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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Better know a dining hall

By Eric Mistry

Welcome back, fellow Grinnellians, to another wonderful year of Dining Hall adventures. We will embark on a culinary journey, mixing and matching ingredients from the Dining Hall to form spectacular, previously unimagined dishes that would delight even the most jaded gourmet.

To begin, we will cover the basics of the craft of dining hall cooking. The major tools of the trade involve the bread dishes from the bagel area, cheese and vegetables from the salad bar, cereals, the microwave and the fairly extensive supply of spices from our spice rack (located next to the microwave). Familiarizing oneself with the Dining Hall’s primary ingredients and locations of items will aid in crafting delicious meals quickly and efficiently and also enable one to spot unusual, specialty items—such as Gouda cheese and avocados—when they make surprise appearances.

With basic Dining Hall cooking knowledge established, I’d like to introduce some old favorite fallback dishes. These are perfect on those days when the Dining Hall has nothing that appeals to you, and are easily modifiable to suit a particular taste. First up is the two-minute grilled cheese. Begin with a bagel or two slices of bread, and run them through the toaster. When they are lightly browned, head over to the salad bar and load on some cheese and perhaps some black beans or onions.

Next I like to dash some Italian seasoning, chili powder and chives atop the cheese layer for some extra rich flavor in a traditional dish. icrowave for about forty seconds and then feast! If toasted bread with cheese is not your type of dish, try making mac’n’cheese with plain pasta from the daily special pasta line, adding Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese from salad bar, Italian seasons from the spice rack and microwaving it into a plateful of cheesy goodness.

A third favorite came from eating with some good friends. Start with a bowl half filled with rice and then add in a variety of ingredients, including edamame, black beans, onions, cheese, potatoes, and spices to taste. (If it is your lucky day and lentil soup is available, pour it on! It’s delicious and nutritious.) Microwave, stir, and enjoy.

The specialty dish of the week comes from a lack of patience on my part. As much as I love the custom stir-fry option, sometimes the lines for it are too long for me. This dish is quick to make, completely customizable, and a delight to devour. Here are the instructions for the four-minute “stir fry.” I like to begin at vegan bar with a half bowl of tofu, a scoop of chickpeas and edamame and black beans, and then douse them all in a mixture of the Thai chilling sauce, sriracha and soy sauce. Next, I head to the stir-fry bar and nicely ask the people waiting to hand their vegetables to the stir-fry cook if I can grab some vegetables for myself. I usually throw in some celery, red bell peppers and scallions. With the primary ingredients filling my bowl, I like to then add rice on top and stir them all together with a few spices (chili powder, ginger and garlic powder). I then microwave it for about a minute. Stir, and then feast upon a quick and easy stir-fry.

The Dining Hall has a plethora of ingredients that can make any day a delicious day. The best chef for you is yourself—nobody knows what you enjoy eating more than you do. So go forth, experiment and explore the Dining Hall! Do not despair by eating the same thing every day. Add some pizzazz to your life by adding pizzazz to your food. You stay classy, Grinnell.

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