17th October 2009

    Red Lentil & Vegetable Lasagna

    redlentillasagna

    Here’s a cool twist on vegetarian lasagna: in addition to vegetables like zucchini and carrots, red lentils provide an unexpected texture and a boost in protein. The recipe comes from Fitness Food — this book continues to be a source of interesting, healthy meals.


    Chris says:

    I like nights that you cook.

    Lisa says:

    Why’s that?

    Chris says:

    You choose recipes that I probably wouldn’t have.

    Lisa says:

    Ha, you wouldn’t have picked this one? Why not?

    Chris says:

    Dunno; just didn’t sound appealing to mein ears.

    Lisa says:

    Yet, and guess what happened?

    Chris says:

    I know, I freaking love it!

    Lisa says:

    Me too — so different. I’ve been in the mood for lasagna for a while now. We never make it!

    Chris says:

    Well if they turn out like this, I’m all for more.

    Lisa says:

    You know, I like nights that I cook, too.

    Chris says:

    Why’s that?

    Lisa says:

    I don’t have to do the dishes.

    Red Lentil & Vegetable Lasagna
    1 tsp vegetable oil
    1 onion, chopped
    2 cloves garlic, chopped
    1 stalk celery, diced
    1 carrot, diced
    1 zucchini, diced
    1/2 cup red lentils
    2 15-oz cans chopped tomatoes
    1 tbsp tomato paste
    1 tsp sugar
    1 tsp dried oregano
    2 cups low-fat ricotta (or sub with cottage cheese)
    1/2 cup skim milk
    9 instant lasagna noodles
    3 handfuls basil
    1 egg, lightly beaten
    1/2 cup low-fat grated cheddar

    Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the onion and garlic, and cook over low heat until softened. Stir in the celery, carrot, and zucchini and cook for 2 more minutes.
    Add the lentils, chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, and oregano. Add 3 cups of water, stir, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked. Stir frequently, and season to taste with salt and pepper. While the lentils are cooking, preheat the oven to 350F.
    Combine the ricotta and milk in a bowl. Spoon half the lentil sauce into a 9 x 10 ovenproof dish. Top with 3 lasagna noodles, then half of the ricotta/milk mixture. Cover with the basil leaves. Top with 3 more lasagna noodles, then spread the remaining lentil mixture over the top. Top with the remaining lasagna noodles.
    Beat the egg into the remaining half of the ricotta/milk mixture. Spread the surface with the ricotta mixture and cover with the cheese. Bake for 40 minutes. If the top starts to dry out, sprinkle with water.
    Top with additional basil ribbons.

    6 Servings

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    posted in Fitness Food, Italian, Vegetarian | 1 Comment

    9th February 2009

    Creamless Mushroom Soup

    creamlessshroomsoup

    I found this recipe on Pino Luongo’s blog, and it also appears in his cookbook, La Mia Cucina Toscana: A Tuscan Cooks in America. Frequent readers of this blog know that Lisa and I both love mushrooms, and the prospect of a creamless creamy soup sounded really appealing. We had also just picked up a big bag of black trumpet mushrooms at the Farmers Market and were eager to try them out. While simple, this isn’t a quick recipe — the tomato puree bakes for an hour and a half — so if you’re going to tackle this one, save it for a weekend. Unless, of course, you don’t mind waiting for a good thing.

    Lisa says:

    The house smells so good.

    Chris says:

    Is there any smell better than garlic and onion browning in olive oil?

    Lisa says:

    If so, I haven’t yet encountered it. Hey, what’s all this wasted garlic?

    Chris says:

    Oh that was the garlic that baked with the tomatoes — you remove it before pureeing the tomatoes. Don’t worry, there’s more in the soup base and the mushrooms.

    Lisa says:

    Yeah, well now there’s “throwaway garlic” on this cracker in my hand…

    Chris says:

    Oooh, good idea. Delish!

    Lisa says:

    Yum, this soup almost smells sweet, or like cinnamon…

    Chris says:

    Interesting; nothing sweet here, maybe that smell is coming from one of the mushroom varieties…

    Lisa says:

    I heart mushrooms. And this soup.

    Chris says:

    I love all the different textures in it — some of the mushrooms are really delicate, some are firmer; and they all come with slightly different tastes.. mild, earthy…mmmmm!

    Creamless Mushroom Soup
    Oven-Dried Tomato Puree:
    2 lbs Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
    2 tbsp fine sea salt
    2 tsp sugar
    3 fresh rosemary sprigs
    6 fresh thyme sprigs
    6 garlic cloves, sliced
    12 fresh basil leaves, torn by hand

    Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper and arrange the tomato halves cut-side up on it in a single layer. Mix the salt and sugar together in a small bowl and sprinkle the tomatoes with the mixture. Then sprinkle with the rosemary, thyme, garlic, and basil. Put the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 90 minutes, until the tomatoes are dried but not shriveled.
    Remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Pick off and discard the garlic and herbs. While the tomatoes are still warm, puree them in a food processor or blender. Set aside while you make the soup.

    Soup:
    extra virgin olive oil
    1 small onion, chopped
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    pinch of hot red pepper flakes
    1 large Russet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4″ cubes
    fine sea salt
    5 cups vegetable stock
    2 garlic cloves, sliced
    1 fresh rosemary sprig
    1½ pounds mixed wild mushrooms — we used black trumpet, portobello, shiitake, and porcini — stems removed, large ones quartered, small ones halved or left whole
    freshly ground black pepper

    Pour the stock into a small pot and set to simmer. Pour 2 tbsp of olive oil into a large dutch oven to generously coat the bottom. Warm over medium-high heat. Add the onion, minced garlic, and red pepper and cook until the onion is browned, about 4 minutes.
    Add the potato, season with salt, cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then stir in the tomato puree. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the simmering stock. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Cook until the potatoes are cooked through, about 5 more minutes. Blend the soup with an immersion blender until creamy.
    Pour 2 tbsp into a wide deep skillet to coat the bottom. Warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add the sliced garlic and rosemary and sauté until the garlic is browned, about 1 minute. Stir in the mushrooms, season with salt and black pepper, and sauté until the mushrooms are wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove and discard the rosemary, then add the mushrooms to the soup.
    Place the dutch oven on low heat and let the soup simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary, and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Ladle into bowls and serve with warm garlic bread.

    4-6 Appetizer-sized servings

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    posted in Italian, Salads and Light Soups, Vegetarian | 7 Comments

    18th December 2008

    Fettuccine with Spicy Chicken Sausage, Kale, and Tomatoes

    fettsausagekale
    “But baby, it’s cold outside” … today we were snowed in for most of the day (wahoo!), but I did manage to pick up this week’s CSA box, which included a delicious-looking bunch of kale. This pasta recipe adapted from epicurious used the entire bunch, and we didn’t have to go out and get any of the other ingredients: we had some chicken sausage in the freezer, there’s always leftover pasta, and the tomatoes were also from the CSA box. A super-quick meal, and a change from the recent squash-soup overload!

    Lisa says:

    Ooooh yeah, pasta — I’m hungry!

    Chris says:

    And it’s always nice to have a dinner with a superfood.

    Lisa says:

    The kitchen certainly smells super…

    Chris says:

    Wait until you taste it — the pasta’s cooked in the same water that the kale was in, so it imparts some flavor into the fettuccine.

    Lisa says:

    You’re right — this is really good. I like the cheese, too. Just enough.

    Chris says:

    Yep, it just gives the dish the tiniest bit of creaminess. We happened to have that on hand, too. I love when we don’t have to go out and buy anything to make dinner.

    Lisa says:

    I love snow days — we’re usually not even sitting down to dinner for another couple of hours!

    Chris says:

    I could get used to this…


    Fettuccine with Spicy Chicken Sausage, Kale, and Tomatoes
    1 tbsp olive oil
    1/2 lb spicy italian chicken sausage, casings discarded and sausage crumbled
    1 bunch kale, tough stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
    1 tomato, roughly chopped
    1/3 lb whole wheat fettuccine
    1/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
    1/4 cup grated Asiago plus additional for serving

    Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add sausage and brown for 5-7 minutes, breaking up lumps with a spoon.
    Meanwhile, blanch the kale in a large pot of boiling, salted water for 5 minutes, uncovered. Remove the kale with a large sieve and drain. Return the cooking water to a boil, then add fettuccine and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta in a colander.
    While the pasta is cooking, add the kale and tomatoes to the skillet and saute for 5 minutes. Add the broth, stirring and scraping up any brown bits in the skillet. Add the pasta and 1/4 cup of the pasta water, tossing until combined well. Stir in the cheese to incorporate, and thin with additional pasta water if desired.

    2 Servings

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    posted in Italian, Main Dishes | 7 Comments

    16th November 2008

    Risotto with Corn and Chantrelles


    Mushrooms are showing up everywhere lately, and this recipe from The Mushroom Lover’s Cookbook looked like a good delivery device for chantrelles… not to mention, our first attempt at making risotto! (Stir, stir, stir… ) The corn and mushroom flavors really complemented each other, and the risotto went really well with our Cinque Terre wine, which finally arrived from Italy!

    Chris says:

    Hey, our wine arrived, and no breakage!

    Lisa says:

    Wahoo!

    Chris says:

    So what do you think — did we succeed with the risotto?

    Lisa says:

    I certainly think so — just needs a little extra salt…

    Chris says:

    Part of that is probably due to my using low-sodium broth.

    Lisa says:

    Well other than that I love it. The mushrooms rule. I thought the corn would be weird, but it’s not.

    Chris says:

    Yeah, I think this turned out really well. I like how creamy the risotto is, even without the mushroom mixture. I think I probably could have cooked the risotto just a tad more, but other than that I say “great success”!

    Risotto with Corn and Chantrelles
    3 cups chicken broth
    2 tbsp unsalted butter
    1 onion, finely chopped
    1 cup Arborio rice
    1/2 cup white wine
    sea salt
    freshly ground pepper
    1 tbsp olive oil
    8 oz chantrelles, trimmed, cleaned, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
    2 shallots, finely minced
    2 tsp minced garlic
    3/4 cup corn kernels
    1/2 cup milk
    2 tbsp cilantro, chopped

    Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a medium-sized saucepan, then lower the heat to just keep warm.
    Melt 1/2 the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the rice to coat, then add the wine. Cook an additional minute.
    Reduce the heat to low and stir in one ladleful of stock at a time. As each addition is absorbed, continue to add stock ladle by ladle, stirring and cooking, until all but 1/2 cup of the stock remains and the rice is tender but firm. Season to taste with salt and pepper, turn off the heat, and cover.
    Heat the remaining butter and the olive oil in a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and stir until they release their liquid, about 2 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic and reduce the heat to medium. Continue cooking until the shallots are softened, 2 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
    When ready to serve, add the milk and corn to the mushrooms and stir until the milk is hot. Remove from the heat and stir in half of the cilantro.
    Warm the remaining chicken broth and stir into the rice. Ladle the risotto into soup plates. Top with the mushroom mixture and the remaining cilantro.

    4 Servings

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    posted in Italian, Main Dishes, The Mushroom Lover's Cookbook | 4 Comments

    13th October 2008

    We Heart (Italian) Food: Rome, the Cinque Terre, and Venice

    After spending almost an entire week in Northern Italy, it was time to journey down to Rome for a few days.  We stayed in the Appio Latino district, a few underground stops from the city center.  We found the best restaurants were away from the super-touristy spots, hidden in small side streets, and sometimes didn’t even have menus!  We had a great (and cheap!) dinner our first night in Rome at a place where the owner just asked what we liked, and brought something out to match our requests.  Our favorite find, though, was Pompi, an awesome breakfast/bar/dessert joint just a block away from our B&B.  It didn’t matter what time of day you went in, it was always crowded… with good reason: morning croissants, evening tiramisu, late-night drinks, all were great.  We loved the late-night food/drink culture in Rome!

    Favorite cultural “what-the?” moment: We eventually tired of pizza and pasta, so we sought out and found… a Mexican restaurant!  It was surreal being in the center of Rome having an Italian waitress explain to us how to assemble and eat fajitas.  :)

    The Cinque Terre region is famous for its white wines (trails connecting the five villages go right through the vineyards), and being right on the Mediterranean, seafood was fresh and plentiful.  We had dinner at Marina Piccola our first night, and I was thrilled with the mixed seafood appetizer plate, which included the tenderest octopus I’ve ever eaten, along with anchovies marinated in olive oil, fried anchovies, an anchovy fritter (they heart the anchovies here!) and a bacon-wrapped scallop.  Fantastic.  Trattoria Dal Billy was a fun find, with great food and quite the entertaining waitstaff.  Nothing like having booze-soaked fruit spoon-fed to you after dinner, while being told that it’s POISON!

    The end of our Italian journey took us to Venice, with great beer, bellinis, and pizza at Birraria La Corte.  We enjoyed the feel of the place so much that we ate here two nights in a row.  It also helped that it was 50 feet from our hotel.  ;)  The gelato was plentiful, but our favorite “snack” in Venice were these green pistachio cookies that every other bakery in town seemed to make.  I’m pretty sure we had six of these fist-sized cookies in just a couple of days…

    If it weren’t for all the hiking, walking, stair-climbing, sightseeing, etc., I’m sure we would have packed on quite a few pounds on this trip — but hey, the site’s called We [Heart] Food for a reason!

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    posted in Italian, Mediterranean | 2 Comments


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