DISH: Rice Bowl with Peanut Sauce
TYPE: Day-Before-Vacation Lunch
MAIN INGREDIENTS: Rice, Coconut Milk, Peanut Butter
Though this lunch isn’t anything that out of the ordinary, I like it because it was made out of truly the barest fridge I’ve ever laid eyes on. It made me glad for the miscellany of my possessions that I normally curse myself for, all those jars and bottles that clutter my life and that, more often than not, have approximately one teaspoon remaining of their original contents. It made me glad that I hadn’t thrown away the last 1/3 cup of a can of coconut milk I’d been using in curries and to flavor white rice. It made me remember why I own things like fish sauce, even though it sometimes tips out of my pantry and spills on my hand, and why I keep a large bag of roasted peanuts (leftover from who knows what meal) stashed on a shelf in my freezer.
I was going away for a long weekend. It was freezing out, of course, and I didn’t want to go outside, nor did I really want to purchase new food, since I’d be leaving. Turning, as I often do, to the contents of my fridge, I set out to make lunch.
I saw the remaining bit of coconut milk I had used for making some coconut pancakes. I had transferred the last half cup to my smallest Tupperware–the thought of tossing it seemed to bewilder and depress me, and I immediately knew I’d add it to my lunch. I also had some rice from takeout earlier in the week, and my peanut butter jar was just about half full. Where some might have seen garbage, I guess I saw promise.
I sautéed garlic and a sad, old piece of ginger. I added the coconut milk, peanut butter, chili garlic pastas, lime, fish sauce, sriracha, and soy sauce. I let this all boil and reduce as I defrosted frozen spinach, julienned my last carrot, and chopped up a few roasted peanuts I’d been keeping in my freezer. Finally, I pulled out some rice leftover from takeout and arranged the vegetables on top. I poured the warm peanut sauce and sprinkled the peanuts. Dousing it all with a final squeeze of lime, I sat down to my rice bowl lunch, a meal salvaged from the sad remnants of my fridge. I was satisfied like a depression-era penny pincher. I had made something worthwhile from the scraps at the bottom of the can.
From my kitchen, where I’m making the most of my peanut butter, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Peanut Rice Bowl for One
¾ cup cooked rice
½ cup spinach
1 carrot, julienned
1 hardboiled egg or other protein source (optional)
about 1/4 cup coconut-peanut sauce (recipe follows)
Warm the rice if it’s leftover. Arrange it in a bowl and top with the spinach, carrot, and any other proteins or veggies you’d like to eat. Spoon the sauce over your rice bowl and sprinkle with a teaspoon or two of peanuts. Garnish with more srircha, lime, and scallions if you have them.
Coconut Peanut Sauce
Makes about 1/2 cup
½ teaspoon oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
½ teaspoon chili-garlic paste
1 cup low-fat coconut milk
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter, preferably unsweetened
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce
juice of half a lime
Warm the oil in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Sautee the garlic and ginger until golden, 3 minutes. Add the chili-garlic paste, distributing it well, then add the coconut milk. Bring to a boil, raising the heat slightly. Add in the peanut butter; you may need to use a fork to break it up and help dissolve it into the coconut milk, then add the sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and fish sauce. Simmer for about 5 minutes to let the flavors meld. Squeeze in the lime, then taste and add salt or more soy sauce, fish sauce, lime, sriracha, or sugar to taste.