In the weeks leading up to the move, I did my best to clear out pantry and fridge – I mean, there’s nothing sillier than hiring movers to transport frozen barbecue brisket (chopped it up and made it into chili) and a big bag of almond flour (orange-glazed polenta cake, anyone?), right? As my ingredients dwindled and my take-out consumption rose in those last few days before a trio of big strong men would arrive at my door, I found myself missing the kitchen but unable to muster any creativity or inspiration. I suspect that many people feel this way about dinner most of the time.
With most of my kitchen in boxes, I turned to one of several meal subscription service that delivers pre-measured ingredients and provides recipes that you can turn into dinner in under an hour. Before this starts to sound like an infomercial, let me explain. Over the past few months, three companies in this space — Plated, Blue Apron, and Hello Fresh — kept showing up on my Facebook feed with discounts and trial offers. I had clicked on each of them several times, adding imaginary meals to my basket with no intention of purchasing. But when I couldn’t face another sushi roll or pizza slice, I took the plunge. I eventually decided on Plated because it allowed me to pick and choose which meals I wanted whereas the other two prescribe both the number of meals and the recipes. My kitchen is ingredient kosher, so I was able to pick out a mix of vegetarian, dairy, and fish options. I took advantage of a four-free-meals offer — I only paid for two of the six meals I ordered — but this post is not a sponsored one.
I never planned to write about the recipes here. I figured they’d be a fun low-risk, low-stress, no-planning way to get some home-cooked food into my belly and that would be that. In the end, though, the meals gave me a few ideas that made me think about using ingredients in new ways. For example, one recipe had me roast oranges alongside potatoes and then mix the whole lot with spinach and liberally douse with a North African chermoula herb mix. The charred slices provide a rich orange flavor that’s not too sweet, though I wasn’t sure what to do with the bitter peel. Despite my plate looking like a graveyard of orange skeletons, I’m ready to give citrus roasting another shot. The next day, I made a simple arugula salad tossed with apple and celery. Celery? Yes, celery! That stringy stalk that’s usually cooked to a pulp in soup, chopped up and hidden in tuna fish, or covered with a thick coat of peanut butter. But the crunch really freshens and brightens the salad – and fresh and bright is what we need during a winter like this.
Arugula, apple, and celery salad
Adapted from Plated. This is a very simple salad and the surprising ingredient is celery. Afraid that the strings would get caught up in a mandoline, I sliced the celery with a really sharp knife instead. I amped up the celery flavor with a smidge of celery seed. If your celery still has its leaves, throw them in to the salad too!
– 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
– 1 T honey
– 3 T olive oil
– 1/4 t celery seed
– salt and pepper
– 4 C arugula
– 1/4 C coarsely chopped parsley
– 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced on a bias
– 2 apples (I used Braeburn), thinly sliced
Shake. Fill a jar with lemon juice, honey, oil, and celery seed and shake until well mixed. Dip an arugula leaf in the dressing and taste for salt and pepper.
Toss. Toss the arugula, parsley, celery, and apples in a large bowl with half the dressing. Add more dressing as needed.