Sunday, March 12, 2006

L'importante e' variare

For some reasons, I've been receiving "Newsweek" in the mail box at my name for the past two months. Not sure how it happened, or how long it will continue, but so far, I kind of like it :). I like to read about the main news of the week, they always have reports that seem to be quite balanced. Moreover, they often have more "society/health" related things, which are interesting too. In their last number, they have a long article that I didn't completely read yet, about science and the media talking about food. They show how confusing it is for people to understand what's "good" or "bad", if they want to follow the suggestions that scientific studies find and media report. Basically, in the course of the past ten years, it's been said every possible opinion about every class of food: eat more carbs than fats, then the opposite, fish is good, but then, it's also full of mercury, eggs have too much colesterol, but at the same time, one egg per day is supposed to be good according to some other studies.. recently, on NPR I heard an expert discussing how soy products are bad for you - so, forget about proteins taken from something different than meat..
In summary: just a crazy mess. In my opinion.. everything is good if you eat a little bit of everything. Obviously, I have some favorite ingredients, but maybe it's more a cultural thing than anything else. At least one of these ingredients: olive oil, garlic, onions, tomatoes (and recently, yogurt) is basically always present in my dishes.
For the rest, I try to vary. Also, I try to make both me and Lucas happy.. he seems to need more meat and proteins than I do, so I make meat at least twice per week, and then we alternate that with fish, eggs, pasta, seitan, tofu, cous cous and so on.
So, I collected a few pictures from last week dinners.

Zuppa di tofu con contorno di insalata di erbe al vapore / Tofu soup with steamed creasy greens on a side
The recipe is quite simple (this was for a night were we weren't too hungry): bring some water to boil, dissolve a vegetable bouillon in it, add the tofu cut in cubes, some spinach, seasonings (olive oil, salt, pepper, curry if you want it more indian-like) to taste. Serve with some rice or cous cous. If you want it richer, add an egg or two in the soup and scramble with a spoon. It will give a nice thicker consistency to it and it will make it more chinese-style.
For the side dish: I bought these 'creasy greens' that I had no idea what they were. I looked for them on the web, and found out that they're very popular in the South, and apparently really easy to grow..and I agree, they're really good! I just steamed them and tossed them with some olive oil, salt and lemon juice. They tasted very nice, kind of like collard greens but less strong. :)

Pollo e patate al forno / Baked chicken and potatoes
This dish is really easy and Lucas likes it a lot - me too.. :) It also reminds me of an old Italian song that my dad used to song, so it makes me happy to remember about it. :) (The song is really silly.. spaghetti, pollo, patatine, una tazzina di caffe'.. a malapena riesco a mandar giu'.. :) ).
I think you can easily guess how to make it, but just a few details: I like to make the potatoes in a different pan than the chicken, so they don't get greasy, but I guess if you don't care you could, so they would taste more like chicken. I just toss them with olive oil, salt, garlic powder and oregano or rosmary. Also, if you put salt and rosemary or oregano on the chicken before putting it in the oven, it takes a nice taste. It does take a while to cook this dish, but you don't need to take too much care of it. Basically, you flip the chicken legs and you mix up the potatoes every 20 minutes - it usually takes 2-3 flips before the chicken is done.. for the potatoes, it depends on how big you cut the pieces.

Uova all'occhio di bue con fagioli e sedano/ Sunny-side-up eggs with beans and celery
Isn't this dish pretty? :) I like to make colorful dishes. :) It's also very easy... and it made me happy that I could make a good egg dish different from frittata (my typical way of using eggs, I'll talk about it another time). Eggs were always related in my mind to those evenings when we didn't have anything else in the fridge, and my mom made them with some ham that wasn't good enough anymore to eat by itself (not to criticize her, it was actually a good idea :) ). This dish, though, was quite good and merry - and as easy to make. :) Basically, I sauteed some onions and pieces of celery in olive oil, added canned tomatoes and canned mixed beans, spiced it with salt and pepper. After the sauce was thickened a bit, I broke the eggs in it and covered. The only difficulty of this dish is to get the timing right for the eggs. In fact, if you do, you'll get a wonderful crispy white and a tasty liquid yolk, that spills out as soon as you hit it with a piece of bread to eat it.. But if you overcook it, the yolk becomes solid, and if you undercook it, the white is slimy (better the first than the second one). To get it right, you need to help the white cook fast enough.. since the part that doesn't touch the pan and is on top of the red tends not to cook.. so you'd better pour some hot olive oil or sauce on top of it, so it gets cook by the heat of it. But other than that, the egg 'all'occhio di bue' (look for 'occhio' and 'bue' on to understand how we call the sunny-side-up egg!) is easy, quick and good! If you like, you can add some cheese on top of it before removing it from the pan (in the picture, you can see some melted cheddar cheese).
And if you don't use all the bean and celery sauce, you can use it the day after for a good pasta dish! Just dilute it with yogurt and spice it up with a little curry or curcuma or something similar.

Pesce al forno con barbabietole e kale/ Baked mackarel with beets and kale
Usually I make fish in a pan, but today I wanted to try to bake it. I just made a bed of greens, cut some beets and put the makarel on top of it, with some garlic, salt, olive oil, and white wine. You can see the picture of the preparation above (I didn't take a good picture of the cooked dish :( ). I cooked it for about 40 minutes at 350F, flipping the fish once. The result was good, I especially liked the taste and consistency of the fish better than when I cooked it in a pan. The greens were a bit too crispy, though, in particular those that were on top. Next time I'll try to cook it in a smaller pan, so that the greens are completely covered with the fish fillets and are not exposed to the direct heat of the oven. I served it with whole basmati rice.

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