Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Meal Worth Repeating

Recently I've had some exciting food-splorations which I haven't yet shared with you. The other day, I cooked and ate an artichoke, on Thursday I tried some Thai Red Rice crackers, yesterday, I made a Roma tomato, Spanish onion and ground chicken meat sauce and today I tried Babybel Cheese.

For several years I've timidly glanced at artichokes in the produce section of my supermarket. Spiky and acorn-like, I've been somewhat mystified as to how to prepare and eat these interesting veggies. I've eaten spinach artichoke dip, jalepeño artichoke dip and other variations, but I have never been able to wrap my mind around the whole food artichoke.

After reading about Shauna's description of eating artichoke leaves in an elementary school classroom, I knew it was time to try one. It turns out, artichokes are not actually difficult to cook or eat.

It was like eating a Christmas present. After steaming the artichoke in a pan of water, slowly unwrapped it, leaf by leaf, and ate them dipped in butter. Scraping the leaves through my teeth, the buttery artichoke pulp danced around on my tongue, smooth and creamy. When all the leaves were finished, I encountered the choke and the heart. The choke is a fibrous clump at the center of the artichoke, not edible, which must be removed. It came out easily and beneath it lie the artichoke heart. The heart has a texture like softened cream cheese, and an almost sweet, mild flavor. I must buy more.

The rice crackers were one of the items in my gift bag from Lil's, and they were a pleasant surprise. Beneath the unassuming packaging, and made from simple ingredients, these crackers are meant to be topped with meats, cheese or dip. I first tried them without topping on Thursday, to assess the flavor and texture. They remind me a bit of rice cakes, with a slightly puffed crispness. Flavor-wise, they are fairly neutral and easily complementary to anything with which you might top them.

The sauce. Mmmm... the sauce. My friend Bridget gave me The Gloriously Gluten-Free Cookbook:Spicing up Life with Italian, Asia, and Mexican Recipes for my birthday, and for the first recipe, I tweaked their meat sauce. I don't eat beef or pork, so instead of ground beef, I used leaner ground chicken. The recipe calls for a 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes, but recently I've been reading about the potential negative affects of the canned tomatoes. It seems the acid in the tomatoes can break down the lining in the can, releasing chemicals which we then ingest. I don't know all the science behind it, but since I found some Roma tomatoes at the farmstand for a good price, I just sidestepped the whole can issue and diced them myself.

Half a large Spanish onion, several cloves of garlic and some herbs, fresh ground pepper and sea salt as well as grated Parmesan cheese and a light sprinkling of Truvia instead of sugar came together beautifully. After cooking the ground meat and the sauce separately, I combined the two for a somewhat sweet and definitely flavorful addition to past or anything over which I might want to serve it.

While dreaming up dinner, I decided to finally sample some of the babybel cheese Mom keeps buying. One taste, and immediately I thought: SPINACH, I must have this with spinach.

I sautéed some spinach in garlic and olive oil, added the crumbled babybel cheese, and topped it all with some of the meat sauce. I had it with a baked potato, and it was definitely a meal worth repeating.

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