Sunday, May 2, 2010

Meatless Monday

I happened upon a Nigella Lawson cooking show on the TV this weekend.

The British Domestic Goddess has a thing for comfort foods, in particular eggs, cream, butter and cheese.

Nothing wrong with a dash of dairy, it adds richness and flavor to just about any dish and if you're going without meat for a day, eggs and cheese can be a great protein alternative.

In fact, last Meatless Monday I linked to my recipe for custard-based Caramelized Onion Quiche.

However, Nigella's cooking tends to involve more than a dash of dairy.

I watched her as she made her favorite "comfort meals for one," including puree of peas with heavy cream as a side to baked lamb shank; spaghetti cabonara with pancetta, eggs, heavy cream, Vermouth, and Parmesan; a skillet meal of potatoes, bacon, and eggs beaten with heavy cream all tossed together till the eggs set and the cheese melted.

Oh, and the dessert: pots of chocolate with, you guessed it, chocolate, eggs and more heavy cream.

Actually, I think the chocolate pots came after the cabonara and before Nigella announced that she often treats herself to a comfort meal out if she's on her own -- the scene segued to the domestic goddess sitting outdoors at a fast food cafe, tucking into cheese-smothered french fries.

By the end of the show, having listened to Nigella punctuate mouthful after mouthful of cheesy, creamy, egg-y, runny chocolate-y goo with "yum," I was sure I could feel my liver twitching at the sheer richness of all the saturated fat in her comfort food meals.

And then I wondered, if Average Citizen cooked and ate daily from Nigella's, Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking, would they wind up in the same predicament as Morgan Spurlock who ate his way through two months of McDonald's food for his documentary Super Size Me?


So the moral of this story: eat comfort foods in moderation.

I've been reminding myself daily of this for the past two weeks because one of the ways I've coped with the emotional stress of spending time on Phillip Island, Australia with my father who is fast fading in a nursing home with dementia is by engaging in emotional or comfort eating.

Though, in my defense, my daily small portions of sweets (my comfort food of choice), have been at afternoon or morning tea or dessert after one of the balanced meals of Tasmanian salmon salad, lamb and veggies, quiche and salad, and basa fish with bok choy that I've prepared or that my sister made or which I've eaten out.

In other words, the comfort foods I've eaten were sweet treats book-ending nutritious meals that were light on saturated fat and big on flavor.

Today, my last Monday on Phillip Island, I've made myself a comforting, vegetarian or meatless meal of stuffed butternut squash accompanied by arugula scattered with roasted hazelnuts.

And for dessert, I bought myself a piece of thick, moist, banana bread from Mad Cowes.

Eggplant Stuffed and Capsicum Dip Stuffed Butternut Squash

1) Slice a small butternut pumpkin (or acorn squash) in half lengthwise. Scored the flesh with a knife and place the halves on a baking tray. Moisten the flesh with olive oil.
2) Cut a small eggplant into chunks and place the pieces on the baking tray with the pumpkin. Drizzle the eggplant with olive oil, coating the pieces by tossing them about in the oil with your fingers.
3) Place the baking tray into a 375-degree oven for about 30-40 mins.
4) Remove the softened flesh from the pumpkin skin (pic left) with a spoon, placing it into a bowl.
5) Add several spoonfuls of the capsicum dip from last Tuesday's post (that's a spoon of the dip in the pic above), test taste, and if it needs more dip, add to taste.
6) Remove the soft flesh from the eggplant skin (pic above) and toss into the bowl with pumpkin mix.
7) Spoon mix back into pumpkin skin and place baking tray back into a 350-degree oven for about 15 mins or until heated through.

To Serve: Place stuffed pumpkin half onto a plate along with several handfuls of peppery arugula or baby spinach leaves. Douse salad greens with balsamic vinegar, a splash of olive oil and lemon juice; dot with roasted hazelnuts or filberts.

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