By Joseph Winters ’20
Personally, one of the most jarring things about the transition from high school to college was in the impersonalized food scene. No longer was I cooking my own breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, but loading up my tray at the dining hall. I recognize this isn’t the case for many college students. Some look at vegetables as they would an alien invader. “I have never eaten kale,” a Wigglesworth resident grimaced as he gingerly poked a pile of greens I was about to chop. In fact, he had apparently never cooked anything more complex than a piece of toast. Nationally, according to a survey by the DailyMail, one in three college students can’t even boil an egg. This is just sad.
But, having grown up in a family where I was an active participant in the dinner-making process, mealtime at Annenberg was less fulfilling. There’s some degree of creativity you can employ in the dining hall—for example, making brown butter in the microwave—but it couldn’t quite replicate the joy I used to get from cooking.
Enter Plated. I had seen their ads on Facebook describing a meal kit delivery service to make cooking easier, and was intrigued. After contacting Plated’s marketing team, I found myself with a big box of temperature-controlled food that they’d sent me for free in exchange for a review. I picked it up at the Science Center and walked it back to my dorm, drawing attention from some of the tourists in front of the John Harvard statue. Inside the box I got not one, but two different meals: salmon poke bowls and shakshuka. Each meal came with pre-wrapped ingredients and a big recipe card with step-by-step instructions and photos.
Before ordering on the Plated website, I had gotten to choose from a surprisingly thorough array of meal options, ranging from butternut squash pizza to Asian-style noodles, with options for every kind of diet, including gluten-free, vegetarian, low calorie, and “quick”. I had picked based on perceived difficulty; particularly, there was no way I’d ever think to make a salmon poke bowl from scratch in my dorm kitchen, so I was curious to see how Plated would make the task feasible. I unpacked the box to find every ingredient in its own conveniently-portioned container. Plated had accidentally sent me the wrong recipe card, but they sent the right PDF via email.
Based on the card, my salmon poke bowl would be done within forty minutes. Just to fact-check. I looked at the clock as I started cooking. 5:45. First of all, something to know about Plated is that they provide the ingredients, not the tools; it’s assumed that you already have things like a knife, sauté pan, cookie sheet, etc. This is a fair assumption, but you should note that if you want to use Plated, you’ll have to rent this kind of equipment from the FDO (if you’re a freshman), which is precisely what I did.
As the rice was cooking in my improvised rice maker (a shallow sauté pan with a lid), I unwrapped this tiny bag with a single clove of garlic and got to work, cutting it on my improvised cutting board (a paper towel). I diced some garlic, scallions, and chopped a cucumber mixing them in a bowl with some conveniently prepackaged soy sauce, and combined some prepackaged mayo and sriracha in a different bowl.
I seared the salmon very quickly on both sides with a little package of sesame oil, crumbled it, and added it to the veggie/soy sauce mix with some furikake (Asian spice mix). After I made do with draining the rice by slowly pouring off the water, all I had left to do was “plate” the salmon poke bowl: half the brown rice, salmon/veggie mix, conveniently pre-made seaweed salad, and sliced avocado made for a beautiful and delicious-looking bowl! Plus, after all that, the time was only 6:45! A little longer than the recipe card had said, but I’d put the blame on myself; I was taking a lot of pictures, after all.
The shakshuka went well, too. It was probably a little easier than than the salmon poke bowls, but I did have to procure my own eggs and oil. Since I didn’t want to buy a big bottle of oil, I just substituted an equal amount of butter that happened to be in the fridge (sorry to that butter’s owner!). This time, I got a friend to help. We sprinkled a spice mix over the can of chickpeas and put them to bake while she tore kale and I chopped garlic, an onion, and a bell pepper. I sautéed everything for a few minutes, then added the canned tomato, tomato paste, and kale, sautéing until the kale was wilted.
It would have been better if we had had a cast iron skillet so we could put the pan from the stovetop into the microwave without being afraid of the handle melting, but due to a lack of foresight, this wasn’t the case. I broke two eggs into little nests that I dug into our make-do pan and cautiously set it on the top rack of the oven, watching it carefully to check for melting. I set the naan bread in the oven to warm up as well. The recipe suggested that I wrap the bread in foil, which would have prevented it from drying out, but there was no tin foil in the dorm kitchen, so we made do.
Once the eggs were set, I took the pan out of the oven and divided the shakshuka between the two of us. We were going to use bowls, but we only could find one bowl in the dorm kitchen, so we ended up using these small skillets. Sort of artsy, we thought as we dug in. The shakshuka was a delicious success, and with a whole piece of naan for each of us, it was a surprisingly large amount of food. I had heard reviewers of other meal kit services say the portions were meager, but with Plated, the portions were on the generous side. My friend and I finished the meal feeling very satisfyingly full.
Overall, I’d say the improvisational nature of my cooking experience is more of a testament to the effectiveness of Plated’s service rather than a detriment. Plated made it possible for me to put together an incredible meal under the horrible conditions of a dorm kitchen. The lack of kitchenware was just part of the initial struggle. If I had had to scour the web to find a recipe and then go all the way to Whole Foods and back to get the ingredients, this amazing salmon poke bowl probably never would have been made. Plated is about saving time and effort so you can continue being frenetically busy the entire day and then still cook a gourmet meal for dinner.
Would I recommend Plated to college students? Maybe not to students with an unlimited swipes meal plan, but for anyone who’s planning to fend for themselves for at least a couple of meals per week, I think Plated is an excellent option. Whether it rekindles or introduces you to the joy of cooking, Plated is healthy, easy, fresh, tasty, and—I’d say—fun!
*I’d like to thank the Plated team for offering these two meals free of charge in exchange for a review!
by Hayoung Chang ’18
Over spring break, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Singapore for an HCAP conference. Obviously I was most excited about the food and especially a tradition called “cafe hopping.” Considering the fact that cafes are one of my favorite things in the world, I was eager to immerse myself in this particular foodie culture.
To explain a little bit, cafe hopping is when you take a whole morning or afternoon to visit as many cafes as possible and sample each cafe’s best dishes. So think of bar hopping, but replace the booze with brunch essentials and scrumptious desserts. I was in foodie heaven. Thrilled, I embarked on my first gustatory odyssey.
Our first stop was a brunch cafe. I ordered a classic: the salmon eggs benedict. The combination of salmon, roe, avocado, asparagus and hollandaise sauce was genius, to say the least. My taste buds were inundated by the creamy richness of the avocado and salmon, the tart explosions of the roe and the crunchy softness of the toast. Cafe hopping stop 1: 10/10.
The next stop was: you guessed it, another brunch cafe. With two brunches in one day, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. This time, I ordered poached eggs over a potato puree and hash browns with a side of roasted cherry tomatoes, asparagus and caramelized onions. As you can see from the photo, the egg was cooked to the ideal consistency for drizzly perfection. Washing it all down with a sip of coffee, I was in a stellar mood. Another jackpot brunch. Cafe hopping stop 2: 10/10.
Feeling pleasantly and smugly full, we headed to our last stop: a dessert cafe. Feeling ambitious, we ordered a cheesecake, brownie and an iced latte. The coffee was an ice cold relief to all the walking in the hot Singapore weather. The cheesecake and brownie were average. The consistency of both desserts were slightly too dense for me, but still a superb combination with the latte. Perhaps the bar had been raised after the two stellar brunches. But the hip atmosphere of the cafe made up for it. The murals added a lazy artistic vibe. The perfect spot for some light reading on a Sunday afternoon.
Overall, cafe hopping was a huge success. I would highly recommend to any foodie that is planning on traveling to Singapore!
As my friends and I sat down for dinner on Thursday night, they had no idea what HUDS had in store in the servery. I, on the other hand, had been anticipating this meal all week: a Chinese New Year celebration. After doing my research, I learned that the traditional meal served on New Year’s Eve typically includes both meat and fish, as well as eight individual dishes which reflect the number’s significance as a good luck symbol.
HUDS certainly delivered its version of the traditional Chinese New Year feast. I walked away with a full plate, excited to try the dining hall’s take on (the vegetarian) Buddha’s Delight, the hoisin glazed salmon, spicy green beans, peking cabbage, and some egg fried rice.
While I might be alone on this one, I was most excited for the Buddha’s Delight (pictured below). The elaborate vegetarian dish is one often served by families on Chinese New Year, and the dining hall staff created a great replication. Their version included tofu, water chestnuts, carrots, pea pods, baby corn, broccoli, and scallions, with soy sauce and sesame oil tossed in, and topped with a nice blend of ginger, sugar, and garlic. While the ingredients created a perfect combination, the dish was a bit too saucy, but a tasty addition as it leaked onto the cabbage and green beans underneath.
Continuing to break outside the normal veggie offerings this evening, the Chinese New Year fare included spicy green beans (read: green beans with crushed garlic, diced tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, and cumin) and peking cabbage. The green beans definitely had an extra kick, making them an exciting and delicious break from the usual, but not quite what I would call spicy.
The fried foods were all table favorites: vegetable egg rolls (top) and pork dumplings (middle). I can speak for the egg rolls, and they were spot on this evening. Perfectly crisp on the exterior, without too much breading, and enough to give all of the inside veggies just the right flavor. The egg fried rice (bottom) was also well executed – filled with celery and mushrooms for an added touch.
Last but not least on my plate was the hoisin glazed salmon, cooked just right. Hoisin sauce, similar to American barbecue sauce, is made from a combination of soybeans, garlic, sugar, sesame seeds, and chili pepper. The slightly sugary sauce adds a sweet and savory marinade to the dish without taking away from the main attraction.
HUDS’ Chinese New Year meal was a complete success if you ask me. With a few tweaks and improvements, next year’s edition could be even better, but watching my friends walk into the dining hall to find the surprise was worth my full week’s wait. While my Chinese friends were able to celebrate a taste of home, my American ones (myself included) were able to enjoy a cultural experience we won’t forget.