Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wild Mushroom Lasagna With Smoked Mozzarella

Today’s post is about inner beauty. I tried to find a creative way to photograph this Wild Mushroom Lasagna With Smoked Mozzarella and was not entirely successful in my attempt. Yet it doesn’t matter so much how it looks on the outside, for it’s what’s on the inside that counts. This may not win the Most Beautiful Photograph Award on Kitchen Fiddler or anywhere else, but believe me when I tell you it was incredibly comforting and truly satisfying to eat.

I will admit it: I’m a bit of a lasagna slut. I love all kinds and have no problem going from one to another. I’ve even made three different pans of it this week. Are there support groups for that?

My favorite lasagna is a classic, the way they’d make it in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. How could you not love something that involves homemade spinach noodles layered with a béchamel sauce, freshly grated Parmesan, and a kick-ass Bolognese sauce that has simmered and intensified for hours? But I have no problem with a more Americanized version with a simple tomato-based sauce and lots of gooey cheese, similar to this excellent sausage-and-basil one I made with my lasagna-loving Little Chef last week. And I finally just made this wild mushroom lasagna, a recipe I first saw in the New York Times Magazine a few months ago and have been daydreaming about ever since.

And wow, was it ever daydream-worthy. A small mountain of shiitakes and crimini mushrooms cooked down to a very concentrated mixture, augmented by roasted radicchio strips that added a contrasting slightly-bitter note. A béchamel—a simple white sauce made with butter, flour and milk and flavored with additional shallots and nutmeg—served as the binding agent for the mushrooms and the pasta. You already know that there's smoked mozzarella in there, but did I mention the Gruyère and Fontina cheeses that also came to this lasagna party? Oh yes please.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Shredded Brussels Sprouts Sauté With Bacon and Pecans

I just ate an entire recipe’s worth of this Shredded Brussels Sprouts Sauté, a dish that is supposed to serve four. I’ll admit I’ve done far unhealthier things, such as snarfing entire pints of Haagen-Dazs or large bags of tortilla chips in single sittings, but I really felt like I was bingeing at lunch here. Maybe it’s the addition of bacon and toasted pecans on top of the shredded sauté that made it feel like a guilty pleasure.

How did I become so crazy about brussels sprouts? I can’t seem to get enough of them these days, which is odd considering how I used to avoid them like the plague. Even though they look like adorable miniature cabbages, I think many of us have bad childhood associations of soggy sprouts, boiled to within an inch of their lives and woefully underseasoned.

Yet clearly I got over my distaste for them, for this is my second post about this much-maligned vegetable in just under 15 months, so go figure. Roasting them with bacon and garlic brings out an earthy richness, a la this version. It’s definitely a great way to go. And if you don’t feel like turning on your oven, this sauté puts a delightful fresh spin on those tiny cabbages.

A food processor fitted with the shredding disc makes light work of the prep. If you have good knife skills and a sharp blade, you can also manually slice the little green globes into thin ribbons. You’ll need a knife anyway for chopping up the bacon and pecans that add a touch of decadence and color to the otherwise spring-green dish.

Not only does shredding the brussels sprouts alter their texture dramatically, but they taste remarkably clean and bright when lightly sautéed. There’s none of the bitterness that I often associate with the whole little orbs, and I find the taste reminiscent of thinly sliced broccoli stems. (I happen to love steamed broccoli stems, almost more than the florets themselves.) It’s familiar yet still intriguing.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Arugula-Stuffed Baked Potatoes

When I was a kid, my mother constantly tried out new recipes from her extensive cookbook collection. Mom rarely repeated a dish no matter how much the rest of the family liked it, since she had an ever-growing list of new things she wanted to cook. I’m the opposite in that I tend to make a recipe I like over and over again until I get sick of it. However, I don’t think I could possibly grow tired of eating these Arugula-Stuffed Baked Potatoes. And I think that once my mom tries these for herself, these beauties will be making repeat appearances at the family table as well.

One of my best discoveries of last year was the Sea Salt Baked Potatoes from 101 Cookbooks. This was the very first food blog I began following years ago, and author/photographer Heidi Swanson continually surprises me with her creativity. It’s worth checking out for the stunning photographs alone, and the mouth-watering super-natural recipes on her site always keep me coming back for more.

Talk about a winner! Imagine a baked potato, the skin crisp and flecked with sea salt while the inside is fluffy and tender. But instead of loading this spud with enough dairy products to alarm your cardiologist, the steaming hot potato flesh is drizzled with a rich mustard vinaigrette. A baby arugula salad, tossed with more of the vinaigrette and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, tops the whole thing off.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Elderflower Champagne Cocktail

I’ve been dying to tell you about my new favorite drink, a festive Elderflower Champagne Cocktail. I made countless pitchers of this beverage when the One-Year-Plan group gathered for our annual New Year’s Day 6-hour brunch, and I think that will be a yearly tradition from now on. I’ve waited to tell you about it until now because I think it’s absolutely perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Isn’t it gorgeous?

Here are your instructions for Valentine’s Day. First task: go to your local liquor store for a bottle of St. Germaine. If you’re not already familiar with it, believe me when I tell you that this delicate French elderflower liqueur is something that you will definitely want in your home. Floral and beguiling, it’s also extremely drinkable, as you can see from what little is left in my own bottle.

Secondly: pick up a bottle each of sparkling wine and club soda. You don’t have to splurge on fancy champagne for this recipe, not by any means. I usually use prosecco for this, or you can use any sort of inexpensive French or domestic sparkling wine that tastes good to you.