Monday 11 June 2012

Meat Free Monday: spinach and artichoke mac & cheese

Well what do you know? This is my 650th post on Foodycat! I suppose, had I given it any thought when I first started out, I would have realised that the amount I think and talk about food would have me racking up the post-count. At the same time, I do find it hard to believe that I have spent that much time on this little project. At least half an hour on writing each post (many more) not to mention the actual menu planning, shopping, cooking, photographing, selecting images and resizing them... it's a wonder I find time to do anything else.

I didn't plan this as a milestone-post. It was only when I hit preview that I noticed that I'd hit 650, so I didn't do anything special for it. Come back in August when I am celebrating my 5th blogoversary. There will be cake.

At the end of May, entries closed for the latest round of Cook the Books Club; dishes inspired by The United States of Arugula, by David Kamp (the name is much longer than that but I can't be bothered copying and pasting). Unfortunately, my copy of the book only arrived a couple of days beforehand, and I didn't have time to read it, but I am enjoying it so much I wanted to make something anyway!

I'm finding United States of Arugula generally fascinating (SO much sex. And Julia Childs had a filthy mouth; I'm not sure if I dare adopt one of her expressions...) but the chunk about the 60s and 70s particularly spoke to me. Kamp acknowledges the importance of Frances Moore LappĂ©'s book Diet for a Small Planet, which I remember on our bookshelf when I was growing up. Even in 1971 she was very clearly making the case that world hunger was about politics and that a shift towards a vegetarian diet was more sustainable for humanity and the planet. I clearly remember some of her statistics on the amount of grain it takes to produce 1lb of beef (something like 16:1) - grain that is useful food for people but actually a fairly inefficient way to produce beef. Bill Niman's explanation of why grass-fed beef is better (tastier, fewer additives, better for the animal) than grain-fed made so much sense and just reinforced my existing beliefs about the meat that I choose to eat. I'd also had no idea about the background to the Celestial Seasonings tea company, although I've certainly drunk enough of it over the years. 

So what with one thing and another, I wanted to make something calling to the, well, hippier side of myself. I wanted it to be vegetarian but very, very American.

One of my fellow book-clubbers, the amazing Claudia from Honey from Rock (she grows her own cacao, people), made this creamy green penne as her submission. Which reminded me that I have had Arlene's spinach and artichoke macaroni cheese bookmarked for almost a year. 

Spinach and artichoke dip is one of that extraordinary family of American foods, the hot dip. While I just cannot get my head around the idea of creamy warm salmon, corned beef or crab dip (you can stop retching, I've finished) spinach and artichoke dip is delicious, and I thought the flavours would work extremely well as a macaroni cheese. I'm sure many American recipes for the dip include such processed horrors as Velveeta and cheez whiz, but Arlene is a class act, using fontina, parmesan and dry white wine in hers. It certainly makes a very sophisticated macaroni cheese!

Vegetarian is the same as healthy, right?


Mary Bergfeld said...

I'll wager the dip is wonderful as the base for mac n' cheese. It certainly looks delicious. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Bettina Douglas said...

the combination of spinach and artichokes is like that gratin recipe you sent. I'm sure it works with pasta as well!

Choclette said...

I think I'm just going to book myself in to you for Monday nights in future - you always produce such mouthwatering dishes. I'd forgotten all about diet for a small planet - we had that at home when I was growing up too.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Mary - it was!

Mother - I think that was supposed to be a dip recipe but they couldn't deal with hot dips. It is a very good flavour combination.

Choclette - Even F Moore-Lappe acknowledges that her protein-combining thing was way too complicated, but I remember some of the recipes being good.

Caroline said...

I've vaguely heard of diet for a small planet, but never seen a copy - it sounds interesting though. I do like the sound of this macaroni cheese - deliciously different.

Deb in Hawaii said...

I am so bummed you got your book late but happy that you still made a dish inspired by the book. This looks wonderful--I love spinach-artichoke dip so I can just imagine it as mac-n-cheese. Yum! ;-)


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