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Posts Tagged ‘Ziti’

I am a working mom who wishes she could be more of a PTA mom. In fact, I feel pretty guilty that when work meetings conflict with PTA meetings, the client wins.  So when Zane’s school had a teacher appreciation lunch on Wednesday, I wanted to help.

“We need food.” Normally, I love that.
The email request for dishes and volunteers came in last week. I couldn’t take any more time off for school stuff, but I could cook. In fact, I had had  such great success making no  knead bread on Sunday, I offered to do it for the luncheon. The PTA vice chair came back with,” We really need an entree. We have a lot of salads and desserts, but no entrees. Something like ziti or lasagna that serves 20 people.”

Did I mention it was Ziti for 20?
Ok. It didn’t sound like such a big deal. My impulse was to say of course. I wanted to say, of course. And I did quickly write back, of course.  But, I’m not really a ziti person. Sure,  I’ve made it before. I just have never made it when I was committed to only buying locally. And as soon as I sent the email,it suddenly dawned on me,  how am I going to make ziti without making garbage?

When in doubt, Google a recipe
I found a recipe on the Muir Glenn website which sounded ok. It included fire roasted tomatoes and  zucchini.I love fire roasted tomoatoes. And zucchine seemed like a nice touch, something to make the dish less of a boring pile of carbos. These were my kid’s teachers, I wanted it to be a little special.

My tried and true pasta dish for a crowd is tortellini in sun dried tomato pesto.
Tortellini for twenty is actually easy — as long as you have time for a trip to Costcos, which I didn’t. Besides, I don’t think local means that buying an over-sized  frozen bag at the Costcos in Yonkers. Yonkers may be local, but who knows where that tortellini comes from.

Sun dried pesto is both  delicious and beautiful
It wasn’t that the sun dried tomatoes I love from the Turkish market on 40th street are imported, it’s just that  it didn’t occur to me that pesto was an option. Which was ridiculous. I’m good at making pesto.  Pesto is in my culinary comfort zone. But the request for ziti or lasagna through me into a panic.  I couldn’t think straight. So on Tuesday night I found myself back at  Whole Foods.

Shopping consciously? Or just being neurotic?
Ok. You may think my issues are more neurotic than environmental. But when you see what’s in my muddled brain, you’ll see the two do actually intersect — how  every time I face a consumable potential purchase, I feel like I’m stuck in a life-sized version of Suduku. There is no relationship between price and quality and safety and sustainability . Sure I have a tendency to over think things, but lack of clarity makes choosing anything really hard. You really have to dissect and analyze every little decision.

A strawberry is not a strawberry,
For example, the small pint of strawberries I bought at the Farmer’s Market last week were ridiculously delicious. There were also the sustainable choice, although they probably had a trace amount of pesticides. The strawberries I bought at Whole Foods in the middle of my Ziti crisis tasted ok and they were organic. But they came on a truck from California.  They were about the same price as my Farmer’s Market beauties, but the box was twice as big. Was the gas they cost the environment worth the health benefit to my kids — especially since right now the only fruit I have been buying for them is apples (local) and bananas which I try to buy organic but have decided to allow despite the fact that they are flown in from Ecuador since they are one of Zane’s staple foods.

How many worried moments does it take to make a ziti?
Organic zucchini from California or conventional zucchini from Mexico? That one was easy. The organic was only a few dimes more and California is closer, right? Organic whole wheat pasta? Store brand white pasta? Or artisan local?

“How come?” John asked, “the pasta from New Jersey is three times as expensive as the pasta from Italy?”

Good question. I bought the cheap stuff. A lot of it. And for the record, 3 pounds of pasta makes a whole lot of noodles.

When we got to the tomatoes, I actually skipped the Muir Glen. Even thought I love fire roasted tomatoes, I was worried, in light of the recent presidential report on the prevalence and potential harm of BPA, that  Muir Glenn cans might contain BPA,. (When I got home, I did a quick internet search, and it seems likely they do.)For the mozzarella, I bought fresh local, made in Brooklyn. Was it made from what Blaise calls  pus milk — milk that’s not from grass fed cows? Maybe. But it was local, a buck less a pound than it’s Italian counterpart and it was outstanding.

Why did I buy that broccoli?
My final irrational, panicked purchase was a bag of frozen organic broccoli. Don’t ask me why? It wasn’t in the recipe. It made garbage and had the environmental impact from it’s processing. (I could practically see it sweating crude oil like a bloody corpse in a horror movie.)

The best ziti ever. Not.
Despite all my worry and my good intentions, I don’t think it was the best ziti ever.  Still, it wasn’t the worst.  And according to the PTA moms who went to the luncheon, along with everything else, it got eaten.

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