As soon as I entered the kitchen, my eyes lit on an avocado idling on the counter. It was heavy and firm-yet-yielding -- in other words: perfectly ripe. This sight got my juices flowing and my mind wandering: hmm, what could I do with an avocado that really had to be eaten now? It certainly didn’t go with cheese sandwich, so I’d have to think of something else.
Then I remembered some left-over salmon puree in the refrigerator (canned Pacific salmon mashed with home-made mayonnaise and plain yoghurt, spring onion, parsley and lemon juice). Yes, that would go nicely in the avocado’s hollow.
No sooner had I opened the fridge to retrieve the salmon puree than I spotted a tomato on the vegetable shelf, sitting very still, no doubt hoping I wouldn’t spot it. I did spot it though and out it came. Just as I was about to chop it all up and dump it in a chipped breakfast bowl (part of me still wanted to rush) I remembered four lonesome asparagus spears left over from last night’s dinner and shunted to the back of the fridge. This had to be fate. No more rushing; the time had come for an impromptu feast.
I put away the chipped bowl, took a white china plate out of the cupboard and arranged on it the quartered avocado, a blob of salmon puree, the tomato quarters and asparagus spears, drizzled them with home-made olive-oil dressing (I always keep some in the refrigerator), sprinkled it with dried pepper flakes and a few leaves of parsley. I even found some pine kernels nestling at the bottom of a nearly-empty jar and so while I was arranging my plate, I toasted these lightly in a small, dry pan and scattered them over the plate.
This meal took only seven (yes, 7!) minutes to assemble; that’s my definition of fast food. It was infinitely more nutritious – and delicious! – than the cheese sandwich it replaced. And it helped me 'get out of my head,' sit down on my terrace and savour my meal listening to birdsong, a light breeze on my face -- rather than gobbling it down in-between office tasks.
Yes, there are days when I *do* eat the cheese sandwich, when there are no perfect avocadoes or salmon purees waiting to be discovered. But there are many ways of rustling up basic, delicious and healthy meals in a matter of minutes by keeping healthy supplies in pantries, refrigerators and freezers and not yielding to the temptation of the fast-but-suboptimal snack.
A few things that make healthy impromptu feasts easier:
- A supply of canned fish (especially sardines or mackerel), tomato concentrate, pesto or tapenade in one’s pantry (delicious on toast as a base for sardines or sliced tofu, or to liven up salads or soups).
- A stock of plain yogurt, home-made mayonnaise and salad dressing, goat’s cheese or feta (tastes great crumbled over salads or soups).
- Some longer-lasting items in the vegetable drawer (e.g. tomatoes, cucumbers, washed lettuce in a zip-lock bag, some parsley – washed, dried and kept fresh in an airproof container, carrots, vacuum-packed beets).
- Herbs and spices, nuts and seeds ring in the changes and liven up any dish.
- Left-overs! I generally cook a little more than we need for dinner so that I can eat the rest the next day, either cold or briefly reheated in a small saucepan.