I am my most kitchen creative when I am low on pantry staples. I play a fun little game called “What’s for dinner?” that I think you’d really like. Come on, give it a try!
Here’s how it works: Take a peek in your cupboards and collect what you have on hand. Place your ingredients on the counter. Take a moment to survey the scene, no matter how bleak. Now put on your thinking cap and think! think! think! I bet you can come up with something more exciting that you ever imagined possible. Here’s a little secret I’ll let you in on; my best recipes are by-products of this oh-so-clever game of mine. Constraints foster creativity.
Take this dish for example; it was a quiet Sunday evening in my humble apartment and the boy and I were hungry. A quick look in my pantry revealed not a whole heck of a lot. I had one sweet potato, some frozen green peas, a handful of spinach, some fresh sage, a can of artichoke hearts, and a box of whole wheat couscous–not exactly the most cohesive bunch. Let me reveal another few secrets, a double whammy of sorts: healthy ingredients yield a healthy meal, and with enough olive oil and spices, just about anything can taste pretty delicous.
My Sunday fixins’ gave way to a recipe I plan on repeating often. We enjoyed each and every bite, even cashed in for seconds. A complex mix of tastes and textures, both sweet and savory, created a dish light enough to leave us feeling perfectly full, but rich enough in flavor to make us think we had really gone all out. The best of both worlds? Methinks yes; and it all began with near bare cupboards and a little imagination.
Sarah Buchanan is a senior at NYU where she studies history and creative writing. When she is not planning her upcoming June wedding or daydreaming about her Antigua honeymoon, she is searching for the city’s best pickles!
Green Pea Sweet Potato Couscous
This recipe invokes a little multi-tasking. I suggest preparing the couscous as directed by package first. While the cous is cooking you can work on the sauce process, the fun part!
1 small onion
1 teaspoon garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large sweet potato
2 cups green peas
1 handful of spinach
1 small bunch of fresh sage
1 box of whole wheat couscous
salt + pepper to taste
1 can artichoke hearts, diced
For the sauce, begin by dicing your onion into miniature pieces. At the same time, microwave your sweet potato (with fork holes punched throughout) so that it is somewhat soft to touch, about three minutes. Add the onion to a medium skillet with 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of cayenne. Sautee the onion until it begins to brown slightly, about two minutes. Add 2 cups of frozen peas and 1/2 cup water to the skillet. Reduce that heat to low and take your attention back to Mr. Potato.
In a food processor or blender, pulse the half-cooked sweet potato until it reduces down to a chunky puree. Add the tater mix to the skillet and stir. Bring the mix to a low boil then add in the handful of spinach and sage, plus salt and pepper. Continue stirring for the next two minutes.
Here’s the fun part: we’re going to re-use that food processor/blender once more. Tranfer the skillet mix to your machine and pulse until pureed, about two minutes. The result will be a thick green pesto-like paste that is so enticing you will find yourself dipping a spoon in for a taste or two.
Serve atop a bed of warm couscous and garnish with diced artichoke hearts and a little fresh sage.