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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Mistry sees scrumptious selections

Sometimes creating an entirely new dish is not entirely necessary to achieve gourmet greatness. Today is all about making small tweaks to your daily meal in order to make it a little more delicious, a little more fun and little more your own. A dash of spice, an extra ingredient, a special sauce or a bit more prep work can make a rudimentary meal into a feast. We’ll delve into a few examples, but remember to think creatively for yourself as you roam the Dining Hall in search of delicious dishes.

Hummus is a fantastic food. It is nutritious and fantastically scrumptious. The Dining Hall version may not be as appealing as the store-bought or homemade versions, but we can make it better than any with a few simple tricks. First, begin by grabbing a bowl of hummus and microwaving it for 30 seconds. This more or less cooks the chickpeas in the hummus, making them easier to blend and mash into a smoother consistency.(This takes care of most of the consistency issues with the Dining Hall hummus. The Dining Hall simply cannot heat and cool the large quantities of hummus the school goes through on a daily basis.) Next, add a spoonful of olive oil from the salad bar, a small dollop of PLAIN yogurt from the dessert bar and a decent helping of cumin, paprika, oregano, thyme and black pepper from the spice rack to your personal taste preference. Blend the mixture with a fork until relatively smooth, then microwave for about 30 seconds. You can enjoy the hummus with pitas, carrots, celery or (my personal favorite) roasted chickpeas. Simply grab a bowl of chickpeas from the salad bar, add a dash of olive oil and mix in the same spices listed above for the hummus until the chickpeas are thoroughly coated. Microwave them for about 45 seconds, and enjoy your chickpeas on chickpeas!

The spice rack is probably the simplest, most powerful tool for altering your food in the entire Dining Hall. A small dash of a single spice can change the entire mood of a dish, and playing with different combinations can open worlds of flavor. My favorite combination for simple meat or pasta dishes is a hearty helping of rosemary, oregano and parsley, with a bit of thyme to taste. Add in a single small shake of kosher salt and you’ll unlock a whole spectrum of flavors that would otherwise be hidden. Desserts can also benefit from the spice rack. Nutmeg, cinnamon sugar, cinnamon and kosher salt all make fantastic additions to many desserts, adding a punch of flavor that makes them all the sweeter. I enjoy making a salted-caramel ice cream by mixing caramel into vanilla ice cream with a spoon and then adding a few small shakes of kosher salt until it is the perfect balance of salty and sweet.

A simple sauce can also alter a meal significantly. The spice rack is obviously key here, but a ton of other places are prime locations for sauce ingredients. The salad bar has its oils and vinegars and lemons, the sandwich station has its menagerie of sauces, the bagel area has honey, cream cheese and peanut butter, and the stir-fry area has the soy sauce and the venerable Sriracha. When I make a sauce, I try to think of the flavors I want to play with; on some days I want a spicy, tangy sauce, on other days I’m looking for a creamy, subtle sauce. The sauce we’ll work with today is my recipe for a simple yet spicy honey barbeque sauce. Start with a condiment cup and fill it halfway with the barbeque sauce, add a squirt of ketchup and then grab some honey from the bagel station. Mix in as much Sriracha as you dare and add in a small dash of black pepper, chili powder and rosemary from the spice rack. Mix it thoroughly and enjoy on just about any meal involving meat or sandwiches.

Simple foods are everywhere. Looking for a healthy snack? Grab a bowl of carrots and celery and a few condiment cups. Fill one with peanut butter, one with honey, one with the sunflower seeds from vegan bar and your last cup with a bit of cinnamon sugar. Spread peanut butter and honey on your vegetables, and then sprinkle on the sunflower seeds and cinnamon sugar for a tasty, crunchy and nutritious snack at almost any meal.

Eating well in the Dining Hall is all about your personal creativity and effort. The Dining Hall provides the materials and the medium, but you create the masterpieces. Start with simple sauces, small spice blends and a little extra work, and then add extra bits of complexity as you see fit. Make something amazing today. You stay classy, Grinnell.

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