Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Winter Greens Lasagne

winter greens lasagna
This was the tastiest lasagne I have ever made, probably because it fearlessly calls for all kinds of fatty dairy products. Winter is a perfect time to bathe your greens in cream, bake cheesy things till they're bubbly and brown on top, and then sit around your home wearing loose pants with elastic waistbands. No-boil lasagne noodles are a handy pantry item, but I'll have to try this recipe again sometime with fresh lasagna noodles. Be warned, it's rich.

recipe from Chow
(makes a lot; you can also halve the recipe and use a small casserole)

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium white onion, medium dice
3 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 c heavy cream
1 lb red kale, washed, tough stems removed, and coarsely chopped (about 10 cups)
1 lb Swiss chard, washed, tough stems removed, and coarsely chopped (about 8 cups)
1 1/2 c crème fraîche
1 9-oz box no-boil lasagna noodles
1 lb fresh ricotta
2 c finely grated Parmesan (about 5 ounces)

Heat the oven to 400ºF and arrange the rack in the middle. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Don't let the garlic burn. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add cream and a few handfuls of greens, and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly wilted. Continue adding greens, a little at a time, until all are slightly wilted. Cook, stirring occasionally, until greens are tender, completely wilted, and coated in cream, about 10 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Spread 1 cup of the crème fraîche evenly over the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of noodles, allowing them to overlap slightly to fit 4 per layer. Evenly spread 1/3 of the greens mixture over the noodles, then cover with 1/3 of the ricotta and 1/4 of the Parmesan. Repeat to make two more layers, and end with a final layer of noodles on top. Mix together remaining crème fraîche and Parmesan, and spread evenly over top.

Cover with foil and bake until bubbling and starting to brown, about 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake until top is browned completely and sauce is bubbling, about 10 minutes more. Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley if you'd like.

overhead view of lasagna

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Art of Simple Food + Celery Root Remoulade

the art of simple food
What a great Christmas gift. Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution now reigns over my bookshelf and my kitchen, thanks to a boyfriend who understands how excited I get when I read about vegetables. In the world of food, Alice Waters is one of those legendary figures who needs no introduction. When my 18-year-old self arrived in Berkeley, California to receive a college education, I was told that she pretty much invented California Cusine at Chez Panisse. More recently, she has worked with public schools in Berkeley to design healthier lunch menus and teach kids about farming and where our food comes from.

The book emphasizes not just simplicity, but also seasonality, with good ingredients as the driving force for each recipe. No overdressed plates, futuristic gadgets, fancy techniques, or passing culinary fads in this book, just good honest food. In addition to basic, reliable recipes, there are simple dinner ideas for every season, explanations and tips for classic cooking techniques, and mentions here and there about the joys of cooking for and eating with others.

Here's the first blogging of what I'm sure will be many dishes found in this book.

celery root remoulade

Celery Root Rémoulade
(from The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters)

1 medium celery root (about 1 lb)
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp crème fraîche
2 tsp Dijon mustard
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

Cut away all the brown skin and small roots from the celery root. Rinse. With a sharp knife or mandoline, cut the celery root into 1/8-inch thick slices. Cut the slices into thin matchstick-size pieces. (This is called a julienne of celery root.) Toss with salt and white wine vinegar.

Mix remaining ingredients together in a small bowl. Stir well. Pour over the celery root and toss to coat. Taste for salt and acid. The salad can be served right away or refrigerated for up to a day.

  • Add other raw julienned root vegetables, such as rutabaga, carrot, or radish, to the salad.

  • Sprinkle with chopped parsley, chervil, or mint.

  • Toss together with a rocket salad.

  • For the crème fraîche, substitute 1 egg yolk and whisk in 3 tablespoons olive oil.

celery root