February 23, 2013

Lunch and the Working Woman:
An Unnecessarily Exhaustive Study

( + Shrimp in Coconut Milk )

I got a job, guys.  A real job.  With a commute.  And voicemail.  And union representation. 

Oh, and paychecks.

I'm still trying to decide if it's worth it.

I mean, sure I like the dental insurance.  And the ability to make payments on my student loans.  And our new bed, which is large enough to fit both of us on it at the same time without having to resort to positions reminiscent of the more nightmare-ey pages of the Kama Sutra. 

But also, they make me wear pants.

It's really a toss-up.

And sure, all of this technically happened back in October, and I'm only telling you about it now.  But don't take it personally.  It's just that I have issues with change, and it's taken this long to come to the terms with the fact that my morning routine no longer goes:

Eat Cupcakes.  Professionally.

and now goes

Wailing Puppy
Disappoint People About Their Financial Prospects. Professionally.

Learning to appreciate this state of affairs is an ongoing project.

And although my available time for blogging has been greately reduced (perhaps you've noticed a reduction in posts per month?), I have had one food-related breakthrough: apprently there's a whole world of office lunches that I never knew about.  The learning curve has been steep.  There's a rigid hierarchy.  But after four months of intensive research, I think I've got it down.  For those of you who are set to join the workforce this Spring, consider this cheat-sheet my graduation gift to you:

The Office Lunch Pyramid
(to reduce the potential for fluorescent-lit corporate funk, always eat from the lowest tier possible.)
Tier 5: "The Bottom-Drawer Special"  (2 fortune cookies, slightly crushed, with a ketchup-soy sauce coulis and pepper packet.  Served with a hygenically-wrapped spork and finished with a shrink-wrapped Starlight Mint of indeterminate origin). 
Tier 4: "Office-Foraged Cuisine" (any candy/granola bar/linty lifesaver that is triumphantly discovered in your purse at 3:30 PM, but which you cannot actually remember having packed within the last week.  Included in this category: anything snagged from a glass jar on someone else's desk or purchased from the ever-depressing bottom third of a vending machine).
Tier 3: "Patented Food Substitutes" (anything with the word "Healthy" or "Lean" in the title [in fact, anything with a title at all]; anything microwaved in a cardboard sleeve; anything belonging to the yogurt family.  Also, anything that is delivered to the office wrapped in waxed paper).
Tier 2: "Fairly Digestibles" (anything home-prepared that must be reheated badly in the microwave [panini, french fries, spanokopita].   Also: peanut butter and jelly, anything delivered to the office in cardboard or plastic containers, and anything offered to you from Tier 3 by a coworker when you realize you've forgotten your lunch and would otherwise have to resort to Tiers 4 or 5).
Tier 1: "Gastronomical Gold" (actual food, lovingly prepared, which is at its best when reheated in a microwave.  Momentarily whisks you away to a better mental place.  Bonus points for items that improve over time [I'm looking at you, chili].  Think soups, stews, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and this supremely reheat-worthy Shrimp in Coconut Milk.

p.s. - Office Potluck Day is so good, it doesn't even fit on the scale.  Just imagine pearly-winged angels hovering over Tier One, brandishing crockpots and flipping you the bird .  But classily.  Obviously. 

p.p.s. - I want to thank everyone who continued visiting me here these last few months, even while my posting volumes have been low.  Next week I'll be unveiling a new monthly series that will allow me to get more delicious recipes to you each month.  I hope you'll join me back here on Monday!

Shrimp in Coconut Milk
from Food & Wine

This recipe is one of those magical meldings, where the finished creation seems greater than the sum of its parts.  It's rich, comforting, and just spicy enough - though you may want to up the cayenne to 1/4 teaspoon if you're  not a pepper wimp like me.  My onions were enormous, which resulted in a fairly thick consistency overall, but if yours are smaller, you might end up with something a little more brothy.  Either way, expect jealous stares when you heat it up at work.

Vegetable Oil  [ 1/4 cup ]
Onions  [ 2, chopped fine ]
Garlic  [ 4 cloves, minced ]
Fresh Ginger  [ minced, 2 tablespoons ]
Ground Coriander  [ 2 tablespoons ]
Ground Cumin  [ 1/4 teaspoon ]
Cinnamon  [ 1/4 teaspoon ]
Cayenne  [ 1/8 teaspoon ]
Turmeric  [ 1/8 teaspoon ]
Whole Canned Tomatoes  [ 1 cup, drained, from a 15-ounce can, cut into 1/2-inch pieces ]
Unsweetened Coconut Milk  [ 2 1/2 cups, from 2 15-ounce cans ]
Water  [ 1/2 cup ]
Salt  [ 1 1/4 teaspoons ]
Large Shrimp  [ 1 1/2 pounds, shells removed ]
Cilantro  [ chopped, 3/4 cup ]
Cooked Rice  [ to taste - for serving }
Lime Wedges  [ to taste - for serving ]

1.   In a large pan over Medium-High heat, heat Vegetable Oil.
2.   Add Onions to pan and cook until golden [ the recipe suggests that this will take 5 minutes, but it took me more
    like 30 ].
3.   Add in Garlic and Ginger.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes.
4.   Add in Coriander, Cumin, Cinnamon, Cayenne, and Turmeric.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.
5.   Add in Tomatoes.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
6.   Add in Coconut Milk, Water, and Salt
7.   Bring mixture to a simmer.
8.   Stirring frequently, simmer until thickened  [ this will take 5-10 minutes; you may have to adjust the heat to keep
    mixture at a steady simmer ].
9.   Add in Shrimp.
10.  Adjust heat to Low and bring mixture to a simmer.
11.   Simmer, stirring frequently, until Shrimp are just opaque.  [This will take 2-5 minutes].
12.   Remove pan from heat and stir in Cilantro.
13.  Serve over Rice with Lime Wedges.

Serves 4-6

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