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Archive for the ‘vegetarian’ Category

Wherein Ashley Spends Forever in the Kitchen Making Gnocchi

Image by Robert S. Donovan, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License. Click for link.

Play-Doh sculpting is a life skill ... just ask my sister Ashley. Image by Robert S. Donovan, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License. Click for link.

Ed. note: This is the third of four posts about a recent supper club meal my sister prepared. I found this recipe for spinach gnocchi on simplyrecipes.com and instantly decided (since I have a life-long love of homemade dumplings, pasta, and noodles) it looked both fantastic and reasonably do-able, so I forwarded it to a few close friends. Ashley was the first to try it out, and here are her results. Enjoy! jf

Last time, I talked about my love affair with artichokes.  Incidentally, it also happened to be the side dish I served for the last Supper Club I hosted.  Today, I’m going to discuss the main course.

The entrée I served was a bit of a gamble.  Now, my sister refuses to cook a recipe for company without having tested it beforehand, and I agree, this is an excellent policy.  However, I usually like to throw caution to the wind and embark headlong into culinary odysseys, even if I wind up somewhere I don’t really want to be.  Besides, that’s what Supper Club is for!

A word to the wise on this, when making things that you’ve never tried from online recipes, always, always check out the comments section to see the issues/tweaks other people have made to the recipe…this can save your keister (I think Allrecipes.com does an excellent job of this).  So, having been forwarded a recipe for Spinach-Ricotta Gnocchi (not potato based…even I know my limits), I knew I’d found my entrée.

The gnocchi dough came together relatively easily via food processor; the tricky part came during the roll out.  At this point, I needed to channel all available Play-Doh skills I might have retained into adulthood  and I was praying Calculus hadn’t pushed them clear on out.  The basic technique was to divide the dough into manageable portions and roll them into log-shaped pieces about the size of your finger.  Easy enough, right? [Right! Reminds me of this. : ) jf] I found it near impossible to keep the dough at the correct level of tackiness that enabled smooth rolling.  I finally just decided that it was something attained with practice and muddled my way through best I could.

Also in the instructions for the gnocchi, was a step to use fork tines to leave dainty little impressions in each one.  Now, as romantic as making your own pasta sounds, the truth of the matter is it’s time consuming as all get out and as much as I love Supper Club (and my friends), my time was more valuable than putting fork tines in gnocchi (I’m running a one-woman show…that laundry ain’t going to do itself).  I quickly abandoned the effort…call me a cheater.  Five cajillion gnocchi later, I finished.  I did this the day before, which was fine, but I forgot to cover them with plastic wrap, so they did dry out some overnight.

The sauce came together super-fast right before I was ready to serve the meal.  It was very minimalistic and basically consisted of stewed tomatoes and goat cheese.  Cooking my pasta, which was another super easy task (I dumped them in boiling water and waited until they floated to the surface to remove them), also occurred at this time.  I topped the entree with grated parmesan.

I have to say, that while the finished gnocchi did resemble neon green fish bait, the taste was amazing when paired with the sauce.  It was definitely a scrumptious success.

My next post, Part 4: Oozing food is never good, should follow soon.

Ashley
“If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to serve as a horrible warning.” – Catherine Aird

p.s. If anyone else tries this recipe out, let us know your success with it! I’m going to be trying it soon myself and will report back as well. jf

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meatless_main_dishes

In a move that would happen in the United States only over the dead bodies (er, so to speak) of the U.S. Beef and Poultry industries, the city of Ghent, Belgium has begun asking its citizens to give up meat once a week.

Last year, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, suggested that the most useful step ordinary citizens could take to help combat climate change would be to stop eating meat. In Belgium, an entire town is taking his advice to heart. The Flemish city of Ghent has designated every Thursday as “Veggiedag” — Veggie Day — calling for meat-free meals to be served in schools and public buildings, and encouraging vegetarianism among citizens by promoting vegetarian eateries and offering advice on how to follow a herbivorous diet.

Why? Because it’s almost universally acknowledged to be better for your health, the environment and your pocketbook. That’s doesn’t mean meat doesn’t taste good and isn’t nutritious. It doesn’t mean eating meat is wrong or evil. But it does mean you probably shouldn’t eat it every day, either.

According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, meat production accounts for 18% of annual greenhouse-gas emissions — more than transportation, which accounts for roughly 14%. Each year, millions of acres of rain forest are cleared for cattle ranchers and suppliers of animal feed, further accelerating climate change. Then there are the urgent human-health issues: the world feeds much of its grain to cattle and other animals even as millions of people starve. Those wealthy enough to consume fatty animal products are themselves at higher risk of certain health problems, including heart disease and some cancers.

Yes, you read that right. Meat makes more greenhouse gas each year than cars, trains and planes combined. Rainforest in Brazil is being felled every day to clear more land for soybean fields planted for cattle feed.

Now I hate environmental guilt trips as much as the next person, but if you read my other blog, you know I care deeply about all of the amazing, weird creatures on the planet. And it turns out a lot of them hang out in the Amazon. We’re cutting down their homes so we can enjoy cut-rate stir-fry beef. That makes me sad. Really sad. Because slime molds need homes too.

If you couldn’t care less about climate change, rain forests, or slime molds, consider this:  a pound or so of tofu rings up at about $1. Can you say the same for a pound or so of steak? If you couldn’t care less about climate change, rain forests, slime molds, OR your budget, consider the health case for cutting back on meat.

Now I’m not a vegetarian. You can have my bacon and sausage when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers. But I do try to minimize how much meat I eat. I estimate I eat meat about once a week. I’m what’s called a “flexitarian”. And I like it. I can have my tofu and bacon both.

You can too. I’ve spoken about how I believe it’s important to avoid all-or-nothing thinking (unless, of course, one has a violent nut allergy, etc.) There’s no reason you have to eat all meat all the time or all vegetarian all the time if you don’t want to. There is a middle ground.

In America, the closest thing we have to Ghent’s resolution is this:

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, for example, recently spearheaded a “meatless Mondays” campaign in which it and 28 other public health schools run local outreach programs that promote a meat-free start to the week.

So if you haven’t already, consider trying a meatless day yourself once a week. Crack open a cookbook and see if it has a meatless section. Because when even that bastion of Southern Cooking, The Southern Living Cookbook, now has a chapter called “Meatless Main Dishes”, you know it’s probably time to get on board.

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S’more Brownies: meat-free (thank goodness!), not dairy or wheat free. Time: About an hour. Difficulty: Medium. Recipe at bottom.

OK, time for the institution of a promised institution: kitchen disaster corner. This is a regular feature about how even in the best of kitchens, disasters happen. Let’s laugh at them and share our war stories, but not let them scare us away from cooking. : )

This week’s Frazer kitchen disaster came at the hands of a box of Graham Crackers. Some really old Graham crackers. Now, I’m pretty cheap. That’s a big reason I cook at home, and a big reason I started this blog. I like to economize and want to spread the gospel. But there is, as I’ve found on multiple occasions, a cheapness line you probably shouldn’t cross. I crossed that line last week.

I’d decided to make a delicious S’more brownie recipe my sister lifted from the Food Network and praised to high heaven. Perfect! I thought. I have an old box of Graham crackers lurking in my cupboards that’s been waiting for a use for . . . well . . . a long time.

I’d purchased them for a camping trip in years past, but just how many years ago I couldn’t say. You see, for those of you who are Easterners and confused by the survival in non-mush/molded form of graham crackers over the course of several years, you must realize this: In the Rockies, we suffer from horrible dry skin in winter, but our crackers, cookies, chips and cereal stays crisp forever. I mean forever. Those Graham crackers were as crisp as the day the package was opened.

I neglected to realize one thing: though the crackers will keep in Colorado forever, their oils won’t. I ground them in a food processor only to discover they smelled. . . well, a bit off. I have a big thing about noticing when oils and whole grains (which also have oil in them) have gone rancid, and it dawned on me that Graham crackers might fall in this category as well.

Oh well, I thought, maybe the funk will bake out. I should have known better. Once, when I lived in the Boston suburb of Roslindale, I made a dessert using flour that my roommate must have purchased sometime during the Reagan administration. It produced baked goods with the flavor of wallpaper paste. Not cool.

The S'more brownies before I browned the marshmallows.

The S'more brownies before I browned the marshmallows.

After their quality time with my broiler.

After their quality time with my broiler. If you try this at home, watch the brownies like a hawk . They will go fast!

Still, the miser in me persisted in insisting the finished product would be fine. It was not. It tasted, well, off. Fishy. I ended up having to scrape the Graham cracker crust off to make the brownies palatable. And believe me, they still were.

But I relearned an old lesson: Don’t cut corners if it means compromising on taste and quality. I could have easily afforded the extra $3 for a fresh box of store brand graham crackers or graham cracker crumbs. The final product’s value would still have far exceeded the expense and cost far less than the equivalent purchased product. But I didn’t.

Coloradans and Wyomingites — Don’t be fooled by our climate! Taste or smell your grain and oil products before you use them. Crispiness isn’t enough.

OK, open mike time. Who else has had a kitchen disaster lately. Care to share? : )

Oh, and in case you’d like to make these brownies with fresh graham crackers, here you go. You’ll want to make them for a crowd; they’re super rich.

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