Showing posts with label Recipes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Recipes. Show all posts

24 February 2014

I hate food waste #3: Carrot pasta

Sorry, I got distracted after writing two posts on using leftovers creatively instead of throwing them away. (Click here for #1 and here for #2.) But this one is the one I’m most proud of.

It started with a turkey. When I make turkey, I almost always grill it. After dinner, my wife and I strip the carcass of the remaining meat. Then I break down the carcass and freeze the bones, usually in two bags. I use the carcasses later to make turkey broth for any recipe that calls for chicken broth. I use this recipe from Bon Appetit/Epicurious as my starting point. (The recipe calls for roasting the bones. But since I grill my turkey over charcoal, I find that the carcass already has a nice smoky flavor and depth of flavor, so I skip that step.)CarrotPasta

After the broth was done simmering, I strained it into freezer containers (for future use). What remained were the bones, now pretty well bare of any meat, and the soggy celery, onions, and carrots. I did toss most of that stuff. But I decided to save the carrots. They looked so nice and while they generally held their shape, they were quite soft and mashable.

The inspiration for my use for them came from two separate places. First I saw a video on Mario Batali’s website for mezzalune (click here). And shortly after that, I read a recipe for potato gnocchi. “Aha!” I said to myself. “I wonder if I could make pasta dough with the boiled carrots from my turkey broth.”

It turns out that the carrots worked very well in the dough. I used pretty much the same proportion of carrots to flour as the recipe called for potatoes to flour.

After shaping a few gnocchi, I noticed that the dough seemed very malleable. I decided to try rolling it out, and it worked very well. So then, remembering the mezzalune video, I blended together some (leftover) ricotta, herbs, and an egg and went about shaping the mezzalune. I did about half of the batch as mezzalune and half as tortelloni.

Besides feeling sort of self-satisfied that I’d found a use for the boiled carrots, it was fun to shape the stuffed pasta. The carrots provide a nice orange color, but they don’t really add much distinct flavor. Most of the flavor comes from the herbed ricotta plus the olive oil, herbs, and cracked pepper I finish them with after cooking.

11 January 2014

I hate food waste #2: Leftover lunch, salmon & pasta


My wife and I typically have salmon once a week. I usually grill it. And she usually buys a piece big enough so that there’s some left over for me to eat for lunch later in the week.

My usual practice is to simply warm it in the microwave along with leftover risotto or couscous (served with the salmon when I made it originally. Here’s our favorite risotto recipe, click here.)

This week, however, we had some leftover bowtie pasta. We’d made it for our grandkids when they were over for dinner, and there were a few bowties left.

So I put the pasta on a plate and flaked the salmon over it. Then I dressed it simply with olive oil, fresh-ground pepper, and a half teaspoon of capers. I also drizzled on a little red pepper sauce that I made from Serrano peppers that I grew in my garden last summer. Then I warmed the whole plate in the microwave. It was really good! I’d consider making this for dinner sometime.

10 January 2014

I hate food waste #1: Candied Grapefruit Peel


My wife and I each grew up in homes that eschewed food waste. It’s a trait we inherited honestly, and one that we practice in our own home to this day. We’re the type of people who put a tablespoon of hummus in a container and save it until “someday one of us might want just a bite of hummus on a cracker.” Then, periodically, we come across a container of some unrecognizable leftover and ask “what is this?” Then throw it away as inedible.

When my January Bon Appetit magazine arrived, there was a tempting photo and article on making candied grapefruit peel. (Click here to view it.) My wife had just bought a bag of grapefruit for my breakfast, and I had noticed that these grapefruit had nice, thick peels. It would be a shame to just throw away the peels after enjoying the fruit for breakfast.

So the next day, I tried the technique portrayed in the magazine. They actually turned out quite well. The photos here are of the ones I made. They look nice, but not quite as appealing as the Bon Appetit photos. The only trouble is, I now have a freezer bag full of candied grapefruit peel and I have to figure out a recipe to use them in. I make a biscotti for my wife that uses candied orange peel. (Now that I know the technique, I may make my own orange peel rather than buy them in the supermarket. They’re sometimes hard to find anyway.) I may try modifying the recipe and use grapefruit peel instead. GrapefruitPeel2

The technique calls for boiling the peels in simple syrup. After I was done with the recipe, I had a cup or so of citrus flavored syrup. I poured that into a jar and refrigerated it. It makes a nice sweetener for cocktails, like an Old-Fashioned.

25 October 2013

Recipe: Broccoli Cheddar Soup warms a chilly Oct. day

Since retiring in July, I’ve had to start planning things to have for lunch. When I was working, I’d either have a lunch meeting, or I’d eat in the cafeteria, or I’d skip lunch (especially if I’d had a good breakfast that day). I might still choose to skip lunch, but that would mean my wife would have to eat lunch alone, and she’d prefer not to. So I’ve been planning leftovers and other dishes that I can quickly heat up for lunch.

Now that it’s October and the weather is getting chilly, soup is a logical choice. This week, I decided I wanted to make a cheese soup. I had an ulterior motive. I may have mentioned in a previous post that I had a particularly robust crop of Serrano peppers in my garden. They were ripening faster than I could use them. So I went looking for a recipe for homemade pepper sauce. I settled on the recipe I found on the Food Network web site from Emeril Lagasse. (Click here: Homemade Red Hot Sauce.) SerranoPeppers

Here is a photo of my beautiful Serrano peppers. I followed Emeril’s recipe as posted.

I decided a cheese soup would taste good with a little bit of the pepper sauce stirred in. So I started looking for a cheese soup recipe. I actually was a bit frustrated that it wasn’t easy to find one … at least it wasn’t easy to find a recipe that sounded good to me.

Finally I found this recipe for Broccoli Cheddar Soup from the Cabot Creamery co-op in New England. It’s pretty easy to make – sauté with butter half an onion and two cubed potatoes. Dust the vegetables with flour and let it cook a couple minutes. Stir in equal amounts of milk and chicken stock (I used a homemade turkey stock). When the broccoli is cooked tender, stir in grated cheddar cheese, season, and serve.

One modification of the recipe, of course, I added a scant teaspoon of the pepper sauce to my bowl when I ate it. The pepper sauce created a warm glow in my mouth while eating the soup. (Instead of the homemade pepper sauce, you could use Tabasco, New Orleans Hot Sauce, or any other kind of hot sauce that you might like.)

The other major modification was that I blended the soup after the broccoli was cooked. If you look at the photo on Cabot’s web site, you’ll see that it’s more of a chowder consistency, with chunks of broccoli and potato. I wanted more of a smooth soup with smaller chunks of broccoli in it. So I poured the batch into my blender and gave it a quick whirl. Then I poured it back into the pot and stirred in the grated cheese. It turned out great.

I did actually make one other modification. Cabot’s recipe calls for Cabot butter when sautéing the onions and potatoes. I used Land O Lakes.

Sorry I didn’t take a picture of my final version.

So here’s my verdict. My wife and I ate about half of the pot of soup for lunch. I’ll have the rest for lunch over the next couple of days. My wife doesn’t like the potatoes in the soup. She asked if next time, I would make it with only one potato. My feeling is that the potato primarily helps to make the soup thicker. By blending it before stirring in the cheese, I’m not sure it even needs the potato. Next time, I may simply leave the potatoes out.

01 October 2013

Pizza Postscript–a Word of Explanation

In yesterday’s post I commented that despite having a pretty good experience at Pig Ate My Pizza, my wife and I likely wouldn’t trek to Robbinsdale just for pizza. The main reason is because we like the pizzas we make at home better than any restaurant pizza.HomemadePizza

So for example, this photo is of a pizza that we made a few weeks ago.

You can find pizza crust recipes basically anywhere. The recipe we use is from the New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook. I guess its out of print now. Our copy is copyright 1971. We probably got it as a wedding present in 1974. The pizza crust recipe is very basic, just flour, water, yeast, and olive oil. We like it because it produces a crisp crust that doesn’t interfere with the toppings we put on.

We topped this particular pizza with fresh Roma tomatoes from the Minneapolis farmers market, fresh basil from our garden, and supermarket mozzarella cheese (from Cub).

We most often make pizza on Sunday nights. After a busy weekend, we usually just want to relax with a simple pizza, salad, and a martini. I mix up the dough for the crust and grate the cheese while my wife prepares the toppings. (We like to have all the knife work done before pouring the martinis.)

Then while the pizza dough is rising, we relax with a martini, usually featuring olives stuffed with gorgonzola or blue cheese. When the pizza dough is ready, we pre-bake it for a few minutes, then put on the toppings and finish it off. When the cheese is nice and melted, dinner is served.

Really, this is so simple, good, and relaxing that we have no motivation to go to a restaurant for pizza. Even if that restaurant takes reservations.

29 August 2013

Not Risotto Diablo

On the rare occasion when I’m alone at home for dinner, I like to make something new or different, and something that I don’t think my wife will like. So that’s what I did in August when my wife went out for dinner with girlfriends.

The pepper plants in my garden have been particularly prolific this year. Two jalapeno plants have produced a lot of nice peppers, and my son gave me five Serrano plants that are absolutely prodigious. My wife doesn’t like hot spicy food. I do. So I set about to make a recipe using jalapenos.

My personal specialty is risotto. I have a favorite recipe for risotto with tomatoes. I decided to adapt it by adding the jalapenos and creating a dish that I envisioned calling “Risotto Diablo,” intending it to be devilishly hot. I planned to eat it with some leftover grilled salmon and carrots.NotRisottoDiablo

What I’ve done with most of the jalapenos that I’ve harvested so far this summer is put them whole on the grill. After roasting them until they’re soft, I cut them open, scrape out the seeds, and then eat the roasted peppers with my burger or steak or fish, also grilled. The peppers have tasted particularly fiery. While I wanted my risotto to be hot, I did want it to be edible. So I only used one large green jalapeno.

During preparation, I took several steps to tone down the heat. I’ve been told that the heat in a jalapeno comes from the seeds and internal membranes. So I scraped them out. I’d also been told that milk and dairy products tend to neutralize the heat in a pepper. So I finished the risotto with sour cream (instead of my usual parmesan cheese).

Well, much to my disappointment, I took too many precautions; I probably should have used at least two jalapenos. In fact, the risotto was not fiery; it wasn’t even particularly hot. Truth to tell, it turned out so mild that my wife enjoyed the leftovers with another dinner of grilled salmon later in the week.

Here’s how I prepared the risotto (and here’s a link to the original that I make often – Risotto with Tomatoes & Parmesan.) As I noted above, I served the leftovers with dinner again later in the week. In order to spice it up a little, I took a Serrano pepper, minced it and mixed it into the risotto. It still wasn’t devilishly hot, but this time it had a little more kick to it.

For the tomatoes, I used oven roasted Roma tomatoes. Every summer I buy a basket of very ripe tomatoes, roast them, and then freeze them for future use. If you prefer, you can use whole tomatoes or even canned tomatoes, but if you do, you may not need all of the broth before the rice is done cooking.

When you read the recipe, you’ll note that I used a relatively new product produced by Land O’Lakes called Sauté Express. It’s basically a butter and olive oil mixture seasoned with herbs and spices. For this recipe, I used the Italian Herb. I used to work for Land O’Lakes (now retired) and I had some in the freezer.

3 cups vegetable broth
3 roasted Roma tomatoes (click here for recipe), roughly chopped
1 cube of Land O Lakes Sauté Express (or 2 tbsp. herbed butter)
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 minced small onion
1 or 2 large green jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
¼ cup fresh garden herbs, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
2 tbsp. sour cream

In a saucepan, bring broth to a boil then reduce to simmer. In a sauté pan, melt the Sauté Express with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook onion and minced jalapeno over medium heat until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes, but don’t let them brown. Stir in the rice and cook for one minute until grains are coated and glistening. Add a ladle of broth, stir constantly until liquid is absorbed by the rice. Continue to add liquid about ½ cup at a time, stirring until absorbed after each addition.

When most of the liquid has been added to the rice, add the tomatoes to the rice along with more broth. Risotto is done when the rice is al dente (tender, but firm to the bite.)

Remove rice from heat. Stir in herbs and sour cream. Cover and let stand off the heat for about 2 minutes to allow flavors to blend; the rice will finish cooking. Add salt to taste. Serve.

30 July 2013

Summer dinner, tomatoes 2 ways

We usually grill fish at least once a week. Usually it’s salmon. But this week my wife bought a nice looking piece of mahi mahi. I had a little time this afternoon to peruse recipes on Epicurious and decide on a menu.

I found two recipes that featured roasted tomatoes.

In Minnesota, we haven’t yet reached the peak of tomato season. In fact, we have only harvested 3 cherry tomatoes off our tomato plants so far. But I have previously written about my sister’s method of roasting tomatoes and then freezing them for use throughout the year. So the fact is, I used some of the roasted tomatoes from my freezer rather than running to a market for fresh tomatoes tonight. TomatoRelish

The first recipe that piqued my interest was for Greek-Style Mahi Mahi. It all sounded interesting. But I’d already decided to grill the fish, and the recipe called for broiling it with feta, herbs, and mayo. Still, the recipe called for making a tomato relish that sounded like a nice accompaniment. So I made that part of the recipe. It was very simple, really. Instead of using wedges of fresh tomatoes as the recipe specified, I diced the roasted tomatoes and then mixed in the olive oil, red wine vinegar. We liked how it turned out, and it was a very nice accompaniment to the grilled fish.

The other recipe that I found was for Israeli couscous with roasted tomatoes and Kalamata olives. I followed this recipe pretty much as published. The interesting part of it was the dressing. It called for about half of the roasted tomatoes to be blended into the olive oil and lemon juice to make a tomato flavored vinaigrette. I liked it so much that I’ll make it to serve on salads in the future.

By the way, we were disappointed with the mahi. It tasted quite fishy despite being grilled. The tomato relish helped to cut the fishy flavor. So we were glad that we had it.

Let me know if you decide to try it.

29 July 2013

3 Things to Keep Me Busy

When I started talking about my plans to retire, the most common question was – What are you going to do with your time? I assured everyone that I had a long list of things that I wanted to do in retirement. But the top 3 are read, travel, and cook.


My last day at the office was July 2. On July 3 my wife took me to the Edina public library. Now, of course, I read a lot at work – e-mail, newsletters, periodicals, reports. But I can’t tell you the last novel I read. It had been so long that the library had deactivated my account, and Linda had to check out the book for me. The first book I read in retirement was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

After I finished the book (loved it) and got my library account updated, I took Linda’s advice and downloaded the Hennepin County Library app for my iPad/iPhone. I also downloaded Overdrive Digital Library so that I could download and read eBooks. I downloaded and now am reading the second book in The Girl series – The Girl Who Played With Fire.


The next thing that happened on July 3, my sister-in-law called and invited us to spend 4th of July at their cabin north of Duluth. We decided spur of the moment to accept. So my first retirement trip was to my wife’s hometown. My second trip (coming up in a couple days) is to my hometown, farm actually, to visit my parents.


For the July 4 weekend, we were responsible for Friday night dinner. I improvised a Bobby Flay menu for salmon from the Food Network web site. I did modify it quite a bit, however. You’ll have to read my next post to see what changes I made.

But I guess the best part about cooking in retirement is that I have the time to do something on a whim. For example, earlier this spring, I tried to make a pilaf with brown rice. But I had trouble getting the rice cooked. I was afraid that there was something wrong with the rice. Then I read an article in the current Cooks Illustrated magazine about cooking brown rice for salads. They recommended cooking the rice in an ample amount of water and then draining it and cooling it.

I decided to give it a try. What the heck, I had all afternoon, and if it didn’t turn out, I could just toss it and make something else. It was a liberating experience. In the past, I would rush home from work and couldn’t take a chance on an untested recipe because if it flopped, I wouldn’t have time to recover.

Here’s the link to the article. But Cooks Illustrated has limits on content that it posts on the web site. So depending on when you read this, the link may no longer work.

My new project is going to be sourdough. I tried sourdough many years ago, but couldn’t get it to produce the results I wanted. I gave up. But this month, my sister gave me starter from her sourdough. So I’m going to give it another try.

I’m hoping to post a success story about sourdough in the near future.

Thanks for reading!

Grilled Salmon for Friday Night at Island Lake

When my wife and I accepted an invitation to spend July 4 weekend at my sister-in-law’s cabin, we volunteered to help with cooking. Our assignment was dinner on Friday night. We decided on salmon as the main course. I went to the internet to find a recipe/menu that would be good and creative but relatively simple to make, recognizing that the kitchen at the cabin has some limitations. (And besides, we weren’t going there to spend the whole afternoon cooking.)

Here’s what I came up with: Pan Roasted Salmon Steaks with Sherry Vinegar-Honey Glaze and Spicy Tomato Relish and Parsleyed Potatoes. It’s a Bobby Flay recipe that I found on Food Network web site. But, I made a few changes. CabinSalmon

1. I decided to grill the salmon rather than pan roast it. But I mean really, Bobby Flay is known for his grilling technique. In fact, the show that this recipe came from was called “Hot off the Grill.”

2. My wife doesn’t like spicy food. So I left the red pepper flakes out of the Spicy Tomato Relish.

3. Likewise, the glaze for the salmon called for ancho chile powder. I left that out. Didn’t have any in my pantry anyway.

4. The glaze also called for Dijon mustard. Many years ago, I saw an episode of The Essence of Emeril where Emeril Lagasse made homemade mustard. The episode was filmed in 2005, and I can’t remember when I saw it on TV. But I started making it, and I decided that I would use that instead of Dijon in Bobby Flay’s salmon glaze. Here’s Emeril’s recipe for Homemade Tarragon Mustard.

The meal turned out great. I hope Bobby Flay doesn’t mind about the modifications I made in his recipe.

03 October 2012

Recipe: Tomato Jam

I mentioned in an earlier post that I went to the Minneapolis Farmers Market at the end of September and bought a bunch of tomatoes. It’s part of an annual end-of-summer tradition. This year, I bought a basket full of tomatoes. It might have been more than we usually get. It was a lot of tomatoes. But they were right at their vine-ripened peak and perfect for the combination of recipes that I usually use.

One recipe is for oven roasted tomatoes. Click here for my previous blog post on that.TomatoJam

The other recipe is for tomato jam. I’m kind of surprised I haven’t posted it previously. It’s really delicious. I got it from the New York Times, back when Mark Bittman was the food editor. (When Bittman was the Minimalist. That was before he became the Opinionator (which he is now) and became shrill, shallow, and tedious.)

So here’s the link to the recipe.

Tomato Jam (NYTimes, August 20, 2008)

1 1/2 pounds good ripe tomatoes (Roma are best), cored and coarsely chopped

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tablespoon fresh grated or minced ginger

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon salt

1 jalapeño or other peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced, or red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste.

1. Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan, Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.

2. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, then cool and refrigerate until ready to use; this will keep at least a week.

Yield: About 1 pint.

Krik’s tips: I have to admit I don’t follow the quantities very closely. I probably use double the tomatoes, only a little more sugar, and the rest of the seasonings vary from batch to batch. It doesn’t seem to make a lot of difference. However, the last batch I made was particularly large, and I think I should have cooked it longer. The jam seems more runny. More like a sweet salsa than jam. Good flavor but the texture is different.

I like to use this instead of ketchup (or catsup) on burgers and grilled meat. My wife and I also like to serve it on crackers as an appetizer.

30 September 2012

Recipe: Gingersnap Cookies (with Grandchildren)

I took a day off on Friday. I stayed home and my wife and I took care of our two grandsons for the day. I went early to the Minneapolis Farmers Market and bought a bushel of tomatoes. (More about them later.) Then I went by my son’s house and picked up Leo. Shortly after I got home, my son-in-law dropped off Trey. BettyCrocker

In the afternoon, after their naps, we made gingersnap cookies. I relied on my standby recipe from my Betty Crocker Cookbook. The poor thing is getting pretty old and worn. As you will see in the photo, the cover now is being held in place with duct tape. I positioned two of the cookies on the book cover just to show how they turned out. I once looked into getting a new cookbook. But I discovered that they’ve changed some of the recipes. So I guess I’ll just keep using this book that I bought more than 40 years ago.

Gingersnaps are my favorite cookie. Maybe the boys would have preferred chocolate chips. But no one complained. They had fun helping and then sampling the finished cookies.

Their parents and sisters came over for dinner on Friday, as is our usual family practice. We had gingersnaps for dessert. Toward the end of this post is a picture of my wife and me with all four grandchildren on the hammock outside.

Gingersnaps (from Betty Crocker Cookbook, copyright 1971, 9th printing)

3/4 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 c. molasses

2 1/4 c. flour

2 teaspoons soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

1/2 tsp. cloves

1/4 tsp. salt

Mix thoroughly butter, sugar, egg and molasses. Blend in remaining ingredients. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Shape dough by rounded spoonsful into balls. Dip tops in granulated sugar. Place balls sugared side up on baking sheet. Flatten slightly (using cookie press or back of spoon). Bake 10-12 minutes. Immediately remove from baking sheet to cooling rack.ShabbatCookieKids

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

Krik’s tips: OK, the Betty Crocker original recipe calls for shortening. But I work for Land O’Lakes, so I changed it to butter. The original recipe doesn’t call for flattening the balls of dough before baking. I do it to get thinner, crisper cookies. I’m also sort of compulsive about uniform size cookies. So I divide the dough into four pieces, and roll the pieces into a short log (about 1 inch diameter, 4 inches long). Then I cut each log into 12 pieces, and dip the tops in the granulated sugar. This process eliminates the step for flattening the balls. Also, you can take one or more of the rolls, wrap in plastic wrap, place in a freezer bag and then freeze. Then, anytime you want a dozen fresh cookies, just take out one of the logs, slice into 12 pieces, dip in sugar and bake.

17 September 2012

Recipe: Eggplant Lasagna w/ Parsley Pesto

My wife’s birthday landed on Rosh Hashana this year. So I prepared the festive meal with help from family and guests who shared the evening with us.

Here’s what I made – turkey (roasted on the charcoal Weber Grill), eggplant Lasagna with parsley pesto, mashed potatoes, challah, and applesauce (apples from my parents’ farm). My son and his wife brought a delicious apple cake. My daughter and her husband brought a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis for Sweet Pea Crostini (a crowd-pleaser every time). Another guest brought a delicious kale salad with walnuts and dried cranberries. Another guest brought roasted asparagus and red peppers. Any my wife’s sister brought a tray of chocolate peanut butter brownies.RoshHashana2012A

We had a total of 12 adults, three kids, and one toddler for the dinner. There was plenty of food. No one went home hungry.

The lasagna that I made was something new. I’ve made lasagna with roasted fall vegetables before. But the eggplant lasagna was unusual (at least for me). I didn’t think of it at the time, but it was almost like moussaka. I found the recipe on Epicurious. It originally appeared in a 2003 issue of Gourmet magazine (RIP). I followed the recipe pretty closely. The recipe called for no-boil lasagna noodles; I used dried noodles and boiled them according to the package directions.

The only addition – I had some shredded mozzarella in the refrigerator, so I sprinkled that over the lasagna before baking it. Also, the recipe said there’d be about 3/4 cup of pesto leftover. I only had about 1/4 cup left for drizzling over the finished lasagna. The recipe says it serves 8. Since we had so much other food, I cut it into 12 pieces, and several people only took half pieces.

Here’s the recipe as it appears on Epicurious.

Eggplant Lasagna with Parsley Pesto Gourmet | November 2003

Yield: Makes 8 servings


For béchamel
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
For pesto and ricotta mixture
1 1/3 cups hazelnuts (5 1/2 ounces), toasted and loose skins rubbed off in a kitchen towel
4 cups loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (from 3/4 lb)
3 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 1/2 cups)
2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons black pepper
1 large egg
1 (15-ounce) container whole-milk ricotta
For lasagna
4 pounds medium eggplants (4), cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
9 (7- by 3 1/2-inch) oven-ready lasagna noodles (sometimes called "no-boil"; 6 oz)
1 1/2 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Make béchamel:

Cook garlic in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Add flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until liquid is reduced to about 4 cups, about 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and white pepper, then remove from heat and discard bay leaf. Cover surface of sauce with wax paper until ready to use.

Make pesto and ricotta mixture:

Coarsely chop 1/3 cup hazelnuts and reserve for sprinkling over lasagna.

Purée parsley, Parmigiano-Reggiano, 2/3 cup oil, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and remaining cup hazelnuts in a food processor until pesto is smooth, about 1 minute.

Whisk egg in a bowl, then stir in ricotta, 1 cup parsley pesto, remaining teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper until combined well.

Stir together 1/4 cup pesto and remaining 1/4 cup oil in a small bowl for drizzling over lasagna.

Roast eggplant for lasagna:

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 450°F. Oil 2 large baking sheets.

Brush eggplant with oil on both sides, then arrange in 1 layer on baking sheets and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake eggplant, switching position of sheets halfway through baking and turning slices over once, until tender, 20 to 25 minutes total.

Assemble lasagna:

Put oven rack in middle position and reduce oven temperature to 425°F. Lightly oil a 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish (3 quart) and line a larger shallow baking pan with foil.

Spread 1 cup béchamel in baking dish and cover with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between sheets. Drop 1 cup ricotta mixture by spoonsful over pasta, spreading evenly (layer will be thin), then top with 1 layer of eggplant, cutting rounds to fit if necessary. Make 1 more layer each of béchamel, pasta, ricotta, and eggplant. Spread with 1 cup béchamel and cover with remaining 3 pasta sheets. Spread remaining cup ricotta mixture over pasta, then spread ricotta with remaining cup béchamel and top with remaining eggplant in 1 layer (you may have a few slices left over). Sprinkle Parmigiano-Reggiano over eggplant and scatter with reserved chopped hazelnuts.

Tightly cover baking dish with oiled foil (oiled side down), then set dish in foil-lined pan (to catch drips) and bake lasagna 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagna stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Serve lasagna drizzled with pesto.

23 July 2012

Pasta & Canasta at home with friends

When we had our anniversary dinner at Restaurant Alma, one of the courses we had was orecchiette pasta with lamb sausage. I was really impressed by the dish.

During the evening, as we chatted with our friends about the food, I mentioned that I had gotten a pasta machine and had started making fresh pasta. One thing lead to another, and we ended up inviting our friends to our house for a dinner of fresh pasta. We all have joined the canasta craze, and we thought it would be fun to end the evening with a game.

So as I thought about what to make, I decided to try to replicate the flavors of the dish we had at Alma. The first thing I did was search the internet. Lo and behold, there was a recipe by Emeril Lagasse for lamb sausage ragout with Portobello mushrooms and fettuccine. Click here for Emeril’s recipe. His recipe called for fettuccine instead of orecchiette. And Alma’s dish didn’t include Portobello mushrooms. But it looked interesting. LambSausageRagu

The pasta recipe I use is pretty reliable, so I decided to use that recipe (click here) for the fettuccine. (Emeril’s recipe didn’t specify fresh pasta. Actually, quite ironically, Emeril’s recipe online calls for rigatoni, even though the title of the recipe says fettuccine.)

I put lamb sausage on my shopping list. I wasn’t sure how difficult that would be to find. Well, turns out it was quite difficult. Finally I just bought ground lamb and figured I’d improvise.

When I got home, I went back to the internet. I was relieved to discover that there actually are a lot of recipes for homemade fresh sausage on the internet. The one I finally settled on was another Emeril recipe. His called for pork butt, but I had already decided to improvise, so that was no problem. Here’s his original recipe.

So here are my modifications. Starting with the sausage, I used ground lamb instead of cubed pork butt. Also, his recipe called for paprika; I used Spanish smoked paprika. Then, for the ragout, I did not use pepper flakes. I had a fresh jalapeno which I minced and sautéed with the rest of the vegetables.

I was somewhat perplexed by Emeril’s serving instructions. He said to put the grilled Portobellos on the platter, then put the pasta over them and top with the ragout. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to use such large mushrooms. But I felt they were way to big to put on the platter whole. So I sliced the grilled mushrooms into 3/4-inch wide slices.

It all turned out great. Probably the most fun for me was making the homemade sausage. I’m definitely going to do that again.

We ended the evening with a nice game of canasta. Our friends won, but it was close.

23 June 2012

Big Island Happy Hour 2012

In mid-June, my co-worker and I hosted a happy hour to benefit the United Way campaign at Land O’Lakes. She’s actually the host since the event is held at her family’s cabin on Big Island in Lake Minnetonka. I just come along and help with the cooking and drinks. We auction the event during the United Way campaign in October and then pick a mutually convenient date for the event – usually in late May or early June. We held the first one in 2008. I didn’t blog about that one. But I did do posts on the 2009 event (click here) and the 2010 event (click here). I don’t remember why I didn’t do a post on the 2011 event. BigIsland1

For the menu this year, Lydia (my co-worker) reprised her specialty – grilled shrimp with Gianni’s dipping sauce. She also made ‘Super BLT Bites with Tarragon Mayo.’ They were very tasty. The tarragon mayo really made the dish. But she complained that they took so much time to assemble that it kept her from enjoying the conversation with our co-workers. I know how she feels. That’s happened to me in previous years.

This year, however, the recipes I prepared all lent themselves to advance preparation.

From the Washington Post food page, I made a goat cheese and pesto bombe. This had to be made in advance so that everything could thicken up and the bombe would hold its shape. I think the pesto was too runny, too much like a pesto sauce rather than a paste. So instead of having this pretty white hemisphere with a green stripe, it turned out to be more of a white hemisphere on an emerald green pesto puddle. Flavors were great, though.BigIsland4

I also made brie and pear quesadillas. These I prepared totally in advance in my own kitchen and just transported them out to Big Island. I kept them in the fridge until ready to serve, then just lightly grilled them before serving.

My final recipe was cucumber and smoked salmon rolls. I did assemble these at the cabin. The hardest part was slicing the cucumber so that I could roll up the cream cheese spread and slices of smoked salmon. My mandolin cut them thin enough, but it’s not a professional mandolin, and I had trouble getting the strips of cucumber long enough for the rolls. Also, I did prepare these about an hour before the guests arrived, and by the time I served them, the cucumber had started to weep and get limp. Still, I loved the way they turned out. It was probably my favorite item of the evening.

So that was it for 2012. It was very gratifying to see how our co-workers appreciated the whole experience. Honestly, I had fun doing it, and we raised a nice chunk of change for our United Way campaign, so it really was for a good cause.


14 January 2012

Hooray for soup!

There’s a poster at work (Land O’Lakes) that says January is National Soup Month. OK, so the weather this winter is unusually warm. But soup is still a good idea.

In the past I’ve posted two recipes for soup. So in honor of National Soup Month, I’m offering them up again for you to try.

The first one goes back to the year I started Krik’s Picks – 2006. I wrote a post about my parents’ garden and the luscious tomatoes they grow and then can for enjoying year ‘round. Then I posted my wife’s favorite recipe for homemade tomato soup. Click here to read it.

I posted the next recipe in 2009. I wrote about how my kids used to like having fresh soup and homemade bread on Sunday mornings when they were growing up. Their favorite was a cream of spinach soup. Click here to read it.

That cream of spinach soup was a Land O’Lakes recipe. I can’t find it on the web site, but they do have several good soup recipes there. Check them out.

Stay warm.

31 December 2011

Arrivederci 2011, homemade tortelloni

If the road to hell truly is paved with good intentions, then I was there and back in 2011, relative to keeping my blog up to date. I ended the year with 44 posts, counting this one, which is my last. Better than last year, true. But I started out so well, with 28 posts through May. Then I had a pathetic one post in June, one in August, and only one in October.

And it’s not for lack of material. We had a fun long weekend in San Diego in November. I only did two posts (Searsucker restaurant and Solamar hotel). But I should have done posts on Blue Point, Taka Sushi, The Prado in Balboa Park, Asti, and Croce’s, all of which were great and deserved to be praised in Krik’s Picks.

But for my last post of 2011, instead of trying to reconstruct my impressions of those San Diego eateries, I’m going to post on a new cooking experience instead.

In May, Bon Appetit magazine had an Italian theme issue which included a recipe and instructions for making stuffed pasta. Coincidentally during the year, my daughter and her husband lent me their pasta machine. I’ve always had an inkling to try making fresh pasta but was intimidated by the process. So finally, over the long Christmas weekend, I decided to do it.IMG_5182

First, here’s the link to the recipe from May Bon Appetit for Ricotta Tortelloni.

And here’s the link to their step-by-step instructions.

I also found an online video for using a pasta machine.

And I found a Giada DeLaurentiis video. (She uses a Kitchen Aid attachment rather than a hand crank roller like I got from Tovah and Peter.)

I used the pasta recipe from Bon Appetit, but I modified the filling. Instead of seasoned ricotta, I used some cooked squash, mixed in about an equal amount of ricotta and seasoned it with some dried sage.

It turned out pretty well. I was pleased by how easy it was to shape the tortelloni. I worried that the pockets would open up and the filling would get all watery when I cooked them. But that was not a problem.

The recipe says it makes enough for 12 starter courses or 6 main courses, and that was about right. My wife and I had about a third of the batch along with a green salad. We boiled and drained the tortelloni and sprinkled them with parmesan, a little olive oil, and basil. It was a light meal, but sufficient for the two of us. I froze the rest. My plan is to use the frozen tortelloni whenever I need either a quick meal or a convenient side dish.

Next time I make fresh pasta, I’m going to make fettuccini.

Happy new year. Keep reading Krik’s Picks.

25 November 2011

How Giada saved my Thanksgiving lasagna

OK. So Giada de Laurentiis didn’t knock on my door and offer to help with the lasagna I was making for Thanksgiving. (I wish.) But I did pick up on a Twitter feed that indicated that she was making a butternut squash recipe on the Today Show. I watched it online and got an idea that made a big improvement in my recipe.

Here’s the back story.

This past summer, we redecorated our dining room. During a summer family event, I offered to have Thanksgiving at our house so that people could see the end result. We ended up having 27 people – 4 who came just for appetizers, 2 babies born in September, 2 toddlers in high chairs, and 19 people around the tables. That’s the biggest dinner party we’ve ever hosted at our house.

Among the guests were my son-in-law’s parents. They have a family tradition of having a lasagna on the menu for Thanksgiving. My son-in-law (kitchen manager and sous chef at Pairings) and I planned the menu, and we decided to include a lasagna. (Here’s a photo of us with the whole buffet.)IMG_5045

About two years ago, I posted a recipe for a lasagna made with roasted squash and other harvest vegetables. My comment was that the flavors were good, but it was a little dry. I had some butternut squash in my pantry (from my parents’ garden), so I decided to reprise the lasagna. But I wondered what to do about the dryness.

That’s when I picked up on the Twitter feed and checked Giada’s butternut squash lasagna recipe (also available on her web site). She included a béchamel sauce, and I realized that would add the moisture my recipe was missing. Besides that, I loved the technique of blending in some basil to give the béchamel a distinctive flavor. (I’ll be using that technique again in the future.)

Here’s the revised recipe with Giada’s béchamel included.

1 large (or 2 medium) onions, cut into 1-inch chunks
½ pound whole mushrooms, cut in half (small mushrooms) or quarters (large mushrooms)
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch cubes slices (about 5½ cups)
olive oil
4 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (or thyme), divided
4 tablespoons sliced fresh sage, divided
2 15-ounce containers whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided
2 cups grated provolone cheese, divided
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
3 large eggs
2 roasted red peppers cut into strips (optional)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
3½ cups whole milk
3/4 cup basil
½ pound dried lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, toss squash cubes, onions, and mushrooms with olive oil to coat. Spread vegetables onto a rimmed cookie sheet. Sprinkle with half of the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables in oven for about 30 minutes, or until squash is tender and beginning to brown. Remove from oven and reduce temperature to 350 degrees.

Mix ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, 1 cup provolone, and 1½ cups Parmesan cheese, and remaining herbs in large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper; mix in eggs.

Melt the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg. Cool slightly. Transfer half of the sauce to a blender. Add the basil and blend until smooth. Return the basil sauce to the sauce in the pan and stir to blend. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Brush 13x9x2-inch glass or ceramic lasagna pan with oil. Ladle about 3/4 c. of the béchamel over bottom of the pan. Arrange 3 noodles on top. Spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture over noodles. Ladle another 3/4 c. béchamel over the ricotta. Arrange ½ of the roasted vegetables over. Sprinkle with ½ of remaining mozzarella and provolone. Top with 3 noodles, then 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, more béchamel, remaining roasted vegetables, and remaining mozzarella and provolone. Top with 3 noodles. Spread remaining ricotta mixture over and remaining sauce; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Cover with oiled foil.

Bake lasagna, covered, 35 minutes. Uncover; bake until heated through, about 25 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Thanksgiving menu 2011

My son-in-law and I planned our menu for Thanksgiving. We had a big crowd, and we planned an extensive menu. Quite a difference from last year when there were only six of us (plus a baby) – my Mom & Dad, my daughter and son-in-law (and their son), and me and Linda. Click here to see the post on last year’s meal and a photo.

Now look at this photo of the 23 people squeezed into our redecorated dining room for this year’s feast.IMG_5046

I did the turkey on the Weber grill, as usual.

My son-in-law made gravy, using some of the drippings that we siphoned out of the drip pan on the grill. It added a nice smoky flavor to the gravy. He also made roasted Brussels sprouts using a recipe from Epicurious. He also made a cranberry and orange relish.

My daughter made stuffing. My wife made corn.

I took the week off and used Wednesday to prepare a few things in advance. One was braised short ribs, another recipe from Epicurious. My son-in-law actually found the recipe. I know he wanted to make it. But he had to work on Wednesday, and the braised meat always is better if you make it in advance and then let it sit in the braising liquid overnight. The only variation I made to the recipe was that I used boneless short ribs. The main reason I did that was because we were preparing for a big crowd, and I didn’t think I’d have a big enough pan to make the bone-in ribs. The butcher at Jerry’s prepared six pounds of boneless ribs. There were 12 ribs, and that proved to be just the right quantity.

I also made lasagna with roasted butternut squash, mushrooms, red onions, and red peppers. See next post.

On Thanksgiving, I baked whole wheat date rolls, yet another Epicurious recipe. Then I turned the kitchen over to my son-in-law. All I did was finish roasting the turkey and reheat the ribs and the lasagna.

Other family members brought appetizers and desserts. My mom and dad brought dried beef and beef jerky from Nick’s Meats in Hayward, MN. They also brought cheese and crackers. My brother and his wife brought a vegetable tray. My daughter brought an artichoke dip.

For dessert, my other brother brought a pumpkin pie and a minced fruit pie. My daughter-in-law brought two apple pies. My son-in-law brought a huge carrot cake. (My favorite desserts are apple pie and carrot cake. Thanksgiving was the day before my 60th birthday, so they brought special desserts for me.)

This was the biggest dinner we’ve served in our house. But no one went home hungry.

26 September 2011

Apple picking at the Farm … and applesauce

When I first launched this blog, one of my first posts was about my parents’ garden. That particular post was about their tomatoes. I said that I’d write later about their apples. So now, five years later, here it is.

Mom & Dad have a lot of apple trees on their farm. They always have a lot to harvest. My brothers and my sister always plan trips to the farm in September to help pick apples. We went last Sunday.

Actually, my son and his daughter went on Friday. (She’s five years old. I started Krik’s Picks when she was born. She’s my oldest grandchild.) My wife and daughter-in-law came on Sunday with the two grandsons.

We picked a lot of apples. They have several different varieties, and we didn’t even take some of each. We mostly took Regent, Prairie Spy, Red Delicious, and a few of a yellow apple variety that dad couldn’t remember the name. Apples2

On the counters in our kitchen, we now have eight bags of apples. We’ll give some as gifts. I’ll make several batches of applesauce (and freeze them). I’ll also make some apple crisp and if I’m ambitious, a couple apple pies. (My daughter-in-law taught me a technique for making pie crust in the food processor. It works, but I’m still intimidated.) And we’ll be eating a lot of fresh apples for several weeks. (Picked fresh from the farm, they keep very well.)

Pictured in the pot on my stove, I have my first batch of applesauce. I’ll serve it with our dinner on Wednesday night. I cut up about half a bag of the Prairie Spy variety. Dad warned me that they’re not an ideal cooking apple. He was right. After about 45 minutes of cooking, they still were not breaking down to a saucy consistency. I like applesauce with some apple chunks in it. But this was too much. So I facilitated the process by using a potato masher. Still pretty chunky, but it did the job.Apples1

I don’t use a recipe to make applesauce. I just peel and cut a bunch of apples into chunks and put them in a Dutch oven. When the pot is about three-fourths full, I add a cup of sugar and some cinnamon (one tablespoon, or or less, depending on how you like it). Then I add water about halfway up the pot. The more water you use, the longer it takes for the apples to cook down. But the longer they cook, the more the apples break down into a saucy consistency. I don’t recommend adding too much sugar. The tartness of fresh apples is good, and if you like it sweeter, you can always add a dollop of ice cream. (Vanilla is good, but if you can get cinnamon ice cream, that’s the best.)

28 May 2011

Linda’s Hanukkah menu, Part I

For the past several years, I’ve given my wife a present of preparing dinner for a week. She likes because it’s a whole week when she doesn’t have to worry about whipping together a dinner after her piano students leave. I have fun doing it because it gives me a chance to try a bunch of different things.

When I first started giving this present, I used to organize it by day and give her two or three options for each day. But one year, she said she’d prefer to just mix and match recipes. So since then, I find two or three recipes and organize them into related categories. So, for example, here are the categories for her 2010 present:

Here’s the Beef (beef recipes)IMG_4648

Duck, Duck, Gray Duck (duck recipes)

Salads & Something (3 different dinner salads)

3 Ways with Fennel (3 recipes featuring fennel)

Vegetarian (just what it says)

Cluck Cluck (chicken recipes)

Something’s Fishy (fish recipes, duh)

Also, when I started, I used to go to a wide variety of sources for recipe ideas. (One year I did all celebrity chef recipes from Food TV.) But for the last couple years, I’ve gone to picking recipes from Bon Appetit. And, I’ve branded the list with my blog name. So the present is “Krik’s Picks Recipes, The Best of Bon Appetit 2010.”

The only problem is finding a whole week when I’m not traveling or we don’t have other things planned during the week. So lots of times, I end up delivering the present in the spring. That’s what happened this year. It got to be May and I still hadn’t delivered the present.

So in mid-May, I took a week off to plant my garden and do some cooking. Trouble was, we still didn’t have 7 days in a row. So I’m doing it in two installments. This is Part I, three recipes that I made that week. I’ll do Part II in September when her lessons start back up again.

For Part I, Linda picked these three recipes:

Rib Eye Steak with Tomato-Caper Relish from Bon Appetit, August 2010, p. 77. This was our favorite (pictured above). We substituted New York strip steaks instead of rib eye.

Dilled White Bean & Grape Tomato Salad from Bon Appetit, June 2010, p. 86. Linda liked it, but I was kind of disappointed. I thought it was a little bland. The picture is beautiful. In fact, looking at it again as I write this post made me think that maybe adding some capers or kalamata olives would perk it up a little. Also, I never use canned beans, as the recipe calls for. I soaked dried beans and cooked them up.

Rosemary & Lemon Grilled Chicken Breast from Bon Appetit, July 2010, p. 50. If you look at the recipe, you’ll see that the original called for turkey cutlets. We substituted bone-in, skin-on chicken legs and thighs. This was a very tasty recipe and very easy to make.

Watch for Part II later this year.