In most parts of the country, autumn is a transitional season where summer slowly transitions into winter. Leaves turn colors, fields are harvested and turned for the next season, and our sleeves get longer.
Here in Central New York, autumn lasts about three weeks. September gets progressively colder, so much so that you think it is October already. By the time Halloween hits, parents debate whether snowsuits are necessary underneath the costume for trick or treating. Continue reading Meatless Monday: Kale-Quinoa Minestrone→
I had a couple of bell peppers in the fridge, which were going on one week old. I had actually planned to make this last week, but a late chiropractor appointment pushed it out of the picture. Unfortunately, I had already begun defrosting the fresh Mexican chorizo that had achieved a comfortable cryostasis in my freezer. My roundabout tale brings me to tonight, where I had to either cook these ingredients or toss them. And I can’t bring myself to letting chorizo go bad. Not chorizo. Never the chorizo.
The recipe goes together not unlike an Italian stuffed pepper recipe without sauce. Brown the meat, mix in the already softened aromatics, stuff the peppers and roast. The result was good, but missing something. The Italian in me says tomato.
A quick refresher for all of us. Last April, I got out of the durum semolina box and tried pastas made from other types of flour: brown rice, kamut and quinoa, and emmer. Towards the end of that week, I ended up with the plague and skipped the final pasta that I planned to cook.
Fast forward 13 months to this week. I kept bumping into the box of quinoa pasta that sat in my cabinet, caught somewhere between ignoring it and recognizing that I would cook it soon. When “soon” was, well, that was for another time. Continue reading Meatless Monday: Creamy avocado pasta→
UPDATE: Al Dente’s Binghamton Canandaigua bureau chief Brian Moritz reports that his Wegmans carries store-brand freshly made pico de gallo. Very disappointing.
Meatless Monday has become a national movement backed by the geniuses at Johns Hopkins University in an effort to reduce our overall consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol. It has its roots during those skirmishes in the early to mid 1900s, where Presidents Wilson, Roosevelt and Truman asked Americans to go meatless one day a week to make sure we could feed our soldiers abroad. Or something like that.
(Tangent: We can get into the politics of this, but I don’t believe that food should be political. It should be safe. It should be accessible. It should be served to politicians. It shouldn’t be a political statement. There are too many people who lack access to quality fresh food. A 12-week per year farmer’s market in a Northeast city is a nice gesture, but is a fingertip bandage on a fissure. If people are hot to make a political statement about food, they should try fixing that.)
For our purposes, Meatless Monday is not going to be a grand statement. It’s my challenge to reach out and try new things that are healthy, and approach the stove without a chicken thigh, pork tenderloin or other piece of animal flesh in hand.
Our first week back has been more about getting back to normal and less about, well, everything else. The jet lag has kicked my rear end, so it’s not uncommon to find my daughter smacking me in the head while I lay on the floor to wake me up. The adjustment to work has been a bit of a challenge; not the work itself, of course, but the fact that I’m at my desk and not walking up some hill. No falling asleep there, but I do miss the luxury of a mid-afternoon nap.
Real Simple has apparently ascended to the status as “official magazine of 30-something women.” Find a woman between 30 and 39 who doesn’t subscribe, buy or worship to the monthly magazine. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
The Wife posed a valid question for which I had no answer. Pasta Week at Al Dente started with emmer, and continued with this variant on traditional wheat. In lieu of my own explanation, I offer the definition from (wait for it) Kamut.com:
“KAMUT” is not the name of a wheat. In 1990, the word “KAMUT” was registered as a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark office. This was done to protect and preserve the exceptional qualities of a particular variety of the ancient wheat, khorasan, for the benefit of all those who are interested in high quality, healthy food.
Round the corner from food bigotry to snobbery and we end up amid a conversation on pasta. Bar none, the best pasta is fresh and made from semolina flour. And, when I say fresh, I’m not talking about the stuff in the dairy case. That stuff is fine, but I mean kitchen-covered-in-flour-linguini-hanging-from-clothes-racks fresh. The type of pasta that is so fresh that it cooks when you wave it over the top of a pot of water. I’m terribly lazy so for me that means a trip to Lombardi’s or the bakery run by Pastabilities. And, in both cases, you get what you pay for — a pound of the fresh stuff at Pasta’s Daily Bread is $3.75 per pound; today I paid $1 a box for Barilla at Tops.
But, since fresh is not always practical (financially or otherwise) dry pasta is where most of us turn. The average American eats 4 1/3 lbs. of pasta per year. As a child, I could do that in two weeks. As an adult, that’s about two months for us. Out of snobbery and habit, I buy Barilla pasta almost exclusively. There are some exceptions to the rule: I really like Trader Joe’s pasta; and I cannot get orzo or orecchiette from Barilla at Wegmans. Cooked to the directions on the box, Barilla far and away outperforms the other brands. And, like the fresh stuff, this is made with durum semolina flour.
The problem is that white flour has all sorts of related health problems. When flour is metabolized by the body, it is broken down into sugar, which is converted into fat. That’s not a problem when you consume pasta in moderation. Whole wheat or whole grain pasta is healthier, but still produces a “carbohydrate footprint.” For people with Celiac’s disease or other gluten intolerances, all of the above is out of order. That means looking at pasta made from different grains.