After a jumble of ideas on what to make for these friends coming over for Sunday brunch – one tracing his ancestry to the Balkans and one originally from Central America, I decided to make something not culture-specific, if there is such a category. Plus keeping in mind that one of them is allergic to gluten. Early Saturday morning, I walked to the grocery store a mile away equipped with my empty backpack and two recyclable bags. Returned with all three full, carrying way more than I needed for tomorrow. But they will keep. Meanwhile, killing three birds with one stone – getting my aerobics exercise, and weight-lifting done, and bringing home the bacon. (City-living is so marvelous! But more on that another time)
For the brunch in particular, I brought back the magical Spaghetti Squash for the pasta (without carbs) and a block of extra-firm tofu; chicken breasts and some vegetables for stir fry; and for the dessert – a fresh-fruit dish with ricotta cheese.
I want to make quick stuff and get out to take full advantage of this warm and sunny Saturday, not one to waste over a stove. Virtually all of it could be done just an hour before my guests arrive tomorrow, but I want it ready today so I don’t scramble in the morning. The only one needing a little time is baking the Spaghetti Squash so it’s ready to be scooped out – Voila-Spaghettini!
Ingredient for Pasta:
1 big Spaghetti Squash – that’s it.
Ingredients for pasta sauce:
A bottle of your favorite pasta sauce or the one I discovered which is just strained pasta sauce with no other ingredients – easy to find in the close-by convenience store in our great city.
1 Tablespoon of Olive oil or any other oil you like
Italian dry seasonings for the sauce.
Some fresh parsley if you have any
1 or 2 pods of fresh garlic chopped, or garlic powder (be careful with the powder version. A friend used too much in my spinach-tofu recipe – not good.)
Half a block of extra-firm Tofu. (Or, you can substitute tofu for any vegetables you like that you think would taste good in that sauce (maybe sliced zucchini, maybe half a bell-pepper any color, red onion). Tofu is easier and has a more meatier consistency good for pasta sauce.
And don’t forget – you can always add fresh green or red chilies if you like a zing.
Going about it:
Roast the Spaghetti Squash in the oven at 400 Degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes. You could do this the day before. (After Spaghetti squash is cooked, cool and empty out the spaghetti strings, drizzle liberally with olive oil, and refrigerate in sealed container).
For the Pasta Sauce:
- Chop up garlic, half the tofu block into half-inch squares (or the vegetables you choose to use instead – zucchini, bell-pepper, red onion combination). Or if you have a ready-made pasta sauce that you absolutely love, skip this whole section
- Chop the parsley and keep for adding at the end
- Keep heat to medium. Add olive oil or any other you like to use – in the pan
- Add chopped garlic to oil. stir and add the chopped veggies until they are half cooked.
- Add the pasta sauce
- Let simmer for about 5 minutes at most – add Italian seasoning (if you don’t have them, no worries). Add the chopped parsley and keep aside.
Ingredients for Stir-fry Chicken with coconut gravy (or Stir-fry Tofu in same quantities)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or extra-firm Tofu)
2 pods of garlic
1/2 can of coconut milk (If you don’t have it, use 1 flattened teaspoon of corn-starch from that packet lying way at the back of your shelves)
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder or fresh turmeric paste.
1/2 bell-pepper (any color), 1/2 a red onion, medium size carrot, 1? red onion (and if you have a handful of green beans you could add)
1 inch of ginger finely sliced
1 tablespoon of soy sauce for the vegetarians (and one teaspoon of fish-sauce for non-vegetarians who love that flavor if they want)
3 tablespoons of olive oil or any other oil you like
salt to taste (just remember that you are using soy sauce as well and that’s pretty salty)
Going about it:
Slice your chicken breasts into thin strips or small half-inch pieces whatever you prefer (Same goes for the Tofu) – and marinade in the soy sauce – put aside
Slice the vegetables also into thin slices to match the shape of the chicken slices (Visual symmetry is important in the final product making it pleasing to the eye)
Water down your half can of coconut milk by adding water to make it one can full
Get out your wok or large saucepan
On medium heat – add 2 tablespoons of oil.
Add the chopped garlic and let it saute for a minute
Add the chicken strips and the turmeric.
Stir fry till you the chicken looks half-cooked (you want some of the flavor to go to the vegetables as well)
Add the vegetables and keep stirring till they are half cooked.
Add the coconut milk that you diluted with water
Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes
Serve with a sprig of cilantro garnish or add chopped cilantro to the dish.
Serve with rice.
Refrigerate everything and take out an hour before your multi-culti Sunday brunch to heat and serve.
Dessert: This one’s a sham recipe. Chop a pound of fresh strawberries. Throw in some blackberries, blueberries, one chopped pear (any kind). Add some honey or sugar (or not). Serve with pressed cottage cheese or ice cream. Easy-breezy.