That’s last night’s pantry-busting-inspired experiment.
I took some pre-made naan from the freezer, sauced it up with a 1:1 mix of tikka sauce and sour cream (yoghurt could be substituted), added some roasted snow peas, spinach, peppers and broccoli, then some bits of cooked chicken – all topped off with grated marble cheese. Tossed them on the pizza stones in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes and out they came all gooey and golden and pizza-esque.
Next time I’ll use goat cheese but otherwise wouldn’t change a thing.
So tonight it was experimental squash canelloni for supper. This baby’s not going to win any beauty contests any time soon. I was going to cook a nice, innocuous tenderloin but forgot to take it out of the freezer so here we are. Plus, there were squash guts leftover from the lovely soup the mister the other night so this is all in the name of using what I’ve got. I was determined to use only things we had on hand for this dish. I almost did it but had to run across to the convenience store across the street and buy a can of tomatoes. It was very tasty but the texture was lacking…something. Everything was just too the same. I know that’s par for the canelloni course and maybe it’s my palette which is picky but I have a few thoughts on making a new, improved version. Beyond that I was really happy with the milk sauce I chose to go with it. It has been ages since I’ve had a milk pasta dish and this one really served its purpose in balancing flavours; it wasn’t so hearty that it overpowered the squash and wasn’t so meek that it needed a lot of help holding itself up.
Here’s the skinny on the filling:
2 cups of mashed, cooked squash
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 red onion, minced
1/4 cup pesto
Mix everything together and stuff into canelloni noodles laying out them in one layer across the bottom of an 11×13 casserole dish as you go. I used oven-ready in the interest of time and because I hate working with the cooked ones. This recipe uses about one box.
2 cups tomato sauce of your choice
2 cups of milk
1/4 cup pesto
Mix all of that together then use it to completely cover the stuffed canellonis in the casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes then top with slices of provolone, mozzarella or havarti and cook for another 30 minutes or until the noodles are tender.
So I would totally make this again but, instead of making a squishy squash filling I would transfer a lot of the flavour elements, like the feta and more pesto, to the sauce and use uncooked squash spears inside the noodles. This would eleminate a lot of the mess involved in stuffing them and help give the dish a little more textural backbone.
That is the composter between our house and the house next door and it’s progeny, a happy, accidental pumpkin which beat the odds in an environment set against it and climbed those Maslowian rungs to self-actualisation.
Now we just need to decide on a recipe by which to honour its achievement. Any ideas?
We have a lovely organic poultry vendor at our local farmer’s market from whom I (and the rest) get tremendously good deals on his capons (2 for $40 – can’t beat that) so I’ve usually got a couple in the freezer at any given time. I was feeling like we needed a toasty, warm, autumnal meal this weekend so here’s what I made:
I tend to prefer dryer bread for stuffing than the fresh sesame bread I ended up using just because it keeps it from getting soggy. To it I added 2 diced macintosh apples, which are about two weeks out of season here and are getting a little softer as a result. This makes them perfect for cooking in this manner and add a little moisture to the stuffing. I also tossed in some chopped proscuitto, ground sage (can’t WAIT until the stuff my Megan provided is ready for rubbing), ground nutmeg, oregano and lemon juice. Capons don’t need a lot of help in the flavour, fat or moisture department so I wanted a lot of that to come infused through the stuffing, rather than treating the meat itself but I did pour the better parts of the remnants of a bottle of white zinfandel from last night’s wine night (donated by a well-meaning guest rather tragically to a group of red snobs) into the pan to help it out a little. The results were great. The proscuitto gave it a low smokey flavour, the sage came through in a subtle tone, that apples lent their juices to getting everyone to make friends and the lemon juice and wine perked things up nicely. We ate our chicken and stuffing with mashed potatoes and yams, fresh green beans, & beats in horseradish butter. It was lovely.
I hadn’t attempted to make spaghetti & meatball sauce using the patented family secret recipe in about 7 years. It was one of those things that I attempted and failed miserably at each time, possibly out of contempt for the stuff as I saw it growing up. A huge pot would be made at the weekends then part of it eaten as a meal and the rest put into the fridge to be used in various and sundry meals through the week. We literally ate the stuff in one way, shape or form 4 nights out of a week. Being the variety loving creature I am I just stopped eating it. Instead I would eat my pasta with olive oil and garlic and a little romano cheese with a couple meatballs on the side and all of the vegies I could fit on my plate after that. I boycotted the sauce. After moving out I learned to make a wicked napolitano sauce & kickass greek meatballs (not to be eaten together) while my sister mastered the family sauce & the meatballs to go with it. I never refused an offer to partake in her mastery when she lived 2 and a half blocks away from me. Now she lives an hour and a half away and I had a hankering so I gave it another shot…and it didn’t suck. It was actually quite good if a little less thick than I wanted it to be. That being said, I didn’t exactly follow the family recipe to a T, either. And I made bison meatballs. And served it with zucchini. But for all of my improvisations, it did not suck and I’m quite happy with that.
mmmMMMmmm…bagel melts. Pretty sure no better breakfast exists in the world. Someone once asked me what my favourite sandwich is and I couldn’t answer but come to think of it the bagel melt must be it. So it’s not really a really real sandwich. All good by me. It’s close enough in my books and consists of three loves of mine; breads, fresh vegies and, of course, cheese. This one’s made with an everything bagel, roma tomatoes, dill, black pepper and mild but wonderfully melty marble cheese but they can be made with just about every flavour combination. Try cinnamon raisin bagels with apple slices and mozzarella or provolone. Or sesame bagels with roasted eggplant, red pepper slices and goat cheese. One would have to try very hard to do any wrong with these…you can even nuke ’em! That said, I strongly suggest the oven method – just slip them onto a broiling pan (I slipped mine onto the pizza stone currently occupying the oven) then into a 450 degree oven. Once in turn on the broiler and leave the oven door open a smidge, not to keep the broiler for turning off (the bagels aren’t likely to be in there for that long) but because the cheese will go golden brown (which is when you want to take it out) very quickly and having the door open tends to make one acutely aware of the fact that there’s stuff going on in there they need to not forget.
The mister saw fit to bring back a copy of The Omnivore’s Dilemma from Montreal a couple of weeks ago. As he’s not allowed to read it until he’s fully digested Foucault’s Pendulum I decided to pick it up as my thinking (as opposed to purely entertaining) book of the moment. I finished reading the first ‘chapter’ (section?) over coffee on my front porch this morning and though I’m not prepared to get into a full review of the book at this moment I do have some initial thoughts and reactions I feel the need to air so I’ve chosen to do so here. Perhaps I’ll bore you all with a play-by-play as I read along. The book’s formatting – following four meals back to their natural sources and reminding us of our relationship to the ingredients all the way – is rather conducive to that. Perhaps I just won’t be arsed. We’ll see.
An introduction to a new set of socio-political ideals about food is (apparently) kind of like buying a new car in that one sees it everywhere within the first few weeks after adoption. I think I realised the full effect of the read yesterday while visiting our local farmer’s market determined to bring home an interesting and organic new cut of beef or buffalo or elk to play with. The latter two being out of my price range and offering nothing I considered interesting enough to justify the expense I turned to the many many offerings of the former, all purporting to be ‘certified organic’ but then also listing ‘corn-fed’ as being one of the value-added benefits of their beef. Newsflash – cows aren’t naturally gifted in the processing of corn. They can only do so with the aid of loads of hormones and antibiotics assisting them in converting those precious (and cheap) calories into the steaks we all know and love. While this isn’t news to me, it has been a long time since I’ve thought about it. So the question is begged: what then, is ‘organic’? Who defines it? Who measures it and by what means?
I don’t have immediate answers to those questions, but I’m certainly bloody-minded enough to go searching for them and, though I’m certain the answers will vary from region to region, I’m kind of hoping they’ll be answered later in the book. Or that some clever indices I can follow will be presented at the very least, but more on that later. The thing is that the issue of cows not being able to process corn natural is a mere scratching of the surface of the plant’s place in the global food debate. The real issue is that corn, with human aid, has circumvented all of the laws of natural selection to become a dominant organism on our planet and in our digestive systems. Getting into the nitty gritty of all of that is beyond the scope of this post – just go read the book – this post is about my feeling of betrayal, akin to the betrayal I felt toward my own genetics upon reading The Selfish Gene. Like Dawkins, Pollan is a radical messenger of radical truths who has transformed the favourite summer treat this (quasi) farm-bred girl, raised on the plantable, sustainable, preservable holy trinity of vegetation that is squash, beans and, of course, corn into an alien overlord infiltration of Orwellian proportions. He makes it quite easy to draw the line of responsibility between corn and global warming, poverty, malnutrition, alcoholism and even war. Granted, cow corn is different from people corn. The stuff we buy from roadside tables on lazy Sunday drives is not responsible for all of this as such, but my overactive imagination can’t help drawing the parallels. Mind = blown. I’ve not yet decided what my long-term response to this will be. This section of the book had me checking all of the labels of the all of the jars of all of the products we have in the cupboards and fridges and I can say with some relief that my lack of sweet tooth keeps us away from the onslaught of corn bi-products in the few processed foods that we do keep around the house. We’re hardly every day meat-eaters in this house, we do try to stay fairly low on the food chain and we don’t own a car but even those efforts don’t seem to be enough in the face of this. Needless to say I left all traces of beef at the market yesterday but did come home with organic, corn free, birdseed for our feeders. Damn you, Michael Pollan. Damn you all to hell for making corn my new boogey man.