Monday, June 19, 2017

Meatless Monday: The Importance of Eating in Season

When you walk down the supermarket aisles today it is difficult to tell what is in season unless you read the fine print indicating the produce’s place of origin. With the advent of produce from Chile you can buy blueberries and raspberries at Christmas; they won’t taste quite the same as New England berries in July, but you can buy them. 

My friend Polly recently reminded me how great a treat food it was to enjoy local, seasonal food when we were young. Her birthday coincided with the peak time for two of her favorite foods, asparagus and strawberries. Her mom always prepared them for her to mark her special day, and those dinners remain among Polly’s fondest memories.

The peak asparagus season is over now (those thin stalks in the supermarket now come from Peru!), but if you check out this Harvest Calendar for Connecticut, you will see that strawberries, rhubarb, peas, and spinach are among the crops that are now coming into high season.

With our president pulling us out of the Paris Agreement, the burden falls on each of us to do whatever we can to achieve and surpass the commitments of the treaty that President Obama signed in 2016.

The US is the number two producer of CO2 emissions. Local produce travels a shorter distance to get to us. When we support our local farmers, we are creating a smaller carbon footprint. 

The US also produces a significant amount of methane, another greenhouse gas. According to the EPA, agriculture accounted for 10% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the US in 2015, much of it coming from livestock. If enough of us cut back on the meat we eat, methane production will be reduced. Cutting back on meat consumption by observing Meatless Monday is a step in the right direction.

Americans sprang into action on the homefront during WWII: starting Victory gardens, salvaging scrap metal, and giving up some of their favorite foods so the troops would not go hungry. Their efforts made a difference in the outcome of the war.

We can make a difference, too.

When you do your weekend shopping find something in season. Search for a recipe if you don’t know how to prepare it. Or simply plan to make a Meatless Monday salad like this one. Grab a head of local lettuce or a bunch of spinach instead of one of those ubiquitous boxes.You will notice the delicious difference.




On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

Monday, May 22, 2017

Meatless Monday: “Kitchen Sink” Frittata

Putting my own house in order is one way I’ve found a bit of peace in these challenging times.

I have been trying to use up things I have on hand before heading out the door with a shopping list. I started by using up all my little travel toothpastes!

I have worked even harder than usual to keep my fresh produce out of the compost pile. Last week I found myself with a surplus of spinach on a day that was a bit too cool for salad as a main course.

For inspiration I turned to a series of recipes I discovered in last June’s Vegetarian Times. The recipes were all variations of the frittata, an egg-based Italian dish. Following are the steps common to each dish:
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. 
  • Whisk a number of eggs (ranging from 6-10) with salt and pepper to taste and then set them aside.
  • Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large cast iron pan.
  • Sauté some vegetables. 
  • When they are almost tender, drizzle the eggs over them. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the vegetables slightly so the eggs cover the bottom of the pan.
  • Put the pan into the oven to bake for about 12 minutes, until set.
  • Cool slightly before serving.


Here is my recipe:


Kitchen Sink Frittata
INGREDIENTS
  • 5 large eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 6 mini red peppers
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 generous bunch of spinach, washed, drained and roughly chopped

DIRECTIONS
  • Whisk the eggs with the salt, pepper, and turmeric.
  • Thinly slice the onions and peppers; then sauté onions and peppers in olive oil until tender.
  • Add the chick peas and spinach. 
  • Stir until the spinach is starts to wilt.
  • Drizzle the eggs over the mixture.
  • Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the vegetables slightly so the eggs cover the bottom of the pan.
  • Put the pan into the oven to bake for about 12 minutes, until set.
  • Cool for few minutes before serving.

I found five eggs enough enough to satisfy two people and to hold the frittata together. If you are feeding more, adjust the number upwards and maybe even top the frittata off with some shredded cheese.

The possibilities are endless; the suggestions in Vegetarian Times ranged from cabbage to tomatoes. Just be sure that whatever vegetables you use are crisp tender before you put your frittata in the oven, especially if you use potatoes.

Happy Monday! "See" you again soon.


On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

Monday, May 8, 2017

Meatless Monday: Ricotta Pie

It’s a tradition in my family to have Ricotta Pie for dessert on Easter (and Thanksgiving or any other time calling for pie). The tradition was handed down from the Italian side of the family and the recipe was one my father’s sister Stephenie shared with my mother. My mom always baked the ricotta pies, so I always made something else, usually pumpkin for Thanksgiving. After she died in 2014, my sister Diane and/or her daughters assumed the role of ricotta pie makers.

This Easter I found myself staying in New Haven and having dinner with friends. I was responsible for dessert, so I decided to try my hand at the pie. I got the recipe from Diane. I even decided to make the eggy crust. I went to the store to buy what I needed.

The night before I Easter I set about to make the pie. I got out my electric mixer, my mixing bowls, my rolling pin, and all my other equipment. I got out the ingredients. I re-read the recipe. Oh no! My angst had been so great, apparently, that I had forgotten to buy the one ingredient that had never made sense to me — sweetened, condensed milk! What to do?

I turned to google search for help and found an “authentic 150 year old family recipe” for ricotta pie. The recipe came from Martha Pesa’s wonderful blog A Family Feast via Pea Pod!). It did not call for condensed milk. It would make one pie, all I needed.

I was eager to try it for two reasons:
  • I had all the ingredients.
  • The crust called for olive oil rather than butter or shortening.
I put away my mixer, swapped out my ingredients, and got started.

Despite the warning in the recipe, I found the crust very easy to blend and roll out. And it had a self-healing quality to it; if there was too much crust hanging over in one place it was very easy to break it off and add it to a place that was a little light, something that is harder to do with traditional pie crust. 

The filling was a snap.

The other unusual part of the recipe was that it called for baking the pie over a bath of hot water, and specified that you leave it in the oven for ten minutes after turning the oven off, without peeking! 

I followed the directions exactly and ended up with one delicious pie. With almond and vanilla extract and 1/3 cup of sugar, the crust had a cookie-like quality when baked. The filling was perfectly set.



My whole-hearted recommendation is to give this recipe a try.

Enjoy! “See you” again soon, I promise. My posts have been far between, I know. But I have been busy! Stay tuned to learn some of things I've been up to.


On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”