Monday, August 30, 2010

Spinach Lasagnette

This is a take on "Thousand Layer Lasagna" from Smitten Kitchen, inspired by 101 Cookbooks. I simplified the most labor-intensive, time consuming step (not to mention extremely difficult for those of us who are spatially challenged when it comes to counter-top area) --- rolling out the paper-thin sheets of pasta.  I know that one day I will have the room and the time to make my own pasta (I do have a pasta machine after all). But until then, I'm using pasta sheets that someone else rolled out.  I also learned a little tip: you can use wonton wrappers for the lasagna layers. They are thin and can be substituted for traditional pasta sheets.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  

Basic, Awesome Tomato Sauce (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, inspired by 101 Cookbooks)

2 tablespoon butter
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
A couple glugs red wine (and a few more!)
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 15-ounce can pureed tomatoes
A handful of julienned basil (optional)
Zest of one lemon (optional)

Melt butter in saucepan over medium-high heat until foam subsides. Add shallots, red pepper flakes and salt, sauteing them together for a few minutes until the shallots are translucent and beginning to color. Add the red wine, letting it sizzle and cook down slightly, then the whole and pureed tomatoes. Breaking the whole tomatoes up with a wooden spoon, let the sauce simmer for a few minutes. Season to taste. I used an immersion blender to puree the sauce, but if you like a thicker texture, leave it as is. 

Other lasagnette ingredients: 10 ounces of baby spinach, sauteed in olive oil with two chopped cloves of garlic, seasoned to taste and cooled slightly, then mixed with 1 to 2 cups ricotta (Fairway supermarket has a lovely hand-packed ricotta. If you really want to splurge-- and man, this stuff is great-- Brooklyn Larder has ricotta too) and 1/2 cup grated parmesan, dropped in small dollops around each layer. 
Pull it all together. Ladle a bit of the sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Cover the bottom with a layer of pasta sheets, a thin layer of sauce, and a bit of cheese.  Keep going until you've used up all the sauce and pasta. You want to finish with a layer of pasta. Top with the last of the sauce and the torn mozzarella.
Bake until everything is melted and fragrant, 35 minutes or so. Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving. Dust with parmesan and a bit of slivered basil. 
Bon Appetito!

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

¡Garbanzos con Espinacas! (Chickpeas and Spinach)

When my son was 6 weeks old, my husband and I decided to be adventurous and take him to Spain on a 10 day family vacation. The trip was amazing and we had such an incredible time.
We went on historic walking tours of Barcelona, visited the Dali Museum in Figures, strolled around the City of Arts & Sciences in Valencia, marveled at Gaudi's architecture and the jaw-dropping Sagrada Familia. And we ate. A lot. My husband said that he "ate his body weight in Serrano ham." I ate my body weight in cheese. (Dear Manchego, I am so fond of you!)
We went to the local markets in search of fresh produce, artisanal bread and local cheeses almost every day. I loved the ubiquitous Pan con Tomate and Patatas Bravas-- vegetarian-friendly tapas that were on every menu.
Spanish cuisine has many influences-- from the Arabic spices that were introduced during the Moorish Invasion which lasted 700 years (from the 8th to 15th centuries) to the flavors of the Muslim Mediterranean and Africa (the so called the "Saffron-Cinnamon" link).


Small plates at Inopia, Barcelona

A short while after we returned from our trip, my husband gifted me The Moro Cookbook and it is fast becoming my culinary bible. The dish below is an adaptation of one of their recipes which was also featured on Smitten Kitchen.
Garbanzos con Espinacas (Adapted from Moro: The Cookbook by Smitten Kitchen)
1/2 pound (230 grams) dried chickpeas, cooked until soft and tender or two 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound of spinach, washed
A hefty 1-inch slice from a country loaf or about 2 slices from sandwich loaf bread (2.5 ounces or 75 grams), crusts removed and cut inset small cubes
1/2 cup (4 ounces) tomato sauce (I use Muir Glen's Tomato Sauce)
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (I like to add a little bit more)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice, to taste
Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add half the olive oil. When it is hot, add the spinach with a pinch of salt (in batches, if necessary) and stir well. Remove when the leaves are just tender, drain in a colander and set aside.
Heat 2 more tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the bread for about 5 minutes or until golden brown all over, then the remaining tablespoon of oil and the garlic, cumin and pepper. Cook for 1 minute more or until the garlic is nutty brown.
Transfer to a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle along with the vinegar, and mash to a paste. Return the mixture to the pan and add the drained chickpeas and tomato sauce. Stir until the chickpeas have absorbed the flavors and are hot. Season with salt and pepper.
If the consistency is a little thick, add some water. Now add the spinach and cook until it is hot. Check for seasoning and serve with paprika on top and/or on fried bread toasts (as the Spanish do).

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Give 'em An Ear Full!

Corn, better known to the Mesoamerican peoples as maize, is ubiquitous. Over 332 million metric tons of it are grown annually in the United States. It's in our fuel, our plastics, our medicine, our alcohol and we get A LOT of it in our CSA share. I've made corn salad, corn salsa and corn on the cob. But using corn as a "pesto" is a little bit more creative and it's easy to make. Fresh ingredients are key-- so find the best summer corn and the freshest pasta and you'll really enjoy this seasonal favorite.
The original recipe calls for bacon and "it's drippings." I'm a vegetarian so I omitted the bacon.  As a substitute for the oink, oink, my good friend and fellow blogger, Kathryn L. of Cooking Inside the Box, recommends using smoking salts because they "give it [the dish] the smokey flavor of bacon"--- so don't be shy, give it a try!
This recipe makes 4-5 entree size portions. 
As they say in Italy, bon appetito!
Tagliatelle with Fresh Corn Pesto (Adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2010)
4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 6 large ears)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil for sauteing the corn (first step, see below)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (for adding to corn mixture once it is in the food processor)
8 ounces tagliatelle or fettuccine
3/4 cup coarsely torn fresh basil leaves, divided

Cut corn from ears and heat in a large fry pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. (I cut mine in a colander in order to avoid 'corn gone wild.') Add garlic, 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Sauté over medium-high heat until corn is just tender but not brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer 1 1/2 cups corn kernels to small bowl and reserve. Scrape remaining corn mixture into food processor. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan and pine nuts. With machine running, add olive oil through feed tube and blend until pesto is almost smooth. Set pesto aside.
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot. Add corn pesto, reserved corn kernels, and 1/2 cup basil leaves. Toss pasta mixture over medium heat until warmed through, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency, 2 to 3 minutes. Season pasta to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with additional parmesan and julienned basil leaves.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Burger Sans Beef!

As a relatively new mother who loves to cook, I often search for recipes that are easy to make and don't require the use of a thousand pots and pans (which then need to be cleaned-- and there's only so much licking Omar can do to help). This recipe, courtesy of 101 Cookbooks, is tasty and all it requires, in addition to the ingredients, is a food processor (or blender) and a fry pan. 
These burgers have cashews, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, tofu and spices. They would go perfectly with, say, a little bit of goat cheese and a mustard dressing. Hey, if you've really got time on your hands, make some homemade pickles and pop them on top too. Go crazy and add some thinly sliced red onion. I served this griller on a whole wheat bun with a side salad (greens courtesy of my CSA). It tasted great right off the pan, but for some reason was even better the next day. I guess all the flavors really gelled together overnight!

1 pound / 16 oz  extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry, then sliced (*must* be extra-firm)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup / 2 oz fine dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup / 2 oz  cashew nuts
1/2 cup / 2 oz sunflower seeds
1/2 cup / 2 oz  sliced mushrooms (I used one portobello mushroom cap)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon shoyu or soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Place all the ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture comes together and is free of most chunks, stopping to scrape down the sides of the food processor once or twice if needed. If it seems a bit thin to you, add more bread crumbs a small handful at a time until everything comes together.
Divide the mixture into eight equal portions and use your hands to (really) press and form into round but flat-ish patties.
Pour the olive oil into your largest skillet over medium-high heat, and arrange as many patties as you can without crowding. Cover, and cook turning once, until deeply browned on both sides. Roughly ten minutes. You want to make sure the middle of the patties cook through. If the pan is too hot you'll burn the outsides before the middle cooks up, so be mindful of that.
Serve with your favorite fixin's!
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Onions, Oh Cry!

May you grow like an onion, with your head in the ground!
(Vahksin zuls du vi a tsibeleh, mitten kup in drerd.)
-Yiddish Curse
Onions. To my grandmother they were part of her favorite curse (see above). To me, they are used in every stock I make and when you cook them down and let them soften and brown, caramelized onions are the most delicious thing.
This recipe comes from my favorite food blogger Lottie + Doof out of Chicago. The first time I made this soup I halved the recipe. But I liked it so much that I wish I hadn't...
Note: For most soups all I use is my Dutch Oven and an immersion blender. It makes cleaning up a cinch!
A Puree of Onions (Soup) with Butter Croutons and Grated Lemon Peel (Courtesy of Lottie + Doof, Adapted from Bon Appetit) 
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, divided** (See "optional" note below. I used 8 tbls.)
24 cups thinly sliced onions (about 5 3/4 pounds) 
8 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth (preferably homemade) 
1 1/2 cups 1/2-inch pieces torn crustless country-style bread 
16 fresh sage leaves (only if you want to add as a garnish-- really for special occasions) 
1 1/2 tablespoons (I used more) Sherry wine vinegar 
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel

    Melt 6 tablespoons butter in heavy extra-large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until onions begin to soften, 15 to 18 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and sauté until onions are very tender and deep golden brown, stirring often and adjusting heat as needed, 25 to 30 minutes longer. Remove 1 1/2 cups of caramelized onions and reserve for garnish.
    Add 8 cups broth to remaining onions in pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes to blend flavors. Cool slightly. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Or use an immersion blender and puree to perfection!
    Season soup to taste with salt and pepper and 1 1/2 Tbl of Sherry Vinegar.
    Melt 2 tablespoons butter in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add torn bread pieces and sauté until bread pieces are crisp and golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.
    Serve soup with croutons, carmalized onions, and a splash of sherry vinegar, salt, pepper and some lemon zest. I added a few very thinly sliced (using a peeler) bits of Gruyere because I had some in the fridge.
    OPTIONAL** Cook remaining 4 tablespoons butter in small saucepan over medium heat until golden brown, stirring occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes. Add sage leaves and cook until slightly crisp, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer leaves to small plate; reserve brown butter in saucepan. You can then add sage leaves to soup and drizzle with brown butter sauce. I didn't make the crispy sage and it was still delicious. It's another step that you don't really need but you can add for a special occasion!
    Bon Appetite!
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    Friday, August 6, 2010

    Time Flies...

    One year ago today my husband took these photos of me. They were taken at the Sol Lewitt exhibit at Mass MOCA. At the time I was 8 months pregnant. It's been one crazy year. I left the workforce, became a mother, and today I'm officially a blogger.
    This is my first post. 

    That little green hump is me!
    (Sorry, I dont know how to insert an arrow...just look for the small green 'wave.')
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