Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The List

Everyone has their own list of foods they do not like and will not eat under any circumstances. Who knows how certain foods get on this list. I know for some of us, there are foods on our respective lists that we have never even tried before or at least have not tried in a very long time. For example, my intolerance for mayonnaise comes from a time in my childhood when a friend’s mother made me a bologna and mayo sandwich. I was not used to mayonnaise in my sandwiches. My mom used to make them with just bologna, and that was the way I liked them. I believe it was that episode that stuck mayonnaise on the list for me until the end of time. I have not really tried it since then, but it is just the smell at this point that makes me queasy. This recently got me wondering what is on my list and why. I did not want my list to get too long because I don’t like missing out on too many things when it comes to food. In my conscious effort to slash my list, I think I have done a pretty good job in the past year or so. Here are just a few things that used to be on this list that have since been removed:

Chicken on the bone – This was a great hurdle to get over, but there are so many times I find myself in a position where this is what is for dinner (with no escape). I do not remember the specific dish that got me out of my funk, but now I eat it all the time and even make it myself without even a second thought.

Sushi – Everyone kept saying you just have to have it from a good place. This infuriated me because it was like people just did not believe me when I said I did not like to eat it. People, it is raw fish! I think I eased into this one by tasting a Philly Roll (salmon and cream cheese) dipped in the wasabi and soy sauce that Zach ordered once. And no, it was not from a “good place”. It had more to do with the mood I was in I suppose. Either way, I am glad I like it now; it is very un-Californian to hate sushi.

Avocado – The only thing more Californian than sushi is avocado. These people put it in everything: their salads, their sandwiches, pizzas, burritos, tacos, omelets, etc. I found myself asking waiters to 86 the avocado from pretty much 50% of dishes I would order in restaurants. It was not until last December, when we had our assistants’ holiday potluck that I even tasted guacamole for the first time. We were waiting on everyone to arrive, and I was starving. There were chips and guacamole that someone had made sitting on the table, and I thought I would give it a shot. Check!

Honeydew – This green melon is just too prominent in fruit salads. I was sick of leaving ½ of the fruit salad on my plate at restaurants. Everyone just needs to suck it up and eat the green chunks. It is tolerable and even good at times if it is ripe.

Mushrooms – It was out of necessity that I learned to like mushrooms. Every time we ordered a pizza, Zach would want pepperoni and mushrooms. It was just silly to pick them off every single time so eventually I just left them on. I will even dare to say I like them now if cooked and seasoned properly.

Beer – Light beer is the alcoholic drink with the least amount of calories for the amount of liquid you get. It is also the cheapest adult beverage you can buy when out “for drinks” with friends, which is an inevitable and even frequent situation if you work in the entertainment industry. If you are watching your weight and your wallet, it is really the best thing you can do for yourself to learn to like light beer.

A few things are still on the list and are likely to remain for the rest of time, but I guess you never know. For now, my list remains small:

mayonnaise
tuna (excluding ahi tuna)
cucumbers
chicken salad
egg salad

A great way to ease into something that is on your list is to try a dish that includes the food instead of just eating the food on its own (the same way I started to like mushrooms on pizza). I slashed artichokes from my list a long time ago after trying spinach and artichoke dip for the first time. I love spinach and artichoke dip. When I found a recipe for spinach and artichoke macaroni and cheese, my heart melted. It just sounded like the marriage between two things that I could not love more. It did not disappoint.

All Good Things Come Together Spinach and Artichoke Mac and Cheese

(a Rachel Ray recipe)

Salt to taste
1 pound regular or whole wheat penne (cooked al dente according to box instructions)
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups milk
1 tsp nutmeg
1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and wrung dry
1 10-ounce box frozen chopped artichokes, defrosted and wrung dry
Ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups shredded Italian Fontina cheese, plus additional for sprinkling on top
1 1/4 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus additional for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

While the pasta is cooking, place a medium pot over medium-low heat with 2 turns of the pan of olive oil and the butter. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook the veggies until very soft, about 10 minutes.
Turn the heat up to medium-high and sprinkle the flour into the pan. Cook for about 1 minute then whisk the wine into the pan, cooking for another minute. Whisk the milk into the pan and bring up to a bubble. Add the nutmeg, veggies (spinach and artichoke), some salt and pepper to the sauce, and simmer until thickened, 2-3 minutes. Add the cheeses to the sauce and stir until melted.
Toss the prepared sauce with the cooked pasta and transfer to a casserole dish. Sprinkle some more Fontina and Parmigiano over the top and bake until the cheese has melted and the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.



Pictures of the batch I made were digitally misplaced so this is a picture from Rachel Ray's website. I will replace it with my own picture the next time I make it, but I did not want anyone to have to wait another minute to try this.

1 comment:

Mom of The Californian said...

Since I love spinach, artichokes and macaroni, this will be something I will be making.

My own list of "off limit" foods has been expanded as well altho I still can't go for avocados and sushi.

Yogurt: have hated it since I was a kid. In the last year I have found I liked it when a pharmacist suggested I eat some while taking anti-biotics (it wards off dreaded side effects). Now I eat some just about everyday. Love Yoplait Light!

Cranberry Juice: couldn't understand how people could drink it, now it tastes good to me.

Sweet Potatoes: okay, so this is a bit of a cheat. The "fries" version at TOAST is the only kind I've had other than the type I forced to eat as a child, but they are yummy!

Fresca: An old drink made new again. Tried it as a teen and thought it was repulsive, but in the last year I tried it again while searching for low cal drink options and think it's wonderfully refreshing!

As for your list, Lindsey. I think your mayonnaise aversion is holding you back. Next time you are in Orlando you must come to Toojay's, a local deli. They have the best tuna salad and their chicken salad (three kinds!) is excellent. I always get the tuna and I guarantee if you have a little taste you will change your mind!!

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