“Marry Me” Homemade Pizza Neapolitana

pizzaneapolitanIn the past, I have mentioned that were it not for a certain muffin recipe, my husband might have overlooked my talents and spent the rest of his days wondering where he went wrong, empty bellied and forlorn. That is a bit of a tall tale, but to hear him tell it, it bears the truth of the ages. Then again, was it the muffins or the cheesecake? I ask with a crooked eyebrow… Who can say, he mutters with an unconcerned smile as he reaches for another.

This story is not, in fact about bride-price muffins, or a cheesecake dowry, but it is rather about a different sort of food laced emotion, a “foomotion”, if you will, and an experience so good I was finally able to say back to him, yes, for this I would marry you again. For many years, my husbands mother made pizza on Thursday evenings for him and his brother and sisters, as a treat to signify the end of another long week and the promise of a few days of freedom before the grind of school and assignments caught up with them again. Rumor has it that the pizza was good, but by the time I met the clan, this particular family ritual had fallen into disrepair, as compelling work and a multitude of grandchildren robbed her of her interest in the glorious secrets and fruits of the kitchen. For a time, my husband despaired, but eventually he decided to take matters into his own hands, and this, my friends, is where  our story truly begins.

His first few attempts at making his own pizza were, like all early tries at something new, hopelessly fraught with disastrous results. To his credit, he did try. He bought all the gadgets and accessories, a pizza cutter, a pizza peel and stone set (the stone broke flying home from where we bought it after customs rifled through our things and repacked in the most half-assed way imaginable, with the stone facing out). Sadly, try as he might, the crust was too thick, too doughy, raw, too soggy, the toppings were uncooked or too heavy, the sauce was icky… the list goes on. After his first few tries I urged him to leave it to the true masters, the Italians, whom I happily claim kinship to through a grandmother whose people are from the southern isle of Capri (near Naples), any time the subject of pasta, parmesan, tomato sauce, marinara, pizza, ricotta, mozzarella, or cannoli comes up. The problem was, I had no pizza making skills either, never having seen such a thing made at home, as we had a multitude of authentic pizzerias and trattorias within a stones throw of my birthplace. (WHAT UP NY!!!) So, the issue hung over us in the air as beautiful pizzas were smugly flashed at us from some of the better cooking/baking blogs out there,  and as we went about the business of sorting out our life as a newly married couple, the idea never quite dead but never a true possibility either. When the cravings for a really good pizza took hold of one of us, we would fight it for as long as we could, then bite the bullet and order awful delivery pizza, mourning our fate to live in a country that has no concept of such a thing as real Italian-American food. For those of you that know my husband, you can probably guess where this is all headed, and sure enough, a few days ago, he decided once and for all that he was going to make as many pizzas as he had to, until he got the damned thing right. At this I sighed, and decided to get on board, but I also smiled, because when we went through the same process with learning how to make the best NY cheesecake, the results were beyond our wildest dreams. So too with this.

He bought some pizza flour, and found a pizza dough recipe by Jamie Oliver, one of my favorite chefs. This is altered from the one on his site, but we couldn’t have done it without his recipe as a jumping off point. His recipes are so good, and I love him for his cheeky fresh take on food and life. We cut the recipe by 2/3 since it was for 6 pizzas, because while we could have finished them all off in a few days, we didn’t want to eat until we hated ourselves… not really.

I made as good a pizza sauce as I could conjure, and then looked around until I found this page, which gave us some great tips on handling the dough, making a crust, and keeping it crispy, for which I will be eternally grateful. Finally, we selected some of our favorite toppings, including fresh basil from my window,basillaid under a mix of 2 local cheeses, and thinly slices onions, mushrooms, peppers, and tomatoes. We baked it all in a super hot oven on foil on an overturned cookie sheet, and viola, the best pizza I had ever had.  It is crispy, chewy, garlicky, saucy, cheesy, light and filling, all at once, and beyond yummy, Just like how I picture the fabled Neapolitan pizzas from the “Eat” section of “Eat, Pray, Love”. Teamwork really does yield the sweetest fruits!

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Ingredients: (For 2 medium pizzas, serves 2-4)

For The Dough:

  • 2 1/3 Cups Pizza Flour, or any high protein flour (plus a bit extra).
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Active Dried Yeast (make sure it’s not expired/dead)
  • 1 Teaspoon Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup Warm Water (not too hot or you will kill the yeast)

For The Chunky Tomato Sauce: (you  may have leftovers) 20 minutes cook time*

  • 3-5 Cloves Garlic, smashed and minced
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Oregano
  • 1 small can or package tomato paste
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon pepper

*ALTERNATELY: You can make a super easy and delicious marinara/pizza sauce in 3-5 minutes: For 4 medium pizzas, open 2 8oz cans of tomato paste into a sauce pan, mix in 3/4 cup water, 4 tablespoons olive oil, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of granulated garlic or garlic powder. Stir and simmer 3 minutes to blend flavors.

Toppings: All optional

  • Thinly Sliced Mushrooms
  • Cubed Feta cheese
  • Black or Green Olives
  • Thinly Sliced Red Pepper
  • Thinly Sliced Small Onion (Red or White)
  • Thinly Sliced Tomatoes
  • 10-12 Fresh Basil Leaves, washed
  • 3 Cups Shredded Fresh Mozzarella, (I used 1 and 1/2 Cups shredded Tal Haemek, and 1 and 1/2 Cups shredded Na’am Cheese. These local cheeses were an amazing surprise, and were a nice change, I would recommend using them if you can find them, otherwise, mozzarella is just fine).
  • Olive Oil for brushing the dough before adding toppings
  • Cornmeal  to sprinkle for texture (optional)

Method:

  • Add water, yeast, sugar, and olive oil to a cup, set aside for 2-4 minutes.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together flour and salt, and when the yeast is fizzing happily, add to flour mixture and slowly incorporate. When it all comes together, knead until you have a nice smooth dough that is not sticky to the touch. It will probably look too dry at first, don’t be alarmed. Just keep kneading. Maybe sing a little song… Just keep kneading, just keep kneading… After about 2 minutes of this you should have a perfectly smooth elastic dough that isn’t sticky and that has no dry bits. If not, add either a TINY bit more water or a tiny bit more flour as it needs.
  • Put the dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size. (I cheat by warming my toaster oven for a few minutes then popping the whole thing in there for about 30 minutes, once the heat is off, cuts the rising time in half!)
  • Now make the sauce. (See above for easier faster option) Saute the garlic in 3 tablespoons olive oil on a medium flame, being VERY careful not to over-brown it. If it turns dark brown and bitter, you killed, it, start again. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I looked away for that crucial 10 seconds and had to chuck my garlic and start over. If it smells sweet, you are good, if it smells bitter, start again.
  • When it is all just very light brown, add the can of tomato paste. Saute and stir for about 1-2 minutes, caramelizing the sugars inside the tomato paste. Then add can of crushed tomatoes. Stir to make sure that no garlic/sauce bits are stuck to the bottom, then add the balsamic vinegar, oregano, salt, and pepper. It will smell amazing by now, but it’s not ready yet! The flavors need to melt together, and for this, you need a little time.
  • Stir again, then cover tightly, and cook for 20-25 minutes, keeping it on a medium heat. You want to check it and stir every 5 minutes or so. (Watch out, the splatters are HOT!) After 20 minutes, remove the cover and allow it to cook down for another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the sauce is thick with very little liquid you can turn off the heat, and let it sit to cool, uncovered.
  • Once the dough has risen, take it out and punch it down… don’t be afraid to over-knead, as this is one of the few times working with dough that you actually want to develop a lot of gluten, so have at it! It should be smooth, and elastic, and not sticky, but not dry either.
  • Once it is all kneaded, separate into two halves, and roll into balls. These will be your pizza crusts. You can either use them now, or wrap in plastic and put in the fridge for tomorrow. (A very good plan if you are super busy and just making the dough took up your free time for the evening).
  • 30 minutes to an hour before you are ready to bake your pizzas, turn over a deep cookie sheet on the floor of the oven, so your pizzas will sit about 2 inches off the hot floor of the oven, or use a pizza stone, if you have one.  Preheat the oven. I turned mine up to max, which is around 250 degrees Celsius, or 482 degrees Fahrenheit.  Roll out the dough for each pizza with a rolling pin, and then place on an oiled sheet of tinfoil. You can sprinkle a bit of cornmeal over the oiled foil before placing the rolled out dough on it if you like, I enjoy the added flavor and texture this provides, but you don’t have to, and sometimes it’s nicer without it, totally up to you.
  • Now prepare your toppings, if you haven’t already. (Shred cheese, slice veggies etc.).
  • Doing one at a time, roll out your dough to the size and shape you want (about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick and about 12-14 inches across) and then roll and pinch the edges to form a crust.
  • Brush the surface of the dough with olive oil, this will keep your pizza from getting soggy
  • Then, add a ladleful of thick garlicky sauce to the middle and spread all around evenly, but not too thickly! Lay down a few evenly spaced basil leaves, no more than 5-6. cover with a mix of your cheeses (about 1 and 1/2 cups per pizza), then arrange the toppings you want. If you want, sprinkle cornmeal around the crust and with your pizza peel, slide your pizza with the foil directly onto the cookie sheet, and close the oven quickly.
  • Bake for 6 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and crust is crispy on the bottom. Set a timer, one extra minute could burn up all your hard work!!! Now make second pizza the same way (olive oil, sauce, basil, cheese, toppings, cornmeal on crust).
  • When timer sounds, remove first pizza with pizza peel and let cool for at least 3 minutes, before slicing and enjoying with a tall glass of ice cold beer.

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Coconut Curry Quinoa with Creamy Sauteed Garlic, Broccoli and Artichoke Hearts

coconutquinoaOK, you guys are going to love this one. It’s something we make all the time, and just forgot to put it up before because it’s such a frequent meal in our house that I just assumed I had posted it already. My sister assured me I hadn’t. Now, I’m trying to go more veggie and more healthy in general, and this is the most fantastic core basic thing that you can serve with just about anything. It also makes many dishes that you already make about 100x better so here goes.

The secret is in the coconut milk. Instead of the basic quinoa to water 1:2 ratio, I do quinoa to coconut milk to water 1:1:1. It comes out super fluffy and delicious, and much more hydrated than regular quinoa, for a much tastier and more satisfying texture. It’s almost like a non-dairy version (just the quinoa) of the difference between rice and risotto, but far healthier. You can make this vegan by leaving out the cream in the veggies.

Variations include adding 1-2 shakes of curry powder and instead of mixing in veggies at the end, serving it with glazed soy ginger baked salmon, or any main protein that you want. The coconut is super mild, as is the curry powder, so you get a really lovely side dish (I say side but this ends up being the main event more often than not, it’s that good) without anything being too overpowering. Just make sure your guests aren’t allergic to coconut before serving this, because it’s really undetectable other than the subtle things it does for the texture and flavor!

Ingredients: (serves 4 as a light but wonderful dinner)

For quinoa:

  • 1 and 2/3 cup white quinoa
  • 1 and 2/3 cup coconut milk, this works out to exactly a can for me. (coconut water, coconut liquid, and coconut cream all work, (unsweetened) look for the one that says 17% fat)
  • 1 and 2/3 cup water
  • salt and pepper to taste (usually when i say this it works out to be about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-2 shakes yellow madras Curry powder (very tasty but OPTIONAL) to be added with salt and pepper

For veggie saute: (you can double this if you want lots more veg to quinoa ratio or if you have more people coming over)

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen broccoli, (I use frozen) cut into bite sized pieces (run under cold water to ease cutting)
  • 1 cup cubed fresh, frozen or canned artichoke hearts (I use frozen or canned). (about 1cm cubes)
  • 3-4 smashed and minced cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil for sauteing
  • splash of white wine (optional, I think it doesn’t need it)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cream, depends on how creamy you want it (15% for pastas)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder or to taste.
  • salt and pepper to taste (1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper usually works)

Method:

1) Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sized saucepan that has a cover.

2) Pick a glass that is around 1 and 2/3 cups. Fill it up to the very top with quinoa. Add quinoa to the pot, and mix it around, coating in the hot oil.

3) Cook for about 1 minute, toasting the little quinoa seeds. Then, using the same cup you use to measure the quinoa, add water and coconut milk. basically, 1:1:1 quinoa to water to coconut milk. You can do this with white, red or brown rice and the results will be the same, the only thing that varies is the cooking time (35-40 minutes for red or brown rice or red quinoa).

4) Add salt and pepper, don’t worry, you can correct this later if you don’t use enough. If you are adding curry powder, add it now, and mix it all up and cover.

5) Cook covered on a low flame for 20 minutes exactly. I use a kitchen timer. Do not stir. After 20 minutes, turn off the heat and let it sit for five minutes undisturbed. Uncover and fluff the quinoa.

While the quinoa is cooking, make the veggie saute.

1) Heat olive oil in a large frying pan or wok. Add minced garlic when oil is hot enough to make garlic sizzle, saute gently on medium heat.

2) Chop broccoli and artichoke hearts, add now if both are frozen, otherwise, add fresh first, then frozen 3 minutes later, then canned 2 minutes later. Cover, and saute 3-4 minutes.

3) Saute until all veggies are mostly cooked through (broccoli should still be bright green!), then add splash of white wine if you are using it.

4) cook off alcohol for about 2 minutes, then add cream, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and stir gently for the next 2 minutes.

By now, the quinoa should be done, if not, turn off heat and cover veggies. Serve veggies over a warm bed of quinoa, and… Oh boy, my tummy is just rumbling away right now, I think I’ll go make some. Oh yeah, we added a cup of chopped fresh mushrooms and sauteed them with the other veggies once and it was delicious then too, so don’t be afraid to experiment with other options. All the best till next time, I love you guys!

Crispy Skin Salmon with Super Sexy White Wine, Lemon, and Butter Sauce with Herbs, Shallots, and Heirloom Tomatoes

supersexysalmonsauce1

I should start by saying that this recipe is really about the sauce, not the fish (or chicken, steak, seafood or pasta) you pour it over, though anything you serve it with will be massively enhanced. This may seem weird since we live in a culture where figuring out what’s for dinner involves choosing your protein as the main event of almost every meal and choosing the spicing and sauce is really just about picking what flavors you feel like that day. So this easy and addictive recipe kind of turns that way of thinking on its head.

supersexysalmonsauce

You may be wondering,  how can a recipe be all (mostly) about a sauce? What is so special about this sauce that she is going on about it like it’s the best thing since she discovered crème brûlée?  And finally, why is the sauce super sexy? Well, I’ll tell you. For one thing, I can’t think of any other recipe that I have made which literally gets my dog drooling (not to mention anyone else in the house) within 15 minutes of starting, EVERY SINGLE TIME. Like, to where it’s icky and she embarrasses herself.

bells

But enough about Bella. I want to say first of all that this is based on something I had in a lovely posh restaurant in Tel Aviv (Bertie), and it was literally the best fish I had ever had. This was shocking for a few reasons. 1) It was just some basic St Denise fillets that were served with the skins seared crispy, then presented skin side up in a hot cast iron pan of something very much like this sauce, that is to say, as close as I can guess it without having asked the chef. 2) I am VERY hard to please when dining out.

After much research, and a wonderful tutorial I found here I recreated the seared skin effect with some salmon fillets, which we would then eat with mayo and mustard on the side. It was good, and I got the technique down, but I was still deeply unsatisfied, mostly because I am very sensitive to flavors and smells, and I can’t have my fish even the slightest bit fishy. Not having access to super fresh fish as often as I would prefer (like, still alive in the store), I must be satisfied with frozen fillets, and pray each time I buy that the fillets were as fresh as possible when flash frozen. I waited about 6 months before attempting to recreate the sauce, mostly because I thought it would be impossible, but also because I didn’t want to insult the memory of that perfect dish. Luckily for me, I was haunted by the wonderful balance of flavors, the harmony of which was what foodies such as myself might call “transcendent” , so I finally rolled up my sleeves and took a crack at it, and I’m so very glad I did, because now I get to share it with all of you. My sister, the Chef has been quoted as calling it “one of the two best fish recipes I have ever tasted”, so I’m pretty sure I nailed it.

*First descale fillets, if they are not already descaled. I do this while they are frozen, under cold running water, with a small serrated knife with a rounded edge, for best results. If you can get descaled fillets, check them anyway, often some scales are left behind and even one scale can ruin my meal. This is a good time to look for bones they may have overlooked as well. When finished, put aside in a bowl to defrost. Once defrosted, press fillets between 2 clean kitchen towels or several paper towels to remove as much liquid as possible, so that they will sear properly and not splatter hot oil all over you. Finally run your finger over the skin to smooth the skin back in place, in the direction the scales used to point, and set aside, until you are ready to sear.

Super Sexy Salmon Sauce: (Make once fish is prepped)

These measurements are PER FILLET (per serving basically), so if you are making 3 salmon (or any other fish) fillets, multiply all ingredients by 3.

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (if you only have salted, leave out salt from recipe or add later to taste)
  • 2 large thinly sliced shallots (1/4 of a medium sized red onion if you don’t have shallots)
  • 1 large smashed and minced garlic clove
  • 4 thin slices of Jalapeno (or  few dashes of Tabasco if you are in a pinch)
  • 3 small tri-color (1 red, 1 yellow, and 1 purply red/green heirloom cherry, or grape tomatoes, sliced lengthwise in halves.
  • the leaves from 1 sprig of fresh thyme. (see notes on using and storing fresh herbs here)
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • Fresh juice of 1/2 a large lemon
  • 1/8 cup water (more as needed to cook down sauce)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/8 tsp each salt and pepper (or to taste)

method: That’s right, that’s all there is to it.

  1. Melt butter in a deep frying pan that has a matching cover, on MEDIUM, not high heat. When melted add sliced shallots, minced garlic, jalapeno, thyme, bay leaf, and tomatoes in that order, and saute covered for about 5-10 minutes. This will vary based on how hot your stoves burners are. The shallots and garlic should slowly sizzle and become translucent, not brown. If they sizzle too much when you add them, turn down the heat.
  2. The smell should already be making you light headed.supersexysauce
  3. Once cooked through, uncover pan, add white wine, and cook off alcohol, uncovered, about 3-5 more minutes.
  4. Add lemon juice, water, salt and pepper and stir, then re-cover, turn flame down to LOW, and simmer for about 5-7 more minutes, then turn off heat and leave it to rest. Alternately, you can use a cast iron pan, and keep the sauce hot in the oven while you sear your salmon fillets.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil per fillet in a frying pan on medium/high until it is ready to sear. Pat dry fillets then lay them SKIN SIDE DOWN in a regular (not non-stick) pan. Immediately turn down the heat to medium, and gently hold down with metal spatula to prevent warping  for first two minutes. This will sear the skin, but cook the fish evenly without burning. See the full tutorial here, it’s not so complicated and really comes out perfect if you follow his directions. [However. If you really want to cheat, just use a non-stick pan with no oil or butter. Cook skin side down first for about 6 minutes covered on a medium high heat, (heat the pan before placing the fish in, but not too much, because you don’t want to burn the Teflon) and when the top turns opaque, tun it over, and cook the other side uncovered for about 4 minutes. This is super easy, and will turn out beautiful fillets, though not as crispy as doing the the more scientific way, you save yourself the embarrassment of messed up skin] until Once fish is mostly cooked through (5-6 minutes) gently nudge it from the sides with the spatula too see if it will come loose. Don’t force it, it will release when it is ready. Once the skin releases and the fish is mostly cooked through, turn it over and cook just for 10 more seconds, to sear closed the top layer and finish cooking.
  6. Remove fillets to wide shallow bowls, and let rest, skin side up.
  7. Turn on sauce again and heat up uncovered, 3-4 minutes, stirring once or twice.
  8. Pour sauce around but not over each fillet, and serve with a cold crisp white chardonnay and some fresh bread and butter for wiping up the sauce, if there is any left. This will possibly spare you the potential embarrassment of licking the plates in front of your family, friends, or guests… which I should warn you, you will end up doing anyway.

Insane Veggie Lasagna, For Two. Who Knew?

best lasagnaOK, it’s really for 3-6 servings, but that was too cute a title to pass up. I swear I didn’t plan for this to be in the blog, in fact I didn’t plan for it at all, but then it got me a 10, so I had to. 10 what you may ask? Well, read on, and you will understand. Apologies in advance for no “in process” photos. Last night I didn’t want to do anything remotely food related, but I had been snacking all day on unsatisfying empty calories and I was just fed up. I decided I’d make a pasta or something else equally boring, when at the last minute my sister sent me to a site I’d never heard of before, bakedbree.com to look at Bree’s margarita pie. The back story is that I’ve been bugging her to make me a key lime pie for ages, (“but Martin; She makes Pie!!!”) and I am absolutely gaga for margaritas on the rocks. So after drooling over the pie and discussing what we would change and why, I started looking around a bit. When I saw her recipe for veggie lasagna and that it included peppers, which happened to be the only thing alive in my fridge at the time, I thought it must be fate. Now, my recipe is completely my own, but I just wanted to thank Bree for the inspiration! Sometimes all we need is a kick in the pants, in the right direction 🙂

Before yesterday I was not a fan of no-bake lasagna leaves by any stretch of the imagination, but up here I usually can’t find the nice long ones (with the frilly edges in the blue box that you parboil before layering them into your pasta masterpiece), and that’s what I had in the house, so that was two for two. The clincher was the small container of ricotta cheese in the fridge, which I have been buying religiously when I can find it now that every other recipe I am lusting over happens to feature it in one way or another. (Cannoli, here we come!)

Lasagna is already a production when you can get all this stuff easily at your local grocer, so the fact that the stars aligned just sort of pushed me to the point where I sighed, rolled up my sleeves, and got to work. I had this great new blue casserole dish from Ikea that we bought so that we could make smaller portions, this one could actually feed 4, but in my house, well, you know. Everything is relative.

I don’t buy pre-made sauce, mostly because I can’t get a good one here, so I had to make my own, which turned out spectacular, and I would really suggest doing this if you have time.

I’m just going to tell you how to make this stream of consciousness-like, and I hope it all makes sense. Also, I didn’t have Mozzarella, so I had to use a local melty cheese called gush chalav, but if you can get Mozzarella, use it.

Ingredients: (for 3-6 servings)

No boil lasagna leaves (or the other kind, follow directions for cooking)

Olive oil

1 head fresh garlic

1/2 large onion

1 yellow pepper

Tomato paste

Crushed tomatoes

Splash (1 tablespoon) balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2/3 cup cream

Parsley, fresh or dried

Oregano, fresh or dried

1 cup spinach, fresh or frozen

Ground nutmeg

12 oz ricotta cheese (24 oz if making 2 layers)

2 cups Shredded Mozzarella cheese (fresh or packaged, if you use fresh, add some more salt to compensate), enough for 3 thin layers.

1 cup Shredded Parmesan

salt

pepper

filtered water

DirectionsForMakingLasagna

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F, and make tomato sauce.

For Sauce: Saute 2 tablespoons chopped garlic in 3 tablespoons olive oil. when it’s going clear but long before it goes brown, add 1/2 a chopped white onion and a chopped yellow pepper. Saute for about 10 minutes. Add a few tablespoons water if it looks like it could be drying out or cooking too fast. Once the pepper is getting soft and the onions are going clear, add 200g tomato paste. Use an online converter if you don’t know grams, its about an 8oz can of hunts tomato paste. continue cooking and stirring, while the tomato paste caramelizes. look for bubbles that are dark red, getting darker as the sugars caramelize. After about 5 minutes of this, add a can of crushed tomatoes, you know, the big ones, that weigh 800g and are good for sauce for one family meal.

Now for the vaulted Italian family secrets.

Add 2 tablespoons of shredded Parmesan, a splash of balsamic vinegar (1 tablespoon), 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (TRUST ME), 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon dried or fresh parsley, and one tablespoon dried oregano, stir it all together, and add about 1/4 cup filtered water, now cook it down for about 20-30 minutes uncovered on a low heat. This is important, so that the flavors can all meld together. If using fresh herbs, add closer to the end.

Now you make the Spinach Cream Sauce:

In a small saucepan, saute 1 teaspoon chopped garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the garlic is clear, add  1 cup defrosted frozen spinach (kudos if you have fresh). Mix it all together, and add 2/3 cup 15% cream, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, and a pinch of ground nutmeg. cook on low heat for 3-4 minutes or until cream starts to bubble, then turn off heat.

In a small bowl, combine 12 oz  ricotta, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1 tablespoon chopped or dried parsley, depending on what you have.

In your baking dish, spread a layer of sauce. Now layer on the lasagna leaves. Next spread out all of the ricotta mixture, sprinkle all over with Parmesan, then layer on a thin layer of shredded Mozzarella cheese. Now another layer of sauce, a second layer of lasagna leaves, and now the spinach cream sauce. next do another layer of Mozzarella,  a layer of sauce, a sprinkle of Parmesan, then add the last layer of lasagna leaves. Top it off with the last layer of sauce,  and top that with shredded Mozzarella and a sprinkling of Parmesan.

Bake for 50 minutes covered, then another 15 minutes uncovered. Remove CAREFULLY from oven, and allow to cool for 15 minutes if you can help yourself so that it can set and thicken up, and not burn out every last one of your taste buds when you take the first bite, effectively ruining your entire nights work. I knew better 🙂

Serve with buttered bread if you want, and a glass of red or white wine, we had it with a nice mellow red, and skipped the bread. Alternately, you can double the ricotta mixture, and sub that for the spinach cream sauce layer, and pour the warm spinach garlic nutmeg cream sauce over each piece when you serve it, which was my plan, but G couldn’t find me more ricotta at the store on his way home, so I had to improvise. Still, it was phenomenal, and so worth the time and effort.

2013-01-27 22.23.40Melt in your mouth Veggie Lasagna

Now, I’m a psycho, and am constantly asking G to “rate my food”. It works something like this; on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being edible but only just, and 10 being marriage proposal material… rate this dish. It’s a sickness, I know, but I can’t help it, so don’t judge me. I usually average out around a 7-8 which drives me crazy and keeps me up at night wondering how I can improve on my recipes. It’s worst when I put hours of effort into something and bomb out because I was trying too hard or not paying attention and over corrected or just lost the plot. Think Asian style noodles with chicken and veg but WAY too much soy, garlic, ginger, marin. Ugh. Kitchen horror show. Anyway. I am happy to report that this recipe got me a 10. My second ever. Guess which was the first?… last weeks’ Jalapeno Poppers! I’m sensing a trend here…

🙂 🙂 🙂