Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tortilla pizza with refried beans and sweet potato

Since watching Food, INC several weeks ago, I've changed the way I eat. It's a great documentary, a disturbing look at how farming has become thoroughly corporatized. There were a number of things that disturbed me, such as how the push to make a profit has led to chickens whose growth process is sped up before their skeletal development can catch up, and cows eating corn (not a natural part of their diet) and having more E. coli infections as a result. There was also the very sad story of a mother whose toddler died eating a hamburger, and who has argued for higher inspection standards since ground beef can come from multiple plants with only the smallest sample tested for E. Coli.

So, this was all bothersome enough that I decided to switch to a more vegetarian diet. I don't think I'm ready to completely give up meat or poultry, but I do only want to buy beef or chicken from places that can guarantee a more humane, less corporate existence. I'm inspired by my favorite NY Times columnist & cookbook author Mark Bittman, who himself switched to a 70% plant-based diet recently. I guess you could call this being flexitarian. But I'm also conscious of what I'm feeding to my now 22-month old daughter, and if that part of Food, Inc that focused on the mother who lost her child was intended as a scare tactic, it worked with me. Sofia doesn't like meat much anyway (too hard to chew), loves seafood, and will eat chicken if it's interesting (say, a drumstick rather than a bland breast that's been dressed up).

If I can get my act together to post here more often, I'm going to start writing about my recent efforts to cook from three of the vegetarian cookbooks I own: Bittman's "How To Cook Everything Vegetarian," Madhur Jaffrey's "World Vegetarian," and Nava Atlas' "Family Vegetarian. I've been trying out a lot of recipes lately. Not all of them are a success. In fact, in order to promote family harmony, I think I am going to have to frequently fry up a piece of chicken or a steak on the side. It's also challenging to rethink my own expectations for a meal at which some form of meat is the center, with vegetables a sort of dutiful supporting act. I may flake out. But I'm going to try.

So here's one that has entered the regular rotation on the dinner table. Sofia loves it. It's adapted from a Dr. Sears baby newsletter from several months ago. Basically it's a tortilla topped with a number of good savory & sweet things and then baked, but it's infinitely variable.

Tortilla Pizza - serves 2-3 people

Package of small corn or flour tortillas
1 large sweet potato
1 can refried beans
frozen corn, defrosted
grated cheese (1-2 cups cheddar, jalapeno monterey jack, etc)
Generous handful of spinach, chopped up small
Salsa, chopped tomatoes, chopped avocado, green onions - basically any extra garnish.

Preheat oven to 400. Cook sweet potato in microwave. Take skin off, mash with butter, milk, and salt to taste.

On tortillas, spread a layer of refried beans, followed by a layer of sweet potato, spinach, grated cheese and corn. Bake for 10-12 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Salt to taste, serve with salsa, toppings & Tabasco sauce.


Erica said...

Yay Rachel! I showed that movie in Tom Leatherman's Nutritional Anth class this semester and at the end of class several students said they were changing their eating habits immediately. It is disturbing! Also, I need some new cookbooks!

Mara and Karim said...

love the new blog entry - we are still eating meat/chicken (as you are experiencing, hard to take the meat away from the Moroccan) -- but unloading a bunch of hard-earned cash for organic. Still looking for delicious vegetarian recipes...the tortilla pizza looks good...will finally get around to ordering Jafrey's book one of these days. Do you recommend that over the other one you mentioned?

Rachel said...

Hey Erica and Mara! Mara, the Bittman cookbook is more accessible, even though it's gigantic. I would buy Bittman. I like Jaffrey but the recipes are hit or miss and I can't quite figure out how to build a meal around them yet. Several weeks ago I made this Spanish swiss chard & bean soup and Sofia threw up the entire night. Actually, she had a stomach virus but it sort of turned me off to the cookbook momentarily... though I did like the chickpea pizza she says is all over the South of France...

naheedb said...

Hi Rachel,

A couple of recommendations for you - on the food front have you heard of Yotam Ottolenghi? Two fantastic cookbooks - Ottolenghi, and Plenty (vegetarian). On the literary front, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin. Blows Jhumpa Lahiri clear out of the water. Enjoy, Naheed.

Rachel said...

Thanks for the comments, all. Naheed, thanks especially for the book recommendations. I am terrible about reading comments on here and my New Year's resolution is to do better.