Shortcut Sesame-Spinach Salad

Soon I’ll be making breakfast, lunch, and dinner for one in an almost-kitchen in downtown Manhattan. I won’t be chopping vegetables on a thick slab of two-tone stained cherry wood, and I highly doubt that my cutting board will be living on a gorgeous granite countertop. My spice collection won’t be mounted on a wall that looks as if it were expressly designed for displaying glass jars with their glossy labels. And judging by the grainy photos that pepper Craig’s List, I won’t be working in a kitchen that inspires one to cook.

However, I’m thinking that a collapsible coffee table with a floppy cutting board on top will be able to stand in just fine for the swanky sous-chef station of my childhood. I’m figuring that I’ll be able to squirrel away my spices in little bags and have some fun making my label maker run out of tape [and then ink] while I’m at it.

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I’m very aware that my unlimited access to Mom’s growing-like-a-weed herb/vegetable/flower garden will be sorely missed. I’m hoping that if I line up little pots of basil, parsley, and oregano on my windowsill and arrange a few tulips in an ex-milk bottle somewhere nearby, I’ll miss her a little less. And with any luck, I’ll be able to find a market in my neighborhood with heirloom tomatoes, garlic scapes, French breakfast radishes, and three kinds of kale.

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In less than two weeks, I know that I won’t have the luxury of spending half of the day cooking and exercising. I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that I won’t have the budget to buy dry roasted macadamia nuts by the fistful.

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I won’t be able to justify trying one, two, three, four kinds of imported dark chocolate [a week]. And soon, my daily catch will look a lot more like tilapia and a lot less like halibut.

It’s going to take me a little time to adjust. In the meantime, I’m eating lots fish that isn’t the cheapest.

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I’m stopping to take pictures of pretty flowers.

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I’m reading books that I want to live inside while I eat mostly-from-the-garden salads.

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I’m wearing new shoes around the house for a few hours at a time, in preparation for lots of too-many-blocks-to-count walks. Breaking in new shoes before you leave the house in them is one of those life lessons.

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I’m filling post-its with quotes that feel pertinent to my life right now, and laughing at a few too.

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I’m also making quick and easy no-recipe meals. Luckily I like these kinds of lunches and dinners and emergency snacks – I think I’ll be relying on them to get by in the city.

Today’s sesame-spinach salad was worth remembering. It involved frozen rice & vegetables, toasted walnuts, wilted spinach, and George Foreman grilled chicken [and feeling way too college].

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Now none of those things sounded particularly appetizing to me on their own either [save for the toasted walnuts]. But trust me – they become altogether more appealing once they’ve been dressed with toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chopped garlic, grated ginger, and minced green onions.

Now that I’m in my new mode, I didn’t get too bogged down measuring anything. But if you’re like me and appreciate a good guideline, I used about two teaspoons of toasted sesame oil, half as much soy sauce, a few drops of rice vinegar, a quarter of a garlic clove, a dusting of grated ginger, and a single skimpy green onion.

Just before serving, I added salt and pepper and then scattered parsley and garlic chives on top. This dish is equally delicious warm or cold, regardless of whether you’re feeling eager or ill at ease.

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