My lunches are usually very low key affairs. If I´m not working that day, chances are I´ll wake up quite late and just do a stronger breakfast which is good for both breakfast and lunch (cultural disclaimer: in Argentina, breakfasts are not big meals, usually “café con leche”, coffee latte, with a cookie or two, or a toast, or something along those lines). Then most days, when I´m working and running after a tight deadline, there´s no way I can stop to cook for more than 15 minutes, so it´s usually leftovers or something from the freezer… which are basically leftovers to begin with.
All this explains the abundance of bad-lit pictures in this site… fancy cooking has to wait until dinner. But sometimes it´s not even like that. Sometimes, I´m still struggling to meet a deadline at 10 pm, so there´s no time for elaborate dinners either. So that can mean two things: the Chinese takeout which is a block away from my house gets to hear my lovely voice yet again, or I cook something impossibly simple.
The other day, it was option b. I had some cold polenta with feta cheese in the fridge and a can of kidney beans/garbanzos in the pantry, and for some reason my brain was awake enough to come up with a good dinner: grilled polenta with kidney bean salad.
One of my favorite ways to eat polenta is to let it cool, cut it in sticks, and grill it with a tiny bit of good olive oil for a few minutes until it´s nice and crispy on the outside and moist and chewy on the inside. That´s the way many Italians eat it. Sometimes they don´t even heat it up. In my great-aunt´s house in the Veneto region, we used to eat it cold as a side dish to all sorts of meat. They use a thin thread to cut it: they just run the thread through the cold polenta and voilá, perfect slice.
For the other component of my veeeeeery elaborate dish, I recalled a post by Molly of Orangette fame that I had read a few months ago. It´s a recipe by her boyfriend for a very simple kidney bean salad with olive oil, lemon and parmessan (it´s the post called “brown bag it”). All I added to her recipe was a bit of pesto, and that was it, dinner ready in mmmm 5 minutes?
By the way, you might notice that I always add pesto to pretty much everything. Well, that would be pretty accurate, althought let me clarify that my pesto doesn´t have parmesan or any sort of nuts, it´s simply a mix of basil, garlic and oil. Here´s what I do: I take a big bunch of basil, through it in my food processor, take two or three cloves of garlic, add a bit of salt and process intermitently until the basil and the garlic are roughly cut. Then I add some oil and process it for one more second. I pour that in a marmalade-like jar, cover it with some more oil making sure all the basil-garlic mix is covered, and stick it in the fridge. It keeps easily for 2 weeks (maybe more, it doesn´t usually lasts over two weeks so I wouldn´t know haha) and you can add it to all sorts of meals. What my dad does is keep it in the freezer in ice cubes to use whenever he needs them, which is a great way to have fresh pesto if you don´t use it as often as me.
As you can see, 5 minute meals can be extremely yummy, they just need some leftovers and good ideas. I might not be Rachel Ray or anything, but this meal rocks. If you have some fresh or, even better, confit tomatoes, serve it along with the grilled polenta and the kidney bean salad and you´ll love me forever hahaha (well, me and Molly´s boyfriend, that is).