Thursday, December 15, 2011

Butternut Squash and Kale Lasagna

Sadly, I am sans picture for this one. But, it was so good, I have to share.

We had our department pot luck lunch today (academics love lunch -- I have yet to figure out why) and the spread was great. There were appetizers, desserts, and someone even made two roasts! It's a good thing I brought this dish, though, because the vegetarians wanted nothing to do with the meat plate. Not to toot my own horn, but the lasagna was all gone by the end of lunch and the meat plate was half full.

Notes: This one is a little time consuming, but it's totally worth it. None of the steps are difficult, they just take patience.

1 small butternut squash
1/2 bunch of kale, cleaned and stemmed
2 shallots
2 tablespoons of butter
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce
1 15 oz. tub of ricotta cheese
1 cup of grated Romano cheese
1 large or two small mozzarella balls
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/4 cup of whole milk or heavy cream (no skimping on the fat)
2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2-3 sprigs of fresh sage

Directions: Heat your oven to 375.

Start by prepping the layers.

Squash: You have two options with the butternut squash: (a) roast it ahead of time and use the roasted mashed flesh or (b) slice it thin and layer the slices between the noodles. I didn't want to bother with roasting, so I opted for (b). I just cut the peel away from the squash with my kitchen knife and then cut it in half. I scoop the seeds out of the lower half and then I just slice it about 1/4-1/8 of an inch thick. Put the slices in a bowl and season with salt, pepper, maple syrup, and a heaping tablespoon of chopped sage.

Kale: Stack your kale pieces on top of each other and roll them up like a cigar. Then do thin slices chiffonade-style. Put it in a bowl and set aside.

Cheese: Dump your ricotta and Romano cheese into a bowl. Add lots of fresh black pepper, and a heaping tablespoon of chopped thyme and chopped rosemary. Mix until it's well-blended.

Put all three bowls back in the fridge while you make your sauce.

Thinly slice your shallots. Add butter to a pan and saute the shallots over medium. I lightly caramelized mine. Add the jar of sauce and the milk or heavy cream. Take your remaining herb sprigs (if you have any) and add them whole to the pan. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.

When the sauce has 5 minutes left, take all your bowls out of the fridge. Add the balsamic vinegar to the kale and mix it well (you want to massage the kale a bit). Season with salt and pepper.

Slice your mozzarella balls and fish your herb stems out of the sauce

Now it's time to assemble the lasagna! In a 13x9 pan, add:
1 cup sauce
4 lasagna noodles
1/3 ricotta mixture
1/3 squash
1/3 kale

Repeat the layer two more times. For the top layer, add the final noodles and your remaining sauce. Layer your mozzarella cheese on top. Cover it in foil and bake for 40 minutes. Take the foil off and bake for another 5-7 minutes to brown the cheese.

Let it stand for 7-10 minutes (or, if you're me, rush it to the the potluck covered in foil and nestled in towels) and enjoy!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Smokey Sweet Roasted Chickpeas

You're either going to love me or curse me for this dish. WARNING: these are so good, you will find it difficult to restrain yourself. I could have eaten the whole batch right off the baking sheet.

Notes: This is one of those dishes that will test your oven. It took mine 45 minutes to get crispy. I would start out with 30 and then increase the time if you need to.

You could easily make two batches of these. Just double the recipe. They would make the best party snack.

1 can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon raw sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions: Heat your oven to 400.

After you drain and rinse your chickpeas, lay them out on a clean kitchen towel to dry. Let them dry while your oven heats. You want them as dry as you can get them.

Meanwhile, mix all your spices in a small bowl. Set aside.

Pour the chickpeas into bowl. Add olive oil and spices and toss well.

Spread the chickpeas out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Make sure they have room to grove.

Bake them for between 30-45 minutes. Give them a shake or a turn halfway through. They're done when they're light brown and crispy/crunchy. If you're not sure if they're done, just taste one (or three). Let them cool and store them in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Resistance is futile

Q.E.D.: Pastina and Peas with Herbs and Romano

Normally you put pastina in soups. I like it on its because it has a creamy texture similar to risotto, but lighter. It takes no time at all to cook and reheats really well. This is one of those curl-up-on-the-sofa dishes --  perfect light pasta dish for a chilly week night!

Notes: The only trick to cooking pastina on its own is that you can't drain it in a normal collander: it's too small and it will drain right through. I use a fine-mesh strainer to pull it out of the boiling water.

Use whatever herbs you like, just be sure you use fresh herbs rather than dried. Because there are so few ingredients in the dish, dried herbs just wouldn't be the same.

1 box pastina (any shape you like -- I used stars)
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
2 or 3 garlic cloves minced
Dash red pepper flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 a bag of frozen peas
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese


Bring a stock pot of water to a boil. While your waiting for it to boil, chop your herbs and garlic.

Add the oil and butter to a large sauce pan and heat it on medium-low. Add the garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. If they start to sizzle, turn your heat down.

Once your pasta water boils, add a small handful of salt and drop the pastina in. It should take between 4-5 minutes to cook.

When the pasta has 2 minutes of cooking time left, add your frozen peas. When the time is up, use a fine-mesh strainer to fish the pastina and peas out of the water. Add them to your warm oil and herb mixture.

Once all the pastina in in the pan, sprinkle in half the Romano cheese. Stir it in and then add the other half. Stir until everything together. Serve and sprinkle a little more cheese on top is you're feeling saucy. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Kale Diaries, Part Two: Barbeque Kale Chips

If you have more kale after you make your Easy Kale Salad, then make these!

The first time I had kale chips, I was in graduate school. One of my professors made them for a reception. I could not believe how good they were. They did not look appetizing at all -- who wants to eat something that looks like dried seaweed? I tried them (probably after a beer) and could not stop eating them! They were amazing. They are crispy and salty just like potato chips, but so much better for you. Once you try them, you'll be a convert.

Notes: I've tried making these at a lower oven temperature, but they did not get crispy enough for me. This time I bumped the temperature up to 325 and they were perfect.

You can season these however you want to. I had some Penzy's BBQ 3000, so I made barbeque chips. Delicious! Store these in an airtight container right on your counter.

1/2 a bunch of kale torn into approximately 2-inch pieces
Barbeque seasoning blend of your choice

Directions: Heat your over to 325 degrees.

Arrange the kale on a sheet tray in a single layer. Give the pieces room to breathe. Sprinkle them liberally with seasoning.

Bake for 15 minutes (keep an eye on them -- your oven might be hotter than mine). Allow them to cool and enjoy!

The Kale Diaries, Part One: Easy Kale Salad

You've heard how healthy kale is for you, right? It has all sorts of vitamins and it's a good non-dairy source of calcium. If you don't eat it already, you should.

Kale can be used in the place of all sorts of greens, but let's face it: not everyone wants a giant pile of steamed or sauteed greens. I'm trying to find different ways to prep it.

I'm also trying to add more raw dishes to my arsenal. Eating raw veggies and fruits can maximize the nutritional value. Cooking often allows the vitamins to leech out of the food. Also, I am frequently lazy on my long days. Raw foods require less prep than cooking, which fits in perfectly with my laziness. Enter kale salad!

Notes: This is a great way to use up extra kale that you have. The bunches from my co-op are HUGE. Kale, like all greens, shrinks when you cook it, but if you live by yourself, it's still hard to use it all up.

You could easily make this animal by-product free if you omitted the yogurt. It tasted great with both ingredients, but I think each one on its own would be equally good.

To prep your kale, here's what you do: fill up a big bowl of cold water. De-stem the kale by holding it by the bottom part of the stem in one hand. Put the kale between the index and middle finger of your other hand and pull from the bottom of the leaf to the top. You want to strip the leafy part off the stem. Put the leafy parts into the bowl of water. When you de-stem the whole bunch, swish the kale around in the cold water like washing machine. The dirt will fall to the bottom of the bowl. Lift the kale out and lay it out on a clean kitchen towel. Pat it dry and store it wrapped in a paper towel in the fridge (I put mine in a food storage bag in my veggie drawer).

1/2 a bunch of kale (I had Lactino), torn into small pieces
1/4 cup of plain yogurt
2 tablespoons of unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons of golden raisins
Sprinkle of cinnamon


Add the yogurt and applesauce to a bowl and mix together. Add in the kale and stir to coat the leaves. Let it sit for about 5 minutes. Top it with raisins and cinnamon. Enjoy!