Monday, January 18, 2010

Luby's Bento

One of the more common gifts I get from friends and family are cookbooks. I have a huge wall of them and they're great! I glean cool new techniques, inspirations for new dishes, and just plain yummy stuff to try. I group them to a handful of categories: technique, ethnic cuisine, famous chefs, and restaurants. It's the last category that I chose to hit today.

Growing up with a family Chinese restaurant there are a few types of foods that, while most people hate, are a rare treat for me because there's only so many times you can eat "Happy Family" and "Kung Pao Chicken". This includes fast food of any type, dorm food (yeah I liked dorm food and I have a pictures to remind me why not to like it), and finally cafeteria food. That's right we dive into the Luby's Cookbook today. Saturday lunch we would sometimes pile into the family station wagon where I would look forward to my rectangular fried fish with tartar sauce and a side of broccoli and cheese sauce. Happy memories! So as a fun gift my sister got me a Luby's cookbook. Here's the thing, now that I'm a bit more aware of cooking healthy in order to qualify for a bento lunch I had to do some pretty heavy modifications and make some judicious recipe picks.


First up: Chicken (was) Piccata - traditionally this chicken dish is prepared flattened breaded and pan fried. I really couldn't abide by that so I prepared the chicken breast by first brining the chicken before cooking it "en papillote" (in parchment). This resulted in a nicely seasoned very moist and tender chicken. I went forward with the lemon wine sauce which was cooked together with the mushroom, artichoke, and capers. Since I had non-stick action going, I cut the oil to a small tablespoon, so got a sizeable fat/calorie savings there. For seasoning the chicken in the parchment I took the opportunity to break out that jar of "spice of life" from Zoe's Kitchen (thanks TastyTouring for hooking me up with their extra jar).


For some starch and I decided to go with this recipe for Spicy Red Potato Salad. Actually all told the only "bad" thing in the salad was the mayonnaise and for that I actually substituted for this new Olive Oil based mayonnaise which cuts some ridiculous amount of calories and fat and still tastes awesome! I think the dressing is a little bit too salty, if you have a sizeable bite of potato it all works out, the tabasco and cayenne add a nice heat to the dish. This will definitely make it into the next picnic/potluck I go to.


Ah the green bean, delightfully crunchy, how can you possibly make this go wrong? Well, let's start with a half a stick of butter and top that bad boy off with two cups of bacon. I liked the idea of carmelized onions, so I went with no butter, and half the bacon cut from my home cured bacon stash stuck in the freezer. Still very delicious and I'm very happy with the outcome. The sweet caramelized onions were something new for me to pair with the crisp snap of the green beans it definitely works.

For a soup course I went with the hearty vegetable soup recipe. The only thing I omitted here was the potatoes since I already had some starch in the bento. This is actually quite a healthy recipe that I'm glad I ended with plenty of extra for myself. The addition of tomato sauce and canned tomatoes added a welcome tang to the soup and the other fresh ingredients really gave this soup a good bit of substance. Unfortuneatly, I didn't snap a photo of the soup, so you'll just have to imagine, but I promise it was delicious.

Finally for dessert a tropical fruit salad. I'm not sure how the recipe could possibly only serve eight people. I cut out most of the fruits and stayed with cantelope, papaya, and kiwi and still had way more than could feed twelve. The recipe called for confectioner sugar to help draw some moisture and form a syrup. I only went with a quarter of the amount, I thought that the fruits were sweet enough on their own. I think the dish would have been more pleasing to the eye had I added the strawberries, but the addition of bananas and mango would have just made it more yellow. Maybe some purple grapes or something.

Yeah, so no rectangular fried fish, or liver and onions in fact I don't actually recall any of those items in the book. I suppose it's the healthier recipes of today's Luby's. Too bad I was hankering for some broccoli and unidentified cheese sauce and of course that single deviled egg.

Box Contents:
  • Chicken "Picatta"
  • Spicy Red Potato Salad
  • Green Beans with Caramelized onions
  • Hearty Vegetable Soup
  • Tropical Fruit Salad

2 comments:

Jodi said...

Glad you had a chance to use the Spice of Life seasoning. How was it?

Ironjack said...

For the application it was *perfect* it's a great blend of oregano/thyme and whatever else is in there and fit the italian flavors nicely. The thing to watchout for is that the salt tends to settle in the bottle, so at first I thought it was all herb and added salt separately. Fortuneatly I noticed what looked like salt and re-tasted.

Thanks again for the spice! I still owe you guys some knife sharpening.