Posts tagged ‘salad’

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!
April 9, 2012

Dry Rubbed Seared Salmon

It’s officially springtime, and with Easter passing I’m beginning to go through my lighter dishes to go with the change of seasons.  I get giddy thinking about fresh grilled corn on the cob, summer salads full of fresh veggies, pears, apples and toasted nuts, and most of all the selection of fresh fish in the local market.  One of my all time favorites is salmon, however, one badly cooked salmon can turn me off for months, so I have to choose wisely when I dine out.  The dry, chalky taste of overcooked salmon is one of the most devastating things you can be met with at the dinner table.  Similar to a burnt cookie, overcooked pasta, or a hockey puck steak, overcooked salmon is a major offense in my book.  But when it’s done well, you’ll want to have it every day of the week.  The beauty of salmon is that it can pick up a variety of flavors, teriyaki, garlic, white wine and butter, and its meaty texture lends itself to a variety of cooking methods.  I don’t recommend cooking Dover sole on the BBQ, but a salmon can stand up to this summer time classic.

The delicate crispy, golden crust that forms on the outside is a perfect contrast to the juicy, meaty flesh.  It’s a symbol of summer and health, and gets you on the track to looking stunning in your new summer swimsuit.

Perfect pan-seared salmon demands on a very hot pan. Use a heavy cast-iron skillet, which heats evenly. Warm the pan before you add the oil – either extra light virgin olive oil or vegetable oil; this trick allows the pan to get it really hot without burning the oil. A preheated pan also requires less oil.  Once you master this method you’ll be able to whip up a gourmet dinner in less than 10 minutes – golden brown outside and tender inside.   I like to serve salmon with a fresh mixed green salad with a tangy vinaigrette, a refreshing contrast to the rich, yet delicate fish.

Ingredients

  • 2 6 oz. salmon fillets (skin on) one per person
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, coarse grind
  • 1 tsp. lemon pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 2 tsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped

Method

  1. In a small bowl, mix garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, seal, pepper, lemon pepper, and ginger.
  2. Brush the salmon with olive oil on all sides.
  3. Take the spice mixture and generously coat both sides of the salmon.
  4. Set a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. When a drop of water skitters on the surface, add the oil.
  5. Tilt the pan to coat the bottom evenly and heat until the oil is almost smoking, about 30 seconds.
  6. Place the salmon skin side up in the cast iron skillet.
  7. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 4 minutes.
  8. Turn the salmon and cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes on the other side.
  9. Then lower heat to medium, place lid over skillet to trap heat and finish cooking an additional 2-3 minutes.
  10. With a minute to go, add a tbsp. of butter and let is melt in the pan, spoon it over the top of the salmon right before you turn off the heat.
  11. To check if the salmon in ready, stick a thin knife in the thickest part and gently look at the color inside.  It should be juicy and barely turning opaque.  If you over cook the fish it will be extremely dry and very white in color.
  12. When salmon is cooked enough to eat safely it will lose its translucency and become opaque. It should also flake easily when tested with a fork.
  13. Serve with a fresh salad and enjoy your very healthy yet tasty dinner!

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 27, 2011

Spiced Squash Seeds

I’ve always loved Halloween time because of the abundance of pumpkin seeds I get to toast up with hot spices, cinnamon and sugar, or just plain olive oil, salt and pepper.  But it wasn’t until this past weekend that a friend mentioned how good spaghetti squash seeds work.  I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before, and I immediately began thinking of different combinations and flavors.

I settled on something spicy.  The seeds paired well with the citrus, rosemary salad served by my boyfriend’s mother; it added a nice crunch and just the right amount of heat.  We left the rest of them out as a small snack and they were devoured within minutes of coming out of the oven.  Have fun with these, and please share your winning combinations.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup squash seeds, cleaned and dry (about 2 squash worth)
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

Method

  • Preheat to 375
  • Clean and rinse seeds, pat dry with paper towel and place in small bowl
  • Coat seeds with olive oil, then add spices and coat the seeds evenly
  • Line a baking tray with foil
  • Spread out seeds so they aren’t overlapping
  • Place in oven for 15-20 minutes and toast until slightly golden brown
  • Let them cool for 5-10 minutes before serving

Serve them with some cheese and wine, pack them for an afternoon snack, or put them on top of a salad… enjoy!

September 15, 2011

Grilled Shrimp & Romaine Salad

Brisket: 6 hours. Meatloaf: 45 mins.  Lasagna: 1 hour.  For some reason people are terrified of cooking fish, which is strange to me since it’s one of the easiest things to prepare and takes the least amount of time to cook.  Shrimp: 5 mins.  Salmon filet: 10 mins.  Ok, these are all approximates, but you get the idea.  Since it’s so quick, why don’t we face our fear of fish disasters and start conquering the deep-sea!  Very dramatic, I know.

This is one of those dishes that make you rethink your ordinary salad. Forget boring greens with stale croutons and cold radish.  This is not a starter; it’s the main dish.  Rosy pink shrimp slightly charred on the edges, and succulent and tender in the middle.  Bright cherry tomatoes that pop in your mouth, releasing their sweet juices. Golden brown garlic slices get lost in the tunnels of romaine salad and get lightly coated with tangy dressing.  I always mine all the garlic out and get left with just lettuce, so if you want to throw in a little extra I won’t judge you.

I make this salad on the grill and a skillet, that way the smaller ingredients don’t fall through the grill rack.  You can even put the pan directly on the grill to keep everything in one place.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (you can buy the ones you need to peel yourself but you’ll have to add some kitchen time if you do this).  I go with 1/3 to 1/2 lb. shrimp per person.
  • 1 handful small cherry tomatoes
  • 6 – 8 asparagus stalks, about 1/2 bunch
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1-2 romaine hearts (depending on the size and how hungry you are), slice down the center but keep the ends on so they don’t fall apart on the grill

Vinaigrette (you probably won’t use it all, but you can store the rest in the fridge, feel free to double it, it wont go bad)

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 spoonful’s of Dijon mustard
  • pinch salt
  • pinch pepper

Method

  • Heat your grill to medium
  • Prepare the vinaigrette, whisk olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl
  • Heat skillet on medium, add a VERY little olive oil and add garlic, tomatoes and avocado.  I recommend using olive oil spray, or PAM, you don’t want the garlic to fry, rather they should brown in the pan, like a dry heat.  The spray helps the tomatoes and avocado brown, but you won’t need a lot.
  • Brush the shrimp and asparagus with olive oil, sprinkle with salt/pepper and place on the hot grill
  • Turn shrimp and asparagus with tongs after 3 mins (the shrimp will begin to curl and turn pink)
  • While cooking the shrimp keep your eye on the garlic/tomatoes/avocados, turn them in the pan as needed.
  • Cook shrimp and asparagus for an additional 2-3 minutes and remove from heat.  Leave on the side while you assemble the rest of the salad.
  • Brush the halved romaine hearts with the vinaigrette and place on grill for 2 mins
  • Turn and cook an additional 2 mins until leaves begin to brown
  • Remove from heat and begin building your salad!
  • Place romaine and asparagus on plate, remove garlic, tomatoes and avocado from pan (they should be slightly golden) and lay over lettuce
  • Finally add the grilled shrimp and add a little more vinaigrette if needed
  • Enjoy!!!

You can substitute the shrimp for chicken, tofu or just leave it off all together.  The slightly singed lettuce leaves, sweet shrimp, and warm avocado turn this ordinary salad into a lavish dinner.

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