Still Hello Fresh-ing over here in Quarantine Land, we are. And thank goodness, too, because preparing these meals – and then devouring them – is pretty well the most exciting thing in my life these days (save hacking down the overgrown foliage in my backyard, a newfound skill that has not yet revealed itself as either beneficial to the plants, or wildly destructive.)
We enjoyed these vegetarian entrees quite a few weeks back, just as COVID-19 kicked open the door to the world. I remember sitting down to one of them, the Beyond BBQ ranch burger, and thinking to myself, “In disaster movies, everyone’s always hunkered around humanity’s last can of beans. The world CAN’T be going to shit if I’m still here eating my bourgeoisie plant burgers, can it?”
Turns out it really can, plant protein be damned! And no surprise here, but the remainder of that week’s entrees – dishes featuring parmesan-dusted croutons, mandolin’d zucchini slices and artfully-torn bocconcini – also failed to make a dent in the progression of the world’s going-down-the-toilet-ness. It all felt very silly, and more than a little pretentious.
But dang if it wasn’t delicious – a far superior alternative to humanity’s last can of beans. Also entertaining, and a necessary, welcome distraction from, at that time, the lunatic spiel of bad and badder news emanating from every part of the globe.
That’s food’s power, though, isn’t it? Speaking as someone who has struggled to control her weight her entire life, a love of good (and bad) food CAN absolutely backfire on you. But it’s such a comfort. It’s warmth and love and fulfillment, and I feel so very fortunate – now, during the pandemic, but always – to be well fed, and to not have to worry too much about where my next meal is coming from, whether it’s a little pick-me-up from the kitchen, or a trendy plant protein burger from a meal kit delivery service.
And now let’s take a look at this latest roundup of Hello Fresh yumminess.
Coconut Dal with Spinach and Warm Naan Bread
Yup, okay, I’ll be the first to admit that lentils NEVER look particularly appetizing. It’s just a fact of cooked lentils. But cripes, are they weirdly delicious, particularly when simmered in garlicky, ginger-infused coconut milk, making this rich, filling Indian dish 100 percent tasty, and also 100 percent vegan. I really loved the dusting of unsweetened coconut on top, too – such an unexpectedly fun little garnish.
BBQ Ranch Beyond Meat Burger with Crispy Shallots and Fries
Ah yes, the Beginning-of-the-End Burger. Kidding, kidding! But this was the Beyond Burger that had me contemplating my rather privileged position in the midst of this pandemic. Socio-political considerations aside, it was delicious, the burger thickly layered with tangy BBQ sauce, crispy fried shallots and a tart, chive-y dressing (though I jettisoned my dill pickle slices; never been much for pickles on a burger, or indeed, pickles at all!) There was a ton of the mayonnaise-based dressing left over, so I tossed a bit of it with the provided spring greens, and then used the rest as a dipping sauce for the oven fries, because what are fries without mayonnaise anyways? Less yummy, that’s what.
Warm Mexican Bean Bowl with Tangy Guacamole
A bowl-type dish served on a plate – what even IS this madness?! Here we’ve got another trendy dish, the burrito bowl (again, the kind of thing about which my grandmother would have remarked, “Well, that’s a hell of a jollop.”) Here we’ve got onions, red bell peppers and black beans sauteed in a Mexican seasoning blend, on a bed of cilantro rice, topped with sour cream and tart guacamole. It was great! Zero complaints with this new classic. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – just eat it (sorry, Nanny!) 🙂
Rigatoni in a Blush Tomato Sauce with Basil Oil and Torn Bocconcini
This is my favourite Hello Fresh recipe. Gosh, I love this incredible pasta dish! This is one of Hello Fresh’s fussier recipes, involving boiling, sauteeing, blanching and broiling, but the results – plump pasta in a creamy tomato sauce, topped with bracingly bitter basil, broil-burst tomatoes and torn bocconcini cheese – are so worth it. As always with Hello Fresh’s pasta recipes, I think there is an uneven ratio of pasta to sauce, so I always add an extra cup of pasta to the mix. I also just want more surface area on which to drape that amazing sauce! Here I used farfalle, because I always have those on hand.
Za’atar and Feta Tart with Spinach Salad and Sliced Almonds
Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend made up of savoury herbs like marjoram, coriander, oregano and dried sumac, as well as lots of salt and, often, toasted sesame seeds. It’s crunchy, salty and herby – the perfect thing to sprinkle atop a bed of zucchini, shallots and briny feta cheese in this puff pastry-based tart. A fresh spinach salad, topped with toasted almonds, rounded out this nice, light meal.
Minestrone Tortellini Stew with Cheesy Croutons
This stew-soup hybrid was yummy and, thanks to the tortellini, very, very filling, but nothing that rocked my world. I did make one small amendment to the recipe, tossing the ciabatta bread cubes with a bit of garlic-infused oil, before sprinkling on the parmesan cheese and setting them in the oven. I thought the entire recipe was better off for having added an additional layer of fresh flavour. Besides, who’s going to say no to savoury little cubes of bread toasted in garlic and cheese? Certainly not this person!
By and large, I find Hello Fresh’s entrees – at least the vegetarian ones that we have sampled – to be more hit than miss, and these two weeks were no exception. I remain consistently impressed with their offerings, and I think they’ve done a great job so far in maintaining their well-functioning business model in unprecedented times. To the next round of delicious, good food!