Thursday, April 27, 2006


The Plain Jane

The Snazzy Stir-fry

It's ironic that some of the most favoured comfort foods don't photograph well. Perhaps it's the gooey, creamy textures. Maybe it's the well-chopped, well-cooked nature that makes it a dull, plain-Jane next to a snazzy stir-fry or a glittering confection. It could be because we put in it the foods that are meant to dull the senses instead of excite them. But it still needs to be talked about because it's the foods that takes the edge off a nasty day at work or lets us linger in the fond memories of childhood. We run back to these foods because we know they may not excite the eye but they DO excite the nose and taste buds.

One such dish in my repetoire, inherited from my mother, is Pastitsio. It's a dish I'm sure that many are familiar with in its form if not under the same name. I changed it a long time back because I still desired its undulating, spicy goodness but couldn't handle the greasy meat that made up a good part of it. Instead I used a vegetarian mock ground round made by Yves Veggie Cuisine. It substitutes well so long as salt-free tomato sauce is used. Mockmeat becomes horribly attracted to salt if too much is used and makes the dish unpalateable. And please don't poopoo the use of the sweet spices. They really do make the dish what it is. Even Ben likes it and he has a horror of mixing sweet spices with meat.


1/2 pound very lean ground beef (or soy-meat equivalent)
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1 can(8oz) tomato sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
8 oz elbow macaroni, cooked
2 tbsp parmesan (grated)
1 1/4 cups milk
2 tbsp flour
3 drops tabasco (or a small can of green chiles as I used when my bottle

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray 8x8 pan with Pam. Spray skillet. Brown meat and onions in skillet (if you use mock meat, you may want to start the onions a bit earlier) for three minutes or until meat is no longer pink. Pour off and discard excess fat. Add tomato sauce, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Mix in hot macaroni and parmesan. Spoon into baking pan.

In the same pan with leftover bits of sauce within it, stir together milk and flour in skillet until very smooth. Lower heat and cook 1 minute or until mixture thickens slightly. Stir in tabasco, remaining salt and pepper. Pour white sauce over the meat and macaroni mixture in pan. Bake in oven 25 minutes.

NB: I didn't have tabasco but did have some green canned chiles so I put them on the white sauce. They added a nice contrast and the buzz that tabasco brings. I use a glass casserole and found no need for spraying necessary to keep it from sticking. In using mock meat you also rarely need spray for the pan if you have a good teflon pan to cook it in. I made sure to add the bit about keeping the pan dirty for the white sauce as this was never in the original recipe but just an understanding passed from mother to daughter. Plus it saves time ;-)


sher said...

It's been far too long since I had pastitsio. That looks very comforting. Thanks for the advice about using the mock meat.

vlb5757 said...

I wanted to thank you for coming by my blog. I don't always have time to read as many as I like but I am going to add yours to my list as soon as I have a day off to play on the computer. I think that we have similar tastes in food. I love Pastitsio. I don't make it often but if I eat out and it's on the menu, I order it. The crab quesadillas sound like they should be added to my favorite list. I am from Texas and any food that includes tortillas either flour or corn are right up there with chocolate for me!

Cyndi said...

That looks like something my hubby would like. Definitely comfort food. Yum!

Nerissa said...

sher: do try some again!

v: I do understand about those kind of delays. Sometimes I feel like I'm constantly running from sunup to sundown so not much happens on my blog.
I like stuff with tortillas too. I don't know if it's right up there with chocolate for me but it's not that far down the list.

cyndi: Hope you have a chance to try it out. :)

s'kat said...

I've never had pastitsio, but it ceratinly sounds intriguing. DucCat, too, has a pretty strong aversion to sweet'n'meat. Me, not so much.

Ruth said...

The stir fry looks particulary delicious.

Nerissa said...

s'kat: it really is well worth a try if you like comfort food.

ruth: It was very refreshing and a change from heavier foods. :)

Pamela said...

That looks really delicious!!