As a college student, it can be easy to look into the fridge and feel hopeless at times. For many, the fridge looks like a half-eaten pizza and a couple cans of soda. For some, there is an odd smattering of cheap groceries. For others, there is nothing but beer.
In my weekly routine, I make one trip to the grocery store every Saturday. By Friday, my fridge is a wasteland filled with few edible foods. I’ve learned that with a little creativity and a can-do spirit, there are great recipes that can be made from meager beginnings.
Last week I looked into my fridge and saw a strange combination of groceries remaining: a head of red cabbage, a half-eaten pineapple, eggs, tomatoes, cheese, a jalapeno and onions. Cabbage was too bland to use in my meals earlier that week, while pineapple was too sweet, and jalapeno was too spicy. With my staple foods — eggs, onions, tomatoes and cheese, these bold flavor contrasts did not seem like a suitable flavor mix.
I closed the door, sat puzzled for a minute and thought about what I could create. Then out of nowhere, I got a sudden craving for a Salted Nut Roll. While I did not have any at the time, I took my hunger as a signal from the cooking muses. I asked myself, “If sweet and salty works, then why not try spicy and bland?”
The answer hit me like a freight train. I needed to make pico de gallo. I opened the fridge and set to work chopping the cabbage, tomato, onion and jalapeno into small diced pieces. I then mixed them into a bowl and added chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and garlic powder. I tasted it and it was pleasing to the tongue, but I felt as if it was missing something. It was too predictable. Not wild enough.
I took a risk and pulled the pineapple out of the fridge. I cut a thin slice and diced it into small pieces. Then I added it to the pico, and my mind was blown. The sour sweetness of the pineapple was contrasted by the bite of the jalapeno. The crunchiness of the cabbage added texture to the mushy tomato. It was one of the most delicious things I had ever made myself, and I had scrounged it together from the scraps left over from a week of cooking.
You don’t have to make pineapple pico de gallo to experience this. All you have to do is look inside your fridge, mix unique flavors and tinker with them until you find something you like. Sometimes in cooking, the best recipe is no recipe at all.