This week I’m having fun with unusual recipes in unusual gadgets. Here’s one from December 2012:
This is a great take on spinach lasagna, using a slow-cooker. This entire dish completely surprised me. I was at work, one day, in our morning meeting – which was actually an excuse for the guys to wow me with their cooking ideas – when Vern told me about the slow-cooker lasagna he’d made the night before. I was skeptical. Lasagna in a slow-cooker sounded like it would have the consistency of canned ravioli. But he insisted it was really good. So I set out to see for myself. I have to say, he wasn’t wrong. It had a great flavor, the texture was very similar to having cooked it in an oven and the top was nicely browned and the cheese perfectly gooey. The only caveat is that it cooks in about 4 hours, so you can’t put it together in the morning and have it ready when you get home at the end of the work day. It would be burned to a crisp, even on low.
So, here is tonight’s featured recipe, my version of slow-cooker lasagna:
Slow-Cooker Spinach Lasagna
- 1 lb lean ground beef (opt, you can skip to keep this vegetarian)
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 2 tsp crushed garlic
- 1 carrot shredded (this cuts the acidity of the sauce, adds a touch of sweetness)
- 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
- 28 oz canned tomato sauce
- 6 oz can tomato paste
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
- 2 tsp of dried basil, crushed
- 12 ounces ricotta cheese (you can sub in cottage cheese if desired)
- 1 egg
- 2 cups fresh spinach, washed and rough chopped
- 16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 12 ounces lasagna noodles, uncooked (I used brown rice pasta to keep it gluten free)
Sauce: Brown ground beef, along with onion, garlic, carrots and green pepper in a saucepan (if you are omitting the beef, sauté vegetables in a tbsp of olive oil). Add tomato sauce, paste and spices. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and let simmer on low while preparing remaining ingredients.
Mix together ricotta cheese and egg, until well combined. Fold in spinach.
In the slow-cooker, spoon a layer of sauce onto the bottom, add a double layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (break to fit) and top with a portion of the ricotta mixture and then a portion of the mozzarella. Add sauce, then a single layer of noodles, ricotta and mozzarella and repeat layers until ingredients are all used up. (Because slow-cookers vary in size, I unfortunately can’t give you precise layering, as I can with the traditional lasagna. You’ll have to eye it. The good news is, it will all cook together and be just fine regardless).
Finish with sauce, mozzarella and then shredded Parmesan.
Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.
This year, the margherita pizza celebrates its 125th birthday. One of the world’s favourite foods was reputedly invented at a pizzeria nowadays known as Brandi (00 39 081 416 928;brandi.it) at Salita Sant Anna Di Palazzo 1-2 in the city’s Chiaia neighbourhood. In 1889, its pizzaiolo, Raffaele Esposito, and his wife, Maria Giovanna Brandi, were summoned to the nearby Capodimonte palace and asked to invent a pizza for the then-queen, Margherita.
(Via)I’m sure this crust is much too thick for a purist. I started the dough yesterday with 2 cups of bread flour and then added water to equal 65% of the weight of those 2 cups. I used a handy electronic kitchen scale to weigh the flour but I don’t remember now what that came to. Anyway, multiplied that by .65 to get the weight of the water I wanted. Add a scant 1/4 tsp of yeast and a teaspoon of sugar to the liquid, plus a tablespoon of olive oil and stir into the flour. The dough was very wet so I only kneaded it a little and then plopped it into an oiled bowl and covered with plastic and a damp towel. It was left overnight to rise.I punched the dough down this morning and returned it to the bowl to continue proofing. Why the fuss with weighing the water and flour?
Hydration affects the process of bread building and the nature of the final result. Generally speaking, the more water in the dough, the more open the final bread’s crumb. Bread can also be classified according to three categories based on hydration: stiff, standard or rustic.
I rolled the dough out on a floured board and transferred it to my rimmed pan for baking, brushed the top with garlic oil, and distributed the toppings. This one got the traditional Margherita treatment with mozzarella and Roma tomatoes and went into a 500 oven until the crust and toppings got a nice color. Add the basil after the pie comes out of the oven or it will burn to a crisp.I like ground red pepper on my slices, along with fresh grated black pepper and salt. Drizzle more of the garlic oil over it and enjoy!
We decided to do pork chops today and were set to do the cream of mushroom soup thing with them but couldn’t quite picture the gravy on the couscous we had picked out for a side. We opted to dump in two cans of tomato bits with green chilies after the chops browned in olive oil, added a chopped Vidalia onion, covered it, and set it asimmer. We had some frozen, ripe Anaheim peppers and thawed those enough to split and remove the seeds and membranes and tossed them in with the chops. When they had cooked down a little they were pureed in a blender with a little oil and garlic. The puree was pressed through a sieve and the liquid added back to the pan. Mrs J noticed some brown mushrooms that were nearing their use by date so in they went, too.One of Mrs J coworkers gifted her a couple of squash and they didn’t go to waste. They marinated in oil and balsamic vinegar and were grilled right before the meal was plated. Delicious!
JeffreyW makes an easy pasta salad. Just toss garden veggies and pasta with a little olive oi, vinegar and herbs. Dinner’s done.
In my email this morning there was a nice recipe for pasta salad and suddenly I had a craving for a veggie filled summer pasta salad. Pasta salads can be served cold, warm or hot, depending on what you’re looking for and what style of ingredients are added. The featured recipe tonight is a warm pasta salad using garden fresh vegetables and melted cheese.
This appealed to me because one of my clients has given me a big hunk of the most amazing cheese. I have no idea what it is, except it’s clearly a very sharp white cheddar in a black rind. It’s a creamy and salty, best I’ve ever had and goes great with apples and strawberries. It melts beautifully and crumbles like feta on salads. I’ll be sad when it’s gone. But…
I live within walking distance of a great cheese shop, it has an entire room that is basically a walk-in refrigerator. They even lend you jackets to wear while shopping. It’s fun to stop by there on a hot summer day and spend a half hour in the fridge and sample cheese from around the world and from local farms. I think I’ll see if they can help me identify or duplicate the cheese. Side note: I’ll miss everything that is within walking distance when I move. Right now I live near downtown and can walk to bank, post office and any number of great restaurants. But it’s the trade off for more space and a functional bike path.
On to the recipes.
First up, Chipotle Macaroni Salad (recipe here), which takes cold pasta salad up a notch and has become my go-to cookout salad.
One of the keys when making a good cold pasta salad is to cook the pasta al dente, drain, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and then drain again, but let the pasta stay wet. This allows the pasta to absorb whatever flavors are added, but not absorb all the moisture from the dressing. Don’t toss with dressing until just before serving. Taking these steps will keep the salad moist and flavorful, avoiding the mushy pasta, dry salad problem that makes many pasta salads unappetizing.
What’s on your menu for the first day of summer? Have any favorite salad recipes (pasta or otherwise)? I am crazy about salads, so would love to have a few new varitions to add to my recipe box.
Tonight’s featured recipe is adapted from an American Test Kitchen recipe. I’d link to the original, but it’s behind a firewall. Sorry for that.
Summer Vegetable Pasta
The beauty of this recipe is you can substitute whatever vegetables are fresh and available.
- 12 oz of favorite pasta (penne, large shells, rotelle, etc)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
- 1 to 3 tsp crushed garlic (depending on your preference)
- 2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1 small summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 5 ounce package Garlic & Herb Boursin cheese – or any creamy cheese, flavored or you can add your own fresh herbs to it instead – I actually used the cheddar mentioned above because it melts so well, and is really creamy, not like typical cheddar.
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (more as desired)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh basil, chopped
- Parmesan cheese as garnish
Dutch oven or large saucepan
Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven. Add pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente (this is a still chewy texture). Reserve 3/4 cup pasta cooking water and drain pasta (the easiest way to do this is to ladle pasta water into a measuring cup and then drain the remaining water).
Wipe out the pan, add oil and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Add zucchini, summer squash, and ¼ cup reserved pasta water and cook, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in cooked pasta, and cheese, remaining 1/2 cup pasta water, tomatoes and basil until pasta is heated through.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grated Parmesan. Serves 4.
Have a great weekend – TaMara
I’m calling these dogs The Full Monty – Chicago style. Sides are a bacon sour cream potato salad and a slaw with a sweet creamy dressing.I’ve been keeping an eye on these cherry tomatoes, wanting to maximize the yield on the bunch. The older fruits were starting to split, and one fell off being a tad too ripe. I gathered them in just after this photo. Mrs J used them in a salad:The sweet corn is in at the store and it’s very good. I baked the potatoes in the oven after coating them with olive oil. They took about 30 minutes at 400, turned once. Still haven’t fired the gas grill – the steaks cooked on my cast iron griddle/grill that spans two burners on the stove top. My range has a purpose built grill module that doesn’t work any better and is a pain to deal with. Here’s a kitteh! The staff named her Abby and Mrs J says she’s a sweetie. She came in last week.Someone mentioned making small batches of sauerkraut in Mason jars with lids adapted for fermentation airlocks. I had one of the airlocks on hand from making apple cider so I cobbled a thing together with a rubber grommet set into a hole bored into a wide mouth lid. I managed to cram a whole head’s worth of shredded cabbage into a half gallon jar. I mixed the cabbage with 2 tablespoons of pickling salt, a few juniper berries, and a teaspoon of caraway seeds. It should take about a month to finish.Summer is sammich season and nothing says sammich like cheeseburger. It’s just an all around favorite. The bacon doesn’t hurt it a bit. I think 90% of the time my burgers get pickles, onion, and mustard but I’m not above dragging the sammy through ketchup that may have fallen off of the fries.This is Mow Mow, an 8 year old calico that was surrendered a few weeks ago along with Cooper, a long haired dachshund. Mow Mow and Cooper, both, have been adopted.
Yay! My first ripe tomatoes! The first of many more with any kind of luck. Millions, if the variety name holds true. Hundreds would be nice. This is one of the container plants on the front patio.I bought a package of these big sausages. The size is right but they are not anything to to cheer about. There is some kind of skin on them and I’m not at all sure there needs to be because they aren’t much more that just big hot dogs. The slaw is more of that copycat KFC style recipe, the potato salad was good – crisp bacon and sour cream with mayo always guarantees at least good.Here are the traditional “post needs moar kittehs!” kittehs.Mmm… corn on the cob. These were just boiled, I haven’t fired the gas grill yet this year. I really do need to crank that thing up sometime soon. I’m a bit put out that the small tank filling assembly on my 500 gallon LP tank sprung a bad leak and the nice folks that handle that stuff for me are loathe to replace it citing new rules and safety regs that are in place since the initial install nearly 30 years ago. Anyway, now I have to drive to town to exchange the cylinders rather than just refill them here at home.Here’s a small blue heron perched in a sycamore tree. This was taken several weeks ago and I nearly batch deleted all the pictures on the camera memory chip before I noticed him up there. It’s the first time I’ve seen one in a tree, usually they are stalking along the water’s edge.
We swung by the supermarket deli to pick up some of their fried chicken and a couple of sides – we had been shopping garden centers and were getting hungry with nothing quick to eat in the fridge. We really didn’t want to go to a burger joint or the Chinese buffet. Mrs J picked a pair of cold salads while I grabbed a box of chicken. She opted for a mustard potato salad and something that was labeled as “summer slaw”.
The summer slaw was pretty good, we looked online for a copycat recipe but didn’t find anything that looked close. It had tomato bits, cabbage, and green bits that were sliced green onion tops and something else – green bell pepper or maybe cucumber with the skin on. We went with “both”. The dressing was thin and white and put me in mind of the dressing I use for the copycat KFC slaw dressing.
I whisked a dollop of mayo with buttermilk and rice vinegar, added Splenda to taste, and celery salt with ground white pepper. It may not be what the deli used in theirs but it came out pretty good!
one small head of cabbage, shredded fine
half of an English cucumber, minced
1/4 cup of minced green bell pepper
two small tomatoes, seeded and chopped small
a small bunch of green onions, thinly sliced tops only
1/4 – 1/2 cup mayo
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup rice vinegar dressing (the flavored stuff)
sugar (Splenda) – go with 1/8 -1/4 cup
celery salt and white pepper to taste
* Just guessing after the fact on the dressing quantities.