It's Secret Recipe Club time again! This month I was assigned Sarah's Kitchen - a name that I love, obviously. Sarahs of the world unite! Sarah is from England, but now lives in Texas - which is kind of funny because I'm from Texas and once lived in Ireland (which I realize is not the same as England, but is geographically/culturally similar). Spooky.
Anyway, I was clearly craving a casserole while looking through Sarah's blog because every recipe I was drawn to was one. Like this Stovetop Beef and Penne Casserole, this Eight Layer Casserole, these two Mexican Casseroles, this Chicken and Dumplings Casserole, and this Turkey Tetrazzini. They all looked tempting, but as soon as a saw a recipe for Pastitsio, I was done. This Greek lasagna like casserole is one of my all time favorite dishes. So let's make it!
Start by sauteing onions and garlic, then browning beef. I actually chose to use half beef and half lamb.
When the beef is browned, stir in tomato paste.
Earlier this week I talked about my Marrakesh box from Try The World, and what I did with the sardines from it. Now I'd like to tell you what I did with the rest of the items, which was to make this beautiful lamb and couscous dish!
First I took cubed lamb and tossed it with some of the kefta rub, then browned it in batches.
I've written about my favorite lasagna recipe before, but it was years ago and I think it needs to be revisited - especially now that my neighbors confirm it is the best lasagna they have ever had.
The cast of characters is pretty simple, but I think what makes this lasagna stand out is the use of veal and white wine. It's a bit different from the standard, but that's what makes it special.
I really like for my veg to be finely diced for this ragu, so that there aren't any big chunks. But I did not make those perfect cuts on my own - I use a veggie chopper. It's fast and it makes everything uniform.
The other thing that makes this ragu great is that it is simmered for up to 5 hours. That low and slow cooking brings out all the flavor. I highly recommend using San Marzano tomatoes in this, they are just the best.
Americans might be used to the type of lasagna with ricotta and mozzarella, which is fine but not very authentic. This version has a creamy bechamel (aka my favorite food) and tons of Parmesan, and it is just so dreamy.
I really went all out for this batch and made my own lasagna noodles for the first time. It is certainly not necessary to do that, but I do think it took it up one final step to perfection. I did have several issues while doing this, though. The learning curve is pretty steep. Don't try to be clever when you roll out your own pasta and leave the sheets really long - trust me, it makes them almost impossible to cook. Now I know why the store-bought ones are short. I'm also going to edit the pasta dough recipe in the original post because it was awful and really soft and hard to work with.
Anyway, go make the best lasagna of your life. You will thank me. Recipe here.
Super comforting spiced lamb on top of creamy mashed potatoes - how could that be healthy? Well for starters, there are no potatoes - that is a cauliflower and white bean puree. This looks like comfort food, and it totally is, but it is all veggies and protein with no carbs!
Start by caramelizing some carrots to release that sweetness. Then brown up some lamb. I used lamb chops and discovered that there is very little meat on them - next time I am definitely using cubed meat.
When the lamb is browned, add in garlic, spices, chard, and chickpeas (more protein!). I wondered why the original recipe didn't call for tomatoes - they make so much sense here. So I went ahead and added them. The original recipe also just used paprika, which I thought was a little boring. I used paprika, cinnamon, cumin, and coriander.
Another change from the original was that it called for polenta to serve with the lamb. Polenta is cooked corn meal, and I am trying to avoid grains. So I used a cauliflower puree instead and it was creamy and delicious - a good counterpoint for the tangy spiced lamb.
This post got lost and forgotten somewhere, so it's not very seasonal and I apologize. But you can look forward to making it next Fall.
And you should look forward to it. Sweet, caramelized pumpkin with spices, creamy yogurt, and tangy tomato sauce? Yes, please. This is one of my favorite Afghan dishes, called kadu bouranee.
And these delicious Moroccan inspired meat pies made with phyllo, ground beef, and spices are the perfect main to complement the pumpkin. You could also make the Afghan meat dumplings called mantu, of course, but they require a little bit more work.
Holy Mockingjay, Batman - I am so excited about this post! Food 'n Flix and Cook the Books have teamed up to do a double post for The Hunger Games, with Heather from girlichef hosting! Announcement post is here.
The Hunger Games is the first book of a trilogy about a dystopian alternate timeline where war has reduced America to 12 Districts ruled by a Capital. As punishment for a rebellion, all 12 Districts must offer up 1 boy and 1 girl between the ages of 12 and 18 as a tribute to compete in the Hunger Games each year. These children must then fight to the death in a televised spectacle with only 1 survivor. To make things even worse, all of the Districts are purposefully kept in a state of starvation except for the District of the winner - which is given ample food for a year until the next Hunger Games (hence the name). Food, therefore, is extremely important and a focus throughout the series.
The protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is an extremely tough teen who would do anything to protect her family and especially her little sister, Primrose. When Prim is selected as Tribute (a death sentence for the timid 12 year-old), Katniss volunteers to take her place. Before being entered into the death-match proper, the Tributes are primped and pampered and paraded around the Capital. It is here that Katniss experiences luxury and an overabundance of food for the first time in her life.
Her favorite dish is a Lamb Stew with Dried Plums - it is mentioned frequently and even sent to her as a present when she is fighting for her life. I decided that the stew would be the perfect dish to make for this post, served on some wild rice that seemed fitting for the setting. I also served it with goat cheese rolled in herbs (inspired by the cheese that Primrose makes from her prized pet) and rustic seed bread (inspired by Peeta - Katniss's love interest and fellow Tribute, whose family owns a bakery).
Just because it's cold outside, doesn't mean you can't still make burgers. And they don't have to be the standard plain burgers, either. Here are two recipes that put a bit of a twist on the classic burger.
First up - a Middle Eastern inspired spiced lamb burger with a creamy yogurt sauce.
To make the patties, combine bread crumbs, lamb, turkey, onion, an egg, parsley, garlic, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and pepper. Use a grill pan, griddle, or electric grill to cook the burgers.
Make a sauce with yogurt, scallions, parsley, mint, oregano, lemon zest, lemon juice, cumin, coriander, sugar, and pepper.
Place the burgers inside pitas and stuff with fresh tomatoes and the yogurt sauce.
For a Southwestern twist, we have Salsa Verde Turkey Burgers with Avocado Mayonnaise.
To form the burgers, simply combine ground turkey, jarred salsa verde, breadcrumbs, and an egg. Combine avocado, mayonnaise, and garlic to make a sauce. Cook the burgers on a griddle (turkey falls apart too much to grill) and top with Pepperjack cheese and the sauce. If they are in season - green tomatoes are also an excellent topper.
When Americans think of lasagna, we typically think of the noodles, meat, and melted mozzarella variety. But in many parts of Italy, lasagna is not made with mozzarella. Instead, it uses creamy and fluffy bechamel with Parmesan as the only cheese. This is my favorite type of lasagna, it is much more delicate (and I have a serious bechamel obsession). My favorite recipe (courtesy of Chef Massimiliano Bartoli, Miss Williamsburg Restaurant) also uses ground veal instead of beef, and white wine instead of red - which provides the meat ragu with a really distinctive and tangy flavor. Enjoy the best lasagna recipe ever!
Begin with the Ragu, as it takes several hours to make:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons finely chopped onions
6 tablespoons finely chopped carrots
6 tablespoons finely chopped celery
1 pound ground veal
1 cup white wine
1 pound canned or fresh tomatoes (pureed and passed through a strainer)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium in a large pot. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the veal and brown, breaking up any big chunks of meat. Add the wine, increase the heat and simmer until the pan is once again dry, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and enough water to cover. Bring the sauce to a simmer then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is deeply flavored and no longer watery, about 4 hours. Season the ragu with salt and pepper and keep warm or refrigerate until ready to use.
3 ounces butter (6tbsp)
3 ounces all-purpose flour (6tbsp)
1 quart milk
Freshly ground nutmeg
Place the milk in the saucepan, and heat over medium-high until bubbles form at the edges of the pan.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until the mixture is creamy and no longer smells floury.
Gradually add the milk to the roux a ladle at a time, working with a wooden spoon after each addition until the mixture is smooth. After all of the milk is incorporated, continue to cook over medium-high, whisking constantly. As the sauce returns to a boil, simmer until it thickens sufficiently to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 min. Season the bechamel with the nutmeg and salt; cover and keep warm until ready to use.
* Fresh Lasagna, recipe follows (**I use store bought no-boil sheets most of the time**)
* Kosher salt
* Bechamel Sauce
* 3 cups freshly grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Cook the pasta, boiling salted water until just tender, drain and refresh in ice water. (**if using no-boil sheets, skip this step**)
Put a thin layer of bechamel in the bottom of a shallow baking dish or a jelly-roll pan. Cover the bechamel with a thin layer of ragu and a little cheese. Top the sauces and cheese with a layer of lasagna noodles. Repeat 6 times ending with a layer of bechamel, ragu and cheese. Bake the lasagna until it is warm at the center and the cheese topping golden brown, about 45 minutes (cover with some aluminum foil if the lasagna browns before it is fully heated).
*EDIT* Fresh Lasagna:
2 cups flour
Pulse the flour, salt, and nutmeg in a food processor to evenly distribute and aerate. Add the eggs. Process until the dough forms a rough ball, about 30 seconds. (If the dough resembles small pebbles, add water or olive oil 1/2 tsp at a time; if it sticks to the side of the bowl, add flour 1 tbsp at a time.)
Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead until smooth, about 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for at least 15 minutes or up to 2 hours.
Cut the dough into quarters and roll out one at a time, flouring as needed. Start at the widest setting, then fold the dough into thirds and pass through 2 more times. After that, decrease the width one setting at a time, running the dough through twice for each setting. I like to stop at setting 3 on a 6 level roller for lasagna noodles - a medium thickness. Cut the rolled out pasta in half and either hang on a pasta rack til needed, or layer between parchment paper and plenty of flour on a baking sheet.
To cook - bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, have a large bowl of ice water ready. Cook the noodles in 2 batches for about 1 minute (it doesn't take long), then transfer with tongs to the ice water. Remove, pat dry with a clean towel, and layer between parchment until needed. You can brush with olive oil if you are having problems with sticking.