Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sweet Chile Tuna Sauce with Ravioli

In last week's Commercial Appeal, my column gave a great recipe for a yummy tuna sauce recipe on goat cheese ravioli. There's an easier way to do it, and here it is. Just mix Lucchesi's Tomato-Basil Sauce with a can of Safcol tuna in sweet chile sauce and voila!
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Have I lost my restaurant picking touch?

For our first dinner in San Francisco, we took a chance at Fisherman's Wharf. I mean where else would you expect fine seafood? Most of the places looked very touristy (What else would you expect from a tourist destination?). Unfortunately I listened to the advice of a non-resident and we went to Sabella & LaTorre. About the only good thing about it was the attentive service. All meals came with either clam chowder or shrimp salad. We both chose the salad, and it came as you see, topped with a scoop of tiny mushy bay shrimp, half a cherry tomato and a couple of juliennes of pickled beets.On the good side, I asked for Italian dressing and got an obviously house-made vinaigrette with light herbs and a very good quality red wine vinegar.

Tom ordered "Garlic Shrimp and Crab." It came steamed, and while it looked fairly appetizing, it had been steamed way too long. Both the texture and the taste suffered as a result.

Mine, however, was a the totally big-time major disappointment. I got the special "Seafood Express." It was billed as "Sauteed Crablegs, Prawns and Scallops." I asked what it was sauteed in and the server said "garlic butter sauce." That sounded okay to me, so I went with it. You may not be able to see from the picture, but it came in an umpleasant viscous sauce that tasted neither of butter nor garlic. And there was no taste of seafood in any of the components. Both our meals were $29.95. I've gotten better seafood for way less at Captain D's in Memphis!
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Friday, October 09, 2009

Goat Cheese-Vegetable Lasagne

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On that first cold, gray, rainy day we had last Sunday, friends were coming to help do a little fixing-up for me at my house. I had promised to make dinner, planning to grill out but the weather put a stop to that. Comfort food, that’s what we needed on a day like that, so I made lasagne.

I had seen a recipe on a French language blog that gave me a starting point but as usual, I had my own ideas of what I wanted it to taste like.

This takes a little more work than I usually ask of you, and dirties a lot of prep bowls, but you can do it well ahead, even the day before, and have a perfectly clean kitchen by the time you want to pop it into the oven. I see no reason why it couldn’t even be frozen, but you’d had to thaw it completely in the fridge before baking.


9 lasagne noodles
2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
2 leeks, white and pale green parts, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into julienne strips
1 bulb fennel, white part only, thinly sliced (save some of the fronds for garnish)
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided, plus more for the pan
3 tbsp. flour
3 cups milk
8 oz fresh (soft) goat cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 tbsp. basil pesto
½ cup grated Italian cheese mix

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Cook the lasagne noodles in plenty of salted boiling water for about 6 minutes. Drain and lay flat on a kitchen towel until ready to use.

In a large heavy skillet, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté, stirring occasionally for a couple of minutes. Add zucchini, toss to combine with the leeks, cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving as much butter as possible.

In the same skillet, add two more tablespoons of the butter, and one tablespoon water. Add the bell pepper and fennel. Toss to coat with butter, cover and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring twice. Uncover and sauté until water is evaporated. Remove to another bowl with a slotted spoon.

Add the remaining butter to the pan. When melted, whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly for two minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking constantly until thickened (it will be fairly thin). Add salt and half the goat cheese crumbled into chunks. Whisk until cheese is melted and set aside.

Combine ricotta and pesto in a small bowl.

Assemble the lasagne: Butter a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish. Coat the bottom with ¼ cup cheese sauce. Put in a layer of three noodles and spread with half the ricotta mixture (it will be a thin layer). Add the zucchini-leek mixture. Crumble half the remaining goat cheese evenly over the top and drizzle with ½ cup cheese sauce. Top with three more noodles, the rest of the ricotta, the bell pepper-fennel mixture, the remaining goat cheese and another ½ cup of the cheese sauce. Top with the final three noodles, the remaining cheese sauce and the grated Italian cheese mixture.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned. Remove from the oven and let set 15-20 minutes. Cut into squares and serve, garnished with the reserved fennel fronds. Serves 6 to 8.

NOTES: I keep pesto in the fridge most of the time. You can buy tubes of pesto in specialty markets that would work beautifully for this. The kind that comes in jars also works well. You can grate your own cheese, or find a pre-grated Italian cheese mixture of asiago, fontina and parmesan in the dairy department of your supermarket.