Monday, March 25, 2013

What's Cooking? Freedom!

A long time in the works, a coworker and I had quite an evening this Saturday making vegan ravioli. We made the pasta dough from scratch, and then concocted three fillings - butternut squash with cashew ricotta; pumpkin shallot; and garlicky kale with the same cashew ricotta. After four hours of slaving away over cutting boards and stove tops, we successfully crafted over fifty quite hefty pocket pastas! This seemed a fitting conquest for the weekend considering that Passover begins tonight, and I will be without grain products for seven days.

Now for the past few years, you have heard bits and pieces about Passover - one of the three major Jewish harvest festivals and also one of my personal favorite holidays. Besides the sort of practical aspect of Passover being tied to agriculture, it is at its core a celebration of freedom from oppression. It is a time to be thankful for the freedoms we have in our lives, but I also think it an apt time to contemplate those who still suffer from a lack of freedom. There are many types of slavery even today. And for many it is not indentured servitude or trafficking of child labor, but rather poverty that enslaves about one billion people.

Ok, you're probably thinking that I'm being a bit melodramatic, but the link is pretty strong between poverty, hunger and malnutrition, and reduced opportunity to improve one's lot in life. This is particularly clear with women in developing countries, who often don't have access to the resources or standing that men have in communities. Yet, when these women are provided the support and assistance, it is more likely that their children will also have better health and schooling, and eventually the opportunity to climb out of the poverty trap.

This leads me to a quick for the Live Below the Line Challenge, which I will be undertaking for a second year this April 29th - May 3rd. In order to raise awareness and challenge the way people think about poverty, participants subsist on $1.50 per day. At the same time, we commit to raising funds to help bring people out of this debilitating poverty. In my case, this will go to the Rainforest Foundation, an organization with the mandate to protect the rights to land and resources of indigenous people in Latin American tropical forests. The foundation works to improve both the communities' livelihoods as well as the health of the ecosystems. If you are curious to learn more about my motivations, read last year's post and please consider contributing to this important cause. Maybe Hugh Jackman can convince you!

Now for food...

Roasted Butternut Squash Spread
1 small butternut squash, cut into eight parts
1/2 onion, quartered
Olive oil to coat pan
Pinch salt

1/2 lb raw cashews, soaked 8-12 hours
1 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs non-dairy milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutritional yeast
Water to consistency

1/2 tsp orange zest 

1. Roast squash and onion with olive oil and salt in a glass pan, at 400F, for about 45 minutes until really soft.
2. Meanwhile, place cashews, lemon juice, milk, additional salt, nutritional yeast, and 2 tbs water in a food processor until a ricotta-like consistency is reached. Add water 1 tbs at a time until this is achieved.
3. Once squash is fork-tender, scoop out flesh and add, along with onions and orange zest, to the food processor. Puree until combined and smooth.
4. Use as a filling for ravioli, a dip for vegetables or crackers, or thin with a non-dairy milk and use as a creamy pasta sauce!

Making an appearance on Wellness Weekends and Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. Also, take a look at last year's post on Passover and gleaning remnants from harvest!

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