Monthly Archives: November 2009

Winter Squash Lasagna

Winter Squash Lasagna

 When we blog, we post recipes that we make that are yummy.  Obviously, we don’t post everything we make, we look for dishes that have something interesting or special about them.  This dish is very, very special.  After dinner tonight, we both agreed that this twist on the classic lasagna is one of the most delicious things we have made in quite a while.

Squash ready for roasting

We got the idea for this dish while browsing through one of our Thanksgiving-themed cookbooks.  The author shared a recipe for a pumpkin and sage lasagna that sounded tasty, but was pretty fussy and complicated.  It called for frying sage leaves and for thickly slicing a seeded and peeled pumpkin and sauteing it before making the lasagna.  With two small children in the house, we don’t really have time for that kind of work.

Mashed squash and ricotta

So we decided to go rogue with the recipe and make it our way.  Our way includes a roasted winter squash whose flesh is folded with whole milk ricotta and flavored with dried sage.  Things get simplified with no-bake lasagna noodles.  It also adds mozzarella cheese to the mix and tops the whole dish with a creamy bechamel sauce that is flavored with bay, thyme, parsley, and black pepper.  Once baked, the lasagna is rich and creamy with balanced sweetness from the squash and savory from the cheeses and herbs. 

Construction

Middle layers

         

Ready for the oven

Fresh out of the oven

         

 

 

 We recommend that you head immediately to your nearest market and purchase one of the many delicious in-season winter squashes currently available and make this dish tonight.  I think I might have to go look for leftovers.

Winter Squash Lasagna

Ingredients:

2lbs winter squash such as pumpkin or butternut (do not use spaghetti squash), cut in half and seeded

1 lb ricotta cheese

2 tsp dried sage

2 tsp kosher salt

3 cups milk

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 1/2 tsp dried parsley

6 whole peppercorns

3 tbls butter

1 large clove of garlic, minced

3 tbls flour

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 package no-boil lasagna noodles

8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese

To Make:

Roast the winter squash in a 400 degree until tender, about 50-60 minutes (depending on the type of squash).  Remove and let cool.  Meanwhile, pour 3 cups of milk in a saucepan.  Cut a square of cheesecloth (about 8 inches) and place the bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme, and parsley inside.  Gather up the corners to make a packet and tie tightly with twine.  Add the herb packet to the milk and heat over medium heat until gently simmering.  Simmer for 2 minutes (do not let it boil), remove from heat, and let the milk steep for 30 minutes.

Once the squash is cool, scoop out the flesh and place it in a large bowl.  Mash the squash with a potato masher.  Add the ricotta cheese, sage, 1 tsp of salt, and ground pepper to taste.  Fold the mixture together and set aside. 

To make the bechamel sauce, use a 3-4 quart saucepan and melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the minced garlic and saute until just beginning to brown (about 2 minutes) stirring constantly.  Whisk in the flour and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the raw flour taste is cooked out, about another 2 minutes.  Remove the herb packet from the milk (discard it).  Slowly pour the milk into the butter and flour mixture, whisking constantly.  Once all the milk has been added, continue to whisk constantly until the mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes.  Season with remaining tsp of salt and ground nutmeg.

To Assemble:

In a 9×13 casserole, spread 1/3 of the bechamel sauce on the bottom of the dish.  Place three lasagna noodles crosswise on top of the sauce.  Top with 1/3 of the squash ricotta mixture and 2 ounces of the mozzarella.  Place three more noodles in the dish.  Top with 1/3 of the squash ricotta mixture, 2 ounces of the mozzarella, and 1/3 of the bechamel sauce.  Repeat the second layer (noodles, the remaining squash, mozzarella).  Top with remaining three noodles, the rest of the bechamel sauce, the rest of the mozzarella cheese, and the grated parmesan.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 30 minutes and the top is browned and bubbly.

To Serve:

Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.  Garnish with chopped fresh sage leaves with desired.  Serves 8.

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Filed under Dinner, Pasta, Recipes, Vegetarian

Apple Cider Butter

Apple Cider Butter

So, what do you do when you get an email from one of your favorite U-pick fruit farms saying that they are closing for the season and offering buy-one-get-one 1/2 bushels of apples? If you are anything like us, you hightail it over to the farm before the apples are gone.

Fresh apples

That is just what we did last Friday. We put Thing 1 and Thing 2 in the car and drove up to Northborough to pick 40 pounds of apples. It was a little strange because the day was gray and cool and the orchard was almost empty… it didn’t feel like a typical apple picking outing. The apples, however, were fantastic; large, sweet, crisp, and delicious. I think Thing 1 ate five of them while we were picking.

Apples chopped and boiling down

Now that we have all these apples we have to figure out what to do with them. We usually cut and freeze slices for winter apple pies, make applesauce, and eat lots of them.  This season however, we are starting with apple butter. I have never made apple butter before but I really wanted something that went beyond our classic apple applications. This recipe uses fresh apples and apple cider to make a delicious apple butter that isn’t too heavily spiced. If you decide to make this fall treat, make sure to review the appropriate canning techniques, which can be found here.

Jars ready for processing

I followed the recipe pretty much as listed with some minor adjustments to the spices. The most important change I made was to keep the cores and peels on the apples for the first boil. I then used a food mill to remove the skins, seeds, and cores. The cores have a lot of pectin which helps the butter thicken nicely. However, when I did it this way I had no where near the required 12 cups of apple puree, despite using the 6lbs of apples called for in the recipe. Therefore, I have adjusted the recipe posted below to reflect my yields.

Apple Cider Butter

Adapted from Freshpreserving.com

6 lbs of apples, mixed varieties, quartered

2 cups apple cider

2 cups granulated sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground allspice

6-7* (8 ounce) glass preserving jars with bands and lids

To Make:

Combine apples and apple cider in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until apples are soft, about 30 minutes. Using the fine disc of a food mill, puree the apples, discarding skins, seeds, and cores. Measure 8 cups of apple puree.

In a clean stainless steel saucepan, combine the apple puree, sugar, and spices and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until mixture reduces, thickens, and holds it shape on a spoon.

Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready to use (do not boil, especially the lids). Ladle hot apple butter into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Remove bubbles and wipe rim. Center lid on jar and apply band until it is fingertip tight.

Process jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes (adjusting for altitude). Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. For any jars that do not seal after 24 hours, either reprocess or place in the refrigerator and use.

* The total number of jars will depend on how thick you like your butter

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Filed under Add-ons, Fruit, Recipes

Carrot Pudding

Carrot Pudding

From the first year that my husband and I met, I have gone to Thanksgiving dinner at his house.  His mother is an excellent cook and between her, his grandmother, and his sister (a trained pastry chef), they put on a pretty mean spread… with enough food for 20 people.  My family lives further away and since the traffic around Thanksgiving is usually pretty awful, we have historically taken the easy route and headed to dinner a few towns over. 

Cooking carrots

This year, we are switching things up.  Marc’s parents are headed to North Carolina to spend Thanksgiving with his sister.  That means that we are packing up the girls and the car and making the six hour drive to upstate NY where my mom lives.  I am pretty excited because it means that we will get to have a big ol’ dinner with my family (all 7 of us) and because it will be our chance to do some Thanksgiving cooking.  Marc and my mom have struck a deal… if she watches the girls, he will cook the whole meal.  I think that both parties are pretty excited.

Pudding all mixed

In honor of this momentous occasion, we have been tossing around different menu options and trying out new recipes.  This recipe for carrot pudding is an unusal, and delicious, way to cook carrots.  The original recipe was more savory but we modified it to make a dish that is elegant in presentation and sweet enough for dessert.  Not only is this recipe unique, it is simple to put together and can be done ahead of time to help spare the overworked Thanksgiving cook.

Ready for the oven

Carrot Pudding* 

Adapted from The Thanksgiving Table (2001 edition)

Ingredients

5 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 tsp fresh lemon juice

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup milk

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

To Make:

Place the carrots in a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover by 1 inch.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat until carrots are simmering, and cook until they can easily be pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.  Drain and cool slightly.  Puree the carrots with the lemon juice.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a 2-quart baking dish with 1 tbls of the butter and set aside.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the remaining butter, sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Beat until smooth.  Add the carrots and beat until well blended.  Add the milk and eggs and mix until smooth.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Bake, uncovered, until the pudding is puffed and lightly browned and the center is firm to the touch, about 50-60 minutes.

To Serve:

Serve immediately with a dollop of softly whipped fresh cream.  Serves 4-6 as a side dish.

* To make this dish more savory: increase the salt to 1 tsp, add 1/4 tsp ground black pepper and 2 tbls grated yellow onion.

You can cook and puree the carrots up to two days in advance.  Cover and refrigerate, then bring to room temperature before making the pudding.  The whole pudding can be assembled several hours in advance.  Cover and refrigerate, then remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before baking.

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Filed under Dessert, Pudding, Recipes, Side Dish, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Ham and Swiss Strata

Ham and Swiss Strata

Breakfast for dinner.  My husband likes to tell me stories about how in his fraternity house, they would have the cook prepare breakfast for lunch every Wednesday.  From my perspective, this is about the only of his college traditions that is worth keeping alive. 

Egg Mixture

Strata Ingredients

 

 

 

 

 

While we often whip up pancakes or omlettes for a quick meal, occasionally we want something a little different.  If you have never had strata before, you are missing out.  A good strata is like the best parts of an omlet and bread pudding, mixed together into one savory dish.  You can put just about anything in it (we used ham, swiss cheese, and green onions in this incarnation), it uses bread that probably wouldn’t get eaten otherwise, and best of all, it has to be made in advance.  This makes it a very versatile dish that works equally well for brunch, lunch, or dinner.

Layer 1 of the Strata

Ham and Swiss Strata

Ingredients:

4-5 cups bread (preferably bread that is slightly stale), cubed into bite size pieces

5 eggs, beaten

2 cups milk

4 oz swiss cheese, shredded

3 scallions, finely chopped

1 smoked ham steak, cooked and diced

salt and pepper to taste

1 tbls fresh parsley, chopped

To Make:

Grease an 8″x8″ glass baking dish.  Spread about 1/2 of the bread into the dish.  Sprinkle the bread with the diced ham steak, the scallions and 3/4 of the shredded cheese.  Add the other half of the bread cubes.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs.  Add in the milk, chopped parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir to combine.  Pour the egg mixture evenly over the bread and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or over night.  Once or twice while the strata is chilling, gently push down on the bread cubes to make sure they of them soak up the egg mixture.

When you are ready to bake, place the strata in a preheated 325 degree oven.  Cook until the eggs are just set and the top is golden brown and slightly puffed, about 60-65 minutes.  Sprinkle with additional fresh chopped parsley if desired.

To Serve:

Serve this either warm or room temperature.  Serves 4-6.

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Filed under Breakfast, Dinner, Eggs, Meat, Recipes