Emma Freiman | Sun Contributor

September 5, 2018

Toast for Dinner: How Reality TV Helped Me Embrace Study-Break Cooking

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“Can he really cook?” I, along with millions of other viewers, wondered as Antoni Porowski, the food and wine expert on Netflix’s Queer Eye, made a grilled cheese one week and hot dogs the next.

Following this spring’s reboot of Queer Eye, everyone had an opinion of Antoni’s cooking skills — or lack thereof. Such skepticism is most likely the result of consuming a culture of food TV in which a minimum of three multistep recipes are whipped up within 20 minutes. While I find comfort in watching old episodes of Barefoot Contessa on YouTube when I am especially homesick, I rarely find the time or energy to then go roast a chicken and serve it alongside a panzanella salad with a peach cobbler for dessert.

When we watched Antoni throw together a guacamole, designating it as an important addition to Tom’s recipe repertoire, we were witnessing the realities of daily life entering the realm of a television kitchen. It was unnerving at times to watch Antoni break the fourth wall with his food by showing us that he understands we will not be spending our entire evening in the kitchen. Nevertheless, in celebrating food that works for the individual, Antoni reminds us that a meal thrown together in a matter of minutes can still be mouthwateringly delicious, energizing and satisfying.

There are only a handful of meals that I can recall for their deliciousness, one being a tomato sandwich devoured on my living room couch. Perhaps, there is no greater testament to the power of simple fare than a thick slice of an heirloom tomato on toasted bread. It needs little else than a scraping of mayo and a sprinkle of salt.

Since it’s already September, I suggest you get your hands on as many late-summer tomatoes as possible. Embracing the Porowski style of almost non-recipe recipes, I recommend a tomato, corn and bacon salad or a tomato and mozzarella toast served alongside slices of perfectly ripe cantaloupe. Although they require just a handful of ingredients, these meals are particularly refreshing during these 80-degree days, and most importantly, they can be prepared within a 30-minute study break.

Tomato, Corn and Bacon SaladTomato, Corn and Bacon Salad


1 small head of leafy lettuce

1 medium-sized heirloom tomato

1 ear of corn, steamed

3 – 4 radishes

1 – 2 crisp strips of bacon

your favorite vinaigrette or a splash of olive oil and vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

The only cooking involved for this recipe is steaming the corn and crisping the bacon. In fact, I often steam multiple ears of corn at the same time so that I can have this salad throughout the week. You may need to break the corn in half, depending on the size of your pot. No need to worry if you are vegetarian or simply do not like to handle raw meat; the bacon is a completely optional addition.

  1. Place an ear of corn in a few inches of water, place on the lid and bring to a boil. Steam for 10 to 15 minutes; adding additional water if necessary.
  2. Optional: Heat a frying pan over medium heat, and add the bacon when the pan is hot. Fry until crispy or for 10 to 15 minutes. Or place the bacon between two paper towels and microwave until crisp.
  3. Wash and rip the lettuce into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Slice up the tomato into about eight pieces.
  5. Cut the radishes into eight wedges.
  6. Combine the lettuce, tomatoes, corn, radishes and bacon in a large bowl.
  7. Drizzle with your favorite vinaigrette and toss.

Tomato and Mozzarella Toast with MelonTomato and Mozzarella Toast with Melon


1 – 2 slices of a hearty bread

1/2 mozzarella ball

1 medium-sized heirloom tomato

1 small melon

olive oil, salt and pepper to taste

  1. Start by toasting the bread.
  2. Then slice the tomato and mozzarella.
  3. Layer on the mozzarella and tomato, alternating after each slice.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle on salt and pepper.
  5. Slice the melon in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds, and cut each half into four lengthwise pieces for a total of eight slices. To cut into pieces, make a handful of vertical cuts across the slice, and then run your knife between the orange flesh and green skin. Serve alongside the toast.