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Thank you, Mario Batali. January 15, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday mornings tend to be exciting times here at Hawk’s Haven, the cottage home our friend Ben and Silence Dogood share with a variety of animals in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. That’s because on Wednesday, our local paper devotes a section to food, and Silence, a rabid foodie, devours it (so to speak) front to back.

She does not, however, do so in silence. Our friend Ben is greeted with an ever-varying accompaniment of remonstrances, curses, directions, and general commentary as Silence makes her way through the section: “Did somebody actually eat this before they wrote about it?!” “Eeewww, look at this photo!” “Why does everyone have to ruin perfectly good vegetarian recipes by adding beef, chicken or fish stock and/or bacon?!” “Want a side of carcinogens with that?” “Ugh, our dog can write better than this. Please stick to the recipe!”

On and on it goes, with all the muttering and sputtering reminding our friend Ben of a kettle boiling over. Generally, I make appropriate grunts of agreed outrage when necessary and try to keep my head down and my nose in whatever section I’m reading.

Today, however, I realized that Silence was actually on to something. Mario Batali had a column in the paper. Normally, Silence enjoys Mario’s columns, with the exception of the “meatifying” vegetarian recipes part. I can’t say that I’d ever heard her say a bad thing about Mario before.

But this morning, she was spitting fire. She explained that a reader had written Mario to ask if he had a light, healthy recipe that would counteract the endless holiday gorging that had just taken place. In response, Mario proposed a dish of linguine with butter, olive oil, Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese, and lemons. “Who’s calling this healthy?!” Silence fumed.

For our friend Ben, by contrast, it was a revelation. Just think of putting your favorite foods together—say, pasta, butter, oil, and cheese—and then adding a single ingredient that would transform the dish into something healthy. (Actually, there were two in this dish, since besides the lemons, you have olive oil, which as everyone knows is good for you.)

Yowie kazowie! Let’s say you make fettucine Alfredo and toss in some broccoli. Voila, health food! Maybe this is the logic behind chicken wings served with blue cheese dressing and those healthful crudites, celery sticks. Or, say, a dip that’s dripping with calories but contains those healthful veggies, artichokes and spinach! Sweet potato fries? Bring ’em on! Apple slices deep-fried into luscious fritters? Hey, there’s fruit in there!

Thanks to Mario, our friend Ben has finally found a way to avoid the whole health-food trap. As I sit here, enjoying my lunch of Tostitos Cantina-Style Thin Chips covered with melted shredded white Cheddar cheese, I know that this is a healthful meal because it includes sliced jalapenos and green onions (scallions). And everyone knows that hot peppers and onions are good for your health, right?



1. gail - January 18, 2014

Oh yeah bring on those healthy, deep fried sweet potatoes! Happy New Year to all of you! gail/clayandlimestone

Ha! Hard to beat sweet potato fries, especially with a creamy, horseradish-based dipping sauce. Yum!!! A very happy new year to you all down in dear old Nashville too, Gail!

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