Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

The World’s Best Lasagna

Yes, it really is. If you disagree, make this one and then tell me why yours in better ;-)

I’ve been perfecting this recipe since I started making it after I got married. It’s based on one in the old Betty Crocker cookbook; the cinnamon is a tip from Dan’s mother, who got it from her Italian neighbor, Mrs. Oro. The flavor gets better if you make the sauce the day before. Since there’s only two of us, I make this recipe in two 8×8-inch pans, then bake one and freeze one. Just cook a few more lasagna noodles and cut them to fit the pans with kitchen scissors.

Lasagna and salad
Lasagna and salad

I generally make it once a year, for Dan’s birthday. This year, though, he talked me into making three huge pans of it for a group of 35 teachers he and a couple of colleagues took on an overnight trip as part of a professional development class they conduct. And he’ll get another one next month for his birthday! Lucky guy ;-)

I’ve never made that much sauce or lasagana before, but apparently the recipe scales well because I got a lot of compliments and a few requests for the recipe. So here it is.

The World’s Best Lasagna

1 pound bulk Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 16-oz. can whole tomatoes
1 24-oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 cup Chianti
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped, divided use
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided use
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces provolone cheese, sliced
16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese, divided use (reserve 4 oz.)
9 uncooked lasagna noodles

Cook and stir Italian sausage, onion, and garlic in 3-quart sauté pan until sausage is lightly browned; drain. Add tomatoes with liquid, tomato sauce, wine, ¼ cup parsley, sugar, basil and ½ tsp. salt. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until mixture is consistency of thick spaghetti sauce, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook noodles as directed on package. Reserve ½ cup of the sauce. In a medium bowl, mix ricotta cheese, ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, 1 tbsp. parsley, cinnamon, 1 tsp. salt and oregano.

Layer ingredients in ungreased 13x9x2-inch baking dish, or two 8×8-inch baking dishes, in this order: thin layer of sauce on the bottom; 1/3 of lasagna noodles; 1/3 of ricotta cheese mixture; 1/3 of sauce; 1/3 of provolone cheese; 1/3 of mozzarella cheese; repeat for two more layers. Spoon reserved sauce on top, sprinkle with reserved mozzarella, and top that with remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.

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Kitchen Tip: Preserve Fresh Ginger Practically Forever

Do you use fresh ginger in your cooking? There’s nothing like its pungent flavor to perk up a stir-fry and candied ginger makes a sweet and tangy addition to quick breads and cookies. Dried ground ginger is a poor substitute; it just doesn’t have the same flavor.

How to preserve fresh gingerTo keep ginger fresh, and also make a yummy condiment, I keep it in a glass jar filled with dry sherry in the fridge. The alcohol in the sherry prevents any microbes from contaminating the ginger. I use a Microplane grater to put minced ginger in a stir-fry sauce or to garnish fried rice, and as you use the ginger, small pieces of it end up in the sherry. That flavors the sherry with yummy ginger, so you can use that in a recipe as well.

Just make sure to top off the sherry as you use it, so the ginger stays submerged. It will last practically forever.

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Photo Friday: Delicious

This is one of my favorite summer dishes – maque choux. It’s a little bit sweet, from the corn, and a little bit spicy, from jalapeno, and crunchy, from lightly sauteed fresh vegetables. So yummy and so pretty with all the colors of summer.

Photo Friday: Delicious

This is for the Photo Friday weekly photo challenge. This week’s topic is Delicious.

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Thai Red Curry with Shrimp

So, after a bit of a hiatus, I’m back to blogging! I posted a pic of this dish on Facebook, some people asked about it, so here’s the recipe.

Dan and I both love bell peppers. I especially like the beautiful rainbow of colors available, so we buy a “stoplight” package – one each of red, orange and yellow peppers – plus at least one green pepper, almost every week. In the summer, we grow our own. That saves a lot of money! Can’t wait to get the garden going.

I also grow Thai basil in my herb garden. If you have some, use that; otherwise, regular Italian basil is a good substitute.

Thai Red Curry with Shrimp

Thai Red Curry with Shrimp

2 tbsp. peanut oil
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and sliced
2 cups bell peppers, any colors, seeded, halved crosswise and sliced (I used 1/2 each of red, yellow and orange peppers)
1 stalk celery, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. Thai red curry paste (I use Thai Kitchen brand)
2 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. palm sugar or light brown sugar
1 14-oz. can light coconut milk
1/3 cup raisins
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tbsp. Thai basil leaves, coarsely chopped (optional)
3 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
3 cups jasmine rice, cooked, for serving
Sriracha hot sauce, optional, for serving

In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté a few minutes to soften. Add bell peppers, celery and garlic and stir a few more minutes. Add curry paste and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in fish sauce and sugar, then coconut milk and raisins. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer till slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.

Stir shrimp into curry and simmer till just cooked, about 2 minutes.

Remove pan from the heat and stir in basil, if using, and cilantro.

Serve over jasmine rice. Sprinkle with sriracha, if desired, and garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Makes 4 servings.

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Need a calendar for 2013?

If you haven’t received a calendar for 2013, check this out! Twelve pages of yummy recipes and pretty pictures of food. Happy New Year!

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Grilled Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

I am a vinegar fiend. I just checked my cupboard and I have 11 different kinds of vinegar. So when I came across this recipe for chimichurri sauce in Cooks’ Illustrated magazine a few years ago, I really wanted to try it. It’s kind of like a kicked-up version of Italian dressing with a larger proportion of vinegar and uses red-wine vinegar – my favorite.

Chimichurri sauce is a condiment from Argentina generally used as a steak sauce, but it can be used on all kinds of grilled meats. There are variations that include cilantro or oregano, but I found I didn’t like those flavors as well, so I just use parsley. I also am not fond of the bite of fresh onion and garlic, so I reduced the amount of garlic and soaked it and the onion in the vinegar to remove some of their pungency.

Even though summer is unofficially over, there are lots of good grilling days ahead, so try this with your next cookout.

Chimichurri Sauce for Grilled Steak
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

1 cup parsley leaves (reserve stems for another use)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely minced red onion
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
3 medium cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp. water
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Add red onion and garlic to red-wine vinegar and let sit for 10 minutes. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until fairly smooth. Taste and add salt, if needed. Will keep refrigerated for one week.

Steak with chimichurri sauce

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