Veggie Lunchbox and Shrimp 'Veins' With a Side of Hot Fudge

There were too many good questions left undone from this week's What's Cooking jamboree. Below, a few to chew on, with an invitation to weigh in on any or all of the topics -- vegetarian workday lunches, deveining shrimp and the search for a true-blue hot fudge sauce.

Have a delicious and safe weekend.

Vienna, Va.: Kim, do you have any ideas for a healthy, satisfying vegetarian lunch that I could easily pack in a lunchbox at 6 a.m.? I've tried the old standby of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but it doesn't seem to fill me; I've tried packing leftovers, but my supply of leftovers is inconsistent.

Vienna, you're a prime candidate for Jamaican patties, veggie style. (Scroll past the meat filling details and you'll see what I'm talking about.)

Spend an afternoon on the weekend whipping up a batch, then you can freeze them individually, pack it in your sack and by lunch time, the patty is thawed and you can heat it up at your office. Use the recipe as a guideline, but you can mix and match veggies, and I might even add chickpeas to the mix for kicks. A wonderful hand-held treat that will hit the spot.

For the second day in a row, I'm giving a high five to gazpacho, the cold tomato-based puree that is a zillion times better than a V-8. The reason for my encore praise is that not only does it cool you off, gazpacho keeps all week long, so that you can have instant presto lunch at the ready.

My larger point, though, is that a batch of soup made on the weekend, is wonderful lunchtime fare for workers of the world, particularly for a veg head like you.

For a healthy inbetween meal snack, may I suggest a handful of Lulu's cookies, a wholesome biscuit-y honey-sweetened nugget chockfull of seeds, raisins, oats and chocolate chips -- and it's dairy and egg free! Batter can be frozen and used as needed, which makes them even more convenient.

I'd also consider picking up a slab of silken tofu, whipped in the food processor, and seasoned with herbs, garlic, scallions, cayenne or whatever else excites you. Use it like a spread, on crackers or inbetween bread bookends, great with cherry tomatoes this time of year.

Mt Vernon, Va.: My husband and I quite often get uncooked shrimp from the supermarket that has already been deveined. I've noticed every time I peel and wash the shrimp before we use it that there is what looks like to us a 'poop' line on the underside of the shrimp. What is this line? By the way, I always take the time to remove it.

Hey, Mt. Vernon, the "vein" is a euphemism for the shrimp's digestive tract, which can appear on both the back and on the concave side that you refer to. Usually, black gritty deposits will surface on the exterior back side, which admittedly can be unsightly when you're entertaining. As for the interior side, I wouldn't worry too much. Usually that line is more of a milky gray color and is harmless. The most important thing is to do what makes you comfortable; however, may I suggest that next time you buy shrimp, ask the person behind the counter where it was caught. Domestic shrimp is the way to go.

Charlotte, N.C.: I promised my sister-in-law that I would make her hot fudge sauce -- the thick kind that kinda hardens a little on ice cream and has a little sugary, gritty taste. I can't seem to find a good recipe that doesn't get chewy on the ice cream -- any ideas? HELP! I need this for a trip next week and I'm getting desperate! Thanks!

Hard to say, Charlotte, if you're asking for a chocolate coating (I'm thinking Dairy Queen) or a classic hot fudge sauce that you warm up just before serving.

I'll go out on a limb here and offer up recipe details from David Lebovitz, the man who hasn't steered me wrong yet in his very reliable "The Perfect Scoop."

Because I haven't tried this one myself, I don't have stovetop notes to share. The other thing I'd like to point out is that this recipe calls for corn syrup, one of my least favorite ingredients on the planet given its connection to big agri-business, but it is handy as a stabilizer for candy and confections, which is essentially what you're making.

One possible substitute is golden syrup, an amber-colored syrup made from byproducts of cane sugar processing. It looks and tastes similar to honey, and because of its color doesn't always work seamlessly. A common sweetener in the U.K., where it's manufactured, golden syrup is trickier to find in this country, often displayed near maple syrup and corn syrup. Look for the green tin with the brand name "Lyles."

That said, here's Lebovitz's recipe, which looks super easy; please let me know how things turn out.

Lean Chocolate Sauce
From "The Perfect Scoop" by David Lebovitz

Ingredients
2 cups water
1 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 cup light corn syrup
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Method
Whisk water, cocoa powder and corn syrup together in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a very low and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add chocolate, stirring until melted and smooth. Serve warm.

Sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Rewarm it gently in a microwave or by stirring in a saucepan over very low heat.

Makes 2 cups.

By Kim ODonnel |  August 10, 2007; 10:06 AM ET Chat Leftovers , Desserts , Seafood , Vegetarian/Vegan
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Comments

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Vegetarian lunches are hard to put together at 6 a.m. You really need to do a little preparation the night before (or the weekend before). I like tofu (x-firm) or tempeh sliced and pan fried in a little olive oil, then add a little of either your own or a store-bought sauce. You can cut the result up into cubes and mix into salad greens, or slice thin and use on sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, avocado, whatever you generally like on sandwiches.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2007 11:06 AM

This is only partially on topic, but i wondered if you could help me out with this. i just bought an unidentified head of lettuce because it looked nice and green and i was looking for something a little more sophisticated (and nutritious) than iceberg to make a salad with for lunches at work. after tasting it however, it is entirely too bitter for me. since i hate to throw away food, could you perhaps suggest some ways (cooking/preparation, etc) to make this stuff a little more palatable, not necessarily as a salad? sorry, i really have no idea what kind of lettuce it is.

Posted by: Jen | August 10, 2007 1:01 PM

Kim - you mention that Lulu's cookies are dairy free...but don't some or all chocolate chips have dairy?

Posted by: chocolate chips... | August 10, 2007 2:37 PM

The person who asked about the hot fudge sauce seems to be talking about a homemade version of that wonderful childhood favorite Magic Shell, which gets hard on ice cream. Hot fudge by definition is fudgy and would be chewy when chilled by the ice cream. I don't have a recipe, but I would think you would want a sauce without corn syrup, which makes the sauce stay soft and not crystalize. You want something more like plan old melted chocolate.

Posted by: JN | August 10, 2007 3:29 PM

Some chocolate chips do have dairy, but it's not hard to find ones that don't.

Jennifer McCann has some great ideas for vegetarian lunches in her book Vegan Lunch Box. Some of them are quite ambitions, but others are pretty easy, and all are interesting. (If "vegan" turns you off, you can always back-substitute dairy/egg-containing analogues.)

Posted by: BC | August 10, 2007 3:44 PM

For a nice sandwich mix, prepare some lentils and some bulgar. Mix together and moisten with tahina and olive oil. Eat in a pita or in a wrap. This is particularly good with the last minute additions of thinly sliced onions fried in a little oil till brown and crisp (will keep in a jar) and diced tomatoes in season.

Posted by: Fran | August 10, 2007 6:16 PM

Have to agree with Jennifer McCann's website and new book for veggie lunches. You'll be blown away by her creativity. veganlunchbox.com

Posted by: Anonymous | August 13, 2007 10:27 AM

If the chatter was looking for something akin to Magic Shell, I'd think you could just try a Web search. I found two recipes on AllRecipes.com (one is at http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Chocolate-Shell-Sauce/Detail.aspx and received good reviews specifically likening it to Magic Shell). Not gourmet, but it seems to fit the bill.

Enjoy it if it's what you want, ignore it if it isn't.

Posted by: Chocolate Sauce Recipes | August 13, 2007 10:49 AM

Thank you so much for the recipe. I did want a hot fudge sauce, not a chocolate sauce or shell type thing. A sauce that would get a little hard and chewy but still have a little gritty taste too. I'll try this tonight!

Posted by: Charlotte, NC | August 21, 2007 12:14 PM

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