Butternut squash swiss chard lasagna

Ingredients:
lasagna noodles, 1 # (I like Barilla brand)
butternut squash — 1 or 2
whole milk, 1 quart
heavy cream, 1 c (Please try to find NON ultra-pasteurized cream)
swiss chard, 1-2 bunches
ricotta, 1 #
fontina, 1/2#, freshly grated
Parmesan, ~4oz, freshly grated
egg, 1
fresh sage
Nutmeg
shallot, 1
bay leaf
garlic, 2 cloves
room temp butter to grease baking pan

 

Parts of the whole:
lasagne noodles, 1 #, boiled and drained onto sprayed sheet pan

Roasted butternut squash, puréed w/ heavy cream

Steamed/parboiled swiss chard, with S&P & nutmeg

Cheese mixture: ricotta, fontina, egg, etc (see below)

Bechamel: milk and aromatics steeped for 1/2 hour, then cooked for 20 minutes

 

Roast butternut squash:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and cut squash into slices 1/3” thick. Toss in bowl with olive oil to coat, S&P. Roast 20 minutes until soft, turning half way through.
When cool, purée in food processor with a bit of heavy cream.

Turn oven down to 375 degrees.

2. Prepare cheese mixture: Grate parmesan and fontina cheeses and place in separate bowls. In medium bowl mix together:
Ricotta
Fontina
Heavy cream to loosen
1 egg, mixed first
some parmesan
Nutmeg
Cayenne
S&P

3. Cook Swiss chard: Tear leaves off stems and put into large bowl. Rinse and drain twice. Heat 1/2 c water in large pot and put in chard and S&P, and cook covered about 3 minutes until wilted. Drain.

4. Infuse milk for béchamel:
Heat 4 cup whole milk to almost boiling. Put in: 1 shallot, chopped, 5 fresh sage leaves, chopped, 1 bay leaf, 2 garlic cloves, chopped. Infuse for 1/2 hour, off heat and covered. Strain into another container that is perhaps pourable.

5. Cook lasagne noodles and drain and place on sprayed sheet pan to cool.

6. Make béchamel: Melt 6 T butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add 6 T flour and stir constantly until mixture gets golden, about 3-4 minutes. Whisk in milk in 1/2 c increments, and then pour in remainder of milk and cook over medium low heat for 20 minutes until thickens slightly, stirring with whisk occasionally. Keep warm.

Make lasagna:

butter 9×13” pan. Lay in: 1/2 c bechamel, then noodles, cutting to fit and overlapping slightly. Lay in 1/2 squash, cheese, béchamel, and repeat with: noodles, Swiss chard, cheese, béchamel; noodles, squash, cheese, béchamel and then parmesan on top.
Place buttered/sprayed parchment paper buttered side down on top of lasagna, and then lightly lay on aluminum foil. Bake covered 40 minutes.
Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes until bubbling. Turn on broiler and broil for about 5 minutes until golden.
Remove from oven and let rest for at least 20 minutes before cutting into squares.

 

Variations:

Optional add-ins — Caramelized onions; sautéed mushrooms

Substitute spinach, broccoli rabe or arugula for Swiss chard

Advance prep:
Cook greens and refrigerate or hold at room temp for a few hours
Roast and purée squash
Mix cheese mixture

Freeze prepared lasagna for up to one month before cooking. Defrost overnight in refrigerator before baking.

 

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Oven-roasted chicken & vegetables dinner

So it’s Fall and a great time to turn on the oven and cook a meal there. Warmth and wonderful aromas, both.

When you want something other than a whole roast chicken, and want to amp up the flavor, choose chicken thighs and go strong on spices, including cumin, paprika, cayenne, thyme and perhaps za’atar and/or sumac.

Here’s a guide on how to proceed:

Marinate chicken thighs in Greek yogurt, to which you have added juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 t turmeric, S&P and cayenne. Leave out for 1/2 hour or refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temp before cooking, or at least 1/2 hour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Put chicken thighs into roasting pan skin side up, wiping off some of the marinade, if desired. Sprinkle with paprika and cayenne and roast for 45 minutes or so, turning after half an hour or more; baste occasionally if desired.

Prepare potatoes by scrubbing, cutting into large chunks, drizzling and rubbing with olive oil, S&P. Put into a metal baking dish with a few garlic cloves, peeled, and sprigs of thyme, or rub dried thyme with your fingers, sprinkling into potato baking dish. Put potatoes with one cut side down. Add a splash of water, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove cover, and if you like, turn potatoes with tongs to place down on another cut surface. Continue roasting for another 20 minutes. Then remove and let sit. Serve warm or room temp.

Roasted vegetables: Cut up fennel and red onion into large-ish chunks and place in roasting pan with oil, S&P, fennel seeds, cumin, then pitted olives at end. Maybe add sumac, or use za’atar instead of all other spices. Roast uncovered for about 35-40 minutes, turning occasionally especially near end of time. Add olives about 5 minutes before removing from oven. IMG_5388

 

 

Fall Vegetable Soup

I have been putting off making soup, thinking it’s a big production — to figure out components AND spices. Thinking: Tunisian, Thai, etc. which got too complicated and became an unproductive dead end (Are dead ends *ever* productive?)

So I had some lovely vegetables from my CSA share, and it being my Sunday night, I decided it was time to make some plain soup. Well I’m here to say that once again having good quality ingredients makes ALL the difference! I used no spices beyond salt and pepper and this soup was delicious! I had: carrots, potatoes, leeks, turnips, garlic and onions. So that was my soup!

I didn’t have vegetable stock handy to use as a soup base, so at Deborah Madison’s guidance I figured I would start with a “quick stock”, and I ended up making a full stock — which is still quick because 40 minutes is fine for vegetables. Also I found making stock is not such a big production if you use a regular size pot I realized last night. I had my base stock simmering while I prepared the ingredients for soup.

Make vegetable stock with onions, celery, carrots, leeks, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns.

Soup Ingredients:

3 carrots, peeled and large dice
2 leeks, cut in half, rinsed and large dice
Turnips, peeled and cut into large dice
4-5 potatoes, peeled, quartered and thin slices

Turnip greens

Directions:

Prepare vegetables and then put 2 T butter into soup pot, heat on medium heat and add carrots, leeks, turnips and potatoes. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, add S&P. Add stock to cover by 2” or more. Cover partially, and cook at simmer for 20+ minutes

Separately boil greens for 3 minutes or less. Mustard greens are good here; boil for 10 minutes, drain and add to soup at end of cooking time. (Optional with greens: red pepper flakes and parmesan in bowls.)

A lovely soup that you can keep in your refrigerator for two days.

Asian style grain bowl with roasted veggies

Perfect for late summer harvest.

Since grain bowls are all the rage, I thought I would test the waters today as my hunger inched up. Having procured some black/forbidden rice at my local natural foods store, I boiled some up, roasted some eggplant, and then a pan of large-julienned carrots, cut up peppers, onion, mushroom at 425 degrees in oiled pans. Added garlic last minute to the carrot mixture. Should go in the oven in this order: carrots, peppers, onion and mushrooms all together. Right after the eggplant wedges go in on their own tray. Then last few minutes mix in garlic with carrot medley.

Asian vinaigrette:  2 T rice wine vinegar, 2 T soy sauce, good dash siracha, toasted sesame oil, olive oil, canola oil, S&P. Whisk together. Not bad, even if there was no ginger in the house.

To cook black rice: Rinse 1 c rice and put in small pot with 1-3/4 c water and some salt. Bring to a boil, cover and cook gently for 30 minutes. Al dente, nutty, delicious!

Assemble: rice on one side, eggplant on the other, carrot medley in middle, drizzle dressing on top. Perhaps top with fresh mozzarella cubes or queso fresca if it’s on hand.

 

Roasted eggplant with stewed lentils

… and fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. (I had fresh locally made mozzarella, so that plate is loaded up!)

Just when eggplants are starting to come in in mid- to late August — plumb and firm, roast some widgets (bigger than wedges) with garlic & oil (&S&P) at 410 degrees for 25 mins.

Put up a pot of vegetable stock with: carrots, celery, onions, parsley, garlic, zucchini if you got lots of it, particularly if it’s getting oldish, and some peppercorns and hey one bay leaf and a new potato if there is one in your kitchen. 45 minutes is it, then strain and chill/freeze.

Use some of the stock to make stewed lentils: Saute onion, then carrots, celery and garlic in oil w/ S&P, some cumin if you’re in the mood; add puy lentils and cover with twice as much stock/water. Simmer about 30-40 minutes until tender.

Plate up:
Stewed lentils
Eggplant
fresh mozzarella pieces
cherry tomatoes, halved on the side, seasoned with some salt & maybe some olive oil.

Eating zucchini in a non-healthy way

Eating zucchini or, how to eat in season without chomping on sunflower sprouts

Not there’s anything bad about sprouts. But sometimes an eater wants to skip over the raw kale salad and vinegar slaw and eat some comfort food, even if IS summer and the bounty is plentiful!

Here’s how to do it:

Take a non ginormous zucchini or two, plop in a bowl of water to soak (Marcella’s technique for loosening ground sitting vegetable from its soil), boil some pasta, chop a bit of onion and sauté it in butter, add zucchini which you have cut into julienne, pour in some pasta water to reduce, add cream and saffron and reduce again. That’s it!

When your pasta — I recommend fettucine — is done, serve under cream sauce and add grated parmesan. I think I can skip the ice cream on this night. I had my cream in savory form, thanks!

Ingredients:
1/4 # fettucini
4 T chopped onion
1-2 small zucchinis, cut into julienne strips, 1-1/2” by 1/4”
1 c heavy cream
Pinch saffron
grated parmesan

 

Spring variation: substitute asparagus for zucchini; steam it ahead before cutting into 1-1/2” lengths before sautéing as above.

Roasted corn off the cob

Sometimes it’s nice to have summer corn OFF the cob. My favorite way to do this is to sauté corn with olive oil, peppers and red onion, and then let a bit of garlic join the party near the end. Takes about 10-15 minutes tops to cook. Or you can pop in a hot oven on a sheet pan if it’s not 90 degrees.

That’s it.  The technique comes from White Dog Café cookbook, which has long been a favorite cookbook. Judy Wickes has you make a salsa with lime after the corn cooks, which is a very good idea, but I haven’t gone to that stage yet and have been happily mired in the eat after the first step stage. It’s good. Here’s her recipe: https://tinyurl.com/y8up78sl

Here’s a rough guide:

Remove kernels from corn cobs with a big sharp knife. Dice some nice peppers — a medium hot/sweet and a serrano or other hot pepper makes a nice balance. Or you can use also a red sweet pepper. Rough chop red onion. Mince a garlic clover.

Heat a pan, add olive oil, and corn, peppers and onion and cook at high temp for up to 10 minutes, stirring often. Altnernatively, heat the oven to 450 degrees, mix your corn, onion and peppers together with S&P in a bowl, and toss with a bit of olive oil, glob on some olive oil, dump in your corn, and roast for 10-15 minutes, adding in garlic a minute before it’s all cooked — or you can add the garlic when it comes out of the oven.  All good. Let sit until the rest of your dinner cooks, and enjoy! Corn may only marginally be considered a vegetable, but peppers, onion and garlic are high in the healthy scorecard, and hey, it’s all better than potato chips! Enjoy!