Posts tagged ‘fresh’

July 22, 2013

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Lasagna

Pasta carbonara, pizza Margherita, and a fresh panzanella salad.  I love classic Italian dishes, but sometimes I like to experiment.  I had to make a vegetarian dish for a dinner with friends, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to take a new look at lasagna, traditionally interweaving layers of pasta, ricotta, ragù, béchamel, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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But let’s take a step back. Many of you might be remembering that dire lasagna from church potlucks – soggy pasta and waterlogged ground beef.  I recall separating the pasta and pulling out clumps of tacky ricotta, while trying to remove the cracked fluted edges of noodle from the top layer.  Please, try not to associate frozen lasagna with a freshly made version – it’s not even comparable.

The key to this lasagna is the pasta, which lends a wonderful texture and coarseness to the dish.  Its chewy, dense consistency reminds me of traditional Italian pastas, perfectly al dente with a slight bite.  What I love about this dish is it’s combination textures from creamy ricotta, silky butternut squash, and an earthiness from the crimini mushrooms.  The luscious combination of ingredients can stand up to one another, and among all the flavors I can still pick out subtle hints of nutty parmesan.

This recipe is inspired by one I found in an old copy of Bon Appétit.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup salted butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, diced (about 3 cups)
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 5 1/2 cups)
  • 1 14-ounce carton vegetable broth
  • 4 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped and divided
  • 4 tablespoons fresh sage, sliced and divided
  • 3 15-ounce containers whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese, grated and divided
  • 2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated and divided
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 2 9-ounce package lasagna noodles.  (My favorite brand is Rustichella d’Abruzzo Lasagne all’uovo These noodles need to be boiled before being layered into your lasagna.  The original recipe calls for no cook noodles if you want to take out a step)

Method

  1. Melt butter into a large skillet over medium-high heat.  I recommend using a skillet with high sides so you can use one pan for all your steps – heads up you’ll need to simmer your squash and noodles in vegetable broth so pick a larger pan than you might think.
  2. Add onions and sauté until soft, about 8 minutes and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add garlic and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Increase heat to high; add mushrooms and cook until tender, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and then transfer the mushroom mixture to a bowl and set aside until you’re ready to assemble the pasta.
  5. In the same skillet, add squash, broth, 3 tablespoons thyme, and 3 tablespoons sage. Cover and simmer over medium heat until squash is just tender, about 6 minutes. Uncover and cook until squash is very soft but still retains shape, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Skim the squash from the skillet and set aside.  Don’t worry if it starts to fall apart a little, and discard the thyme and sage.  Keep any vegetable broth left over in the pan.
  7. Add 4 cups of water to the broth and bring to a low boil for your pasta sheets.
  8. While your broth comes to a boil, mix ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, spring onion, and remaining 1 tablespoon thyme and 1 tablespoon sage in large bowl.
  9. Mix in eggs and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  10. Once your broth is at a low boil, place pasta in broth and let simmer for 3 min.  Once slightly softened, you can turn off the heat and begin to assemble your lasagna.
  11. Brush 13x9x2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with oil. Spread 1 cup ricotta mixture over bottom. Arrange 3 – 4 noodles on top (I usually cut a few so I can cover the entire dish). Spread 13/4 cups ricotta mixture over noodles. Arrange 1 1/3 cups squash mixture over. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mushrooms and 1 cup mozzarella. Top with 3 noodles, then 1 3/4 cups ricotta mixture, half of remaining squash, 1/2 cup mushrooms, and remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Repeat with noodles, 1 3/4 cups ricotta mixture, remaining squash, and remaining mushrooms. Top with 3 noodles. Spread remaining ricotta mixture over; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.
  12. Cover with oiled foil.
  13. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake lasagna, covered, 35 minutes. Uncover; bake until heated through, about 25 minutes longer.
  14. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
  15. Serve with a fresh arugula salad!
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October 15, 2012

Rosemary Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato basil soup paired with a stringy mozzarella grilled cheese sandwich is a classic.  It’s been copied and modified a million times over and I still think the traditional rosemary scented soup and crunchy buttered sandwich makes any Tuesday night a little more special.

Soup should really be considered it’s own food group.  I pride myself in being the sole person to order a warm tortilla soup in the middle of Houston summer, or chilled cucumber-melon bisque when it’s 20 below.  (I happened to have both melon bisque and puréed corn chowder with chili oil at my wedding.)  There’s something about soup I find utterly addicting.  The combination of flavors, the variety of textures, and most importantly the crunchy garlic croutons, crispy bacon, or fresh herbs that get delicately placed on top and slowly sink into the silky, savory bisque.

The roasted, sweet tomatoes combined with the tangy bite of rosemary sourdough bread soothes the soul and takes the edge off a brisk day.  The bread gives this soup a thick texture with a mouthy richness I often find missing in perfectly velvety broths.  Aromatic sweet basil with hints of mint and pepper brighten the flavor and offer you a taste of summer just when you think fall has taken over.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes, 28oz
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. salted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
  • 4 large slices of sourdough rosemary bread
  • 3/4 cup light whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • Freshly sliced mozzarella cheese for topping
  • Basil for garnish

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 2 tbsp. olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.
  2. In a heavy bottomed stockpot over medium heat, sauté the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  3. Add butter and red pepper flakes and sauté for 10 minutes on medium heat.  Onions should become transparent but should not brown.
  4. Add stewed tomatoes, canned tomatoes (including juice), salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning in a large saucepan on medium heat.
  5. Bring to a simmer.
  6. Roughly tear the bread into smaller pieces and add to the pot.  I break up the bread so it’s easier to spoon out and purée.
  7. Next you’ll puree the soup in small batches, so I usually remove it from the heat and let it cool a little before I begin this process.  The soup should still have texture and not be completely smooth.  The soup will not be nearly as enjoyable if it’s perfectly silky in texture.
  8. Carefully puree, along with the basil leaves in small batches. You can use a blender, food processor, or better yet, one of those handy hand-held food blenders, right in the pot.  If you use a blender BE CAREFUL!  The heat will force the top off the blender and you’ll be cleaning soup off your ceiling for weeks, or you’ll burn your hands so just fill it up half way and pulse it gently.
  9. Return to saucepan and add cream and milk, while stirring, over low heat.
  10. Garnish with basil leaves, mozzarella cheese and serve with a warm slice of sourdough bread.

For a healthier version, leave out the butter and replace the cream with non-fat milk.  Enjoy!

December 6, 2011

Thyme Couscous

Like pasta, couscous doesn’t have much of a flavor itself.  But that’s one of the best things about it; you can add a variety of flavors, textures and spices to make it fit any mood.  When I’m already busy putting together a main dish, couscous is the perfect addition when you have your hands full.  It only takes 5 minutes to create fluffy, delicate pillows of joy.

Since couscous is so delicate, you need to be careful with the spice level and what you use.  It will add a great deal of flavor; so if you add something spicy like cayenne that’s all you’ll be able to taste.  I also want to steer you away from using dried herbs, fresh ones are in a completely different category.  It’s like comparing a fresh, crisp Fuji apple to those chewy dried fruit slices better known to me as foamy rubber nothingness.  Couscous cooks in 5 minutes, so the dried herbs don’t have a chance to reconstitute and end up getting stuck in your teeth apart from anything else.  So have fun with fresh herbs, and enjoy these combinations.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Line baking sheet with foil and distribute pine nuts evenly
  3. Toast pine nuts for 10 mins.  Remove when they’re slightly golden around the edges and set aside to cool
  4. In medium saucepan, add couscous, water, butter, salt, fresh thyme and garlic powder. Stir with fork to distribute thyme.  I pinch the thyme with my fingers before adding it in as it helps release the oils and favor.
  5. Bring to a light boil, quickly stir with fork, remove from heat and cover
  6. Let stand 4-5 minutes
  7. Fluff with fork
  8. Add cooled, toasted pint nuts

Here are some of my other favorites!

Basil and Sun-dried Tomato Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped (add it after the couscous has cooled or the leaves will turn dark brown)
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp. black olives (optional)

Curry and Raisin Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. curry powder
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tbsp. fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. toasted ground peanuts

Cranberry & Feta Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup crumbles fresh feta
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup toasted, slivered almonds
  • Fresh parsley for garnish
November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Turkey (with some extras)

There’s one meal I don’t like to mess with, and that’s Thanksgiving.  This is not a place where I tend to experiment.  I threw together some fun appetizers, like prosciutto wrapped dates with balsamic glaze, and homemade hummus, but the main meal was pretty traditional.  I have the rest of the year to play around and make up new combinations, but on the last Thursday of November I go back to my roots with mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, stuffing, gravy, roast carrots, and of course succulent, juicy turkey.

Photographer: Zoltan Sylvester

I have lots to do on Thanksgiving, so the last thing I want to be doing is mollycoddling my turkey every half hour.  Basting, tenting, covering, uncovering.  I really don’t have time for that when I’m also trying to get 6 other dishes out at the same time, not to mention trying to be somewhat social while all this goes down.  I had many willing helpers in the kitchen, but I wanted people to enjoy themselves and relax so I commandeered the stove and told everyone else to beat it.  (With love of course).  Here’s my secret ingredient… bacon.  Tasty, salty, greasy, crispy, meaty, perfect-with-almost-anything bacon. The turkey doesn’t come out tasting like one big pork rind, rather it’s a natural baster keeping the turkey juicy, tender and amazingly moist.  You can leave it alone and let it cook in the oven and you’ll have perfect turkey every time, not to mention some crispy bacon on the side.  Who wouldn’t come back to your house for Thanksgiving after serving this?!?

Ingredients

  • 1 18 lb. fresh turkey (or 10, 12, 25… whatever size you need to feed all your friends and family, and leave extra’s for those lovely turkey sandwiches the following day)
  • Handful fresh rosemary
  • Handful fresh thyme
  • Handful fresh sage leaves
  • 2 large yellow onions, quartered
  • 3 whole garlic bulbs, halved
  • 1 large apple, quartered
  • 3 stalks celery, halved
  • 1 stick room temperature butter
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2-3 packets thick cut bacon

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Unwrap turkey in a clean sink, remove giblets and rinse with cold water
  3. Pat dry with paper towel and pace breast side up in roasting pan (if you’re using disposable foil pans I recommend double lining it so it holds the weight of the turkey without buckling)
  4. Place onions, apple, herbs, garlic and celery inside the bird.  Put as much as you can fit inside, and any leftovers just scatter around the pan around the bird.
  5. Mix salt, pepper and butter in a small bowl
  6. Spread butter all over bird, making sure to put as much of the butter under the skin to keep the breast moist and juicy.  You may need more butter depending on the size of the bird, don’t be skimpy!
  7. Once massaged with butter, take bacon and lay slices over the entire turkey.  They should overlap slightly so that you cover the turkey.  Wrap legs and wings in bacon too so they don’t dry out
  8. Cover the breast loosely with foil, don’t cover the entire turkey, just lay a small piece about the size of a dinner plate over the breast to prevent the bacon from burning
  9. Place in oven and cook at 400°F for 1 hour
  10. Turn down to 350°F and continue to cook for 3 1/2 hours (plus or more depending on the size)
  11. Check bird with a meat thermometer, the turkey needs to reach 160°F, if it goes about 165°F remove immediately or it will start to over cook.
  12. No need to baste the turkey
  13. No need to re-foil it
  14. No need to remove foil
  15. No need to cover in water, stock, oil.  Just leave it alone.
  16. Check temperature and remove when it reaches 160°F and let rest for 30-40 minutes before slicing
  17. Enjoy the turkey and don’t forget a piece of crispy bacon; there should be plenty for everyone!

 

Roast Carrots with Fresh Rosemary

Brussels Sprouts Salad

 

November 5, 2011

Sautéed Corn and Water Chestnut Salad

Water chestnuts are a texture food, and are prized for their crispness.   They add a great crunch and slight earthiness to any salad, stir fry, or curry, and are a good source of potassium and fiber.  When rummaging through my pantry the other night for something to add to my corn salad, I was excited to come across a can tucked way back in the corner.

Corn brightens any meal and it´s one of the most loved of all vegetables (at least it is for me).  What can I say, I’m a corn addict, I love its naturally sweet taste, crisp bite and flavorful center.  So in my effort to whip up something more interesting than steamed corn, I pulled a few ingredients together, tossed them in a pan, and 10 minutes later I had a gourmet side dish.  I love that sweet corn turns a bit nutty when it’s sautéed, and the sweet flavor and crunchy texture of water chestnuts gives this dish a unique quality.

As the weather gets cooler, I’m always searching for warm side dishes over a summery salad, and this was an unexpected discovery.  It would also make for a great topping for acorn or spaghetti squash, or a side to a juicy steak or meatloaf.

Ingredients

  • 1 bag of frozen corn (or 2 cans of corn)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • Handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Heat a medium size skillet with oil on medium heat
  2. Add onions and sprinkle with salt, let them cook down for about 5 minutes until they just start to go brown
  3. Add corn and toss with another sprinkle of salt, if you use frozen corn pop it in the microwave for 4 minutes and drain the excess water.  If you use canned corn drain the water before adding in the corn
  4. Cook additional 5 minutes
  5. Add water chestnuts, garlic powder and toss well
  6. Let cook 5 minutes and taste to see if you need to add more salt or pepper.  Toss the cilantro in right before serving

This can be served warm or at room temperature.  It would be a great dish to bring to a BBQ or house party since it doesn’t take long to make and packs a lot of flavor, and it’s healthy so you can feel good about getting a second (or third) helping.

September 3, 2011

Roasted Corn Perfected

Not only is this the easiest method I’ve found, I promise it will ensure you’ll always have perfectly crisp, flavorful corn.  I’ve always found heating up a huge pot of boiling water in the middle of the summer to be quite ironic.  It’s summer and I’m trying to stay cool… especially in Houston.  If I had kids I could employee to husk the corn, maybe I’d feel differently, but I hate doing it and would find trials of sink across my kitchen floor a week later.  So, I found the easiest possible recipe and haven’t turned back.

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Soak the corn, in husk in cold water for 15 minutes.  This helps the corn stay moist and makes it much easier to peel when it’s ready.  I also cut off the very tip where the sink hangs out, if you leave it on it tens to smoke and burn in the oven
  • Pull the corn out of the water and place directly on the over rack and roast for 30-35 minutes until the corn is soft.
  • Peel down the husks and use as a handle when eating.  Coat with butter, salt and pepper.  Enjoy!
  • If you’re looking to liven up your corn, here are a few ideas to get you started.

Savory Butter
3/4 c. soft butter
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
2 tsp. chopped chives or minced green onion

Rosemary Butter
1/2 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon marjoram

Spicy Parmesan
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese                                                                                                                                                                                    1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup Mayonnaise

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