Monthly Archives: July 2013

Lasagne!

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Most people love lasagne. I bet if you asked 10 people on the street what their favorite meal is, at least six of them would say lasagne. Lasagna (singular), refers to the wide, long, flat ribbon of pasta. Lasagne (plural) refers to the dish containing lasagna which is layered with other ingredients and oven-baked. The most original form of lasagne comes from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. It contains layers of Bolognese (a rich meat ragu), bechamel (a white sauce of milk thickened with a roux), and parmesan cheese. Other variations of the dish contain layers of ricotta cheese, with tomato sauce and mozzarella, and sometimes veggies and/or spinach.

Okay, having defined the dish above, here is my disclaimer. The lasagne dish featured here is NOT your Nonna’s lasagne. Lasagne is one of those dishes that is tightly attached to many heart strings. I can’t find many things more comforting than spending the day simmering a bolognese sauce while rolling out fresh egg pasta, and hand-grating fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano. Sitting down on a cold winter (cheat) night with a glass of hearty red wine and devouring a large square of piping hot lasagne-there are few things better. This lasagne recipe is meant for a week night, stay-on-the-program, “skinny chef”, type of meal. The kind of meal that you can have for dinner, wake up at 5am, run six miles, and feel great at work all day.

The recipe is still involved, with Fiore family red sauce and hand-made fresh pasta. It is, however, well worth the effort and darn tasty. I recommend making the sauce ahead of time. I make it in large batches and keep it handy in the fridge or freezer so I can throw together a quick dinner of pasta, pizza, or baked pasta. You could also make this lasagne ahead of time and freeze it, or make a double batch and freeze one. Don’t be intimidated by the fresh pasta. It’s easy and simple. It just takes a bit of patience. Lastly, I’ve replaced the ricotta with tofu. Yes-I said tofu. It’s protein, it’s light, and it has a similar texture to ricotta. So here it is…my recipe for Tofu Lasagne with Spinach and Spelt Pasta. Just try it. It’s good. I promise! Only 262 calories/portion.

First, you have to make red sauce. This is a scaled down version of Fiore’s Red Sauce. Cook the garlic, slowly in the oil and salt in a large sauce pan or dutch oven.

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Add the tomatoes and water.

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Simmer the sauce, reducing, until thick, about 35-40 minutes.

Next, cook the spinach, so it has time to drain and cool. It seems like a lot of spinach, but it cooks down quite a bit.

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Heat a large sauce pan, spray with olive oil cooking spray, and gently saute the spinach. Do not add any salt, we’ll do that later.

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Once the spinach is cooked, transfer it to a colander or strainer set over a bowl. Set aside.

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Make the pasta dough. Place one cup of spelt flour in a bowl (you could also use wheat or white flour). Make a well in the center with your hand.

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Add one egg and two teaspoons of olive oil to the well.

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Using a fork, break the yolk, and gently stir the egg and oil together, slowly incorporating the flour. Once you have a rugged ball, use your hand to roll it around, adding more flour.

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Keep kneading, with flour, until you form a smooth ball.

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You will have a bit of flour left in the bowl. Set it aside and save it for rolling out the pasta dough later. Wrap the ball in plastic, and set aside.

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Take one pound of extra firm tofu.

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Crumble the tofu with your hands. Place in a strainer to drain and press the tofu a bit to get some excess water out.

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Put the strained tofu in a large bowl. Set aside. This would be a good time to preheat your oven to 375 degrees. The spinach should be cooled down. Squeeze the spinach with your hands to remove excess water.

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Place spinach on a cutting board and chop fine.

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Add the spinach to the bowl with the tofu.

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Add 2 tsps Diamond Krystal kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 cup cottage cheese, and 3/4 cup red sauce to the bowl.

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Stir the mixture well to combine all the ingredients. Set aside.

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Place a large, shallow pan of water on the stove and begin to bring it to a simmer. The pasta dough should be well rested. Using the flour you set aside earlier, roll out the pasta dough. You will need to be generous with the flour. Turn the dough over and rotate it as you roll it out.

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Once you have rolled it out almost paper thin, go ahead and cut wide noodles.

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Taking one noodle at a time, roll the noodles out even thinner.

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Place the noodles in the simmering water until they are just cooked. Pull the noodles out and set aside on a plate.

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Okay. Now you are ready to build the lasagne. Gather together the noodles, filling, one cup of red sauce, and one cup of part skim mozzarella.

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Spread just a bit of red sauce on the bottom of a 13×9 inch baking pan. Layer the noodles over the bottom of the pan.

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Place 1/3 of the filling over the noodles and spread in an even layer.

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Spread 1/3 of the sauce evenly over the filling. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese over the filling.

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Start again with another layer of noodles, filling, sauce and cheese. Do one last layer of noodles, filling, sauce, and cheese, making three layers total.

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Cover the lasagne and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for 15-20 minutes more, until slightly browned on top.

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Cut the lasagne into six pieces. 262 calories/piece.

Shaggy loves it!

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Scrappy does too!

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RECIPE: Tofu Lasagne with Spinach and Spelt Pasta

Red Sauce:

1/4 cup chopped garlic

2 Tblsps olive oil

1 1/2 Tablespoons Diamond Krystal Kosher Salt (use 1/2 the amount if using Morton’s)

2-28 ounce cans strained tomatoes

1 1/2 cups water

Heat a large saucepan or dutch over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Add the garlic and salt to the olive oil. Cook the garlic, stirring constantly, until translucent and fragrant, but not browned. Add water and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for 40 minutes. Makes 6 cups of sauce. You will need 1 and 3/4 cups sauce for the lasagne.

Tofu Lasagne with Spinach and Spelt Pasta:

1 cup part skim mozzarella

1 cup red sauce

Pasta:

1 cup spelt flour

2 tsps olive oil

1 egg

Filling:

18 oz spinach (about two large bags)

1 pound extra firm tofu

1/2 cup cottage cheese

2 tsps Diamond Krystal Kosher Salt (use half the amount if using Morton’s)

1/2 tsp black pepper

3/4 cup red sauce

1. Place a large saucepan over medium high heat. Spray the pan with olive oil pan spray. Gently cook the spinach. Place the cooked spinach in a colander or strainer. Set over a bowl and set aside to cool.

2. Make the pasta dough. Place spelt flour in a bowl. Form a well in the center. Crack the egg in the well and add the two tsps olive oil. Using a fork, break the yolk and genlty stir the egg and olive oil mixture, slowly incorporating the flour.

3. Once you’ve formed a rugged ball, pour some of the flour on to a work surface. Knead the ball on the floured work surface, adding more flour if needed. Continue kneading until a smooth ball is formed. You will have a bit of flour left over. Set the flour aside for rolling out the dough later. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and set aside to rest.

4. Crumble the block of tofu into small pieces. Place in a colander. Press the tofu a bit with your hands to squeeze out excess water. Place the drained tofu in a large bowl.

5. Squeeze out the cooled spinach to get rid of excess water. Place the spinach on a cutting board and finely chop. Add the chopped spinach to the bowl with the tofu. Add the kosher salt, pepper, 3/4 cup red sauce, and 1/2 cup cottage cheese. Mix well to combine the filling. Set aside.

6. Place a wide shallow pan of water on the stove and bring to a simmer. Place some of the reserved flour on a work surface. Roll the pasta dough out into a large thin rectangle, rotating and flipping the dough over so to roll out evenly. Add more flour to the work surface and the dough as needed.

7. Once the dough is rolled out almost paper thin. Cut the dough into wide noodles. Roll each noodle out to make the pasta even thinner. Cook the noodles in the simmering water until just cooked. Transfer to a plate.

8. Preaheat oven to 375 degrees. Gather the filling, noodles, 1 cup red sauce, and 1 cup mozzarella together. Smear the bottom of a 13×9 baking dish with red sauce to prevent sticking. Top the noodles with 1/3 of the filling, spreading it out into an even layer. Spread 1/3 of the red sauce over filling, and sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese. Continue with two more layers of noodles, filling, sauce, and cheese.

9. Cover the lasagne with parchment paper and then foil. Place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and cook another 15-20 minutes until slightly browned.

Cut the lasagne into six pieces. Each piece is 262 calories. Lasagne can be made ahead and cooked later or frozen.

Indulge: Antipasto!

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Antipasto.  I love it.  I married an Italian and discovered the joys of antipasto.  Antipasto translates as “before the meal.”  Wikipedia defines it as “the traditional first course of a formal Italian meal.”  It goes on to describe “traditional antipasto to include cured meats, olives, peperoncini, mushrooms, anchovies, artichoke hearts, various cheeses, and pickled meats and vegetables.”

Our original family Christmas Eve dinner started with antipasto followed by a large meal.  We decided that we enjoyed the antipasto so much, that we should actually make the antipasto the meal.  Now I spend months sourcing the finest salami, cured meats, and cheeses I can find.  I pickle vegetables from my summer garden with the intention of using them to garnish my Christmas Antipasto.  Caper berries, fine olives, anchovies, smoked fish, gourmet crackers, and artisan breads are all carefully thought out and sourced.

I don’t think such a wonderful thing such as antipasto should be confined to one cuisine.  I like to come up with different themes for my antipasto.  Southern antipasto. French antipasto (Oxymoron? I don’t care.).  Greek antipasto.  Asian antipasto.

Summer is a great time for antipasto.  I love making quick pickles from radishes, green beans, cauliflower, and carrots. They are always better when they are fresh and right out of the garden.  Fresh ripe tomatoes, corn, herbs, and cucumbers make delicious salsas which are perfect for antipasto.

Sunday is our day to make our special indulgence meal.  Since it’s summer, we didn’t feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen.  We went tubing instead.  We thought about going out to dinner, then we thought better of it.  We thought, “Antipasto!” … and it was fabulous.

Olives and Pickled Peppers.

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Cheese Glorious Cheese!

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Go Big Antipasto.

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Southern Inspired Antipasto with Thinly Sliced Country Ham, Fresh Melon, Local Goat Cheese, Pickled Okra, Green Beans, and Green Tomatoes.

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French Inspired Antipasto after a Trip to Cle de Champs, a festival in Eastern Quebec.

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Asian Inspired Antipasto with Fresh Vegetable Spring Rolls, Pork Dumplings, Tea Smoked Duck, and Cucumber Salad

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Buon Appetito!

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Skinny Almond and Honey Granola

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Granola has been labeled “healthy” since the whole health food craze started in the 70’s.  People who are associated with the craze and natural foods are even referred to sometimes as “granola.”  Although granola is loaded with healthy ingredients, those ingredients are packed with calories.  Oats are high in calories, 380/cup.  Dried fruit, also a common ingredient in granola averages about 450 calories/cup, and often contains added sugar and/or oil.   Nuts are another healthy food which are great to eat, but need to be measured, averaging around 650 calories/cup.  Commercial, or even artisan granola brands, contain oil and sugars.  Having said all of that, granola contains a lot of calories.  The version that I have developed here, contains no refined sugars, and I’ve swapped the oil for whole flax seeds. This granola still is around 550 calories/cup.  The point I’m trying to make is that when it comes consuming food, it is really important that you pay attention to portion sizes.

A favorite breakfast of mine is 1/2 cup skinny granola (283), 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (30) , and  a 1/2 cup of  unsweetened almond milk (30).  A healthy and delicious breakfast, coming in at 343 calories!

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Measure 10 cups rolled oats into a large bowl.

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Measure 2 cups of slivered almonds.

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8 Tablespoons flax seeds.

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4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1 teaspoon Diamond Krystal kosher salt.

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Mix well to combine.

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Measure the 1/4 cup honey, 2 Tblsp water, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 2 teaspoons  almond extract into a liquid measuring cup.

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Stir well with a small whisk or spoon to combine the liquids.

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Pour the liquid over the oat mixture and mix well with your hands or a spoon until well combined.

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Spread the mixture in a single layer on to two sheet pans lined with parchment paper.

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Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.

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Remove from the oven and toss with a spatula.  Return pans to the oven and place on opposite racks.  Cook another 15 minutes.

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Remove the pans from the oven.  Sprinkle each pan evenly with 1 cup of raisins.

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Allow the granola to cool completely.  Place in an airtight container for up to three weeks. Makes about 16 cups.

SKINNY ALMOND AND HONEY GRANOLA RECIPE

10 cups rolled oats

2 cups slivered almonds

8 Tablespoons flax seeds

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon Diamond Krystal kosher salt (use 1/2 the amount if using Morton’s)

1/4 cup honey

2 Tablespoons water

2 teaspoons almond extract

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups raisins

Procedure:

1.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Measure oats into a large bowl.  Measure almonds, flax seeds, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and kosher salt into the bowl.  Stir well to combine.

2.  In a liquid measuring cup, place honey, water, and almond and vanilla extract.  Using a small whisk or spoon, and stir to combine liquids.

3.  Pour liquid mixture over oat and nut mixture.  Using your hands or a spoon, stir well to combine.

4.  Spread the mixture in a single layer between two sheet pans lined with parchment paper.  Place the pans in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.

5.  Remove from the oven and toss with a spatula.  Return pan to the oven on opposite racks.  Cook for another 15 minutes.

6.  Remove pans from the oven and sprinkle 1 cup of raisins evenly over each pan.  Allow granola to cool completely.  Place in an airtight container for up to three weeks.

Makes about 16 cups granola.  Recipe is easily halved.