Friday, March 26, 2010

Dining Hall Dujour

One of the categories in the Princeton Review's list of best colleges in the quality of food. I don't know if I necessarily agree with the idea of picking a school solely on the quality of food. From personal experience, even the best dining hall dishes get repetitive. Sadly, even the decently edible items like chicken or rice often sit out to dry under colossal heating lamps.

Iron chefs take one ingredient and make five completely different dishes from it. Perhaps, this is the way to approach dining hall fare -- to find a basic ingredient that is reliable -- but recurring -- and bring it back to life. Take your typical salad bar, for example. In general, you have access to lettuce, onions, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, chickpeas, and shredded cheese. Salads tend to be a safe dining hall choice, because the veggies get refreshed and resupplied often, but who wants to eat like a rabbit every day? Perhaps, I can offer a solution.

Re-refried beans on Mexican night getting you down? Head to the salad bar -- throw a dash of salt and pepper on cut-up tomatoes and cucumbers for a delicious Israeli salad, and dress up semi-edible corn chips from that miserable burrito bar with homemade hummus -- for a fresh Mediterranean meal.

Feeling ambitious? Try homemade salsa and nachos -- grab those same corn chips, add some cheese, and microwave. Meanwhile, whip up some fresh salsa with tomatoes, onions, peppers, and a dash of Tabasco.

Dessert's a breeze, too. Sure, the root beer from the soda fountain is questionable and off-color some days, but add some vanilla "ice cream" from the frozen yogurt machine, and you'll barely notice.

Happy cooking, fellow foodies!