Friday, January 25, 2013

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Right off the bat, I'm going to admit that vegetable lasagna is not what comes to mind when most people hear the word lasagna.  I'm not saying you shouldn't eat the typical meaty, cheesy lasagna we all grew up enjoying as kids, as long as it is eaten in moderation.  Even in moderation it's sort of a guilty pleasure, but I really don't feel the least bit guilty eating this vegetable version as often as I want.  In spite of it being winter, there is still a wide variety of vegetables to choose from at the market.  The next time you have a cold or rainy day that keeps you indoors, here is a project for you. 
Roasting the vegetables first is worth the time and effort and truly adds depth to the flavor.  I modified a Vegetable Lasagna recipe from Food Network, because frankly I needed more cheese and more vegetables.
Feel free to change the vegetables to your liking and availability.
2 Tbs olive oil, plus 1/4 C, plus 2 Tbs
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed, plus 1 tsp minced, plus 2 cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
24 oz canned crushed tomatoes
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into thin slices
1 eggplant, cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium butternut squash, cut into bite sized pieces
4 roasted red bell peppers, seeded, skinned, veins removed
3-4 C baby bella mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 C ricotta cheese
2-3 C shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 C grated Parmesan
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, and dried thyme.  Place the zucchini on a sheet pan and brush with the olive oil mixture.  Bake 15 minutes or until soft.  Remove from the oven and set aside.  Marinate the eggplant and butternut squash in the remaining olive oil mixture for a few minutes
Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the butternut is mostly cooked.  I charred the red peppers on the grill the day before.  While all this is cooking, I peeled, seeded and placed the peppers on paper towels to remove some of the excess moisture.
Prepare the tomato sauce:  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add chopped onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 5-8 minutes.  Add 4 cloves crushed garlic and saute until fragrant, another minute or so.  Add the dried herbs and stir.  Lastly add the crushed tomatoes along with the salt and simmer 15-20 minutes or until thickened.
For the mushrooms:  In another pan heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat, add 2 cloves minced garlic and saute until fragrant.  Add the sliced mushrooms and saute until tender and juices are rendered.  Set aside.
Time to start layering.  Begin with a layer of zucchini, then half of the eggplant/squash mixture.
Top with half the tomato sauce and cover with all of the ricotta.
Cut the red peppers as needed to fit and lay on top of the ricotta.
Sprinkle half of the mozzarella, then cover with all of the mushrooms.
Lay the remaining zucchini slices, the last of the eggplant/butternut mixture, and top with the tomato sauce.
Sprinkle on the remaining mozzarella cheese and all of the Parmesan.  Bake about 45 minutes or until cheese is melted and brown.
Let it stand 10 minutes before serving, then dish it up and enjoy.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Blue & Yellow Corn Muffins

It is soup season around here, and what goes better with a hearty bowl of soup than a fresh baked muffin?  In my opinion, there is nothing better.  These blue and yellow corn muffins are a treat for your eyes as well as your taste buds.
Bobby Flays Mesa Grill Restaurant serves this muffin in every bread basket that leaves the kitchen.  As he says, it's a little extra work to make the two batters, using both blue and yellow corn meal, but I believe the visual satiation is worth the effort. 

Mesa Grill Blue & Yellow Corn Muffins
Nonstick cooking spray
6 Tb unsalted butter
1/2 C finely diced red onion
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 C whole milk
4 large eggs
2 Tb honey
1/2 C finely diced red bell pepper
2 jalapeno chiles, finely diced
1/2 C fresh corn kernels or frozen, thawed
2 Tb finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 C blue cornmeal
1 C yellow cornmeal
1 1/3 C all purpose flour
1 Tb baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 tsp kosher salt
With the rack in the middle of the oven, preheat to 400, and grease a 12 Cup muffin pan with non stick spray.  I had enough batter to make 10 mini muffins also.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.  Divide the mixture evenly between 2 large bowls.
In another large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, honey , red pepper, jalapenos, corn and cilantro.  Pour the mixture into a measuring cup and add half of the mixture to each of the large bowls containing the onion mixture.    
Put the blue cornmeal and yellow cornmeal in 2 separate bowls.  To each bowl, add 2/3 C flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda, and 2 tsp salt.  Mix each cornmeal mixture into a bowl with the liquid mixture.
Pour an equal amount of each batter side by side into each muffin cup and bake for 16-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out with a few moist crumbs on it.  Let muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack. 
A little dab of butter, and you've got DELICIOUS in your hand.  You can use just blue or yellow cornmeal and the muffins will be just as good.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Peanut Butter & Pretzel Truffles

Peanut butter, pretzel and chocolate, what's not to like?  As an added bonus, they really don't take long to make and you probably have all three ingredients in your house.  I've been a subscriber to the EatingWell magazine for many years, and this recipe comes from their January/February 2010 issue.  These little truffles definitely fill the need to indulge yourself once in a while.
Peanut Butter & Pretzel Truffles 
1/2 C natural peanut butter
1/4 C finely chopped salted pretzels
1/2 C milk chocolate chips, melted
Place 12-15 mini pretzels in a ziploc bag and go over them with a  rolling pin to make small crumbs.  Combine the peanut butter and pretzels in a small bowl, then chill in the freezer until firm, about 15 minutes.
Roll the peanut butter mixture into 20 balls(about 1 tsp each).  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper and freeze until very firm, about 1 hour.  Roll the frozen balls in the melted chocolate.  Refrigerate until the chocolate is set, at least 30 minutes.
These will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks, that is if you don't eat them before that time.  But the point is, you can make these well in advance of when you need them.  
 Enjoy a little bit of heaven.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sweet Potato Gratin

I made this elegant and satisfying side dish for Christmas dinner.  At the end of the meal I realized it was worthy of much more than an occasional attendance at a few holiday meals.  The smokiness of the chipotle cream sauce is addicting.  This recipe comes from Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Cookbook.
With less than a handful of ingredients, and a little time to slice the potatoes, this really goes together quickly.  The sweet potatoes absorb the chipotle infused whipping cream while they bake which produces a delightful flavor.

Sweet Potato Gratin
2 C heavy cream
1Tb chipotle chile puree
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8" thick
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Thinly sliced green onions for garnish  

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Whisk together the cream and chipotle puree.
In a 10-inch square baking dish with 2-inch-high sides, arrange an even layer of potatoes on the bottom of the dish, drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the cream mixture, and season with salt and pepper.  Repeat with remaining potatoes, cream, and salt and pepper to form 9 to 10 layers. Press down on the gratin to totally submerge the potatoes in the cream mixture.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and continue baking for 30 to 45 minutes, until the cream has been absorbed, the potatoes are cooked through and the top is browned.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. 
Sprinkle with green onions before serving.  There is another reason why you might want to include this in your meal plan.  You can make, bake and refrigerate it the day before, then reheat before serving.
So simple, yet so delicious.