Sunday, July 22, 2007

a week in food – from the lurgy zone

We’ve been behind the 8 ball this week – pesky colds, the odd bit of oral surgery, sick cats – none of this adds up to a great week in the kitchen. Despite that a few stand out, vegetable based meals found their way to the table and are worth a mention.

It began well with the Significant Eater whipping up yet another variation of his stuffed artichokes. The artichoke is a hardy thistle that is a quintessential spring green and a Mediterranean staple. Unfortunately, most recipes paradoxically laden this liver friendly herb with lots of fat. A great legacy of a North Italian ancestry, his family favourites have bought a variety of new foods into my life, however being a meat and dairy-free woman has meant a lot of adapting. Instead of parmesan, bacon, parsley garlic and breadcrumbs - the new stuffing has become parsley, pine nuts, garlic, anchovies and quinoa. A vegan version could easily swap salty sun dried tomatoes for the anchovies. Rinse the quinoa and whiz the other ingredients in a food processor, season and then stir in the grain (actually it's a seed but that's another story). The fun part is packing the stuffing in between the tight leaves of the artichoke. It can take a lot more filling than you would imagine. This is then steamed for about 45 minutes or so, the longer the better. Traditionally the stems are chopped up and included. Just check the inside of them as they cook, when the stems are soft enough to eat the artichokes are ready.

The SE also came up trumps with a delicious vegetable soup, which included spinach and rice, to nurse me through a particularly nasty visit to the dentist.

Later in the week I was back in the kitchen. Silverbeet (chard) is not the sexiest of veg but at this time of year its dark green leaves make a promise of healthy goodness. Wanting something gluten and dairy free, but full of flavour, I settled on a vegetable bake. I sautéed onion and garlic with the silverbeet, then added grated carrot, chopped green olives stuffed with semidried tomatoes (another yummy market find this week) and a can of tuna. Binding the filling slightly with 2 eggs I created a bake, with thin layers of firm streamed potato on top. With a little olive oil and salt, the potatoes crisped up in the hot oven, giving the dish a bit of a lift. For a vegetarian version, I'd replace the tuna with some cooked brown rice to add a bit of bulk, or just more vegetables. Both versions are gluten-free.

Friday was another variations of cooked vegetables and a back up can of fish. The cold night called for baked vegetables – I found potatoes (winter’s comforting treat), pumpkin, beetroot, onion, cauliflower (cut into large chunks) and garlic, which I tossed with a dash of oil, sea salt, pepper and fresh rosemary and backed til slightly crunchy. I mashed the roasted garlic with mustard, lemon and olive oil to make a thick, creamy dressing, which I tossed through the baked vegetables, more of the delightful stuffed olives and some canned salmon.

Sure, there were a couple of restaurant take aways too. There’s something medicinal about a spicy tom yum soup when you’ve got a cold and our local Thai will load it with extra hot herbs if you ask for it. But I think we did well for a couple of invalids.

What’s getting you through winter?

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