This post was originally going to be about survival cooking. Survival in the sense of trying to occasionally find an alternative to mess hall food here in Iraq. I will say that the mess hall where I am run by KBR USA is a lot better than when the Army was contracting with KBR UK. We are actually lucky, some I have been to are worse and others are about the same. Still, it is mess hall swill and you have to get away from it from time to time. Even in Afghanistan, there were FOBs that had local restaurants. Any restaurant that AAFES (folks that run the military PX and concessions on bases) sanctions are always crappy, usually fast food or the like. I always wondered why AAFES never went out to find good local food or even good traders for their “bazaars” they have on some bases. Nothing worth buying at the AAFES sponsored stores and all overpriced. AAFES has a reputation for being a mafia of sorts, a monopoly only interested in money and not soldiers. In my experience, that is true.

But one thing you can get sometimes on bigger bases and now where I am in Iraq is good quality frozen meats, steaks, ribs, chicken, pork shoulders, etc. They also sell grills and charcoal. So, you can make a great steak from time to time. It is amazing what real meat tastes like compared to what passes for meat in the mess hall. Needless to say, cookouts are a real treat. But most of these cookouts involve meat only or maybe meat and hamburger bums with condiments obtained from the mess hall. But, I discovered a great way to have some tasty veggies, too, and this is actually good enough to do at home.

You go to the mess hall and get a to-go plate. Then, you head for the salad bar, the only place you will even find raw veggies. Depending on what is available that day, you can grab the following:

  • bok choy (really poor quality, but works in this recipe)
  • brocolli florets and stems (the stems are great, don’t leave them out)
  • canned mushrooms
  • sliced onions
  • sliced bell peppers (I hate bell peppers, but they work well in this)
  • olives
  • collards
  • spinach

You get the idea, grab whatever you can. Also, you can usually grab some garlic powder and salt and pepper. The hard part is getting olive oil, but other oil will work. At my location, you can get small bottles of olive oil.

Now, make a “pan” out of aluminum foil (you can get at PX or swipe a bunch from the mess hall). Dump all the veggies into the “pan.” Drizzle on some oil and salt and pepper, garlic powder if you want. The oil is what makes this dish, other seasonings are optional. Put your “pan” on the grill and stir occasionally. Cook to taste, I like to cook mine until the onions caramelize. This is a very tasty treat.


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