Saturday, March 14, 2015

Week 9 - One Color

I was pretty excited for Week 9 of the challenge with its one color theme. I love thinking about color and the colors of food, and am usually trying to cram as many colors as possible into our weekly diet. I decided to do green, but I didn't want to do something that seemed too obvious to me, like a salad of green ingredients or a big pot of braised greens. I had been looking at a green lentil recipe already for that week, so I decided to pair that with a green tofu patty. I figured it would be a great green meal with green lentils, leeks, green onions, salsa verde, jalapeños, and cilantro.

Ignore the tomato paste ... Look at all that green!

For the lentils, I adapted this recipe on Bon Appetit for Canal House lentils a little and used:

- 2 small trimmed leeks, thinly sliced ($2.99)
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced ($0.05)
- olive oil, about 1 tbsp ($0.20)
- tomato paste, about 1 tbsp ($0.40)
- 1 cup green lentils ($0.50)
- 4 cups of water ($0)
- 1 heaping spoonful of vegetable bouillon ($0.30)
- 3 scallions, chopped ($0.30)
- soy sauce, about 2 tbsp ($0.30)
- salt and pepper, to taste ($0.08)

I didn't follow a recipe for the green tofu patty but came up with something on my own. The ingredients I used for the tofu patties were:

- 1 package of firm tofu ($1.32)
- 2 large spoonfuls of salsa verde ($0.35)
- 1/2 bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped ($0.50)
- 1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped ($0.08)
- 3 scallions, chopped ($0.30)
- Italian-style bread crumbs, about 1/2 cup ($0.35)
- 2 eggs, beaten ($0.40)
- olive oil for pan-frying ($0.20)

All together, that comes to about $8.62. Not that bad for dinner for 2, except over a third of that was for the leeks! I had no idea the leeks cost so much in comparison to everything else when I picked them up at Trader Joe's. Sure, they're trimmed and much cleaner than most of the regular leeks you'll get, but that's kind of crazy to me. The leeks were good, but maybe next time, I would just use the frozen ones.

I started the lentils first, figuring they would need to cook for quite a while in order to be tender. In a pot with olive oil, I sauteed the leeks, then added the garlic and the tomato paste (yes, I know tomato paste is not green, but it was so little and I figured it wouldn't really show up in the color later). After that was all softened, I added the lentils with the water and the vegetable bouillon. It was much more water than the original recipe had, but I followed what was on the lentil bag instead, figuring Whole Foods should know what their lentils needed.

I brought it to a boil, lowered the flame, and let it simmer for 45 minutes with the cover on, checking it once in the middle to see how everything was doing. It didn't look especially green when it started or partway through, but I figured that, no matter what, they were still green lentils and maybe I could just call them a dark shade of green, like army green or something. After most of the water was absorbed, I added the soy sauce, salt and pepper, and let it keep cooking, cover off, on the lowest flame possible, while I worked on the tofu.

At that point, it didn't really look green at all. It was brown, no question about it. Maybe a little green from some of the leeks, but otherwise it was brown, just brown. A said that I should just say I was doing brown for this one color meal, but I still had to add the chopped scallions after I shut off the flame, so it wouldn't be all brown. I really should have known since the original recipe photo was brown with green scallions. Green fail.

For the other part of the meal, I didn't follow a recipe but tried to construct a "green patty" in my own head. I figured I could use tofu, since tofu will often take on the color of whatever sauce you mix it with, and decided I would use salsa verde along with peppers and herbs. Lots of green! First, I drained the tofu and mashed it up, then added the salsa verde, chopped cilantro and scallions and jalapeño, bread crumbs, eggs, and seasoning. I expected it to be green.

Apparently salsa verde is not enough to turn a box of tofu green. It was still very white, even with all the green herbs. I tried forming patties, figuring that if they were loose, it might still be okay, since the carrot pancakes were pretty loose but still worked beautifully. Not so here. They only sort of stayed together, but not very well. Not only were they not really patties, but once they browned in the pan, they, like the lentils, were not very green. They were like brown and white with flecks of green. I gave up on the patties for the second batch and just browned/cooked it in the pan in a flat layer. Another green fail.

This meal was a complete failure as far as the one color theme (brown or green), but the dishes themselves weren't bad. I wouldn't make that green patty experiment again, at least not like that, since it was fine but nothing special. The lentils however were quite good and we would definitely eat those again. For now though, I'm going to go back to my attempt at making colorful multi-color meals. Trying to make everything one color was such a challenge!

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