By Ernest Barteldes
Though Sundays in our household mean attempting elaborate dishes that take time to prepare and later enjoy while watching a movie, weekdays are a completely different story, because basically it’s all about packing lunch for Renata and me – something I’ve done ever since we’ve been together for two reasons: having a home-cooked meal every day is way healthier than buying food at some salad bar or fast-food restaurant (which are by the way plentiful in the neighborhood where I work) and second the cost factor can be pretty damning: I can cook for the two of us for considerably less than it would cost to buy lunch every day from any of the nearby places I know.
The everyday meals I cook are very simple: while I avoid shortcuts while making our Sunday meals, the opposite is true during the week – which means using pre-prepared sauces or moderately processed foods such as Polish sausage, sardines or tuna, for instance. But what I don’t economize is on flavor – I always try to enrich the flavor of each dish with the all the different spices and seasonings that fill my three-tier spice cabinet.
While I try to vary the dishes whenever possible, there are some usual staples. Such as a simple Dominican rice-based dish called “Locrio de Pica-Pica,” pasta with kielbasa and tomato sauce and Brazilian rice and beans topped with either chicken or sausage – all quick to make, easy to pack in containers and heat at work.
None of these dishes take more than 15-20 minutes to prepare – some days of the week I work long hours and have no time or disposition to spend too much time in the kitchen, so simplicity is the order of the day – until the weekend comes around.
My version of Pica-Pica is a bit different from the way they make it in DR – I include sardines in tomato sauce for a richer flavor, and I also add vegetables to make it healthier.
Locrio de pica-pica (serves 2)
1 can spicy sardines
1 can sardines in tomato sauce
1 small box frozen mixed vegetable
1 cup rice
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 dash dry oregano (optional)
2 cups of water
Sauté the garlic until fragrant and add the spicy sardines and stir. Add rice and keep stirring. Add water and keep let boil, covered, stirring occasionally so the rice doesn’t stick to bottom of pan. When rice is close to being done, add the sardines in tomato sauce and oregano and stir gently to avoid sardines from breaking up too much. After rice is cooked let stand for five minutes before serving.