When it comes to hotel cookery, there are certain things that you have to cross off the list. Large roasts of meat, for example. (Now, if I'm staying in a hotel with a fireplace this winter, that's a different story.) Most sauces are out of the question, and I have no desire to use dried packets of instant au jus. But there is a great sauce that is delicious and only requires a refrigerator: Greek tzatziki. I made mine out of strained Greek yogurt, shredded mint, chopped cucumber and tomato. I don't have pictures of this process, but it's dead simple. The magic comes from letting it sit overnight--the flavors marry together beautifully. Around this one concept I built an entire meal.
Rather than whine about what you can't do, focus on your strengths. With only a microwave and a refrigerator, you're pretty limited in the cooking department but you can boil liquids and heat up certain items pretty well. So I decided to go with a pan-Mediterranean dish incorporating the cuisines of Spain, Italy, Greece, and North Africa. Aside from the tzatziki, I have a tub of items from the olive bar, a box of instant couscous, a fantastic one cup box of organic chicken broth, a bag of unsalted trail mix, fresh mint, a jar of roasted red peppers, and some pitas. This project begged for some lamb, but as I didn't have any good way to cook it nor could I find any merguez lamb sausage, I lucked upon some Niman Ranch chorizo.
I took the raisins out of the trail mix and soaked them in white wine for a few hours beforehand, saving the sunflower and pumpkin seeds for later. I tore up some kalamata olives and added them to the couscous in the coffee pot along with the "drunken" raisins and seeds, plus a spoonful of residual oil from the olive tub. I heated the cup of broth to boiling, added it to the couscous mixture and then put a lid over the pot to let it steam and cook.
You know, when I get home I'm going to miss that little coffee pot.
I sliced the chorizo and heated it up in the microwave until just sizzling. I was able to use a little bowl (swiped from the breakfast buffet in the lobby) to make a perfect timbale of couscous, surrounded by roasted red peppers and topped with a mint leaf. Rounding out the plate were some dolmas and a stuffed pepper from the olive bar, a healthy dollop of my tzatziki and warmed pitas. The meal was precisely what I was craving and while I doubt that you'll see anything quite like it on a menu any time soon, it was a wonderful combination.
For the evening's wine, I selected the 2006 Saint Clair Vicar's Choice Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. Great bitter grapefruit peel aroma, with tart, dry, full-bodied flavors that include hints of grass and licorice. A decent wine on sale for $10, and with a screwcap enclosure it makes it even more suited to the hotel room--for those who don't travel with at least two corkscrews at all times.