Thursday, September 20, 2012

Victoria's Lasagna

Victoria's Kitchen

Recently I lost a life long friend to cancer. She didn't cook often anymore due to her hectic lifestyle, and no longer responsible for feeding her now grown up children. She did however take a couple of cooking classes to pass the time. Prior to her passing I learned that one of the things that she did enjoy making was her lasagna. The reason that she made it was that her two son's just loved it, and in her family lasagna was considered comfort food. 
She knew that I was working on my cookbook and blog and would often assist by doing an edit for me. We decided to work on her lasagna recipe so that she could pass it on to her sons. Victoria told me that her lasagna had a spicy sauce, almost like a  Cioppino. The comments are her own, or her family and shows how the recipe has changed in her family over the years.  
I decided that sharing her recipe would be a fitting way to say goodbye. 
1 small can Anchovies
1/4 cup Olive oil
5 cloves Garlic, minced
2 whole Bay leaves 
1 rib (stalk) Celery, chopped
1 medium Onion, diced
1  cup Red wine*  
2 tablespoons Red wine vinegar
to taste Basil, fresh, chopped
to taste Oregano, fresh chopped
to taste Italian parsley, chopped
8 whole Tomatoes, fresh, seeded, diced
1 can Tomato paste 12 oz.
2 tablespoons Lemon juice, fresh
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (for kick)
1 teaspoons Red pepper flakes (for kick)
1  teaspoons Fennel, crushed
1/4 cup Sugar (my dad’s idea)
2 tablespoons Butter (my dad’s idea)
1/4 cup Parmesan Reggiano cheese, grated
NOTE: *Any inexpensive red wine will do. If you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it.
In a pot, warm up the anchovies in the olive oil. Add the garlic cloves and a couple of bay leaves. Add in the celery, onions, and sauté until tender but not browned. When the mixture becomes fragrant, stir in the wine and vinegar. When hot stir in the some fresh chopped basil, rosemary, oregano, and Italian parsley. Once the mixture begins to reduce, add in the diced tomatoes. Let all simmer until the tomatoes look saucy. Taste and add in more basil, parsley, oregano and rosemary to your taste. Add the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce (for kick again), and red pepper flakes. I also put in the fennel seeds that I sort of roll over first with the back of a spoon. Let this simmer till it looks saucy again, and then add one 12 oz. can of tomato paste. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Stir in the sugar or more to taste. Stir in the butter and a 1/4 cup Parmesan Reggiano cheese (daddy’s addition). The sauce is finished.
Making Victoria's Lasagna
1 pound Ground beef, lightly cooked, drained
1 pound Sweet Italian Sausage, cooked, drained
1 pound Hot Italian Sausage, cooked, drained
Italian Sausage
NOTE: Meanwhile, I’ve lightly cooked 1 pound of ground beef, 1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, and 1 pound of hot Italian sausage.

While the sauce is cooking, place the ground beef into a pan and cook until no longer pink. In another pan cooked the sausages completely. Drain the excess fat from the ground beef and the sausages. Set this to the side.  
1 12 oz. container Ricotta cheese (do not drain)
1 12 oz. container Cottage cheese (do not drain)
1 whole Egg, beaten
1/2 medium Onion, medium, diced
1/2 pound Spinach, fresh torn
as needed Basil, fresh torn
as needed Oregano, fresh
1 pound Mozzarella cheese, grated or sliced thin
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (shredded) 
as needed Olive oil
as needed Lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
In a bowl, mix together the un-drained Ricotta and cottage cheese, egg, onion, basil, and spinach. 
Ready for oven
Cover the bottom of two 9”x13” pans with olive oil. Spread a layer of sauce on the bottom, then dry lasagna noodles, overlapping each piece slightly. Add more sauce and then a layer of the cheese mixture, then layer of cooked meats, then layer of mozzarella. Go back and forth with all this till the end, then top with more sauce, more meat (if you have any left) and Parmesan Reggiano. Cover with tin foil and cook at 375 for about 45 minutes, checking to see if it is getting brown on the sides of the noodles. If so, you can add some hot water. Uncover and cook 10 more minutes. Voila!
As a final note with the recipe she said, "we’re having this tomorrow night with a Gorgonzola and Romaine salad, garlic bread, and Italian cookies for dessert. Can you smell it all from there?"
Ciao my friend
© TMelle 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Soft, Medium, Hard Boiled, Poched Eggs Redux

If you review my Monday, March 12, 2012 post about “Soft Boiled Eggs,” you already know how obsessed I am about making and serving the perfect soft boiled egg. Recently our friend Julie and I were talking about egg toppers. I told her about my purchase of the “Rösle Egg Topper.” I told her that while I have got all the proper tools for serving and eating soft-boiled eggs, I have not perfected making the “perfect soft-boiled egg.” Julie had the solution!
Rösle Egg Topper
I have looked and tried many methods of cooking perfect soft boiled eggs. Do you start the eggs in cold water, or do you drop them in when the water begins to boil? How long do you cook them? Do you poke a hole in the top of the egg first? Then how do you cut the top off and how do you peel them?
Chef’s Choice® International Gourmet Egg Cooker
Julie purchased an electric Chef’s Choice® International Gourmet Egg Cooker at Chef’s Catalog. Her enthusiasm when describing how it cooks perfect cook soft, medium, and hard boiled eggs every time peaked my interest. In addition, it will also cook 3 perfect poached eggs just by changing the plastic insert. 
Now I am not one of those people that collect useless electric gadgets when the end result can be achieved by normal cooking methods, without all of the clutter, storage and unnecessary electric usage. Since it is apparently impossible for me to cook perfect soft boiled eggs using traditional timing methods, I thought this might be a viable solution.
I immediately went online to learn more about this marvelous egg cooker. Could it be true? I went to the Chef’s Catalog website
If I needed a reason not to buy it, It came only in white and stainless steel. I needed black to match my kitchen. I went to the Sur La Table site next and found it there as well. They had it in black and stainless steel. I also a $10.00 gift coupon, so I was finding it extremely difficult to say no to this purchase.
Egg holders, egg topper, egg spoons
A couple of days later I went to the store and purchased it. The next morning I opened the box and took it out. It comes with a 3 compartment egg poaching tray, and a 7 compartment soft, medium, and hard-boiled tray. Both trays are plastic. The 7 compartment tray was warped and did not sit securely on the electric base. The base has a water reservoir that is supposed to have a fill line on it so you don’t overfill the base. I couldn’t find the raised gray fill line on the gray reservoir. I put on my glasses and there it was. I filled the reservoir to the fill line with water and set the egg tray back on top. 
Soft boiled eggs

The instructions say to wash the egg shell before placing them into the tray. I washed the egg shells and placed them into the slots. I put the top on and found that it would not seat properly because it was warped. I press the top down and let it sit loosely on the top. I set the timer to the #8 position under the “SOFT” marking on the slider control arm, because I was using large eggs. This timing I am sure will need some fine tuning. I turned the lighted “On/Off” rocker switch to the on position.  
Within minutes steam began rising out of the top dome vent hole. At this time I held down the top figuring the steam would correct the warped egg tray. I was right. The top finally closed securely. After about 8 minutes The beeper sounded telling me that they eggs were done. I could hardly wait. Following the instructions I carefully lifted the lid to allow the very hot steam to escape safely away from me. 
I didn’t read the directions to the end and didn’t realize that I would need to cool the eggs immediately to stop the cooking process. Instead of running them under cold water, I filled a pot with cold water and lowered the tray of eggs into it.  
During the time that it took me to fill water in a pot the eggs continued cooking slightly longer than they should have. They were almost perfect. I will have to try the hard boiled next, followed by the poached eggs. Would I recommend this kitchen tool? If you have the storage space and perfect soft boiled eggs are important to you, then yes. I have decided to call my egg cooker R2-D2 because it reminds me of Star Wars.
Thanks Julie... I can finally get some sleep.
WARNING: About a month after getting my wonderful egg cooker, I decided to make some soft boiled eggs. When the timer went off I carefully lifted the edge of the lid to allow the steam to escape. I severely burned my finger and it blistered. In the future I will set the slider lower and when the eggs are done I will shut of the rocker switch, allow the steam to escape for a minute out of the vent hole before carefully lifting the cover by the handle. If you have a oven mitt use that too.  
© TMelle 2012