Remember last week when I asked you to be more creative by improvising? One of my favorite places to do that is in the kitchen. I never have the exact ingredients a recipe calls for, and I know I like to prepare certain vegetables certain ways etc. So when I was presented with a challenge a few weeks ago (hot main dish for a potluck lunch at work – no stove or oven!) I knew it was time to bring out my best improvising skills.
The past few potlucks, we’d had soup and chili, reheated in the microwave. I decided it was time to spice it up a little – literally! I wanted to do a curry. One of our group is vegetarian, so I knew it had to be a vegetarian curry, and I happened to have some red lentils around, so I went to the library and found a good recipe for a vegetable Dal; lentil based curry, varying from soup-y to very thick. The recipe said to saute and/or boil all the veggies, add the spices and simmer. Not only did I not have that kind of time at work, I didn’t have a stove. My solution?
BRING IN THE CROCKPOT! Easy peasy! The night before I chopped up all the veggies and put them in a Tupperware together – all going the same place in the end anyway, right? I did take the time to saute the onions, garlic and peppers for a few minutes, since sauteed is a lot more flavorful than boiled. I put all my spices into a little container which I threw in the big Tupperware with the veggies and I was all set! Then, as soon as I got into work, I dumped everything into the crock pot, added a few extra cups of water to help soften up the carrots, cauliflower and lentils that were supposed to be boiled beforehand, and let it sit on hi for the four hours before lunch. And voila! It turned out perfect – the cauliflower was soft but not mushy, and because it had spent so many hours simmering in the same pot, the spices really had the chance to permeate everything.
This is pretty advanced improvising, I’ll admit. I’ve been cooking for 13 years, after all, and I pretty much know what I’m doing. But, anyone can improvise a little – change up a few spices or add a little water if you’d rather more of a soup than a stew. Try stuff! See what works!