Wednesday, February 29, 2012

FOOD - rustic lasagna

As part of Adam's Valentine's Day gift last year - I gave him the most awesome pan of all times - a cherry red Le Creuset 5 quart braiser. It's perfect for everything from roast chicken to cobbler. It is also the perfect vessel for a rustic, delicious, cheesy, pesto-y lasagna. I maybe perhaps purchased this cherry red beauty immediately after seeing it in the William's Sonoma catalog along with a recipe the rustic lasagna.

my gorgeous red le creuset pot. 
For that Valentine's Day dinner - I made a roast chicken, mashed potatoes, caesar salad with homemade croutons and whoopie pies. Roast chicken followed by whoopie pies just seemed more romantic than a hearty heavy lasagna. The following weekend - I tackled the lasagna. It was delicious. Like beyond amazing. It was super time consuming and turned my kitchen into a war zone. Dishes were everywhere, pots were flying. Ohh but it was so worth it.

photo inspiration from the williams-sonoma catalog.
Here is the recipe from the Williams-Sonoma website.

ingredients --

  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup raw baby spinach leaves    
  • 1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 jar (16 oz.) roasted red bell peppers, drained and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 lb. baby spinach, blanched and squeezed dry
  • 6 oz. no-boil lasagna noodles, torn into rough 2-inch pieces
  • 4 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions --
In a blender, combine the basil leaves, raw spinach, 1/2 tsp. of the garlic and the 1/2 cup olive oil and process until a thick sauce forms. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tsp. garlic and the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly stir in the milk, increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and let cool for 15 minutes. Stir the basil puree into the sauce.

In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and the excess moisture has evaporated, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Add the bell peppers, blanched spinach, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Butter a 3 1/2-quart shallow Dutch oven.

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the pot and arrange a single layer of torn noodles on the sauce. Top with 1/2 cup of the ricotta mixture, 1 cup of the vegetable mixture, 1/2 cup of the sauce and 1 cup of the mozzarella. Layer the noodles, ricotta, vegetables, sauce and mozzarella 2 more times, then add a layer of noodles, ricotta, vegetables and noodles. Spread the remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1 1/2 cups mozzarella.

Cover the pot, transfer to the oven and bake until the noodles are nearly tender and the filling is bubbly, about 45 minutes. Uncover the pot and continue baking until the top is browned, about 15 minutes more. Let the lasagna rest for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the sliced basil, cut into slices and serve immediately. Serves 8 to 10.

My comments -
1. This recipe calls for a lot of dishes. Like a ton. Expect to have your kitchen look like a bomb exploded. Below is a photo of part of the kitchen explosion - I should have also taken photos of the sink and stove to give you the true damage.

my messy kitchen.
the stove in action.

my final version.

2. I really wish I hadn't used the no boil noodles. They just do not taste the same and after spending so much time and using a dozen dishes - having the real starchy yummy carby noodles  would have really set it beyond beyond amazing. The no boil noodles have a flat still-uncooked taste to them. I'm actually surprised WS recommended them at all.
3. The recipe calls for you to make your own bechamel sauce AND your own pesto. Seriously. The result is phenomenal but if you are feeling sneaky you could buy the fresh made store bought kind from a more upscale grocery store like Molly Stone's or Whole Foods. If you are going to cheat - do it proper with fresh pesto and not that oily, unrefrigerated junk in a jar.
4. Lasagna is always delicious the day you make it and phenomenal the two days after you make it. Pace yourself - it only gets better and it is impossible to get tired of eating lasagna.
5. I wish I had doubled the recipe and made two. It's the same amount of work and mess and lasagna freezes so well. It would have been quite the treat to pull it out of the freezer on a cold week night in early March. All the pleasure and none of the clean-up.
6. Don't forget to have lots of good red wine and crunchy bread on hand.


Monday, February 27, 2012

I love...

I really adore the fact that my husband Adam refers to hands and feet as paws and flippers. Sometimes paws are also referred to as wings. And flippers as hoofs. There is something amazingly sweet about those terms. When I am cold -- he asks for my paws to warm me up. And when we are falling asleep - we often hold flippers. It borders on the edge of gross cute but somehow stays on the side of endearing. Similar to these baby animals. Every time I look at them - I die a little because of their sweetness.


One more things. He also refers to noses as snoots. Heee!



all images from Sharon Montrose baby animal series.

Friday, January 27, 2012

new bike!

I have a new bike. I love it. 60% because it is orange, 15% for the outdoorsy/exercise factor, 15% for the accessories and 10% for the freedom of not having to park. The bike is from Public Bikes - a great local San Francisco bike company created by the the founder of Design Within Reach. It's a very European "step-thru" style - perfect for day to day biking, even while wearing a *gasp* skirt! Not suitable for the psycho, spandex wearing, competitive bicycle riding elitists that ride past my house every weekend on their way to the Golden Gate Bridge to terrorize tourists.

My only complaint? Adam doesn't have his own bike - so although it would be awesome to tool around together to the gym or brunch or to visit friends close by - we drive. Also - there is no easy to bring Biscuit along on any real bike ride - so I have to do the Sophie's Choice move of riding the bike or taking the dog - very often the sweet smushed face dog wins.
my beautiful orange bike - in original form.

then I added this great basket.
and a matching orange rack for trotting stuff around. 
and sweet looking leather handlebar grips.

and a shiny bell...

and a super comfy old-timey leather seat.

and I top off the whole thing with the best accessory of all - a gold shiny shiny glitter helmet.
 I'm excited for the weather to warm up a bit (although it is eerily warm this January - mid-60s most days) and for the days to get longer so I can ride after work. If (big if) this biking stuff really becomes a habit - I'm obviously going to need to find a way for wee Biscuit to join me on my biking adventures. The cart below is a way nerdy option. Doesn't it just scream "I have a strange child-replacement relationship with my dog"? I'm pretty sure I do have said relationship so I will embrace the mini-baby trailer to allow him to come with.

coming soon perhaps? a doggy trailer for Biscuit.

Sorry I've been an absentee blogger in 2011. Here's hoping for a more productive 2012 - I really do miss it.


all photos from the Public Bikes website.