exciting than those standard turkey sandwiches and Lean Cuisines! I think I’m representing my SF foodie peeps quite well here in Richmond  🙂

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