Ess, Ess/Eat, Eat

Jewish World Review Dec. 16, 1999 /7 Teves, 5760

Carry-on cuisine
for 30,000 feet

By Ethel G. Hofman -- FLYING TO YOUR DESTINATION used to be fun.There was the promise of a fairly decent meal, served neatly on a tray accompanied by these lovely little packets of salt, pepper and sugar and silverware(albeit plastic) neatly wrapped in a pristine white napkin. This was cleverly calculated to keep passengers occupied for a while - to open the packages without spilling is a major feat. Even the coffee wasn't bad and if you wanted to shell out a few dollars, the meal could be topped off with a brandy.

No longer true. Sure, on selected flights, the tray is there and the packaged accompaniments but that's where the myth ends. Food quality ranges from mediocre at best, to non-existent. Airlines across the board have cut back on the quality and quantity of meals served in-flight. US Airways has eliminated meals for coach passengers on flights under 500 miles and as you board an American Airlines jet for a flight of 2 1/2 hours or less, you may be asked to stop at a wagon, which closely resembles an empty hot-dog stand, to pick up a "bistro" snack in a paper foil sack

Savvy fliers are rebelling. Once luggage has been stashed away in the overhead compartment, and the plane has reached its cruising altitude, you might well find your fellow passenger, unwrapping his/her own meal in the sky. And it's not pretzels or hot dogs hastily purchased from an airport fast-food.

These mouthwatering meals are carefully planned and shopped for at gourmet stores or they may be favorites dishes cooked and packed at home. Hotels and restaurants near the airport are filling this niche. Hotels will pack special "meals to go" to be enjoyed at 30,000 feet and a huge variety of salads, pastas and gourmet sandwiches such as grilled portobello mushroom and mozzarella may be purchased at food courts before boarding the plane. Go the home-cooked way? On a recent flight, my neighbor unwrapped a platter containing nut-crusted salmon, roasted asparagus and a fresh, crusty 7-grain roll and sweet butter. Along with a split of drinkable cabernet, purchased on the plane, the meal was an enjoyable break from boredom --- only it was not supplied by the airline.

"Carry-on cuisine" doesn't have to be expensive pates or sushi and it doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming. Cut down on cost by fixing a main dish at home. Accompaniments may be picked up at the local market. The added bonus of home cooking is that flavorings and special dietary needs may be adjusted to your taste. To ensure that you arrive, well-fed, contented and as clean as when you boarded, here are a few pointers to keep in mind, when you carry-on your own meals in the sky.

Mexican Mini-Meat Loaf (meat)

This may also be shaped into a hamburger, 1 1/2 inches thick. Broil under preheated broiler 3-5 minutes each side for rare, 6-8 minutes per side for medium, or longer for desired doneness.

Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a miniature loaf pan with non-stick vegetable spray. In a bowl, combine beef, salsa, matzo meal, chili powder, bell pepper and coriander. Pack loosely into prepared loaf pan. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Cool before slicing.

Approx. nutrients per serving: calories - 356
Protein - 37 g
Carbohydrates - 16g
Fat - 16 g
Cholesterol - 62mg
Sodium - 209mg

Meal suggestion: Shredded lettuce, kaiser roll, wrapped in plastic wrap to keep from drying out, and half a dozen large, ripe strawberries tossed with 1 tablespoon shredded fresh mint.

Tortellini with Garden Vegetables (Parve)

Frozen tortellini is available in supermarkets. Chopped garlic is available in jars in the produce section. Refrigerate after opening - lasts for months.

Lime-broiled Chicken Breast on a bed of Marinated Mushrooms (Meat)

Nut-Crusted Salmon Steak (Parve)

Trout Patties (Parve)

Spiked Pear Tartlet (Parve)

Since this tartlet is parve, it may be served as dessert with a meat or dairy meal.

JWR contributor Ethel G. Hofman is the former president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, whose members include the likes of Julia Child. She is the author, most recently, of Everyday Cooking for the Jewish Home: More Than 350 Delectable Recipes.


©1999, Ethel G. Hofman