Beauty in the Ordinary

This is not about being brilliant, or extraordinary, it's not about wanting to be famous, or making headlines, or trying to impress...this about sharing a 'gift' each day with the lift the spirit of people when they read this blog, to show them the beauty in the ordinary.
"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." Raold Dahl

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Call Me Crazy...but...

Today, I heard a discussion on NPR about the current food shortage in the US.
 There have been major droughts all across the US which, apparently, will cause a reduction in corn and soy crops this year.

This will impact the entire world.

  Even China.

And in the end it means, fundamentally, higher prices for meat...specifically beef.
It takes a lot of corn to get a cow to slaughter weight.

Which may mean that people won't be able to afford to eat so much red meat at home,  and restaurant portions will have to be smaller.

Am I the only one who thinks that is NOT a problem?

The person being interviewed (sorry, can't remember who it was) actually said that the Chinese have moved up the food chain in the last few decades, and now consume more red meat per person than ever before.  

Wouldn't it be better to be lower on the food chain - not only for the Chinese but for all of us - so that we ate LESS meat and MORE vegetables and fruit?

I suddenly see before me the beginning of a solution to the obesity issue that is running rampant in the so-called civilized world.

...and with that in mind, here's what I made for dinner tonight...

Carbonara with Courgettes
Grazie Jamie Oliver

I'm not entirely crazy...there was a smidgen of pancetta, but a little goes a long way.

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 medium green or yellow courgettes
300gr penne rigate
2 large free-range or organic egg yolks
50 ml  35% cream
1 good handful freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
4 thick slices pancetta or lean bacon, cut into chunky pieces
A small bunch fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped, flowers reserved (if you can get hold of flowering thyme)
Optional: a few courgette flowers

Before you start cooking, it's important to get yourself a very large pan, or use a high-sided roasting pan so you can give the pasta a good toss.

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Halve and then quarter the courgette lengthwise. Cut out and discard any fluffy middle bits, and slice the courgette at an angle into pieces roughly the same size and shape as the penne.

 Your water will now be boiling, so add the penne to the pan and cook according to the package instructions.

To make your creamy carbonara sauce, put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the cream and half the Parmesan, and mix together with a fork. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat a very large frying pan, add a good splash of olive oil and fry the pancetta or bacon until dark brown and crisp. Add the courgette and 2 big pinches of black pepper, not just to season but to give it a bit of a kick. Sprinkle in the thyme leaves, give everything a stir, so the zucchini is coated with all the lovely bacon-flavored oil, and fry until they start to turn lightly golden and have softened slightly.

It's very important to get this next bit right or your carbonara could end up ruined. You need to work quickly. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving a little of the cooking water. Immediately, toss the pasta in the pan with the courgette, bacon and lovely flavors, then remove from the heat and add a ladleful of the reserved cooking water. Stir together quickly. (No more cooking now, otherwise you'll scramble the eggs.)

Get everyone around the table, ready to eat straightaway. While you're tossing the pasta and sauce, sprinkle in the rest of the Parmesan and a little more of the cooking water if needed, to give you a silky and shiny sauce. Taste quickly for seasoning. If you've managed to get any flowers, tear them over the top, then serve and eat immediately, as the sauce can become thick and stodgy if left too long. 


  1. I looked at a 'drought map' for the USA only yesterday as part of my activities in monitoring "Climate Change" and it was staggering to see the extent of the effected areas.

    Google "Climate Change USA", or, "Climate Change North America" for more information.

  2. Although I agree that we all should eat less red meat, this will affect tens of thousands of people whose livelihoods will be will be drastically reduced. For every action, there are many reactions.

    You recipe, as usual, sounds wonderful.

    1. I don't mean to trivialize this situation Sock'em, I just think not all the ramifications need to be bad. We actually could learn something here.

  3. My two favourite pasta types are Spaghetti and Penne, so I'm instantly drawn to your recipe..

    Of course Pasta is a Wheat product, so maybe we'll just be eating vegetables in the future. Get digging.

    1. Not sure why Cro, but what makes this recipe so appetizing is that the courgettes are cut to approximately the same size and shape as the penne. Husband, who generally is not a huge fan of vegetables, loves this dish.
      And as for the vegetable patch - in my dreams!!!

  4. Your pasta dish looks wonderful, my favourite food ;-) I haven't eaten red meat for over 3-years now and I don't miss it at all.
    Enjoy your day.

    1. I too gave up red meat a few years ago, but for some strange reason, we have drifted back to eating it over the last year. Think it's time to stop again and focus on the vegetables again.

  5. My sentiments exactly J. We find ourselves eating less and less meat and more of our own veggies. Joints of roast beef, lamb etc have risen by 100% in the last year or so and to be quite honest I don't think either of us have missed eating red meat that much

    1. ...and I think your health will thank you for the change too Molly. Wish I had a poly-tunnel!

  6. You raise wonderful points in your post today. About tackling obesity and eating more healthy meals. Well done!

    To make your recipe even more healthy, some suggestions.
    1. Make sure the penne is whole grain, not "white."
    2. Use fat-free (skim) milk instead of the 35% cream.
    3. Omit the pancetta or lean bacon.

    Happy eating!

  7. I do use spelt pasta Rob-Bear, but my approach, for the most part, is to use the 'full-on' stuff and just eat less of it.

  8. Our courgettes are just coming into season. We have some interesting ridged ones this year. My husband, Franco, grew them from seeds we brought back from Italy. Pasta carbonara is a favourite with us, but we don't use cream - the water tip is a good one so that the dish is not dry without the cream. This is a thought provoking post today.

    1. I envy you growing your own courgettes!
      I do make a cream-less carbonara too, but given that this recipe only calls for 50 ml and it goes so well with the courgettes, I just go for it!

  9. I appreciate your taking an unfortunate situation and looking at the healthy possibilities :) So funny that you've posted this recipe as it's on the menu for tonight! Although I am not vegetarian, I do enjoy the cuisine and I make an attempt to use meat and poultry as a condiment rather than a main course. Interesting regarding the increase in meat consumption for the Chinese!

    Enjoy your day! Leslie

    1. Would love your recipe Leslie! We are definitely ramping up the vegetable quotient in our family...although I do fret a little about the quality of our soil today and just how much nutrients our vegetables have (see the last post about pantothenic acid).
      And as for the Chinese, I hope they are smart enough to figure out an Asian diet is much better than a Western one.

    2. Ha! Yes, I worry about that too .. my Nauropath helps with that :)

      Excellent post and I'm loving the comments ;)

    3. Oh, btw, I through in capers, anchovies, and olives. Bacon or pancetta is a must for us .. Love just a little

    4. Throw .. Sorry .. Long day

    5. thanks Leslie...will definitely try with the capers, anchovies and olives - sounds delicious!

  10. Having less corn would actually be a good thing, for the cows and for well as our pets! Grass and grain fed beef is so much healthier when one wants to indulge...and corn is one of the top allergins out there, for people and animals. The corn grown years ago is not the same today...and corn syrup...well, don't even get me started! And soy, if not grown properly, can be toxic, although if grown right, wonderfully's difficult to find out which grower is doing it properly though.
    Well, I've seem to have 'soap-boxed' a bit here...sorry, but the ignorance of the general masses here in the states plucks a nerve every now and again...thank heavens for Jamie Oliver's crusade, he's opened many an eye and stomach to a different culinary's such a relief!
    This dish looks one I could eat nightly, I'll definitely be giving it a go!
    xo J~

  11. Thanks for the rant Jessica - I could not agree more. If you are interested, read Michael Pollen's The Omnivore's Dilemma
    p.s. the recipe is Jamie Oliver's.

  12. It is amazing how many products contain corn of some variation. The rise of food prices is definitely going to be a problem Perhaps the only way people will wean themselves off red meat and corn products is to be priced out of the market. Of course, events such as these always hit those who can least afford it the most. Fresh vegetables in many cases are out of reach for many poor people, which is indeed sad.
    Your recipe sounds and looks absolutely delicious. I use the almost the exact recipe, but without the courgettes, which we call zucchini in the states, and fresh thyme. Adapting your recipe will be no problem at all since I grow both zucchini and thyme!

    1. Might not just be a bad thing at the end of the day Sanda. Do add the courgette/zucchini and thyme - it's wonderful. But don't forget the pepper...thyme and pepper love each other!

  13. Dear Jacqueline, a nutritious meal can be simply and easily prepared when one has to be frugal......meat is not necessary for sustenance! When I came to Canada with my parents as an immigrant , we had very little, but my Mother always had to be inventive to put a good meal on the table...she made a delicious supper with a can of chick peas, some tomatoes, herbs and a potato or two....sometimes meat was included such as a pork chop or piece of chicken!
    I, like you do not see a big problem here ! It is time for a reality check! N. xo

  14. Now, that said, I think this recipe is a must try with the ingredients you have added! I too love pasta carbonara and it's many versions! Think of you here is still hectic. No time for posting, but do try to keep up with my blogging friends as I can ! N.xo

  15. I'm keeping an eye on you Nella...checked in a few days ago and saw your lovely potting table. Slow and steady wins the race!
    I'm all over these re-vamped recipes...throwing in whichever vegetables seem to work to classic dishes.
    Just read a pesto recipe without pine nuts...given that the basil in the garden is thriving this summer, just might give it a go.

  16. Bravo!
    You are speaking my language.
    And fruits and vegetables do absolute wonders for your skin! Bonus!


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