Monday, January 28, 2008

Attack of the Pie!

So excited was I to cut into this pie, that I forgot to take a photo of it before the knife went in. Oops! It's too bad, too, because it all went downhill once I took out a slice! :) The Daring Bakers that got started early in the month warned us of weepy meringue or oozy filling... so I knew to prepare myself. What's interesting is that I was most worried about the meringue... I have way less experience with it. The curd, I thought, would be my friend, as I'd had a great time with the Alice Waters' curd I'd made around Christmas. Boy, was I fooled. :)
Before I get to the sordid details, I'd like to thank Jen of The Canadian Baker for choosing this month's theme. This pie was a lovely, bright way to brave our way through Winter. My pie might have looked a mess, but it was seriously delicious. Thanks, Jen!!

Now, on to the pie! I focused on the crust. I haven't had much luck making my own crust, so I had big, strong hopes that this one would work out. Let me tell you, I could have snacked on the raw pie crust all afternoon! It was sweet and tasty and just the right texture. After it's various rests, it baked up like a dream! I set it aside and went shopping. (What better way to let something cool?)

The instructions for the curd were different in nature than I was used to, but it came together nicely (or so I thought). I whisked and stirred and poured it into the cooled crust and sat it aside. (I don't think I went shopping... maybe played xbox?) When I felt like it was cool enough, I moved onto the meringue. I'd let my whites come to room temperature (for once - I almost never remember to do that) and added the extras and got foamy. Once it was ready, I "piled" it on, just like the recipe requested. Now, it started off taller, but I spent so much time decoratively smearing it around that it lost a little of its oomph. Let that be a lesson to you! :)

Once it baked to a nice golden hue, I set aside and got to making dinner. We had dinner and watched the NHL all-star game and I could barely contain myself - I WANTED PIE! Dave and I rushed out and cut into it (and it wasn't until after I cut into it that I realized I hadn't taken a picture of it!) and I could tell something wasn't quite right. It didn't put up as much fight as I'd thought it should... and when I pulled that first slice out, and saw how oozy it was... Bummer. The meringue held its shape, but the filling squirmed right out like the blob in that movie... The Blob... (lol)... not a total loss, we just spooned the filling onto our plates and dug in! A spoonful of tart filling, topped with airy meringue along with the yummy crust... heavenly. I have no other words. Yah, it didn't look like it was supposed to, but everything came together to make one delicious pie. What I will also take from this is that I needn't be worried about making my own crust OR meringue. (I just need to make sure I save these recipes in a good place!)

Thanks again to Jen and to all of the Daring Bakers. I am so happy to be a part of this supportive, hysterical, friendly bunch! Please take a trip around the Internet to see all of their amazing pies, tarts, and tartelettes!

Lemon Meringue Pie

(from "Wanda's Pie in the Sky" by Wanda Beaver)

Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie

For the Crust:
3/4 cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/3 cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
3/4 cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

For the Meringue:
5 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
3/4 cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

To Make the Crust:
Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of 1/8 inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about 1/2 inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

To Make the Filling:
Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated. Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

To Make the Meringue:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

See the recipe...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

HHDD #17: Here, have a slice!

I have become a crazy-person about making pizza at home. With a few simple ingredients, anyone can make their own. Using either store-bough dough or home made (and its really not that hard to do), you can toss anything you like on your pizza. You can make it all one flavor or half-n-half, or one-thirds green pepper because you're mate doesn't care for them... and I'd like to see Pizza Hut make a one-thirds green pepper pizza!

You can imagine my delight when I read that Joey of 80 Breakfasts chose pizza as this round of HHDD's theme! (For those of you that remember, HHDD = Hay Hay it's Donna Day! is a fabulous event created by the lovely Barbara, honoring the much-adored Donna Hay. Each round's winner hosts the next, starting us off with a Donna Hay recipe that fits the new theme.)(For those of you that really remember, I was lucky enough to host HHDD #12: Caesar Salad. Totally fun!!)

Okay, enough with all that link-action - back to the pizza! I saw this pizza on an episode of Giada's Weekend Getaways.... she was in Boston and went to Sonsie's for an amazing-looking lunch of pizza... White cheese pizza with grilled corn and wood smoked bacon! As if that doesn't sound delicious enough, the cheese was cheddar and brie!! Chedder and BRIE!!

Sure, I go on and on about my love of goat cheese... but me and brie go waaaaaay back. When Dave has hockey games, I sometimes just have brie and toast for dinner... and this morning, I worked brie into our breakfast sandwiches (bacon, egg and brie on a bagel, if anyone is interested).

I saw the episode long before Joey announced her round, so when she did, I knew that this pizza would be it! I cooked the bacon first and used the bacon drippings to grill the corn. I don't know which is better: the brie or the corn cooked in bacon fat! My super-clogged arteries took one for the team, I know, but I'm a giver. :)

My thanks to Joey for such a fun choice and for giving me a good excuse to make this delicious pizza! Pop over to Joey's site for the roundup and a chance to vote!

White Cheese Pizza with Grilled Corn and Wood Smoked Bacon
Seen on Giada’s Weekend Getaways: Boston, Food Network TV
Recipe courtesy Chef Bill Poirier of Sonsie's in Boston,1977,FOOD_9936_89142,00.html

8 ounces pizza dough, store-bought or home-made
1 tablespoon semolina flour
3 slices sharp Cheddar
5 (1/2-inch) cubes brie cheese
1/4 cup grilled corn kernels
3 strips cooked smoked bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon freshly flat-leaf parsley, no stems
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon grated Pecorino Romano

Preheat oven with pizza stone to 475 ° F for 30 minutes.

Gently stretch dough to 11-inches in diameter. Place dough on pizza peel dusted with semolina to prevent sticking. Top dough with the Cheddar and brie cheese. Scatter corn, bacon and parsley leaves. Sprinkle pizza with olive oil then Romano. Slide pizza onto hot stone in oven. Bake 6 to 8 minutes until golden, cut into 6 slices and serve on warm plate.

See the recipe...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cookies for the Win!

The snit has broken. I went home for lunch today. Did a couple of chores, reheated some soup, and popped a couple of cookies into the oven, watched two cooking shows. Cookies into the oven during lunch, you say? See, the marvelous thing about Dorie Greenspan's recipe is that you can freeze the dough by spoonful and then bake them as needed. Isn't that brilliant??!?!?!

So. I made this dough over the weekend. We happily munched away on about half of the dough (baked to cookies first!) and I froze the rest. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to be able to make these tasty little wonders whenever I want. Bad day at work? Bake a cookie! Derrick and Meredith break up again? Bake a cookie! Wake up on the wrong side of the bed? You got it - bake a cookie! The best part is that I don't have to commit to 45 cookies all at once (because, gawd, who needs that guilt??!?!). I can just make a couple at a time, feed my internal cookie monster, and still feel good about it.

Pretty rad.

My Best Chocolate Cookies
From Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or 2 cups store-bought chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for about 1 minute, until smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes or so, until well-blended. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing only until each addition is incorporated. On low speed, or by hand with a rubber spatula, mix in the chocolate and nuts. (The dough can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen. If you'd like, rounded tablespoonfuls of dough, ready for baking. Freeze the mounds on a lined baking sheet, then bag them when they're solid. There's no need to defrost the dough before baking-just add another minute or two to the baking time.)

Spoon the dough by slightly rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between spoonfuls.

Bake the cookies- one sheet at a time and rotating the sheet at the midway point- for 10-12 minutes, or until they are brown at the edges and golden in the center; they may still be a little soft in the middle, and that's just fine. Pull the sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for 1 minute, then carefully, using a wide metal spatula, transfer them to racks to cool to room temperature.

Repeat with the remainder of the dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

Makes about 45 cookies.

See the recipe...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Polenta Fontina Panini with Mushroom Sauce

I won't bother with applicable chatter today. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and I can't decide if I want to take a nap or cuss for no reason. It's still close to lunchtime here, so if I went out to my car to blurt obscenities, people might see me... and being the New Girl, I don't want to give anyone the wrong idea. Heh.

Two things that amuse me:

1. The syncopation of this recipe. Polenta-Fontina-Panini. Polenta-Fontina-Panini. (Reminds me a little of the zucchini-ricotta-frittata, actually.) Repeat it a few times and it loses its meaning, but I don't mind.

2. Totally unrelated - I had to take Squito (one of my cats) to the vet Monday. He had an awful looking limp and seemed pitiful. I got him to the vet, the vet had him walk around and the little fuzzy jerk didn't limp. He didn't even cry when the vet poked him. Dr. Z seemed to think my faker cat is fine, just old, maybe a pulled muscle, blah blah... and gave me a prescription of chondroitin for him. CHONDROITIN!!! I love that! I love that my noisy fat furball gets to be treated like an old man and have joint medicine mixed into his food. Is that weird? Maybe. But whatever. I like it, so it stays. Soon he'll be asking me to pull his finger.

Recipe notes: We had this way back in November, so the details are a little fuzzy. I know I liked it and thought it was easy. I want to say that Dave didn't love it but didn't hate it (he's only so-so on sun-dried tomatoes and they're featured prominently in this). I know I enjoyed the messy little stacks in made, too. I think it was a really nice healthy vegetarian dinner, but I can see how the addition of some Italian sausage might make it spectacular.

Polenta Fontina Panini with Mushroom Sauce
c/o The Washington Post Food Section

2 to 3 small shallots
1 tablespoon thyme leaves (may substitute 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 18-ounce roll cooked polenta (ends trimmed)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 pound sliced mixed mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake and button
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded fontina cheese

Mince the shallots and the thyme leaves. Cut the polenta crosswise in half, then cut each half into quarters, then cut each of those quarters in half, making 16 equal slices total; set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 3 minutes, stirring, until they have softened. Add the sliced mushrooms, thyme, salt and pepper; cook for 5 minutes, stirring, or until the mushrooms are tender and have exuded liquid. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting; keep warm.

Meanwhile, finely chop the sun-dried tomatoes and combine with the shredded fontina cheese.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of butter on a large nonstick griddle over medium heat until the butter is bubbly. Arrange 8 polenta slices on the griddle and sprinkle them with the tomato-cheese mixture, using most of it. Top with the remaining 8 polenta slices to form sandwiches. Cook for 3 minutes, then carefully turn over the sandwiches and cook for 3 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the polenta has deepened in color. (For an optional panini effect, place a second pan or heavy pot on the sandwiches to press them.) Turn off the heat; sprinkle the remaining tomato-cheese mixture on top of the 8 sandwiches so that it melts slightly and let sit for 1 minute; transfer to individual plates (2 sandwiches per serving) and top with the mushroom mixture. Serve immediately.

Recipe Source:
Adapted from "The Great Big Butter Cookbook," edited by Diana von Glahn (Running Press, 2007).

290 calories, 16g fat, 9g saturated fat, 48mg cholesterol, 505mg sodium, 26g carbohydrates, 2g dietary fiber, 11g protein.

See the recipe...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fried Prosciutto for Everyone!!!

If I were campaigning for anything, "Fried Prosciutto for Everyone!!" would be my battle cry. I'd have it on posters and fliers and cute little buttons. Because you know what? You simply cannot go wrong with these tasty little meat chips.

A little back story. Until two nights ago, I didn't like prosciutto. Hated the stuff. Didn't like the smell, its squiggliness, the way it stuck together no matter how hard you tried to pry it apart... none of it. Enter Sunday night's recipe. I don't know how I ended up on the Today Show's website way back in September, but I'm glad I did. This dinner was a bit of a mess to put together (three different pans and a blender, people!), but well worth it!

Now, my one suggestion to you would be: more peas/less broth. The "puree" the recipe speaks of is quite thin and runny... and I only used half of it. I think it would have benefited from either more peas or less broth. You choose for yourself which you like better. The prosciutto fried up in a snap and I'm frankly surprised that any of it made it to our dinner bowls. I tried one, and then another, and then one more after that... If someone were to make and sell a bag of fried prosciutto chips, I would buy stock.

Tagliatelle with Peas and Prosciutto
Chef Kathleen Daelemans shares food facts and easy-to make meals
Chef Scott Conant

Serves four

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced lengthwise
Kosher salt
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
4 thin slices prosciutto, chopped
3/4 pound fresh or dried tagliatelle

Make a pea puree: In a small saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, season with a generous pinch of salt, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add half of the peas and the chicken broth. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook the peas until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the parsley and the tarragon. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor (or use a hand blender right in the pot) and puree it.

Crisp the prosciutto: Heat about a teaspoon of olive oil in a medium sauté pan. Add the prosciutto and cook, stirring occasionally, until the prosciutto is quite crispy, 4 to 5 minutes.

Cook the pasta in well-salted boiling water. If using fresh pasta, add it and the other half of the peas to the pot at the same time and cook until the pasta is al dente. If using dried, start the pasta first and add the peas for the last 2 minutes of cooking. Reserve a cup or so of the pasta water and then drain the pasta and peas. Return the pasta to the pot it cooked in, add the pea puree and toss to coat, adding a little of the reserved pasta water if it looks dry. Divide the pasta among warm bowls and top the pasta with the prosciutto. Drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil over each bowl and serve immediately.

See the recipe...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Baked Goat Cheese and Roasted Winter Squash over Garlicky Fettuccine

I'll admit it. I have a problem. I tend to focus on an ingredient and then make it eleventy billion ways. At that point, Dave is tired of eating it, so I move on to something else. It may take a while for me to fixate on something new, but the fixation is inevitable. I don't see what's so wrong with it, myself. I look at it as fully exploring and experimenting with an ingredient. Or something. :)

This dish features two of my more recent loves (butternut squash and fresh pasta), plus one I can't let go (goat cheese). I think all three are easily explainable, don't you? It's Winter, and butternut squash is in season, so I am taking advantage of the opportunity to eat seasonably. Fresh pasta is so easy to make (provided you have the right equipment, otherwise not so much) and tastes so so nice. And the goat cheese? Well... it's goat cheese! What's not to like???

The cubing of all that squash was a bit time consuming, but very worth it. I really like recipes that let you pop them in the oven for a while. I use that time to clean up the kitchen or the apartment or generally horse around. Before I know it, dinner is ready! Rad!

I didn't expect to love the garlicky fettuccine as much as I did. But combined with the creamy roasted squash, the sweet bell pepper, and the tangy goat cheese... omg.... heaven! I was also partially convinced that the goat cheese would ooze all over the place in the oven, but it didn't. Don't be upset if the bread crumbs don't totally stick to the cheese, mine didn't either.

We had this on a Friday night and then had the leftover veg and cheese on new pasta for lunch on Saturday and they were just as good the second day. I highly recommend this. Highly. Go eat it. :)

Edit: I almost forgot AGAIN!!!! (skip blogging for a while and you lose your brains!) Pop on over to Ruth's blog, Once Upon a Feast for her weekly Presto Pasta Night Roundups! She collects some of the most amazing pasta dishes I've ever seen and shares them with us every Friday! Once you're there, check out her other tasty entries! When I have no idea what I'm going to make for dinner, I know that I can go to Ruth's site and find something healthy and delicious!

Baked Goat Cheese and Roasted Winter Squash over Garlicky Fettuccine
c/o Cooking Light Magazine, December 2006

6 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled kabocha or butternut squash (about 2 1/4 pounds)
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 (4-ounce) packages goat cheese
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 pound uncooked fettuccine
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
Rosemary sprigs (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°.

Place squash and bell pepper in a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil; toss well. Arrange vegetables in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, rosemary, and black pepper. Bake at 425° for 40 minutes, stirring once.

Place goat cheese in freezer 10 minutes. Cut cheese crosswise into 8 equal rounds. Place breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl. Dredge each round in breadcrumbs; place on a baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 6 minutes.
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. Return pasta to pan; add reserved pasta cooking water, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, red pepper, and garlic, tossing to coat. Place 1 1/4 cups pasta in each of 8 shallow bowls; top each serving with about 1/2 cup squash mixture and 1 goat cheese round. Garnish with rosemary sprigs, if desired.

Yield: 8 servings

cals 423, fat 14.1g, sat fat 7.4g, protein 17.8g, cholesterol 30mg, calcium 290mg, sodium 439mg, fiber 2.7g, iron 2.1mg, carbs 54.7g

See the recipe...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Taste & Create 5: Ricotta and Besciamella Lasagna

Can you believe that we're already finishing up Taste & Create 5? That's nuts!! I can't believe that time has flown so quickly! Quickly and tastily!!

This time around, the lovely Nicole paired me with the much-loved Dolores of Chronicles of Culinary Curiosity! I enjoy her blog because I feel like she lets you in, shares about herself in a way that you long for more... I look forward to each new post because she artfully and engagingly relates it to herself or her life.. and gives you something to think about in the process. (That, and she's darn funny!!)

I went back months and months of Dolores's blog. I searched and searched and really, when it came down to it, what I really wanted to make was something I'd read about recently. In much the same way the lasagna bug bit her, it bit me. Her tale about wanting the perfect recipe spoke to me (but not as much as the delicious photo spoke to me!)

Now, its been a looooong time since I've made lasagna. So long, I can't remember making it. I used to make manicotti every New Years Day (I've switched to making fried ravioli, hopefully I'll show that to you soon), so I guess that's close. I've never made a bechamel before, I know that to be true.

I don't know if you're like I was and thought lasagna was hard or complicated or time consuming. I can tell you, happily, that it doesn't have to be. Each component came together super fast... the sauce was a snap, the filling easy-peasy... the bechamel easy, too... though, mine was really really really thick, and I want to say that it shouldn't have been like that... that the bechamel's I've seen on tv have been smooth and flowy... not mine... it was thick like pudding... super-thick pudding... I kinda smeared it around during assembly, and I couldn't taste it being thick... so... who cares! :) I used fresh pasta sheets, because I don't like how weird and squidgy lasagna sheets get when you boil them. I also used fire-roasted crushed tomatoes (because that's what the grocer had - and omg, yum!) My only change for next time would be to make MORE tomato sauce. I had to have a sauceless layer towards the end, so that I'd have enough to top it off with. You can't tell in the finished product, but I know it's in there. (Not to mention, the sauce was amazing on fresh mozzarella alone!) :)

I can't tell you how excited I am to have so much leftover, too! I think I am going to put a bunch away in the freezer for a easy, delicious future meal... and we'll STILL have some for lunches this week. YUM!

My thanks to Dolores for a tasty recipe and to Nicole for bringing us together!

Ricotta and Besciamella Lasagna
c/o Dolores at Chronicles of Culinary Curiosity
sourced from Maryann at

This recipe will make a 12x12 pan of lasagna.

Marinara Sauce:
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
Dash dried oregano, to taste
Dash dried basil, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Besciamella Sauce:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 tablespoons flour
Pinch salt
2 cups milk, scalded
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch white pepper

15 ounces ricotta cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ fresh parsley, chopped
2 eggs
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Lasagna sheets, either redi-cook or boiled, softened lasagna sheets)
Grated Parmesan
Grated Mozzarella

First, make the Marinara sauce: In a sauce pan, drizzle a little olive oil and add chopped garlic cloves. Cook until transparent. Add crushed tomatoes, dried oregano, dried basil, salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat down and simmer, stirring often. While that is cooking down, make your besciamella.

Besciamella Sauce: In a sauce pan, melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk constantly for a few minutes, careful not to burn it. Add a pinch of salt. Pour scalded milk into the flour mixture all at once and continue to whisk another 3-4 minutes until thickened. Add nutmeg and a bit of white pepper. Lay aside.

Prepare the ricotta filling: Mix all ingredients together to combine.

Assembly: Start by putting about 1/2 C marinara on bottom of pan so the lasagna doesn't stick. Layer the ingredients, repeating until the pan was full: pasta sheets, ricotta, besciamella, marinara, grated mozzarella. Repeat in this order ending with the pasta layer. Then top with marinara, grated parmesan, mozzarella, fresh parsley, and a light drizzle of olive oil.

Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour. Lasagna is done when a knife comes out clean. After the first 40-45 minutes, uncover to brown the top.

When done, cover and let the lasagna rest at least 30-60 minutes before serving. This gives it time to set.

See the recipe...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Pappardelle with Squash, Mushrooms, and Spinach

You know that feeling you get, when you know you've blown something off long enough that you feel so guilty that you keep blowing it off because maybe then you won't have to fess up to it? I'll admit that its that feeling that mightily contributed to my failing out of college (as I'd skip class a few too many times but feel to sheepish to return). You'd think I'd have a handle on that feeling by now, being an official grown-up and all... but no. Here it has happened again. :)

I also didn't make any resolutions last week, which is new for me. I don't know if I've ever mentioned it, but I only started really cooking because of a New Years resolution. You see, it was what... 2000?... when I met my husband... I knew how to cook a few things... like Chicken Kate or Chicken Mom or Salisbury Steak from a Box and the like. (I rocked that food from a box, lemme tell ya!) Anyway. I met Dave the summer of 2000. By that winter, I was smitten with him (long before, actually). I really really wanted to cook for him. I made him the two Chickens... I even made him a purple banana cream pie (I can save that for another day). But then I'd exhausted my non-box foods. What is a girl to do?

What I did is make a resolution: I would buy a new cookbook every month and learn to make at least one thing from said book. I was pretty ramped up at the beginning and got a whole bunch of books at once... but still. I stuck with it. I learned to cook. I asked my friends and coworkers for recipes. I fed my husband. And you know what? I found great joy in filling his belly... in putting a smile on his face... and that propelled me forward.

Sure, its a sappy story. What it has to do with the pasta we had for dinner last week, I have no idea. But what I wanted was a nice, healthy, delicious dinner to help push me forward again. To snap me out of my blogging sheepishness and get back to sharing our meals with you. Because you know what? A lot of what we eat COMES from you - hence the blog name - and I like the fact that in sharing what I make, I celebrate what the food blogosphere has to offer! Because, seriously, you have MAD SKILLS!!! :)

Now, a little bit about this recipe from Bon Appetit magazine: Aside from all the butter, I could happily eat this on a regular basis. I felt like a nutritional rockstar the night we had this. So many veggies! And because each veg was a different kind and color, I got the feeling that we might not need our multi-vitamin that night. I'd made the pappardelle myself a few days prior and I was really pleased with the results.

Pappardelle with Squash, Mushrooms, and Spinach
c/o Bon Appetit Magazine, November 2007

12 ounces pappardelle or fettuccine pasta

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, divided
3 cups 1/2-inch cubes butternut squash (from 1-pound squash)
8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 5- to 6-ounce package baby spinach
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, melt 1/4 cup butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add squash and cook until almost tender, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Add mushrooms, sage, and remaining 1/4 cup butter; sauté until mushrooms are soft and squash is tender, about 8 minutes. Add spinach; stir until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Add pasta to sauce in skillet. Toss to coat, adding pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese.

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