If you’re like me, most days you make a beeline for the hot foods section of the dining hall and never look back. But when you get tired of red spiced chicken and Saigon beef, it might be time to think of ways you can spice up (literally or figuratively) your consumption patterns.
I happen to love HUDS food on most days, because even the blandest dish can be spruced up into nom-worthy food. But you’re not going to do that by arranging it differently or adding some dressing — you’ve got to think outside the box & outside the hot foods line. So consider trying out these hidden HUDS treasures with your next meal, and keep an eye out for some fun (and tasty) HUDS inspired recipes in the coming weeks.
1. Hot sauce
Where to find it: Every dining hall comes stocked with a variety of hot sauces — chipotle flavored, standard tabasco, even sauces like Sriracha or chili sauce. They usually lurk on the salad bar, in the compartment that holds olive oil and vinegar. You can usually find Sriracha by the rice cooker, wherever that may be in your eating place of choice.
What to do with it: Consider adding it to eggs (with some cheese, peppers and onions, and salsa) for huevos rancheros, or to bland grilled chicken and salad for a Mexican-inspired salad with creamy dressing and black beans. If your rice seems uninspired, add it to rice as the foundation for a homemade burrito or wrap.
2. Panini press
Where to find it: Each d-hall is different — in Annenberg, you can find your panini press outside the main servery on the sandwich bar. In houses, you can usually find it stuffed into a corner with the microwave and toaster, or at the end of a sandwich bar (Quincy has this layout).
What to do with it: The panini press is the ultimately evidence that not all sandwiches are made equal. Some savory favorites include grilled chicken and tomato (with your choice of cheese, melted on the press) or a burrito or sandwich wrap with rice and other ingredients crisped on the press. For a treat, switch over to sweet ingredients and up the ante on your PBJ with cinnamon raisin bread and granola, or slices of apple with honey on crispy cinnamon toast.
3. Chocolate syrup and whipped cream
Where to find it: Every dhall has a few fridges stocked with soy milk and gluten-free products: if you’re hunting for these two items, this is the best place to check. As always, don’t be afraid to ask — it’s a waste of precious eating time to be wandering around lost in your own dhall.
What to do with it: The obvious answer? Drizzle and swoosh it on froyo to your heart’s content. But when your clothes don’t fit anymore and you need to satisfy your sweet tooth, some other ways to enjoy these two include with fruit (when there’s fruit salad) or as a creamy and sweet addition to oatmeal. For the breakfast parfait lover, whipped cream mixed with yogurt (in equal parts) make a light and fluffy treat that can be sandwiched between layers of granola and fruit.
Where to find it: Nine times out of ten, they’re in the tea and beverages section — just look for a small container with tongs sticking out of it.
What to do with it: As the resident Mediterranean, as far as I’m concerned lemon and all food, ever, go hand in hand (I’m being specially groomed by my boisterous Greek mother to feed a Greek husband and lots of Greek babies one day soon, so it’s going to show in all my recipe suggestions). But lemons are invaluable for making your own salad dressing (all it takes for the most basic dressing is lemon, oil, vinegar, and a dash of honey) and for HUDS’ criminally under-seasoned fish, which will taste fresh and tangy when you add a spritz of lemon. When sore throat blues have you down, throw some lemon and honey in hot water as a quick solution (and add some tea if you think that sounds nasty). So, when life hands you a lemon…
Where to find it: Spices are hard to miss — a huge rack of spices flanks every dining hall’s salad bar.
What to do with it: There is no better way to *literally* spice a dish up than by using these suckers, but the spice rack remains a woefully overlooked aspect of HUDS cuisine because people don’t know how to add spices to their food without ruining it. Some easy and fool proof additions to start with, if you’re a spice neophyte, include oregano, dill, Old Bay, and cinnamon. Throw some oregano and dill in a salad or onto grilled chicken to turn bland iceberg into a complex dish. Old Bay can be mixed with creamy dressings and tabasco to create a spicy, Cajun-punched sauce for a sandwich, or can be sprinkled on fries to make Cajun fries with flavah. And, cinnamon transforms vanilla ice cream into creme brûlée (with a dash of honey) and a PBJ into a dessert treat.
Author’s Note: As a savvy reader pointed out, Old Bay is not Cajun inspired, but from the Chesapeake area. That’s how we knew it too, but Five Guys calls them Cajun Fries, so we figured we would, too! (Get your pseudo-Cajun cooking here, Harvard!)