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

 

 

Turnips!

Okay, kids, boil away!  “No way!” I hear hordes shouting.  Yes, indeed, I’m here to tell you that those staple roots available at very reasonable prices at farmers markets in early summer and fall to winter are actually an enjoyable vegetable to eat at dinner.  They’re a low carb alternative to potatoes on your dinner plate.  And if you cook them promptly the greens are delicious with ’em, so you get a double dose of veggies — roots and greens — for one effort. And everything is better with roasted garlic, which this has.

Here’s what you do, per the very excellent and wacky Power Vegetables by the Lucky Peach folks.  Boil them and toss them with a snazzy anchovy, caper vinaigrette and eat your low-carb veggies happily.  You boil the peeled, cut turnips for 15 minutes or less, throw in their greens at the end (or arugula or spinach, as I did), then toss with a Riviera/Italian wacky vinaigrette and … wow!  A great side to chicken or I’m told roast pork.

Ingredients:

5 garlic cloves, unpeeled

3 anchovy filets

1 t capers, rinsed and chopped

2 T chopped parsley

1/2 T red wine vinegar

1 T olive oil

4 turnips, peeled and cut into large bite-size pieces

Turnip greens, arugula or spinach (all optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 300 degrees (or can go to 350 if need be)
  2. Put garlic cloves on pan and bake for 30 minutes until soft.  Peel when cool enough to handle.  Mash if you want.
  3. Put up large pot of water to boil.
  4. Make (low-volume liquid) vinaigrette: Put anchovies, capers, parsley, oil, vinegar & S&P in a jar and shake.  Add garlic if cool, or else just hold on side to add with turnips later.
  5. When water boils and you’re ready to eat in 15 minutes, salt water and add turnips and boil for 15 minutes or until no resistance when poked with a knife, but before turning mushy.  Add greens at end and drain, returning all to pot.  Add dressing and garlic and stir well. Serve hot.

 

 

 

 

Winter salad — Watercress, pears and blue cheese

A delicious, elegant dinner party first course.  I served for Thanksgiving.  Pears are in season; watercress is a welcome bright green as Winter is setting in in the Northeast US.

Ingredients:

Watercress

Mesclun

Pears – D’Anjou

Blue cheese

Walnuts – roasted and cooled (375 degree oven for 8 mins until fragrant)

Vinaigrette:

Shallots, minced; soaked in apple cider vinegar to cover

Lemon juice

Walnut oil

Olive oil

S&P

Shake in bottle; refrigerate up to a couple days. Remove before using to come to room temp.

Salad assembly:

Wash and dry lettuce and watercress; remove thick stems if needed

Cut pear in half and core with corer, or cut into quarters and slice to remove core.

Cut quarters into quarters  or thirds lengthwise to make moderate-size wedges.

Toss greens with vinaigrette. Place on individual plates. Lay pears in pretty way grouped together on side of plate. Sprinkle walnuts and blue cheese on top. Drizzle more dressing on pears, etc.

Boiled potatoes

Buy your best new potatoes — fingerlings if available, or like I did, new Maine Yukon Gold (in later April).  This is an excellent accompaniment to a highly-flavored meat roast (like pork shoulder with garlic and rosemary).  Very handy technique for a dinner party since it does its thing pretty much on its own while you cook other parts of the dinner or chat with your friends.  When done, you can cover the pot and hold them for a bit.

Scrub and place taters in big pot with water to cover by an inch or more.  Cut in half or more if large.  Add salt.  Bring to boil and cook uncovered until barely tender.

Drain most of the water from pot, leaving 1/2 inch or more.  Add several cloves of garlic and slices of butter.  Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until water evaporates.

Asian style eggplant and peppers

image

Remember how I said this blog is about simple, easy cooking?  What could be simpler than a two-ingredient dinner dish?  Yes indeed.  This recipe comes from Lucky Peach cookbook.  Here’s what you do:  Buy some mini-eggplants and some cubanelle peppers (aka Italian frying peppers — light green and somewhat elongated).  You boil (!) the eggplant, heat up neutral oil and cook whole garlic cloves, then the peppers, and mush together in a bowl the eggplant, peppers, garlic and perhaps some more of the now very flavorful oil.  And salt.  Siracha if you want a tang.  With some brown rice we can call it dinner.  Beats the pants off of yucky Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce, laden with oil.

For a fancier version, check out this recipe from “Swanky sweet potato”  blog.

Ingredients (per person):

2 small-ish eggplants (or 3 for 2 people)

2-3 cubanelle peppers

6 cloves garlic

1/4 c grapeseeed or other neutral oil

Brown rice (as accompaniment)

Directions:

  1. Start brown rice if you want.
  2. Put up a big pot of water to boil.
  3. Boil eggplants, covered, for 20 minutes, until soft.  imageSet aside on paper towels on a plate or baking sheet to cool. (Will retain heat for a long time.)image
  4. Heat 1/4 c grapeseed or canola oil, and cook garlic for 6 mins, turning to brown lightly on all sides.
  5. Prepare peppers:  wash, and cut into 1″ pieces.
  6. Remove garlic to bowl.
  7. Turn up heat on oil to medium, and fry peppers, turning to blister on all sides.  Remove to bowl as they are done.image
  8. Cut stem off eggplant.  Cut into quarters, lengthwise, then in half.
  9. Mush with a fork together with salt and a spoonful (or more) of oil: garlic, eggplant and peppers.image

Simple weeknight fish dinner

I love fish.  It is both delicious and nutritious (except farm-raised).  But I don’t eat it at home as much as I would like because I repeatedly forget how to cook it.  Here is an easy fail-proof method:  Put fillets in hot oven (425-450 degrees) and  bake for up to 10 minutes.  There.

Entire meal takes less than 50 mins.  It is a very, very low-stress meal.  You put up rice to cook which sets the outside time parameter.  Then you get out your vegetable and fish.  The fish cooks undisturbed in the oven at the end when you are steaming your broccoli or cooking other vegetables.  Easy-peasy.  A slow, little-attention dinner prep for a three-part meal.

Meal:  Brown rice, steamed broccoli, and baked haddock

Directions:

  1.  Put up rice to cook.  I like short-grain brown rice.  1+ c. water with 1/2 c. rice.  Put both in small pot, cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook 45 mins.  (When done, stir and let sit covered for 10 minutes if you have the time; it can sit longer if needed.)  Make extra if you want to have stir-fried rice with veggies on another night.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  3. Prepare broccoli:  Cut off ends, and cut into large florets.  Rinse in colander.  Put water in pot up to steamer.  Bring water to boil and let sit.
  4. Prepare fish accompaniments:  Cut lemon; take out butter and parsley. Cover 1/4 sheet pan with aluminum foil.
  5. When rice is almost done, put broccoli in pot, cover and steam for 5+ mins.  Turn off heat before fully cooked.
  6. Chop parsley.
  7. Rinse fish fillet (6+ oz/person), put on baking dish.  Season fish with S&P; dot with butter, squeeze on lemon.  Put in hot oven and bake for 8 mins.  By this time rice should be done and broccoli turned off.  Check fish for doneness with fork.  Cook for up to 2 mins more if needed.
  8. Plate rice and broccoli, and dab with butter.
  9. Put fish on plate, squeeze on fresh lemon and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Voila!  A simple, low-stress delicious weeknight meal!  Well done!