I’ve often waxed poetic about whiling away the hours in the kitchen, experimenting with the dozens (probably hundreds, by now) of tantalizing recipes, imagined by a wide variety of creative bloggers, that comprise my now 29-page long “Recipes to Try” Word document. However, in my desire to recreate as many mouthwatering, preconceived dishes as possible, I often forget the deep satisfaction derived from scrounging together a surprisingly delicious meal merely from the contents of your refrigerator. No shopping lists, no preparation, no double-checking of measurements—only you, the ingredients you happen to have on hand, and your culinary creative skill. Sure, perhaps most of the time only a simple stir fry emerges from these types of recipe-less endeavors, but other similar occasions produce unexpected gastronomic masterpieces; or at least dishes requiring only a bit of honing to achieve their full flavor potential.
I experienced the luck of creating one of these successful improvisational dishes the other day in an attempt to use up as many of the leftovers I had accumulated over my college winter break as possible. After all, I planned on flying back to New York the following day and didn’t forsee my parents partaking in the cashew cheese I had made a couple days prior, even considering their recent shift to a plant-based diet. What began as a simple saute of mixed veggies, quinoa, and chickpeas transformed into an unctuous, ooey-gooey, wonderfully savory one-dish meal thanks to the melting of four slices of the aforementioned cashew cheese over the just-shy-of-tender amalgamation. Talk about a scrumptious bout of unexpected inspiration.
Cabbage, Quinoa, & Chickpea Saute with Cashew Cheese—Soy Free, Low Fat, Low Sodium
2 tsp olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves removed and chopped
Handful of green beans, about 1/3 cup chopped
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 head green cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup chickpeas
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 slices of cashew cheese
In a medium-sized skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and rosemary and saute for 3-5 minutes, taking care not to burn the shallot. Add the green beans and tomatoes, cover, and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add the cabbage, cover again, and cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring periodically. Add the quinoa, chickpeas, and balsamic vinegar, and stir until heated through. Layer the slices of cashew cheese on top of the entire saute, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. Stir the semi-melted cheese into the veggies and stir until everything becomes coated in cheesy goodness.
I served this dish alongside a simple salad of mixed greens, bean sprouts, and Liquid Gold Dressing.
Meal Checklist: Protein—chickpeas, cashews. Whole Grain—quinoa. Vegetables—shallots, rosemary, green beans, cherry tomatoes, mixed bean sprouts. Leafy Greens—cabbage, mixed salad greens.
Comment Provoking Questions: What is your go-to no-plan meal? What is the best dish you’ve created solely by improvisation? What are the ingredients you always keep on hand to perk up improvised meals?
Until next time, Ali.