Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Welcome Home

I've been doing some thinking lately. Examining my ideas. Remembering what makes me happy. Eliminating things that do not. Redefining my "label", in order to redefine my label (velvet ant). Refining myself if you will. There comes a point, I assume, in everyone's life when this has to happen, if not for the sake of growing your business, for the sake of growing in general...I suppose this is my time.

So on to the point...I decided in the throws of my re-emergence, re-inventation, re-alization if you will, that I do not particularly enjoy being a vegan...sure it has valid points, dairy is no good for you and it supports the hamburger industry, chickens are held up in pens and who wants to eat the ovarian discards of an animal that eats its own poop? Well...since you asked, I do. I also have an addiction to high quality cheese, real butter, and heavy cream. I'm of French-Italian descent, and I hail from a city known for its food--New Orleans--for crying out loud. I am hard-wired to lust after velvety cream sauces and pungent cheeses and breathe in the caramel-y scent of real butter browning in cast-iron pan as if it were Chanel No. 5, and wonder (seriously) if I could dab it on my wrists and neck and wear it as such. I gave veganism a whole-hearted effort...I tried all the soy cheeses on the market. I switched to coconut milk ice cream (it's the creamiest non-dairy substitute on the market). I've even gotten use to the taste of soy margarine, tofutti sour cream and cream cheese, and Veganaise. It all has its place in the diet I suppose. None of it, with the exception of some of the lesser quality vegan cheeses, are completely disgusting, and I think I might actually prefer the coconut milk ice cream to the original cow milk version...I think. But as much as I would love to sit here and try to convince you otherwise, as I have tried to to convince myself for the past year, you cannot truly replicate the taste of authentic dairy products. I think it is better to say after a year you will forget what real dairy tastes like and be able to fool yourself that you have the real thing. Truth be told-under no circumstances will vegan margarine produce an aroma with which you wish (say that 3 times fast!) to use as perfume, and the moment that original scent hits your sensory glands, you will instantly remember the original sin, at least that's my story. I am sure there are folks out there more committed to the cause than I, and that is fine, actually it's's just not right for me, at least not in my everyday diet. When a choice you make or made begins to feel like a self-induced punishment, it's time to take action to relieve yourself of the burden. I haven't yet dove into a pint of Ben & Jerry's Mint Chocolate Chunk to officially baptize myself as a full-fledged run-of-the-mill vegetarian and futher denounce my old vegan religion, but I think the meal that follows puts me on the cusp.

My affinity for dairy products mainly lies within the savory realm... most recently in the form of Capellini #9 with Roasted Garlic and Cream, adorned with freshly shaven Parm. The next time I do this, the capellini will most likely be replaced with Linguine Fini (a very thin, artisinal version of linguine) because well, I don't really enjoy capellini, or angel hair, or angel nests--or whatever you choose to call it. The roasted garlic cream sauce, however, that's the keeper. It's creamy and comforting with little bits of toasty sweet garlic and a hint of sharpness and salt from the Parm--the perfect balance of all things delicious, and perhaps one of the simplest sauces you can make aside from literally tossing the pasta in some olive oil and adding some crushed red pepper flakes (which is also tasty and vegan by the way). It literally takes 3 ingredients, give or take some salt and pepper, and less time to prepare than the pasta will to boil! Basically, you heat the cream over low heat, add the cheese, whisk until its melted and combined, then stir in the roasted garlic, which you've mashed beyond all recognition into a thick paste, season with salt and pepper and your sauce is done. At this point you can either spoon the sauce over or toss with your pasta, sprinkle the whole thing with some extra shavings of cheese and Finito! Dinner is served. I had this the night of my reawakening with a simple oak leaf salad dressed with my "house" vinaigrette and the easiest Pear Tart you will ever see. Call it my "welcome home" meal.

So with all that said, you're probably wondering what that means for you and this blog. Well, I can't imagine eating heavy cream, butter, and cheese everyday and maintaining any resemblance to a girlish figure, what with me in my thirties (!) now and being perched on top of the hill looking down the barrel of middle age, nor can I imagine having the energy to do all of the things on my "bucket list" should I gorge myself on such things, so for the most part, my new found freedom should have little to no effect on you. I will mark the vegan recipes with a (v), and if I use offensive ingredients I'll give you a vegan alternative, if one is available. For the most part, life around here will be more or less the same.

There will be no vegan alternatives for the pasta dish, out of respect for my new religion--freedom of choice and happiness. Viva la dairy! :) The Pear Tart, incindentally, is vegan...just out of habit, assuming you get a vegan puff pastry dough--Pepperidge Farm (to my knowledge at the moment) is vegan compliant and tasty. It's also the one I used for testing purposes.

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