Tuesday, 22 September 2009
courgette and feta cheese bake
i've not eaten a meatless or fishless dinner for a long time now. until tonight. the truth is, i couldn't really be bothered to cook so i wanted something i could put together and whack in the oven while i do other things. this fitted the bill, and i had no meat in the fridge anyway.
i didn't exactly set out to eat meat every day. it just kind of worked out that way. i think i function better on lots of protein as it keeps me sated. this dinner only served to reminded me that i was permanently hungry when i was a vegetarian (and i did spend the rest of the night going back to the fridge to 'investigate').
you could say i am permanently hungry now, and i certainly think about food often enough, but it's really not the same. i can wait for my food now without thinking i will faint, and i can exercise hungry. i used to get into a mild panic at the thought of going somewhere where i won't be able to eat for a few hours, that's how bad it was. i guess i must have been prone to massive blood sugar fluctuations and i did/do have a sweet tooth. my palate and my tastes are changing but it takes time. i'd still like to ditch fruit - there is just no need to eat 2-3 pieces a day when you eat tons of vegetables.
it was funny timing to be eating a veggie dish because i am in the middle of a book called the vegetarian myth by lierre (only in america) keith. the title kinda says it all but what's interesting - and what makes it different from the usual carnivore 'propaganda' - is that it was written by a former vegan.
she does the same job as ex-smokers who proclaim the evils of fags louder than the healthy lobby itself: she's pretty militant. as a result, the tone can be a little annoying in places. but i still think it should be obligatory reading for anyone who is open-minded enough to realise that the vegetarian doctrine has some serious holes in it. and that's for both ethical and medical reasons.
we're made to eat meat, that's about the long and the short of it.
being a vegetarian is a bit of a crazy choice to make, for your own health and the health of the planet. the medical argument seems pretty obvious to me - there is so much science to support it (proper science, not some dodgy observational study paid for by the soya manufacturers) that i think you'd have to be seriously blinkered not to accept it.
it was the idea that the meat is destroying the planet that used to bother me a lot more. but it is only partially true: yes, it is the grain that's fed to cows that's wiping out huge swathes of rainforest and grassland but there's the bleeding obvious hiding in there: cows are not meant to eat grain in the first place. HELLO!!!! and that's the nub of it: we need to go back to proper animal husbandry. yes, the price of meat will shoot up and only the rich will be able to afford to eat grass-fed beef fillet steaks. the rest of us will go back to cheaper cuts and the whole nose-to-tail job. we'd also have to make do with cheap protein. a bit grim but perhaps that's the price worth paying in the long run.
interestingly, keith also dismantles the humane i-don't-want-to-hurt-anything stance which i was definitely prone to (except in my case it applied to plants too). the brutal truth is: for everything you eat, something has to die, and that includes grains. in fact, she puts the blame squarely on the rise of agriculture for much of the destruction of flora and fauna. it's a pretty convincing argument too.
have a look at the book and also check out dr michael eades' blog for a shorter summary of the arguments (www.proteinpower.com/drmike/.) and hold the veggie hate mail, i am not interested.
anyway, for something semi-made up, this dinner was really very nice. very soft, pillowy on the inside - the courgette almost turns to thyme-scented, salty mush - with the crispy, cheesy, baked outside. while i was making it, i thought i must have lost my mind and was in fact making a fritatta in a pointlessly complicated way. but i promise you this tastes different - somehow, it is like a souffle in the middle which i don't think you really get when it's done on top of the stove.
COURGETTE AND FETA BAKE
2 large courgettes, sliced into rounds no thicker than a two pound coin. best use a mandolin but you can do it by hand
2 smallish cloves of garlic, crushed
1 cup of feta or a bit less (to taste, really)
5-6 sprigs of thyme
1 tbs of creme fraiche or thick greek yoghurt
sea salt and pepper
preheat the oven to 180C. grease a 20cm/8in round dish.
in a large dish, fry the sliced courgetes in olive oil until they begin to soften. add the garlic and thyme and season. you don't have to fry this for ages as the courgettes will carry on cooking in the oven.
mash the cheese with the fork, then whisk in the eggs and the yoghurt or creme fraiche.
now place a layer of courgettes (a third of your mixture) in the bottom of a dish, cover with half of the eggy cheese, then put another layer of courgettes and top with the rest of the 'filling'. finish off with a nicely arranged layer of courgettes and bake in the oven for about 45-50 minutes. if it starts to brown too quickly, cover it with some foil and then uncover for the last few minutes to crisp up.