Monday, March 30, 2009

Bon Voyage: Off to Italy

News update! I've cleaned out my crisper as I am off to Italy for work and fun, including a visit to Eataly in Torino and a one-on-one market tour/cooking class in Bologna! I will try to blog from the road, but in the meantime, you can follow my adventures on Twitter: ams54. Arividerchi!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Waiting for Spring

Spring officially started yesterday, but you’d never know it by looking out the window. Yes, big fat snow flakes in NYC on Friday. Bright but still cool today. I am really looking forward to spring – and asparagus season at the green market. There are more hints of spring in Union Square – the hydroponic tomato basil had green beans today! But with spring approaching, the downside is that I start using my oven less and less until the day comes that the heat is too much and I end up either eating salads or “cooking” solely via microwave until the weather cools. So as a sort of farewell to winter, I made a huge pan of lasagna last week. Based on a recipe originally published in Moosewood’s Low-Fat Favorites, the dish is chock full of vegetables. As written, the recipe is pretty low fat, but I like to use full fat mozzarella and part-skim ricotta, which makes it “part-fat” or “2%” or something. Given the season, all but the shallots came from Trader Joes versus the farmers market. But, given the temperature is still in the 40s, there may still be time to do a spring vegetables version before summer (and the heat) really sets in.
(Not really low fat) Veggie Lasagna Adapted from The Moosewood Restaurant This recipe freezes very well when cut into individual portions and bundled in plastic wrap. Don’t bother cooking the noodles in advance – there’s enough liquid in the recipe so they will soften as the dish bakes. You may be need to add extra sauce when serving, depending on your preference. As an added nutritional bonus, I like to serve this with broccoli. Ingredients 1 T. olive oil 12 oz. sliced mushrooms 2 diced shallots 1 cup cubed red bell peppers .5 cup shredded carrot
1 cup cubed zucchini 1 cup cubed eggplant
14 oz can diced tomatoes
Dried oregano, to taste Dried basil, to taste Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained
2 cups part-skim ricotta
2 cups grated low-fat mozzarella cheese, divided
.25 cup grated Parmesan cheese
32 oz. jar of tomato sauce
16 oz. lasagna noodles Method Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sauté mushrooms in olive oil until they start to brown. Add shallot, red pepper, carrot, zucchini, and eggplant, sauté for five minutes. Add diced tomatoes and spices, simmer for 10 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine spinach, ricotta, one cup of mozzarella cheese and the parmesan cheese. Spread .5 c. of the jarred tomato sauce on the bottom of an 8 x 13 pan. Add layer of uncooked lasagna noodles. Top noodles with 1/3 of cheese mixture. Top cheese with 1/3 of vegetable mixture Add second layer of noodles. Top with 1/3 of remaining sauce. Add second layer of cheese and half of remaining veggies. Add third layer of noodles. Top with 1/2 of remaining sauce, along with the rest of the cheese mixture and veggies. Add last layer of noodles and top with remaining sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 60 minutes. Top with additional sauce, as needed, and remaining cheese.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cupcake Weekend

My birthday was last weekend. And while I had a nice time with family and friends, and received some very nice serving pieces (from Pottery Barn and the Orla Kiely for Target collection), the weekend was really all about cupcakes. Perhaps more than any other city, New Yorkers are obsessed with cupcakes. I blame Sex and the City. Although I did pick up a few cupcakes at Magnolia’s latest location on 6th Avenue and 49th Street, I more often enjoy offerings from Buttercup Bakeshop or Billy’s Bakery. Ironically, my coworker was also celebrating a birthday last weekend, so I wanted to bring in cupcakes on Monday. But instead of leaving the baking up to the professionals, I decided to attempt my own. I don’t consider myself a good baker. Baking is a science – it’s about precision and following a recipe to a T (until you have confidence to deviate). I like to experiment – be it substituting ingredients or adding something new. So with some trepidation, I tried two new recipes: “Key” Lime Coconut Cake as published in Gourmet (which I found by way of Smitten Kitchen) and David Lebovitz’s black bottom cupcake recipe (which I found by way of Letie’s Culinaria). Despite subbing white whole wheat flour for the white (it was all I had!) and regular limes for the key limes, both recipes turned out pretty good. Maybe not as perfect as Magnolia’s would have been, but special in their own way (and a lot less than $2-3 a pop most NYC bakeries charge.). After all, when it comes to birthdays, it’s the thought that counts!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Someone else's cooking: Defonte's Revisited

Finally got to try a cold hero at Defonte's and was much more impressed than my last visit - first at the shear size and second at the combination of flavors. This time, the fried eggplant worked with the other ingredients. The giardiniera salad added a nice kick, but I did add some red wine vinegar as it needed a little more zing for my taste. All in all, pretty good Italian sub for the neighborhood and at $10.78, more than enough for two meals.