Saturday, September 20, 2008

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

There was a familiar argument in my house on weekends, well, there were plenty of arguments but for now lets just talk about this one. My mom would tell my dad to get groceries and he would head out with a cloth bag to the biggest market in Pune. Like all men, he is pretty clueless about what goes on in the kitchen and would end up buying half the market if not more. He would come home with bags bulging with shiny purple eggplants, long string beans, bunches of corainder, fenugreek, spinach, red and green chilies among other stuff. He would stand around with a proud smile on his face while my long suffering mom berated him. His only explanation? 'Everything was so fresh and green!I couldn't resist.'

Then I would be roped in to separate the chilies from the string beans and try to store them in our tiny fridge. It was a familiar Saturday morning scene at home and memories of it provide much amusement to our family. Anyway, I'm nothing if not my Dad's girl and managing my own home bring out all those eccentricities in full force. Every time I'm allowed near a farmer's market or a nice grocery store, I need to be reigned in or I end up with a fridge full of mushroom and spinach like I did the other day. Hence the post. And you were wondering if this rambling had a point??
So I had more mushroom than I could count and more baby spinach than I would want to.
I used up some mushrooms in a soup, ate salad for 3 days and I was nowhere close to making a dint in the reserves. Then I thought about making something that I could freeze for an easy meal on weekdays. I like making batches of pasta and freezing it in single serve containers so I can get a quick lunch or just something to eat in between meals. Since I had a ton of lasagna sheets waiting to be used up I made mushroom and spinach lasagna. I made Heidi's Five Minute tomato sauce, a cheesy white sauce and mushroom-spinach filling and the whole thing didn't take more than 20 mins.
I really wanted to try Chez Pim's sauce. It looks gorgeous and seems like the perfect way to end summer. But I didn't have the heart to put something so fresh, so delicate in something baked.


2 cups mushrooms, sliced
3 cups spinach leaves
3-4 garlic pods, minced
1/2 tsp butter
1tsp dried Italian herbs
2 tablespoon milk
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp nutmeg

Ingredient list for Heidi's Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed red tomatoes
zest of one lemon

Pour a glug of olive oil in a pan and add the minced garlic pods and heat slowly. Don't let the garlic burn. Then add the sliced mushrooms, I used cremini, and let it brown for a while. Then add the spinach and let that cook down. Add some salt and pepper and the dried herbs and take it off the fire. Oh, I did add some shredded carrots to bump up the nutritional content but that's entirely optional. Well, so is this recipe for that matter :)
In another pan melt the butter, add the milk and heat it for a while. Then mix in the ricotta cheese and sprinkle the nutmeg. Take it off the heat and whisk in the beaten egg. Take care not to scramble your egg. Add some salt and pepper and let it cool a little.
Cook your lasagna noodles till al dente and drain.

Start layering your lasagna by putting a ladle of tomato sauce at the bottom of the pan. Then add the noodles in a single layer. Top it with more tomato sauce, mushroom-spinach mixture and white sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella over the entire thing before moving on the next layer. Keep layering till you finish the noodles, sauces and the stuffing. I was so generous with my stuffing that I could complete only 2 layers. Finish with more tomato sauce and cheese. Add some Parmesan if you have it and bake until the cheese is brown and bubbly.

If you want nice, clean pieces take the pan out of the oven and let it rest for 5-10 mins in a warm place before cutting into it. I could not take any pictures after it was done because I ate most and froze the rest. Hence a pic from the preparation process.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pineapple, bean sprout, peanut salad

Like I mentioned in the earlier post, I got a new cookbook. And I predict that you will be hearing a lot of it in the coming posts. Its a vegetarian cookbook by Carla Bardi. At the first glance actually thought it was Carla Bruni, then I thought 'Why should she write a cookbook?', then I thought 'Why would I buy a cookbook written by a former model? I bet there won't be a pat of butter to be seen anywhere in the book. I don't want recipes for wheatgrass juice.' then curiosity got the better of me and I picked it up to skim it and read the name carefully. These, ladies and gentlemen, are the thoughts that go through an exceedingly empty mind in a span of about 2 secs. :)

Anyway, its a beautiful book, simple recipes, fantastic food porn and a stress on fresh produce. Needless to say, I can't wait to try out all the recipes. When I saw the announcement for WYF: Salad/Starter/Soup event I knew I it was time to put the book to test. I tried the luscious pineapple, bean sprout and peanut salad.


1 cup fresh pineapple
2 cups bean sprouts
1/2 cup cucumber, sliced thin
1/2 cup carrot, shredded
1/2 cup toasted peanuts
Salt-pepper to taste

The book recommended a peanut butter, soy sauce dressing and I was out of peanut butter so I just tossed the salad with a little bit of salt-pepper and lemon juice and drizzled it with a little honey. It was delicious and refreshing. The juicy pineapple teamed up very well with the crunchy bean sprouts and peanuts.

So this heads over to Simple Indian Food for the yummy event. Its a pretty cool blog and its cheekily calls it 'comments' section 'expert views'!

Juicy grapes

Just look at the color of these grapes I got yesterday! I laid them along normal red grapes and some green ones to bring out the deep, rich, almost black color of the plump ones. And these babies are seedless, so off in the blender they go to have a party with some crushed ice!
Random fact-Foods that are deeper in color eg: spinach, tomatoes, pomegranates are higher in anti-oxidant properties. So these things must be loaded, eh?

Spicy Eggs

Debu and I love this place in Manhattan! Its called Hummus and serves up (you guessed it!) hummus and the freshest pita bread. The menu has a total of 5 things on it, 3 of which are hummus with different toppings. And then there is Shakshuka, a heavenly blend of tomatoes, garlic, peppers and egg. Its piping hot, spicy and dunkable making it perfect food after a workout or while nursing a hangover.

The original version

Its a drive away, not a long one but a drive anyway, and there are days when I'm too lazy to look for the car keys, who I should mention, have a mind of their own and prefer hiding in tiny places to staying on a key hook. So I found an easier recipe in a cookbook I got recently. Its not perfect coz I hear the authentic version takes time to cook up and I need breakfast on the table like an hour ago! Its a hearty dish and a different take on a breakfast staple.

My version- bigger and badder. It can kick your version's ass to Russia!


1 shallot, sliced
2 garlic pods. peeled and chopped fine
1 tomato, diced
2 chili peppers
olive oil
basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the shallots in the olive oil lightly. Throw in the garlic pods and chili peppers and saute for another minute. Put in the diced tomatoes. and cook a little bit. Add salt, pepper and any dried or fresh herbs you have on hand. Add a little bit of water, just 1 teaspoon or so. Don't make it too watery. If the tomatoes give off enough liquid to cook the eggs, don't bother adding water. Let the mixture cook. Crack two eggs in bowl and slide them one by one into the skillet. Don't stir it. Sprinkle some salt and pepper onto the egg yolks. Scatter the basil leaves on top. At this point if you have an oven proof skillet, slide it into a pre-heated oven and cook till egg whites are firm. If you don't have an oven just cover with a lid and cook on a really low flame till the whites are set and the yolks are slightly runny. I didn't have pasteurized eggs this time so I cooked the eggs completely through. Serve hot in the skillet with some crusty bread.

Carbs are so pretty...sigh!

Serving suggestion: Serve with a glass of freshly brewed mint iced tea.

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