Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Good Lasagna

I love lasagna but don't make it very often....but we've had a taste for it recently and so I decided to make my favorite one which is very similar to the one my mom used to make.  She used spinach, yes, but instead of ricotta she mixed that spinach with cottage cheese. I've subbed in fresh mushrooms for her canned and use three cheeses for topping instead of just mozzarella. Oh yes...and a little fresh basil in the sauce and ricotta filling!

Meat Sauce:
2 Tbl olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground turkey or ground beef
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
10 medium white or brown mushrooms, chopped
28 ounce can tomato puree
About 10 fresh basil leaves, torn
1/2 cup grated parmesan

In a large skillet, saute the onion garlic and ground meat in the olives oil until the onion softens and the meat loses its color.  Add the salt, pepper, basil, oregano and mushrooms and continue to saute until the mushrooms soften.  Add the tomato puree and simmer the mixture for 10 to 15 minutes.  Off the heat, stir in the fresh basil and parmesan.  Let cool a bit while you make the ricotta filling.

Filling and putting the lasagna together:

10 ounce bag of fresh baby spinach, steamed until wilted
2 cups full fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
About 10 fresh basil leaves, torn
One 9 ounce package "no-boil" lasagna sheets
3 cups grated cheese, either mozzarella or a combination of mozz, provolone and asiago

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta, parmesan, egg, black pepper an the fresh basil.

Spread about 1/3 of the meat sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Lay about 4 sheets of the lasagna over. Break up a sheet or two to fill in any gaps.
Next, spread half of the ricotta filing over, followed by more lasagna sheets.
Add just under half of the remaining sauce, followed by the rest of the ricotta. Now, one more layer of lasagna sheets and then the last of the sauce.  Cover the pan with the 3 cups of grated cheese.
Cover the pan with foil and bake in a 350F oven for about 40 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 10 or 15 to brown up the cheese. 
Let rest about 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Enjoy!!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Beef and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

It's Crock Pot Contest week at Whole Foods Market Cooking and I entered beef and quinoa stuffed peppers slow cooked.  Normally I'll use rice and just bake in the oven, but this time I added quinoa for a boost in protein and fiber and let them go in the slow cooker.  Turned out to be very good! Pictured are the peppers ready to be sauced.  See the recipe here:


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cured Salmon

Food52's contest this week is "Your Best Recipe With Tea" and I entered one that I call "Green Tea Chirashi (Scattered Rice)".  It's sort of a deconstructed sushi recipe and involves tea cured salmon.  I love cured salmon and make it often mainly with dill and vodka as part of the cure.  It's very easy to do, but requires about 3 days "curing" time.  Take a look at my recipe here:


And if you decide you want to go at it without tea, try substituting the tea and Mirin with equal amounts of vodka and dill or use your imagination.  Just make sure you use the salt and sugar.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lemon Tea Brined Slow Roasted Chicken

I love chicken that is slow roasted on low heat...it's my "go to" recipe.  I picked up a small 3 pounder the other day and decided to brine it with tea and lemon before roasting.  It was sweet and succulent and the two of us almost finished it off in one sitting!


4 cups water
4 black tea bags (I used an English breakfast tea)
3 slices lemon peel about 3 x 1 inch long each
1 Tbl salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Juice of a medium lemon
1  3# whole chicken

Bring the water up to a boil and add the tea bags and lemon peel.  Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let the tea steep for 10 minutes.
Stir in the sugar and salt and then let the mixture cool to room temperature. Stir in the lemon juice.
Place the chicken in a gallon size zippered freezer bag and pour the tea in. Place the bag on a sided dish and place in the fridge for about 24 hours. Occasionally turn the chicken to distribute the tea.


The brined chicken
1 black tea bag
4 large garlic cloves, halved
Jui of one medium lemon
1 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbl sea salt
1 tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp granulated garlic

Remove the chicken from the tea brine and pat dry inside and out with paper toweling.  Place the garlic cloves and the tea bag (sans any tag) into the chicken's cavity.  Tie the chicken's legs, tuck the wings under the chicken and place, breast side up in a 9 x 13 inch roasting/baking pan.
Rub the lemon juice all over the skin of the chicken and then rub in the olive oil.  Combine the salt, pepper, cayenne and garlic and pat the mixture all over the bird.
Roast in a pre heated 250F oven for about 3 hours.  After the first hour of roasting, start basting occasionally by tipping the pan to release the juices from the cavity.  Do this about every half hour.
After the slow roasting time, raise the oven temp to 375F and continue to roast for about 15 minutes.  let rest about 15 minutes before serving.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Vegan Cabbage and Black Bean Soup

Years ago when I was doing that super low carb diet that was so popular, I discovered black soy beans.  They're low in fat, high in fiber and pack 11 grams of protein per half cup.  I used them frequently and still do even now.  This time I paired them with cabbage to make a healthy soup that's quick and easy.  You can find the soybeans at health food stores and some specialty grocers.

Makes about 2  1/2 quarts

2 Tbl olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
2 Tbl sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1  14.5 ounce can tomatoes
32 ounces vegetable broth
8 ounces water
4 cups chopped cabbage
1  15 ounce can black soy beans (may use regular black beans if you like)
Additional s and p for re-seasoning

In a 4 quart soup pot heat the oil and saute the onions until they soften.  Add the garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, cumin and bay leaf and saute a minute or two more.
Crush the tomatoes with your clean hands and add them to the pot along with their juice.  Bring up to a boil and stir in the cabbage.
Add the vegetable broth and water. Bring the soup up to the boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes.
Rinse and drain the black beans and add them to the soup.  Simmer another 5 minutes.  Re-season with salt and pepper if needed.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Winter Tomatoes

Everyone knows how tasteless tomatoes can be in the Winter...we avoid buying them at all costs and rely on good quality canned for our cooking needs.  Well the other day I stumbled on these at the grocery store.  They look like a small Roma, come in a 22 ounce bag and are a little pricey (about $3.00 for the bag). They are meaty and don't have any of the "gel" like stuff you see normally. The company says they're great for cooking, on sandwiches and in salsas. I tried one sliced with a little salt...not bad for a winter tomato!  Give them a try if you're so inclined and please send me your feedback in the comments section.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ceci, Spinach and Shells

A take on Pasta e Ceci, I started out with my twist on "Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter" as the base and went from there, adding spinach, ground fennel and basil instead of the traditional rosemary and olive oil.  A tasty soup for a cold blustery evening.

Makes about 2 to 3 quarts

For the tomato sauce:
1  14.5 ounce can plum tomatoes, crushed
4 Tbl butter
1 cup rough chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, halved
1 tsp ground fennel seed
1 heaping tsp anchovy paste
1 cup water

Place all ingredients into a 4 or 5 quart soup pot, bring up to a boil and then down to a low simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool the mixture a bit and then puree in a blender or use an immersion blender to puree right in the pot.

For the soup:
The tomato sauce
5 to 6 cups chicken broth
4 cups cooked chick peas (or two 14.5 ounce cans, drained and rinsed)
1  1/2 cups mini shell pasta ( or ditalini, tubetti or elbows )
1 heaping Tbl home made or commercially prepared basil pesto( or 12 finely sliced fresh basil leaves)
2 large handfuls fresh baby spinach leaves, thick stems removed
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan plus lots more for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste if needed

Add the tomato sauce, 5 cups of the chicken broth and the chick peas to the soup pot, bring up to a boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add the pasta, bring back up to the boil and then simmer until the pasta is just al dente.  depending on your pasta this will take 6 to 8 minutes, give or take.
At this point if the soup seems to thick, add that sixth cup of chicken broth and bring back up to a simmer.
Stir in the pesto or basil leaves and the spinach and simmer until the spinach wilts.
Stir in the quarter cup of parmesan and season with salt and pepper if desired.  Serve in bowls topped with more parmesan.