Friday, December 31, 2010

Amusing Lasagne

We were having a few friends in last week for a very casual get-together. My husband Tom asked what I was thinking of making and I said "oh, I don’t know. Some sort of amusing lasagne." And he put that in the email invitation he sent out. Well, there I was, stuck with coming up with amusing lasagne. I quite like butternut squash anytime but this time of year it just seems right.

This looks like a lot of work but it goes quickly. And better, there’s no reason you can’t have it completely done a day ahead. Refrigerate covered, but be sure to let it sit out at room temperature for an hour or so before baking.

In Italy, I’ve never had lasagne using the wavy noodles so common here; it’s always with flat noodles. So I’ve often made my own pasta sheets. What a treat, then, to find Barilla makes a noodle that is not only flat but doesn’t have to be boiled before using. If you have them, or prefer them, there’s no reason you can’t make this with the wavy noodles, boiled according to package instructions.

One note: each noodle in the assembly is a "lasagna." All of them together comprise "lasagne." That's the way I spell it, and so does the English version of "The Silver Spoon" cookbook, the Italian equivalent of the French "Larousse Gastronomique."


2 medium butternut squash
2 tbsp. good olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 leeks
½ cup butter, divided
¼ cup fresh sage leaves, minced
6 tbsp. flour
6 cups milk
8 oz. goat cheese, divided
1 large pinch nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 box Barilla no-cook lasagne sheets
1 cup Italian cheese mix, divided

Preheat oven to 400. With a vegetable peeler, strip both the hard outside and the lighter flesh just under it from the squash. Cut in half lengthwise and with a spoon scoop out the seeds and fiber from the center. Cut into ½" cubes. Spread on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss to cover. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and just starting to brown around the edges, 15-20 minutes.

Reduce the oven heat to 350
Cut a slice off the root end of the leeks. Cut off the dark green tops and discard. Cut the white and light green part in half lengthwise, rinse well, drain, then slice ¼" thick. In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp. butter over medium-low heat. Add the sliced leek and cook until just tender. Add the roasted squash cubes and the sage, toss to combine and remove from the heat.

Meanwhile in a saucepan, heat the remaining butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring, a couple of minutes. Whisk in the milk and simmer until thickened. Add half the goat cheese and whisk until melted into the sauce. Remove from the heat.

In a small bowl, mix the ricotta and eggs.

Assemble the lasagne: Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish (or use cooking spray). Spread 2 cups of the sauce evenly on the bottom. Arrange four pasta sheets on top, overlapping slightly. Spread half the ricotta on top, then half the squash-leek mixture, then one cup of sauce. Sprinkle with one-third of the Italian cheese mixture. Repeat the layers. Finish with a layer of pasta sheets and the remaining sauce. Be sure the sauce/fillings are spread all the way to the edge of the pan. Crumble the remaining goat cheese over the top and sprinkle with the remaining Italian cheese mixture.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until top is nicely browned, another 20-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let set for 15-20 minutes before cutting into squares to serve. Serves 8 to 12.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Leftover Prime Beef Ribs

We had "Roast Prime Rib" for Christmas Dinner.  Hopefully we all know that  a "Prime Rib Roast" is rarely prime grade beef.   I ordered a beautiful roast from Fresh Market. They had three grades of beef, I got the middle one, so it should more properly be called a "standing rib roast." It was a lovely big piece of meat. I'm only sorry I don't have a picture of it to show you. The butcher at Fresh Market cut the roast away from the ribs, then tied it all back together so we got the advantage of the flavor of cooking on the bone without Tom having to figure out how to carve it in between bones and all.

Actually I had never cooked one before. But I went online looking for the best way to do it.  There were several ways described but I decided on the fast sear, then low finish. I started it at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, then turned it down to 325 until the instant read thermometer read 125. I took it out and let it rest while I made a nice pan sauce with a port wine reduction. I can say with a total lack of modesty that it was delicious and tender and absolutely wonderful.

When it was all over I had a goodly chunk of beef left, and put that away for later. And then there was the rack of ribs... I'd once, long ago in France, had dinner at a friend's house whose mom had served beef ribs. Of course, coming from the South, I'd only known pork ribs. Later she told me they had been left over from a Sunday rib roast. So I took the rib rack and cut between the ribs.
I put them on a baking sheet and brushed them with olive oil.
I mixed up worcestershire sauce, pressed garlic, and some whole grain mustard and brushed that on. I couldn't help but add a touch of brown sugar. Most of the online recipes called for fine dry bread crumbs, but what I'd had in France appeared to be fresh crumbs. I had an end of a Tuscan loaf and I used that. Its course texture wouldn't blend into fine crumbs, so I used the coarse ones I came up with. I sprinkled them on top.
After about 15 minutes in a very hot oven, they were crispy and just heated through.  The meat around the bones was still medium rare, but the outside was nicely browned and very tasty.  Such a great and easy way to use what might have been discarded.

There is still some good meat left on the ribs, so they'll go into the crock pot tomorrow with onion, celery, carrots and bay leaf, and I'm pretty sure I'll get a good beef stock for some soup later this week!
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Eggnog Panna Cotta


We were having some friends over for dinner yesterday evening and I wanted a dessert that was tasty and festive but not too labor intensive. I had eggnog in the fridge, thinking I would make an eggnog bundt cake but time slipped away. Instead I make this delicous but embarassingly easy dessert. I garnished it with an easy caramel-rum sauce and fresh raspberries, and I just don't see how I could have made anything any better!

"Panna cotta" means "cooked cream" in Italian, but really you only warm it enough to dissolve the gelatin. If you are not going to unmold it, the texture will be silkier if you use only 1-1/2 envelopes of gelatin. If you don't have dark rum in your pantry, you may use a teaspoon or so of rum extract, or just leave it out entirely.

It only needs about two hours in the fridge to set if you aren't going to unmold it, or three or more if you are. Make it the day you are going to serve it for the best texture.

This is a very rich dessert, a 1/3 to 1/2 cup mold or dessert dish will be plenty for each serving.


Panna Cotta:
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons water
1 quart egg nog
1 large pinch freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)

Caramel Sauce:
1/2 cup Smuckers hot caramel sauce
1/4 cup dark rum

In a flat bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let set to soften. In a saucepan, warm the eggnog over medium heat just until tiny bubbles form around the edges. Scrape the gelatin into the pan and whisk until completely dissolved. Whisk in the nutmeg and rum and pour into molds sprayed with cooking spray, or small dessert dishes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

For the caramel sauce, combine the jarred sauce with the rum and heat gently. I put it into a plastic squeeze bottle and warmed it for 30 seconds in the microwave, and that was perfect.

When ready to serve, unmold (or not, according to your preference) and drizzle with the warm caramel sauce. Serve immediately. I garnished mine with fresh raspberries, which made a very nice complement. Serves 8 to 10.

Note: Picture taken by Gary Davis.
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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Roasted Red Cabbage


I had a head of red cabbage sitting in my fridge a week or so. I had planned on making sauerbraten while my son and his family were here for Thanksgiving. I always make sweet/sour red cabbage (and spatzle of course) with sauerbraten. But sauerbraten needs to marinate for several days, and unfortunately I let the days get past me. Instead, I just made a standard pot roast.

I asked on Whining and Dining, Jennifer Biggs' blog, sponsored by the Commercial Appeal, about ideas for something different, and Allie suggested this: "Roast it! Just cut it in big slices, spray it with olive oil, sprinkle a little cumin and coriander (no salt, salt makes it shrivel) and roast until the middle is cooked and the top is crispy - depending on how thick you sliced it, maybe 30 min at 400."

So I cut half of it in wedges and did as suggested. I thought it was quite tasty, but next time, I think I'll salt it, even if it turns out a bit less attractive. Salt added at the table didn't quite do it for me or Tom.

Jim Wilson suggested that I fry it instead, with similar seasonings. I still have the other half!
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Friday, December 17, 2010

Lovely and delicious cranberry mold!


For a recent holiday gathering with friends, I was looking for an alternative to the usual cranberry-orange relish or salad. I came across a recipe for a sweet cranberry panna cotta on the Viking Cooking School website. I made a few changes to make it a savory mold, and everyone pronounced it quite tasty.

I made it in a two-cup mold, but it would be equally attractive made in individual ramekins and turned out onto greens for a first course salad. A sherry vinegar dressing would make a nice complement to the flavors in the mold.

The Viking recipe called for cranberry Jello, which I used,. If you would rather, you can soften one envelope of unflavored gelatin on a couple of tablespoons of cold water, then substitute cranberry juice for the one cup of water. Heat it, add the gelatin, stirring until dissolved, and then 2 tablespoons of sugar and the seasonings listed below.

One of my friends at the gathering said she’s going to use the recipe in a heart shaped mold for Valentine’s Day, so if you’ve already planned all your holiday gatherings, there’s always another appropriate time to use it!


1 cup water
1 package cranberry-flavored gelatin
¼ tsp. kosher or sea salt
Juice and finely grated zest of one lemon
2 tbsp bottled grated horseradish
½ tsp. dried dill weed
1 cup sour cream

Spray a two-cup mold generously with cooking spray.

In a saucepan, heat the water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the gelatin, stirring until completely dissolved. Whisk in the remaining ingredients in the order listed and pour into the mold. Refrigerate at least four hours, or until completely set. This may be made one day in advance if tightly covered with plastic wrap or foil.

When ready to serve, dip the mold in very hot water, being careful not to get water in the mold itself. Turn a serving plate upside down on the mold, then invert and give it a little shake. If the mold doesn’t come out, repeat the hot water process. Serve with crisp toasts or crackers. Serves 8-10 as an appetizer, or 4-6 on a first course salad.

NOTE: I wanted to make this again but had used all my horseradish. I had a container of Penzey's horseradish dip mix and added 3 tablespoons of that instead of the seasonings. It turned out to be delicious, although less piquant than the one with real horseradish.
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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Mom's Holiday Punch


As many of you know my mother was a wonderful cook. In recent years I didn't get home to Louisville as often as I would have liked, but one time I never missed was Christmas.

We've always shared our Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners with the family of a cousin of my mother's. There were eight children between the two families, so we had quite a crowd. We would gather in the early afternoon for a huge traditional holiday dinner, with turkey and all the trimmings, a big ham and every possible side dish. When the dishes were done, we kids (and later the grand-kids) would play with Christmas presents and games while the grown-ups chatted.

Late in the afternoon, the coffee would go on, the desserts brought out and my mom would make a big crystal bowlful of a very tasty holiday punch. I don't know where the recipe came from, since she's been making it for many years, but I love it. It's not too sweet, in spite of the amount of sugar. I think it really hits the spot as an accompaniment for holiday dessert, or as a tasty non-alcoholic offering for any party.

My mother passed away last year and after the service for her, we invited family and friends back to her house for supper before heading back to their homes, some quite a long way away. One of the things we girls made was the holiday punch.

Give it a try for your holiday party or dinner. Perhaps it will become a tradition for you, too.


2 packages strawberry Kool-aid (unsweetened)
1 46-ounce can pineapple juice
2 6-ounce (or 1 12-ounce) cans frozen pink lemonade (see note)
4 cups sugar
3 quarts water
3 liters ginger ale

Mix everything except the ginger ale in a large bowl and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Pour into three large plastic or metal containers. Freeze solid. Fifteen minutes before serving, unmold one container into your punch bowl. Pour ginger ale over the frozen punch mix. As the punch mix dissolves. add more ginger ale, or simply smush up the punch mix to make a sort of slushy punch.

This keeps a long time in the freezer, so I freeze a couple of large molds, then some smaller ones, just in case I have a few folks in and want to do something festive. One-third of the recipe will serve 15-20 people.

NOTE: Mom always insisted that it had to be pink lemonade. I couldn't find it once, and tried the regular frozen lemonade, thinking "How much difference could it make?" By George, she was right! Fortunately frozen pink lemonade is available in almost every supermarket now.
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Friday, December 03, 2010

Yummy Gooey Cake!


Every year friends of our have a get-together on the Saturday evening after Thanksgiving. It’s sort of a pot luck affair, with everyone bringing something to contribute to the main meal, plus an appetizer or dessert.

We had a house full of company this year, and took several of them with us. My sister Cindy Corum (whom you have met before on this blog) was here from Knoxville and made a cake which was a big hit with the crowd.

You know I don’t care much about dessert, but I have to admit this was just gooey and yummy enough to tempt me too. There was still some left over and we stuck it in the fridge. Two days later we pulled it out and it was still fine. That makes it a great candidate for your holiday entertaining—you know how I love dishes that can be made ahead!


1 package German chocolate cake mix
1 15-oz bottle of Smuckers caramel sundae sauce
3 Butterfinger candy bars
1 box instant French vanilla pudding mix
1 8-oz tub Cool Whip, defrosted

Prepare and bake cake mix as directed on the package in a 9x13 pan. As soon as you take it from the oven, poke holes in it with handle of wooden spoon (about 1" apart) and pour the caramel sauce over it. Let cool. Crush the candy bars and sprinkle over the top when cool. Make the pudding according to the direction on the box, then fold the Cool Whip into it. Spread on top of the cake. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 12 to 16 servings.
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