Monday, January 28, 2008

Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler, indeed...

I enjoyed this very thought-provoking article in the Sunday New York Times. I didn't even realize as I was reading the article that the author is the very same author of the cookbook I had just bought as a gift for my friend Alison for her birthday. The book is "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman, and I'd been wanting to pick up a copy ever since I'd first heard of it. Soon I'll pick up my own copy of the book and I can't wait to start trying out the recipes.

Although I've been a vegetarian at different periods of life, in recent years my dietary tendencies have leaned more towards omnivorous. And although meat has not been at the center of my diet for a great many years now, the above article serves as a good reminder to me about all the reasons I ever chose to keep it out of my diet in the first place.

Many years ago I was on tour in Tucson, AZ and very nearly crossed paths with Howard Lyman, aka the Mad Cowboy- remember him? He was being interviewed on the radio station KXCI that I was headed towards to be interviewed myself, and the interview with him just blew me away. Sadly, by the time I got to the radio station, he had already left, but suffice it to say he left a lasting impression upon me, and I bought his book while I was there in Tucson, and stopped eating meat right then & there. I didn't start eating it again for quite a few years, but eventually, I did start eating it again.

Now, my reasons for wanting to change my diet again are personal as well as political. The unfortunate news is that my stomach has been very unhappy for some time now, so I don't want to make it work any harder than it has to (I am NOT looking forward to having procedures with names ending in "oscopy").

The good new is, I've fallen in love(!!!) with an amazing person, who is, among other things, a vegetarian. And of course one of my favorite things to do is to cook and share food with the people I love, so I just haven't been all that interested in recipes heavy on the meat, and I really haven't missed it.

I don't know if the vegetarian police are going to object, but I'm still eating fish, with no plans to stop that. And, I'm not saying that no bit of meat shall ever touch my lips again, because rarely in my life have I been able to pull off being a purist of any sort. For now though, the path without meat seems to be the right path for me. I'm going to get my own copy of Mark Bittman's book, and I am looking forward to trying out all his great recipes!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Slow-Braised Chard

Wow, this month is flying right by, sans alcohol! The first week was rough; the second week was better; now I'm almost finished with the third week and it's been the easiest yet. I expect the fourth week will be a breeze.

But, I digress! I'm here to tell you about my favorite new way to eat my greens. My friend Jamie from work mentioned that there is a delicious recipe for slowly braised chard in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and as always in all manners culinary, he was right. That Jamie is a smart man (he's also helping me create my own cookbook, but that's another story!).

Tonight was a cold, cold winter night and once I got home from work and cranked the heat and got into my bathrobe, no way was I going to leave the house again (in case anyone out there had any illusions that I might flit about the kitchen whipping up culinary delights while looking stylish and sexy, I'm here to dispel that myth!).

So I had to use what I had on hand and thusly, I altered the recipe a teeny bit, using toasted and ground coriander instead of cilantro, but it still tasted fabulous. I also used less oil and salt than the recipe suggested. Served it over herbed basmati rice, and savored every bite.

Here is the recipe with my adaptations:

2 large bunches chard, about 2 pounds, leaves sliced into 1 inch slivers and stems diced
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
1 generous swirl of olive oil, roughly 2 tablespoons
3/4 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 garlic clove pounded into a paste along with 1/2 t. salt

Place all the ingredients in a very large, heavy skillet with a couple pinches of salt. Add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup water. Cover tightly and cook over low heat for 45 minutes - yes that's right, 45 minutes, hence the title slow-braised... definitely worth the wait. Lift the lid a couple times during the 45 minutes to ensure there is enough liquid, and add more if needed.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sometimes, You get what you Need...

... see, what I want right now is an ice cold, strong, bitter beer. In fact, I want two or three. But hey, it's still January and so for now, the fake beer and veggie juice cocktails will have to suffice. I don't NEED the beer. I just want it, and miss it!

One thing I do sort of need however, and have needed for some time, is an immersion blender. You know, the kind you stick into a big pot of soup in order to puree it. I keep thinking I need to buy one but probably, I've been drinking just enough beer and wine to kill off the exact brain cells needed in order to remember to get the dang thing! Well now, that little problem is fixed, because yesterday at work, a friend of a friend showed up and handed me one. Alex loves to cook, and bought several of these to give to friends & family, but somehow ended up with one too many. And knowing that I love to cook, she decided I should have it.

Thanks, Alex! I think I feel a big pot of creamy roasted squash soup coming on, oh yeah...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sans Alcohol

I wasn't really sure if I could do it. But so far, I've made it nearly eight days. That's eight days without so much as one drop of luscious red wine or strong, bitter beer touching my parched, parched lips. How sad is it that I wasn't sure if I could do it? Well friends, that's another story, a story we might not need to tell because the fact is, I AM doing it. And I'll be doing it for another uh... twenty three days, but who's counting?

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you might remember when I once foolishly decided to give up coffee. Well compared to that, this is really a piece of cake! But also, it's an interesting way for me to see just how much I rely on the booze to do things like help me relax and help me sleep (and then consequently keep me awake!).

One thing's for sure; I'm not missing those calories, and I won't be complaining if I find myself sans a few pounds of spare tire at the end of the month. I gotta say though - it was weird hosting a dinner party and buying, and then serving, wine to my guests while I sat there drinking sparkling water!

But on the up side, the lack of alcohol has inspired me to pull out my dusty old juicer and now I'm enjoying daily "cocktails" of juice made from carrot, celery, beet, ginger, lemon & apple. After all the consumption over the holidays, my body is liking this.

I still have to report about my Dad's homemade pasta (hey Dad maybe you should send me a list of step by step instructions so I can post them with the pics!) and much, much more! But hey, the work day is almost over, and it's nearly time for my evening cocktail, so excuse me, I have some vegetables to scrub...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Holiday Highlights

Happy 2008! It sure crept up fast, didn't it? I'm happy to report that I had some extra time off this year, and I spent much of it laying around, cooking, eating, and drinking wine. Not a bad way to pass the time!

This year my family did a gift exchange, so I only had to buy a gift for one person, and one person bought for me. My niece Emily chose well for me, feeding both my obsession with Indian cooking and my lust for Le Creuset cookware.

And lest I should forget my Italian roots, a little something extra was thrown in for good measure. Emily must know that I suck at making sauce and that I love vodka, so the Williams-Sonoma vodka sauce and fancy dried pasta were perfect additions!

I was psyched to be the one to buy for my Dad, and it seemed that he was quite pleased with my gift selections. And fortunately for all of us, he likes to share!

When my parents volunteered me to cook dinner for their friends, of course I was happy to oblige.

All was going swimmingly until I realized that it was in fact a bad idea to bake pizza directly on the oven rack without putting something underneath it to catch the melting cheese, which soon turned into burning, smoldering cheese, which filled the house with stinky smoke! I do believe my parents might be needing to buy a new oven thanks to their talented chef daughter.

And then, just in time for dessert, I somehow managed to make the coffee machine have a seizure.

I swear I hadn't even drank that much of my Dad's wine stash when these little mishaps occured!

I wish I'd taken pictures of my Mom baking pizelles, but I was too busy eating them to stop and grab the camera. Soon I will need to post photos of my Dad and my niece Angela making tender, delectable homemade pasta. For now, here is a photo of the finished product. I wish I had some right now!

Happy 2008 to one and all!