Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Working Eater Series: Poor-Man's Polenta and Greek Salad

You know how when you go shopping at Costco (or your warehouse store of choice), you can end up eating the same thing for the next three weeks straight?

Costco is not for a single-person shopper. I remember the first time I bought an acre-sized cardboard tray with interlayered croissants and pastries. I thought, "This is a great deal, because I have an easy breakfast for this entire week!" Unfortunately, I painfully learned that it was not a good deal, and I learned it the hard way. I had to eat each and every one of those mo's by myself until I was blue in the face with disgust. ... Well, not every one, some of them grew a fuzzy shag carpet of green and black mold before I could finish the entire tray. That is why to this day, I can't look at croissants or pastries in good faith again.

I experience the "single-person Costco syndrome" after parties too. You never want to be the party hostess who doesn't prepare enough food. Unfortunately, overpreparation means "tons of leftovers for you to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the rest of the week." Additionally, my Mama taught me to "Want not, waste not" the Asian way, or "If you waste food, I will disown you and those of your lineage!"

Because of my tightwad upbringing, I've tried to make eating leftovers more exciting, by innovatively metamorphosizing the ingredients into new and different dishes.

the April Fool's Feast Sunshine Fest at our apartment last week, we had one tremendous and unbearable stink emanating from the fridge.

It was the cheese.

Last week, we bought feta, gorgonzola, gouda, parmesan, romano, fontina, and of course, Kraft American singles. All of the odors combined with one another, and smelled like there was day-old roadkill marinating in our kitchen.

I heeded the orders of my roommates who said, "Get that crap outta our fridge, or get out of the house," by making a rustic rosemary and parmesan polenta and classic Greek salad with what I had left in the kitchen. These two dishes "sorta" went together, but they were quick to make and thus would be great for any
Working Eater.

For the polenta, I started by bringing a large pot of salted water to a vigorous boil. I slowly sprinkled in handfuls of dry cornmeal, turned the heat to a medium-low, and briskly whisked the mixture until it was creamy and silky to taste. After about 10 minutes of cooking and whisking at low heat, I then added a pat of butter, a splash of whole milk, generous amounts of finely shredded parmesan and romano cheese, and finely chopped herbs. You can use whatever herbs are in your fridge, but I like to use rosemary the best. Continue to whisk the ingredients together, to get a wonderfully creamy and rich concoction.

For the Greek salad, I used fresh and juicy Roma tomatoes and vacuum-sealed English cucumbers, both diced and sliced into edible pieces. I added a drizzle of olive oil, dried oregano crushed between my fingers, black olives, and large crumbles of feta cheese. Finally, the entire salad was doused in red wine vinegar, and marinated for five minutes.

Easy and delicious! Don't use bottled salad dressing, when you can easily make your own. Plus, don't worry about not having all of the traditional ingredients to make a dish, but use your imagination to substitute flavors, or just use what you have. That is the key to being an efficient and effective working eater.

After hungrily wolfing down the polenta and Greek salad, I was inspired to share how
easy it is to use what you have in the fridge to make a delicious meal for you and your family after a long work day.


  1. Greek salad is a favorite of mine....but have not attempted my own dressing. You always make it sound so easy!

  2. Lovely. Yow, delicious looking.
    Now, PE, I want to extend a challenge to you: You are busy, I totally understand that, but you sometimes buy food "out of season" (tomatoes, for instance).
    There's this totally cool event coming up next month called Eat Local Challenge; you may already know about it.
    Even if you can't commit at the 100% level, I think it would be really educational for you to give it a try just a little bit.

  3. Sweetness! I wish I was as creative with the leftovers as you are...I make two things with leftover cheese. Paninis and grilled cheese sandwiches. And yes, I'm being funny. I just call them panini one day and grilled cheese the next eventhough its the same bread, the same cheese. My roommates don't find this as funny as I do though...

  4. p.e.

    i so totally respect the fact you won't waste food... and then you'll go and create something amazing out of it...

    you are awesome p.e.!!

  5. Buddy/Ex-twin, your food looks great. Don't tell me that you're stuff looks boring, b/c it isn't. Simple is always nice. You take really nice photos, as everything is always pleasant to look at. I recently tried the best bruschetta EVER, using feta cheese, basil and rosemary. I'm never going back to the standard Italian recipe.

    Costco is only good for certain things: like toilet paper, meat for bbq's and alcohol. The 15-pack of shaving cream, 100 pairs of socks and the Complete Celine Dion discography are not.

    BTW, my work's gonna be requiring that I go up every other month or so to SF. Guess who i'm calling to grab a bite with??? Now, will you try that crispy duck tongue with me at Winterland or not? haha.

  6. i love your creations, jone! it's almost dangerous for me to read your blog when I'm at work because I start to think about food and only food. I'd have to disagree about the non-single shopper friendly Costco comment though. You know I love my Costco, girl...and I only shop for myself! It's definitely tough to avoid the situations you described above, but determination can create unbelievable results. :)

  7. Thank you so much everyone!

    Poor-Man's Greek Salad is really easy Rachel, you don't even need salt! I usually just add red wine vinegar and crushed, dried oregano. The feta cheese adds the saltiness. (But I am not sure whether the way I make the salad is traditional...) Also, I love your post on the baked goods and desserts! Extravagant and delicious Rachel!

    I just looked at the link Cookie Crumb, and it sounds intense! I don't know too much about the Eat Local Challenge, but I'm willing to give it a try as much as I can. I saw that the site you referred me to said we will likely be making use of "strawberries, peas, cherries, artichokes, cucumbers, summer squash, potatoes, salmon and halibut," and those ingredients will definitely keep me busy for a while!

    I support you entirely Elmo Monster! I call cheese sandwiches: "the vegetarian Croque Monsieur," "meatless Cuban sandwiches with American cheese," or "not a Whopper Jr. but a Whopper the III."

    Thanks Diet Chili Cheese Fries! Just call me the "Martha Stewart of outdated trash!" *Wink, wink!*

    Yee-haw Eat, Drink, & Be Merry! Lets go to the Cheese Board, Zachary's Chicago-Style Pizza restaurant, and Tommy's Joynt (together this time)! We'll hit the town! It is so exciting that you'll be coming up here again!

    You are wonderful Goldfishy 526! Do you know that? Also too, Giada will be coming to SF on May 2, 2006, so we gotta buy her book at Costco before then! Also too, I agree with you though, I think I have to cut back on eating out so that I can eat Costco more! ;)


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