DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! TO VISIT THE NEW SITE, PLEASE CLICK HERE.

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.” 

Back when I was an undergraduate at the University of Windsor, my first boyfriend and I (hiya, Mark! How’s tricks?) would regularly venture across the Ambassador bridge to the Greektown in Detroit (quite literally, a stone’s throw away).  That’s where I first tasted saganaki–kefalotyri cheese (like an aristocratic feta) doused in brandy and set aflame in the pan, right by your table, to raucous chants of “OPA!” and clapping from anyone in the vicinity.  The semi-melted cheese, crispy on the outsideand soft on the inside, was chewy, melty, oily, salty (basically any adjective ending in “-y”) and I absolutely adored it plonked on big, cushy pieces of Greek bread.

When the HH and I got together, we lived near the Greek area of Toronto and regularly indulged in our fair share of saganaki as well. Then I was diagnosed with IBS and changed my diet dramatically. Basically, I abandoned saganaki along with the rest of the restaurant’s menu–it was all Greek to me (or, at least, to my digestive system).

But there was one item in which I could still indulge, and still eat with gusto and impunity: dolmades.    

Even if you don’t recognize the name, you’re probably familiar with these bite-sized stuffed grape leaves.  Like my mother’s cabbage rolls of yore, the dolmades use smaller, softer grape leaves and roll them around a log of rice filling.  And while they are most often served with ground meat, they can be found in vegetarian versions as well, which I enjoy immensely.

I’ve always dreamt of making my own, home-made, dolmades. It’s a shame, then, that I’m just basically too lazy to do so.  Who wants to spend 3 hours of prepping and rolling just so the HH and I can devour them in 10 minutes?  And that’s where Deconstruction came in.

In university, I “studied” a literary theory called Deconstruction, which supposedly demonstrated how language has no inherent meaning, and words are just representations of our preconceived, culturally determined notions (the approach was characterized, primarily, by the generous use of parentheses, dashes and slashes in their writing.) 

Well, I hated Deconstruction. In fact, if someone had (de)constructed Deconstruction and left it to fade into oblivion in its little de/con(structed) sentence frag(me)nts, I would not have minded one bit. I recall sitting round seminar tables during my M.A. degree and squirming as I listened to the other students pontificate about Lacan, Foucault, Derrida, and a non-linear group of other the(or)ists.  I kept thinking, “What the heck are these people talking about?! This makes no sense to me.”  (Later, after years of psychological trauma believing I was a numbskulled cretin, I discovered that none of them actually knew what they were talking about, either; they were just better at tossing around all that postmodern, poststructuralist, etymological, phenomenological mumbo-jumbo). 

My favorite use of this approach was the (now famous) re-structuring of the word “therapist” as “(the)rapist,” supposedly exposing our culturally-specific, misogynistic, subtext of the word. But I think the theory reached its all-time apex of absurdity in the form of a book we were asked to study as PhD students, in which the author filled individual (separate, unbound) pages with random words, piled the pages into a box like a set of stationery, then asked the students to dump the contents of the box onto a large table, shuffle the pages, and critique the results. I don’t remember any of the “re-visioning” of the text we came up with, but I am fairly certain that many a PhD student who’d “read” that book had a good, long supply of birdcage liners for many years to follow.

And so, in an ironic return to the reviled principles of Deconstruction, I decided to focus my attention not on the hidden meanings in the structure of words, but in the hidden flavors in the structure of grape leaves. The resultant Mediterranean Rice Casserole is an unconventional, unstructured mixture of brown rice, chopped collards (which stand in for grape leaves here) and spices reminiscent of the original dish.  It both is/and is not an accurate rendition of dolmades, and your interpretation of its flavor shifts constantly, depending on the particular arrangement–never the same twice–of individual elements in each specific bite.

The flavors will remind you of a long-ago meal in a Greek restaurant.  At the same time, the structure of the dish will remind you of a child’s kaleidoscope, ever shifting as you peer into the tube. Is there any way to interpret a consistent meaning for this dish?  Is there any signficance to the particular arrangement of fragmented colors in the casserole?  Can we extract some symbolic, gender-specific and pre-existing cultural stereotype from this dish?

Naw. So let’s just forget about all that theory, get ready to eat, and heartily par(take) of this de/lec(table) meal.

OPA!

Mum, you’re really not making any sense here. . . but can we deconstruct the leftovers?” 

Mediterranean Rice Casserole

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

A great way to use up extra rice and any kind of green leafy vegetables, this dish comes together quickly and works well as both a main course or a side. 

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

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DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!

If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site. Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thank you for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new home of Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we?  Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans on this blog than you do.”

It’s a truism when discussing the era of flower children and Woodstock to say, “If you remember the ’60s, you probably weren’t there.”  When it comes to the 1980s, however, those of us who lived through it are more likely to lament, “I remember it all–if only I could forget!” Still, the Era of All Things Excessive (also known as the “Me” Decade) did have its touchstones.   

Let’s see: if you (a) know what a “social X-Ray” refers to; (b) can name the performers who sang “Ebony and Ivory“; (c) own one of the original Cabbage Patch Dolls; (d) know where Expo ’86 took place; and (e) have seen the only movie in which Julia Roberts was actually any good, then you, like I, were most likely cognizant of the 1980s–like it or not. 

And yet, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for those times.  I mean, how can anyone forget the heady 80s, with their typical Yuppie motto of “More is More”?  As a PhD student on her own in the Big City of Toronto, it was in the 80s that I finally became comfortable perceiving myself as an “adult.”  Working as both a don in residence and a teaching assistant at university, I supported myself while studying and carrying on an active social life, as only someone in the early throes of adulthood can do. With a built-in social network (three of my close friends from childhood had already moved here years before) and PhD seminars filled with interesting new classmates (as well as the occasional crush), I was happy to spend my time memorizing Beowulf by day, then taking on the town by night. 

80s urban professionals were regularly amused by showy sportscars, massive parties, both private and public (raves made their appearance in the 80s), big hair (remember Boy George?), big fashion (ah, yes, Amazonian shoulder pads) and even bigger earrings.  I recall encountering a colleague in the hallway at work one day, feeling pretty snappy, bedecked as I was with a pair of my favorite gold-wire earrings. He took one glance my way and sniped, “Wow, how’d you get those hamster wheels to stay attached to your earlobes?”. 

Ah, yes, pretty much everything from the 1980s was excessive and self-indulgent.  And the food?  Oh, my, the food. . . .

The 1980s were epitomized by everything rich, from Gordon Gekko to Double-Chocolate-Hazelnut-Caramel-Cream Cheesecake.  Foods were elaborate and multi-layered, and nobody ever worried about saturated fat, cream, too much red meat, organic, or whether the tiramisu was made with whole-grain ladyfingers. No one had ever heard of Omega 3s, let alone ingested them, and restaurants were just getting their fingers wet with the new food architecture that mandated aesthetics over taste.  In those days, I’d spend hours cooking and baking for dinner parties, multiple courses and desserts that could, on their own, drain the stock of an entire dairy farm for a day.  

One of the best-selling cookbooks of the time was The Silver Palate Cookbook, by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.  Two regular New York gals who’d made a name for themselves by operating one of the most successful little gourmet shops in the city’s history, these women finally collaborated on a cookbook and were instantly rewarded with an overwhelming, almost cult-like following. 

Like most of my friends, I possess a well-worn copy of the maroon and white-covered tome, its edges fraying a little and pages splotched with grease stains.  From the side, my book appears to have donned a jagged, fringed winter scarf, as little strips of sticky-notes, marking recipes I wished to try, peek out from almost every page.   One in particular, Chicken Marbella, was cooked so many times that I had to replace the sticky note on more than one occasion.

Well, for some reason, while I lay supine in bed for ten days, my mind kept wandering back to that darned Chicken Marbella.  Maybe I was a little delirious; maybe the muscle relaxants brought with them delusions of poultry; or maybe I was just ravenous since I couldn’t get up to feed myself, subsisting on the meager, dried-out muffin the HH left on the bed each morning before he trotted off to work.  Whatever the catalyst, I craved that dish.  So, as soon as I was up and about, I pulled out my trusty copy of The Silver Palate, and set about adapting.

The original recipe turned out to be slightly different from what I remembered (in my idealized version, it was aromatic with a variety of Moroccan spices, rather than the lone oregano it does contain), but it was still alluring.  Certain that quinoa would partner perfectly with the other ingredients, and after a little tinkering, I came up with this recipe.

I must tell you, this was astonishingly good.  Next time, I’ll begin with a little more quinoa and chickpeas, as the original marinade was aimed at 4 chickens (I’ve adjusted the recipe, below, accordingly). As in the original dish, the unconventional combination of baked prunes and olives is spectacular, and the quinoa provides a perfect base to soak up and then showcase the flavorful marinade. Even if you’re not normally a fan of prunes, I think you will enjoy them here.

I love this dish as a main course casserole, but the HH still yearns for the chicken and prefers this as a side dish.  He ate it, sighing, wishing aloud that if only we’d met in the 1980s when I was still throwing elaborate dinner parties with dishes like Chicken Marbella or some excessively rich cheesecake, he could have sampled the “real” recipe.

But of course, that would never have happened.  Even if, by some weird karmic commingling of our (then) diametrically opposed lifestyles, we had actually met back then, the HH would have taken one glance at my bouffant hairdo, while I took one glance at his erstwhile “business associates,” and we would both have run screaming in opposite directions. It wasn’t until the end of the 90s, after having both matured considerably, that fate ultimately brought us together with a coup de foudre. . . followed, inevitably, by our current calm, somewhat predictable, and rather domestic existence. 

Amazing, isn’t it, what changes just one decade can bring?

With its fragrant oregano, olives, and prunes, this dish is my submission to Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging, this week hosted by Jai and Bee of Jugalbandi.

Tagine of Quinoa with Chickpeas, Olives and Prunes

Adapted from this original recipe in The Silver Palate Cookbook

Slightly sweet, slightly salty, and warmly spiced, this dish is a delectable treat.  Because it is rather rich and filling, if served as a main course, a simple, light salad would be the perfect accompaniment.

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!  PLEASE VISIT THE SHINY NEW HOME OF DDD BY CLICKING HERE.

Today is moving day!  We are likely en route right now, between houses, stressing about whether the movers will break our fragile glassware, or whether all the boxes will arrive at their destination, or whether the stove will fit in the space that’s been left for it. 

In any case, I thought I’d leave a little Thanksgiving-based recipe on the site–no photo, but I’ll post one as soon as I have it.  This is for those of you who’ll be celebrating on the 22nd and are looking for a delicious side dish or veggie dish that’s not too heavy, not too sweet, yet festive and delicious.  It’s a perfect way to use sweet potatoes for the holidays, and can take the role of side dish or dessert (great with a dollop of cashew cream on top), or, as I’ve been known to have it in the past, as a speedy breakfast (just re-heat and dig in).

We used to call this kugel (“Ki’-gul,” but can also be pronounced “koo’-gul) in our house. The word is derived from the German word Gugelhupf, and it’s often translated as pudding or casserole.  I use “casserole” because it seems to me the most versatile–a kugel is usually a side dish, a pudding is usually a dessert, but a casserole can be anything you like.  

I’ve adapted this from a recipe my friend B. gave me a few years ago.  As a very lazy cook, I’ve altered the recipe so there’s no grating involved, only processing in a food processor (even using an entire lemon–whole!), which is where the bulk of the ingredients end up.  Processing also helps hold the casserole together by grinding up the raw veggies and allowing the juices to meld more with the rest of the ingredients. Flax and oats also act as binders, as this vegan version is sans eggs, of course.

It’s a moist, tart/sweet, subtly spiced dish that’s rather addictive.  I love eating it, knowing that I’m getting all the goodness of sweet potatoes (could there BE a more delicious root?), along with the traditional carrots and other goodies in here.  Hope you enjoy this one.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Casserole

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.