Monday, November 1, 2010

Meaty Grilled Vegetable Lasagna

This lasagna is crazy good!

Any (and all) of these things are delicious on their own...

Grilled zucchini.
Spicy Italian sausage.
Late summer tomato sauce.
Sauteed spinach.
Sauteed mushrooms.
Caramelized onions.

All together? Baked till bubbly? Wow....YUM!

Here's how you can make it.


1 pound good quality ground beef, browned
1 pound hot (or not) Italian sausage, browned and drained
8 oz mushrooms, sliced and sauteed with olive oil (I used baby bellas)
1 pound No-boil lasagne noodles (you won't need them all)
32 oz tomato sauce (I used my homemade tomato basil sauce...any good jarred sauce could work)
1 package of baby spinach, sauteed with olive oil then drained
3 onions, sliced and carmelized
4-5 medium zucchini (or summer squash) sliced longways and grilled
mozzarella cheese
ricotta cheese (I mixed in chopped basil just to gild the lily)

Ok, so I'm going to do my best to recreate the recipe here. I tend to cook on the fly, adding and omitting ingredients at the drop of a hat. It's what I do. Can't help it. I've been a professional chef for over a decade, but that doesn't mean I can actually take pen to paper (finger to keyboard) and write a recipe exactly the same way. Pretty darn close...

If you know your way around a kitchen, I think you'll catch my drift with this recipe. Sorry that I don't explain every step. But it is so good!

It seems like a lot of adavnce prep (and it is) but here's how you can think like a chef. Many of these things make excellent ingredients for other meals in your weekly meal planning. Caramelized onions? I do them by the VAT. They are so handy and pack a savory flavor punch! They are amazing on pizza, in sandwiches, sprinkled on a salad with crumbled blue cheese, mixed into mashed potatoes, topping a burger, and let's not forget to mention eaten on a piece of torn baguette while standing at the stove, cooking your family a meaty lasagne. What else could you make extra of? Well, you could cook extra beef and use it for tacos the next day. You get the idea.

But back to the lasagna...

1. Once the onions have been caramelized, the zucchini has been grilled, the meats have been browned, the spinach and mushrooms have been sauteed bring out all the other players in your lasagna construction. I like to use the set of glass prep bowls I've had for ages, but your kids cereal bowls also make great places to hold the prepped ingredients. Hey, your mis-en-place is ready! (That's fancy chef-talk for having your ingredients ready to go right in front of you).

2. Start building your lasagna. I assume by this point you have brought out your big baking dish, suitably deep. I use my big pyrex baker, but you can use any big oven safe dish...especially if your mom is coming to dinner and you want to bring the dish to the table for a nice wow factor. Remember, you can keep stacking and go as high as you want with this meaty stack of vegetables and noodles as long as it won't go over the side. Only have a cookie sheet? Get thee to the store! Big pyrex dish? Let's get cookin'!

3. I start with a layer of sauce and the ground beef. Next comes a layer of noodles. Ricotta. Sauce. Zucchini. Onions. Noodles. Mushrooms. Spinach. Noodles. Zucchini. Sausage. Sauce. Ricotta. Sauce. Mozzarella. I plopped the extra ricotta I had on top with the mozzarella. You could if you want. If you used all the ricotta in the earlier layers, don't sweat it.

4. Everything in? Pop it in the oven at 350 for about an hour. You'll know it is ready when the cheese is lightly browned and melted and the sauce is bubbling up. Be sure to let it cool down before you dig in, at least 15 minutes. Believe me, it will stay very hot in that dish. Go ahead, make a salad. Take a break. Dinner is ready, it is delicious and hopefully you'll have leftovers.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Chicken anything yummier?

This is my go to recipe for a crowd. It couldn't be easier and it packs a lot of flavor. Plus, it's even better the next day or served at room temperature.

What? Something that doesn't need last minute attention?? Hello, dinner party favorite! For this reason, when I catered my own rehearsal dinner (crazy I know) I made chicken marbella.

I substitute boneless chicken breasts, and make a mix of green and black kalamata olives. I also throw in some extra tasty!

I cannot thank the Silver Palate enough for this amazing dinner party standard, which I located on to put here. My comments are in red.


4 chickens, 2 1/2 pounds each, quartered **I use boneless breasts**
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed
1/4 cup dried oregano
**or more**
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
**I use balsamic**
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup brown sugar
**I half that amount**
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
**I use parsley and fresh oregano**

In a large bowl combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.
**very important!**

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice.
**less time with boneless breasts...check them at 35 mins**

With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.

To serve Chicken Marbella cold, cool to room temperature in cooking juices before transferring to a serving platter. If chicken has been covered and refrigerated, allow it to return to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juices over chicken.

Spider Oreos

Much to the delight of my four year old, I made these spider oreos for his preschool halloween party. They are surprisingly easy to make, and a big hit.
Here's how to do it...

To make them, you'll need oreos (or some other sandwich cookie) and material for arms and legs. Here is what I used:

- pretzel sticks (halved)
- cinnamon drop eyes (for the kiddos I used white chocolate chips)
- store bought frosting (Hey, I already had some in the fridge)
- Oreos
- food coloring

1. Twist off apart the oreos, scrape the creme into a medium bowl. Set the cookies aside. Mix frosting into the creme to bulk up the filling. **I made about 16 oreo spiders and added about 1/2 cup of frosting** In order to make the mixture easier to work with, toss it in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Stir in food coloring if desired. I made my spider creme orange.

2. Take bottom half of oreo. Pipe in about 2x-3x the usual amount of filling. You're building a bed thick enough to hold the "legs" in place. No piping bag? No sweat. You can put it in a ziplock baggie, nip the corner of the bag with scissors and squeeze gently. You'll get the job done.

3. Put on the legs. As any budding young entomologist will tell you, spiders have 8 legs. I used 1/2 pretzel sticks, but you could use any edible leg material like licorice.

4. Stick on the top cookie. Press gently but firmly. You might break one or two until you get the hang of it...I did!

5. Time for eyes! Use a dab of the creme filling to secure the eyes of your choice to the top of the cookie.

6. Enjoy! They are best enjoyed the same day.