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Friday, August 27, 2010

Leap-into-the-Dark Lasagna

Today was clear-out-the-fridge day.  I had no vision of what I was going to make...just went with the flow and here is what I ended up with.  When I cook like this, it's all guts and instinct...but a hell of a lot of fun!

Chickpea Ragu

1/2 chopped red onion
4 carrots, 1/2 inch cubes
5 ribs celery, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 can of chick peas
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 sprig rosemary, chopped
4 bay leaves

1.  Heat oil over medium heat; add chopped vegetables and saute until onions are softend (5 minutes).
2.  Add chickpeas, tomatoes and herbs and cook for 10 minutes - salt and pepper to taste; The carrots should still be crisp and have some bite.
***this was delicious as a hearty stew, topped with some freshly shaved parmesan and sopped up with some crusty bread.
3.  Bang up the ragu a bit with a masher

Bechemel Sauce

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1.5-2 cups milk
1 teaspoon nutmeg - adjust if nutmeg is not your scene - I LOVE nutmeg!
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Melt butter in saucepan; add flour and cook through (2 minutes)
2.  Whisk in milk - add enough for a yoghurt consistency
3.  S and P it

Putting it all together
10 lasagna noodles, out of the box
1 jar spinach cheese pasta sauce - go ahead, tell my nonna...
1/2 large yellow squash - zucchini would work too - seeded and sliced
1.5 C shredded mozzarella
1 tub of ricotta cheese

1.  Spoon some of the jarred sauce on the bottom of a 13X9 dish
2.  Lay out 5 lasagna sheets over the sauce
3.  Spoon on half of the chickpea ragu; top with ricotta and more sauce
4.  Layer on 5 more noodles, ragu, squash, bechemel sauce, rest of sauce
5.  Top with mozzarella cheese.
6.  Cook at 375 until cheese is golden brown - about 25-30 minutes

Verdict: this was surprisingly delicious; the vegetables were still al dente and the nutmeg added an earthy and robust dimension.  The chick peas provided the potent protein.  There was really a variety of textures, from the creaminess of the chickpeas to the smooth gluten of the noodles to the crisp veggies, that made this different from many of the vegetarian lasagnas I've had.

Leap into the Dark Lasagna...not for the weak-kneed.  Have you got the ovaries?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Super Grain

This quinoa salad has been the meal of the summer for us.  Bonus, it is the only grain that provides a complete source of protein.  Our quest to maintain a mostly vegetarian diet means that finding protein without a face is rather a difficult challenge.  So, yeah!

It's a rather mild tasting grain with cute little tendrils that emerge after cooking. Oh, this makes a rather big serving but it tastes even better the next day.

Zest of one lime, finely minced
Juice of 2 lime
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tsp anchovy paste

The Rest:
1 cup quinoa
1 can  black beans, drained
lots of sweet cherry or heirloom tomatoes (bite size pieces)
1/2 cucumber, small chunks
1 cup cilantro, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Mix ingredients for dressing together and set aside
2. Wash quinoa in a sieve very well.
3.  Add quinoa and 2 cups of water into pot; bring to boil; put a lid on and turn heat to lowest simmer for 20 minutes.  Fluff quinoa with a fork and cool. can do the same in a rice cooker.
4.  Toss with dressing; add rest of the ingredients; salt and pepper to taste.

Verdict:  holy cow!  delicious, filling, proteiny, yummers!  Serves about 6-8 as a side.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Gnocchi - who's there

Gnocchi with Sage Butter

Even though we are trying to eliminating meat from the majority of our meals, I can not and will not give up luscious and hearty food. A foodie can not live by parsley salad alone. I love it when I find delicious meals where the meat is not missed or even welcomed.

Delicious meatless fare often has peasant roots, the product of a desire to create full bodied food from humble ingredients.

Gnocchi is as fun to eat as it is to say. Tiny pillows of potato and flour dumplings - delicate but with a little tooth.

2 large Russets
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter
parmesan for garnish

1. Drop spuds into water and bring to boil - if you drop them into boiling water, the skin will burst and the glory inside will become waterlogged. Boil for about 20 min or until cooked through.

2. Use a tea towel to cradle the spuds while you disrobe them of their skin.
3. Mash and aerate - keep it fluffy
4. Add 1 cup flour and 1 egg, salt and pepper and work together with the hands - I also threw in some cottage cheese because I had a tad left. Do not over handle this sticky gloop.
5. Dump onto floured counter and knead in remaining flour until JUST no longer sticky, lest you want to make   chewing gum.
6. Roll into ropes and cut into segments - flour the dumplings generously to keeping the stickage down.

7. Drop into salted boiling water - give them a stir.
8. When they pop to the top, they're done.

9. Scoop into shallow tray and drizzle with oil and toss.
10. Brown the butter and add in a handful of chopped sage leaves.
11. Add gnocchi - I let them brown a bit.
12. Garnish with parmesan, salt and pepper to taste and yum.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cooking in the Future Tense

We stopped going to Macdonald's 6 years ago after watching Super Size Me. We started our boycott ostensibly because of the Golden Arches' food and employment practices. The subtleties of social and environmental responsibility is difficult to explain. When Weijin and Jian were younger and asked, we answered in simple terms: we don't go to Macdonalds because it is not a good company. It does not treat people very well and it does not care about the world. Much to our horror ( was blatant amusement!), we overhead Jian (who was 3 at the time) telling one of her playments that "we don't go to MacDonald's because they hit and they swear and they spit." It may not be entirely true but it isn't false either.

At the end of the day, we want the girls to know that there is a responsibility to eating and the choices we make. We want them to have a relationship with food and to see the magic of putting together a dish from beginning to end.

We are having friends over for dinner tonight and Jian and Weijin insisted on making dessert. What you see here are their efforts, with minimal moral and clean up support from their management team.

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
2 cups self rising flour
few drops red food colouring
3 tbsp cocoa power

1. Preheat oven to 35o F
2. Whip butter and sugar until light and fluffy
3. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time and beat well
4. Stir in flour until just blended
5. Divide into 3 bowls: add colouring to one bowl and cocoa to another, leaving one bowl white.
6. Grease pan
7. Spoon three mixtures into pan and swirl with chopstick
8. Bake 40 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean.