Thursday, December 09, 2004

Finally some recipes...

Tonights dinner was a pasta variation which we eat fairly often...we call it Greek Pasta. You'll see why as I describe the recipe. Basically it's a saute' of fresh veggies in olive oil (of course) with some nice kalamatta olives and feta cheese tossed in. Tonight I used fusilli pasta (those corkscrew shaped ones) and the veggies were onions, garlic (I cook almost nothing without onions and garlic - save pastry items- and lots of both), broccoli (another house favorite ingredient), crimini mushrooms, eggplant, and -despite the season- a few plum tomatoes (which were suprisingly nice and ripe, and not too expensive). Instead of the Kalamatta olives, I used the rest of some leftover olive and red pepper tapanade I had taking up room in the ol' fridge. On reflection, I would say that the halved Kalamattas I usually use are much better flavor and texture wise.

So, to get started, put the pasta water on to boil, and don't forget to salt it generously (salty like the sea, mench!) Next prep up the veggies...I like my onions "French cut" or Jullienne (long thin strips from root end to top end ) as it is easiest, and also the onions don't get lost in the dish. I also like to cut my garlic cloves in thin slices (as they did in the prison scene in Good Fellas, but with my chef's knife rather than a razor blade) again, I like the slices for ease, and for that rustic look and feel of the final product. Broccoli, I cut into small flourettes, and I peel the stems and slice them into 1/4 inch half moons on the bias. (hey, they add some crunch- almost like a water chestnut texture if not cooked too long- and besides, we pay enough for them that I can't see tossing them in the compost). The eggplant I dice into 1/2 inch cubes, salt lberally, and allow to drain for a while in a collander (they say this eliminates the bitter taste of eggplant, but I honestly can't say as I've ever noticed the difference really, I just do it out of habit at this point I think). The crimini I lightly rinse (horror of horrors!) and thick slice for added textural pleasure. Lastly, the plum tomatoes get cored, halved, seeded (save those) and jullienned, I rough chop the seeds and tomato innards and set them aside for later.

Everything is set for assembly...this is known in French as Mis en Place or "everything in its place". Now we cook. By this time the pasta water should be boiling, so turn it down to a simmer until the time is right. Fire up the burner under the pot for sauteeing the veggies! Add a liberal amount of olive oil once the pot has heated up a bit, then add the eggplant cubes, stir and saute' until cooked through and even try to brown them a bit on the outside. Remove from the pan and set these aside to add to the pasta later. In the same pan, add more olive oil (remember its's good for you!) and then in go the onions. Season with salt and pepper, the salt will draw the flavor of the vegetable out...let them cook to translucent, stirring often. Next add the mushrooms and garlic, season again, stir until mushrooms are cooked and liquid has evaporated (mostly). Next add the broccoli and the tomato seeds and innards (not the jullianne flesh though). Continue to stir and cook over medium high heat.

At this point, crank up the pasta water again, and when it boils toss in the fusilli. Meanwhile, when the broccoli is dark green yet still al dente' (meaning somewhat still do not want mushy broccoli!) cut the heat under the veggie pan. Crumble up the feta cheese. When the pasta is cooked (again, to al dente'- the pasta should still have some "bite" to it...not be mushy and limp...this is very important!). Drain the pasta.

At last, time to assemble the final dish...mix the hot pasta with the sautee'd vegetables, add even more olive oil, the olives (or tapenade), the feta, the eggplant and the tomato jullienne. Wow! Looks and smells delicious, eh? Scoop into large bowls and serve with crusty bread (and more olive oil!). I find that either red or white wines go well with this dish, but tonight we had a nice Oregon Reisling (dry, and crisp - Alsacian style), and it was quite complimentary. I also set out a bowl of parmesan cheese (shredded, not grated) and some red pepper flakes for additions to taste. Fresh cracked black pepper may be desired at this point as well.


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Once again (unfortunately) it is world AIDS day...

December 1st is World AIDS Day. It is an annual opportunity to reflect on the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, and to recommit ourselves to the fight against the disease. This year there is a special focus on Women and Girls, who are especially vulnerable. Today, women represent almost half of the 38 million people who are living with HIV/AIDS . And girls in their teens and early twenties represent more than 60% of new infections among young people.

-The Global Fund to Stop AIDS (stopping AIDS before it stops the world)

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is spreading at a terrifying rate. Every day, another 13,000 people become newly infected with the virus--several people each minute. The United Nations estimates that nearly 40 million people around the world are living with HIV/AIDS. Its consequences are devastating to communities: rampant poverty tramples entire regions as the virus spreads, creating widespread hunger, health crises, and economic collapse.

-The Mercy Corps

I am so pissed right now. Partly because 20 odd years later the HIV/AIDS epidemic is only getting to be more of a horrific problem, and partly because my last three attempts to write something about it were lost in the ether when my Compy 148 froze up and this damned BLOGGER site (which I fully realize I - a true neophyte - have in no way figured out yet) lost all my ramblings.

Suffice to say that I had much on my mind after coming across the above and other e-mail messages in my box this morning.

For instance, what exactly is wrong with those in charge (yes, I refer here mainly to our government leaders) that we - the self styled "leaders of the free world"- could allow (actually more like help to perpetuate) this awful deadly serious global health crisis? Are they really serious with all this "abstinence education" crap they are trying to cram down the throat of the worlds population while simultaneously dismantling any real truly progressive and actually useful sex/health education in our school systems? Who the hell do these people think they are? We are in need of honest, straight forward discourse, debate, research, funding, and truthfulness worldwide on this public health issue and NOW for crying out loud! (What the hell is going on around here?) My God, they are taking us back to the puritanical bad old days of our miserable, repressed fore fathers, and half of us (or so the numbers tell us) are helping to row the boat!

TAKE YOUR BLINDERS OFF FOLKS! We are headed down the wrong damn path, and if you think it is the promised land that lies awaitin' around the next bend, let me not be the last to tell you that you are most definitely sorely mistaken. (WRONG DIRECTION!)

UGH! I wish y'all could read what I had to say earlier in the day, 'cuz it was a whole lot more rational, thought out and coherent than this mess, but I'm just too full of irritating bile at this point to simmer down and make sense again for awhile.

Well...All of us with level heads and brains which still work (that means we actually think about things once and a while rather than just going through the motions all day and then spacing out in front of the tube with our mind numbing substance of choice at our side, repeating this cycle endlessly) had better keep the pressure on those who are in control of everything to keep this and other vitally important issues (like say, the environmental degradation of our planet) in the forefront of the collective mind (as we have observed, not all of us have fully evolved beyond the reptilian brain yet, so we need constant, vigilant reminders).

Really. Next time I promise some recipes and more pleasant anecdotes. For sure. Ciao!