Sunday, August 8, 2010

Meatless Meals (while J is away)

I stopped eating red meat and pork for 6 years between the summer before junior year of high school and right before graduation from college. Even when I was living in Italy, I resisted what looked to be the most delicious prosciutto I could ever taste. To this day, I kick myself for not eating it while I was there.

I remember the day, practically the moment, that I decided to eat meat again. I was at a reception at the President's house for seniors at Trinity and I saw this appetizer that had a medium rare piece of beef on it. And I wanted to eat it. I looked at my friend Jen's brother Kevin and told him what I was thinking. His response was, but you don't eat meat. And I thought, yeah, I'm kind of done with that. So I ate the beef. The next day, I had bacon with my eggs. And I forgot why I stopped eating meat in the first place (it was because we had to read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair in high school).

As time has gone by and I've become more aware of where the food we eat comes from, (thank you, Michael Pollan) I've wanted to move a bit away from eating a lot of meat. At least once a week I try to make a meatless meal and I try to keep red meat, pork and poultry out of my diet during the day. It doesn't always work, but I'm not going to beat myself up about it.

The challenge is, my fiance thinks that every meal should involve meat. He begrudgingly eats the meatless meals that I make and always makes sure to let me know that he knows "what I'm doing and it's not going to work." No, honey, I am not trying to make you a vegetarian :-) I enjoy meat too, but I also enjoy meals that do not involve meat. Since J was out of town this weekend, I have not had any meat in any of my meals. Granted, I also didn't eat a proper breakfast or lunch yesterday, but that's neither here nor there. Friday night dinner was chana masala from the Smitten Kitchen:

I've never cooked Indian food before, though I LOVE to eat Indian food. I was really excited to try this dish and have had it bookmarked in my mind since I saw it in February, just waiting for the opportunity to make it. Here are my ingredients assembled:
I had to make a few substitutions. I completely left a green chile pepper off of my grocery list, so I substituted a green bell pepper from our CSA share this week. I also could not find ground cayenne pepper, so I subbed half ancho chile power and half chili powder. I used smoked sweet paprika instead of regular paprika because I prefer the smoky flavor. I did not include amphoor powder and increased the amount of lemon juice, as Deb suggests. My last adjustment was to increase the amount of ground cumin because I did not have cumin seeds. I was pretty nervous that with all of these changes the dish would not taste anything like what I've had at restaurants, but I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong!

Oh, the spices!

Saute of onion, garlic and green pepper:

With the addition of all of the spices--the kitchen smelled delicious at this point:

The tomatoes and water added to the pan:

And the chickpeas:

Combine and let simmer for 10 minutes:

Chana masala:

I would have served this with naan, but I was too lazy to make any :-) So I ate it over rice. I was surprised at how delicious this was, it was as good as takeout to me, even with all of my substitutions. There was still a good level of spice, despite leaving out the green chile pepper.

Saturday night's dinner was zucchini and eggplant pasta with tomato and mushroom sauce. I found this recipe on The Front Burner. The only change I made was to add eggplant ribbons to the zucchini ribbons, since I had a nice long eggplant from this week's farm share.

This was remarkably good. I loved the zucchini and eggplant as pasta. I love pasta and I didn't even miss it in this dish. The flavors were amazing, I think because the majority of the ingredients came from the farmer's market or our CSA (with the exception of the mushrooms and the parmesan cheese).

J will be home tonight, which means that meat is back on the menu :-) I enjoyed the last couple of days of meals, but am very happy that J will be here and who doesn't love pulled pork?

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