This new spring energy is as vibrant as it can be. Yes, spring is here but the usual spring energy is coupled with the new awakening energy of the Earth. It is so powerful! Simple vegetarian dishes would be very nice to eat during the next weeks for sure … I would like to share my recipe that I have been cherishing for years and making in the spring. This is a vegetarian take on the classic beef stroganoff dish. I used the nutty tempeh to replace the meat and added mushrooms to create this delicious dish. Enjoy!
Serves 6 people
1 pkg tempeh (500gr)
1/4 cup of shallots, finally chopped
1 Tbsp flour
4 oz mushrooms (crimini, portabello, white button)
8 oz green vegetable (I used spinach, broccoli)
1 tsp sweet paprika (optional)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup wine
1/3 cup stock (mushroom or meat)
red hot pepper flakes, optional
few springs of thyme
10 cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup of cream
Sautee the tempeh in a little oil for 10 minutes or until the sides are nice and brown.
Make the pasta according to its directions.
In a large pan, heat some oil. Sautee the shallots for 5 minutes on medium low heat.
Add the mushrooms and continue sauteeing for another 5 minutes. Add the spinach and stir. When wilted, sprinkle in 1 Tbsp flour, stir. Add the paprika and stir for 1 minute and add the garlic, stir.
Add the vine and the stock making sure there are no knots left from the flour. Add the thyme, tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes covered.
Take out larger thyme pieces.
Take off heat and add salt, pepper, parsley, red hot pepper flakes and cream to taste.
Add the tempeh cubes so it can soak up some of the liquid.
This is an amazing Thai inspired dish that uses coconut milk and Thai red curry paste as a base. I usually don’t add ready-made seasongs but this is a tasty and easy short cut, you won’t even notice. I chose bok choy and mushrooms for the vegetables, this combination is often used in traditional thai cooking and I really like how they taste together. I also threw in some bamboo shoots to balance out the dish. If you want you can add some broccoli in place of the bok choy but this is really a personal preference. Oh and it is done in 30 minutes! Enjoy!
Serves 6 people
1 block of tofu (1 lb) (500gr)
1 Tbsp ginger, finally chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
(26 floz) 2 cans coconut milk (1 liter)
4 Tbsp Thai red curry paste
handfull (4-8oz) shitake mushrooms, cut up
1 lb baby bock choy (I like half bok choy and half broccoli)
1 bunch scalions, sliced
little fish sauce to taste (I shake the bottle a few times) (1 tsp)
1 can of bamboo shoots (140g), drained
1 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 tsp red flakes or to taste
1 pkg noodles (Thai, ramen)
Boil water and prepare the noodles according to its directions.
Drain water off the tofu and pat dry. Cut the the tofu in 1 inch cubes and fry in a little oil. When done, sprinkle a little soy sauce on the cubes.
Heat a pan with oil.
Add the broccoli if used and stir fry for about 10 minutes on medium heat until tender.
Add the ginger and garlic, stir for 1 minute. Stir.
Add the 2 cans of coconut milk and the Thai red curry paste, stir. Continue adding bamboo shoots, red chilli flakes (optional) and fish sauce, bok choy and mushrooms. Cook for 10 minutes. I would like also mention that if you add the bok choy and the mushrooms more at the last 5 minutes, they will keep their shape better and will not get soggy.
Serve with the noodles and the tofu preapared earlier. Add cilantro, scallions and lime juice.
Winter has finally arrived in the Midwest of the United State … and it looks like it is here to stay after all the crazyness of this year. We had snow in September and in October … and had 80 degree weather inbetween. I am definitely ready!
December brings forth Winter Wonderland and the Holidays. When I think of Christmas dishes, warming and festive winter foods come to my mind. For me Christmas is a lot about cooking and baking … and of course music. I’m already looking forward to all the baking and cooking I will be doing and singing along my favorite Christmas music…
Please read my previous blogs from last year on winter eating and tasty dishes and desserts.
I like challenges … well ok sometimes it is a bit uncomfortable … but then I end up with something delicious like the dish I’m presenting here today.
The savory stuffing made with cabbage, mushrooms and lentils is wrapped in a flakey strudel dough and is seasoned with the warming spices of the season. To make it even more festive, serve it with port sauce and brussel sprouts with chestnuts.
I was looking for a vegetarian Christmas dish… seriously, traditionally would there be such a thing? … I have seen mushroom strudel served in the winter before but did not find it filling enough as a main dish. Then came the idea … maybe because I was craving cabbage strudel the whole fall … to make the strudel with half mushrooms and half cabbage … then added the lentils and the cheese in place of the meat and a few spices and … this festive dish was born. Cabbage is a staple vegetable for the winter and has been traditionally paired with mushrooms. My non-vegetarian guests really enjoyed a slice with their meat dish. Of course, the vegetarians were asking for seconds.
4 sheets of filo dough
1/4 cup chopped shallots
4-8 oz mushrooms (crimini) (chopped into small pieces)
2-4 oz of savoy cabbage (I prefer savoy but green cabbage is fine)
1 celery stalk
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp paprika
1/4 cup uncooked lentils (1/2 cup of cooked lentils)
Take filo dough out of the freezer. Let it thaw slowly.
Clean and soak the lentils for a few hours. Cook lentils.
Chop up the shallots and the celery and sauté them in some oil for 5- 10 minutes. Set aside.
Chop up and sauté the mushrooms in some oil for 10 more minutes or until the mushrooms are tender. Add to previous mixture.
Start slicing the cabbage up and cut them up into small pieces. Discard the lager veins of the cabbage so you are left with the tender leaves only. Sautee the cabbage leaves for about 10 minutes. Add paprika and the garlic to activate for 1 minute, stir and add the cold stock. Add chopped thyme leaves, nutmeg and chopped rosemary leaves. Cook the mixture for about 10 minutes on low heat. Add to the onion mixture from earlier.
Chop up the nuts. I leave the hazelnuts chunkier. The walnuts are coarsely chopped. A small food processor can be used. Add to previous onion mixture.
In a medium sized bowl, add 1 lightly beaten egg, mustard, the nuts, the cooked lentils, mushroom/ cabbage mixture from above, cheese, salt and pepper. Mix well.
Let the stuffing cool, refrigerate for about 1 hour.
Take 7 sheets of filo dough and set it on a wooden board. I like to put a piece of parchment paper below the filo dough, it is helpful for rolling. Drizzle some oil and grade some nutmeg. Spread the filling evenly on the sheet leaving 1 inch on each side empty. Roll it up. Placed it in an oiled baking dish.
Lightly beat 1 egg, add some freshly graded nutmeg and salt. Spread it on top of the rolled strudel. Wait for 5-10 minutes until egg wash is absorbed. Apply the egg-wash again. The 1 egg should cover the strudel both times. You can sprinkle additional salt and nutmeg on the top. This will make the crust really tasty.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes or until top is nice and brown.
Put left-over filo dough if there is any left in the fridge gently wrapped up in plastic bags so the leaves don’t dry out.
Serve hot with the port sauce (see below) and brussel sprouts with chestnuts. I also like to add cranberry sauce (recipe).
Directions for the port sauce
In a small pot, sautee the shallots in some oil or butter. Add the flour for 1 min, stir. Add the garlic, stir for 30 seconds.
Add the wine and stock. Stir.
Add the thyme and rosemary springs. Cover the pot.
Cook for about 20 minutes.
Take out the bay leaves, thyme and rosemary springs.
Take off the heat, add the cream, salt and pepper.
Serve right away. Can be stored in the fridge for many days.
I love summer. It looks like there are so many vegetables finally ready to eat. I enjoy rhubarb too but there was not much else here in the Midwest for quite a while and now all of the sudden we have so many more to choose from. So ended up picking yellow beans for this week.
I’m presenting a simple Hungarian yellow bean soup recipe that many Hungarians know how to make but I added my litte twist to it. I like reading about foods and experiementing with them. So I was reading that Hungarian cuisine was a little bit different when Hungarians lived in their oiginal place in Asia. Over the years they lost some of the ingredients and picked up new ones. So I had the idea why not add chickpeas and curry to this bean soup. Who knows maybe our ancestors made the soup like this back wherever they came from ?!?
The sweet yellow bean is nutritious and is high in fiber but really is not the most exciting vegetable. The real flavor IMO comes from the seasoning especially from the dill. Dill is a unique sweet plant that gives the zesty, tangy flavor with slightly bitter undertones. It helps digestion and calms the mind. Also, adding the sour cream or yoghurt is a must at the end … and then you get a pleasant sweet and sour soup.
As I have mentioned I added chickpeas to the dish. If you look at a chickpea, you can see it resembles the heart and is considered to be beneficial for the heart. It is a good source of iron and unsaturated fats.
I often make this soup into more of an entree by adding an egg or other protein, it is very filling this way for sure. I just put the soup in a jar and take it with me in the summer. It is an instant lunch on the go for me. Oh yes and I get the stares from Hungarians … what is that dish?!? … lol.
Serves 4 people
1 lb of yellow beans
1 cup of dried chickpeas or canned (18oz)
oil (vegetable, lard)
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp curry powder
1 chopped large tomato
vegetable or meat stock (I used pea shells)
3 carrots, thinly sliced
1 zucchini, optional
1-3 bay leaves
1 yellow pepper or its left-over’seed house’, optional
handfull of dill, chopped
2 Tbsp of white vinigar
1 cup of dried or 1 can of chickpeas
salt and black pepper
red pepper to taste
sour cream or yoghurt to garnish
Clean and soak the chickpeas overnight or for at least 8 hours. Remove the soaking liquid and cook in fresh cold water for 3 hours. A pressure cooker would greatly reduce the cooking time. (Omit if using canned chickpeas).
Making the soup base: Saute the onion in some oil until translucent. Add garlic, paprika and curry powder, mix and after 1 minute add the chopped tomato. Mix and cook for about 5-10 mintes or until tomato has cooked into a sauce.
Wash the yellow beans. Cut the ends off on both sides and discard. Cut them up into 1 inch pieces. Clean and cut the carrots. Oh and I almost forgot I like to put in zucchini too. So wash and cut zucchini into about 1 inch pieces.
Add the cut up yellow beans, carrot slices, bay leaves, zucchini and the stock. I like to add a yellow pepper for flavoring or at least its ‘left-over’seed house. Cook for about 30-45 minutes or until the beans are soft. Remove the pepper/pepper sedds and bay leaves.
Add the cooked or canned chickpeas with its liquid and the white vinigar.
Salt and pepper to taste. Add the red chili pepper if desired.
Serve hot with chopped dill and sour cream/yoghurt.
We just celebrated the Summer Solstice so summer is definitely here. Zucchini is one of the first summer vegetables that appears at the farmers’ market. Fritatta is a popular Italian dish and also is my favorite way to prepare zucchini. Italians often make it for ‘lunch on the go’ because it tastes good as it is … it does not have to be reheated and is an interesting and unique dish. If you have eggs, cheese, onions, zucchini and olive oil you can make zucchini frittata. The secret is in the preparation.
So let’s look at those secrets … no worries it is not a difficult dish to make. The main secret is to cook it slowly. It is kind of a ‘slow food’ meaning that it is cooked slowly on low heat starting in cold olive oil. This was rather a hard concept for me at first because I always heat the oil before I put onions in a pot … but once you taste the dish, you will understand. Also, it prevents the olive oil from burning- I’m guessing. Another secret is to not dry it out so basically don’t over-cook the eggs. And that is about it other than the usual, use good ingredients.
The recipe is from Marcella Hazan’s cookbook Essentials of Clasic Italian Cooking.
So let’s look at why we should incorpoate zucchini in our summer diet. The watery zucchini is cooling and refreshing and is great to overcome the summer heat. It has a tender texture with a slightly sweet flavor and pairs nice with something a little more robust like eggs and cheese. It is also packed with nutients and is rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin B and C.
Oh and I can’t forget about the basil, the other main ingredient. It is in the mint family along with the other remarkable Mediterreanian herbs like oregano, mint, rosemary. It is not an accident that Mediterreanian chefs use basil on a regular basis. The aromatic basil is used in cooking for making food taste better and has numerous health benefits. For more information on basil, please check out this article.
1/4 cup of cold pressed olive oil, divided
1 large onion (1 cup), finally chopped
2-3 medium sized zucchini
5 large eggs
1 Tbsp dried oregano
a handfull of fresh basil leaves
2/3 cup of freshly graded Parmesan cheese
salt and black pepper
2 Tbsp of butter
Put half of the cold oil, and the onion in a large pan. Turn heat onto low heat, (not simmer) and cover. Cook until the onion wilts and becomes greatly diminished in bulk for about 20-30 minutes. Then uncover and continue cooking until the onion gets a nice golden brown color. I turn the heat a notch up here. This is going to be a lengthy process but it is an importamt part of the dish.
Meanwhile, prepare the zucchini. Soak them in cold water for 20 minutes to loosen the dirt. Scrub and wash off any dirt. Cut off both ends. Slice them thin.
When the onion is nice and golden brown, add salt and the sliced zucchini. You can put the sliced bacon in here if you plan on using it. Turn heat up to medium high and cook them until they are softened and have a light nut brown color. Stir frequently.
Making the fritatta. Melt the butter gently, add the whisked eggs with the torn-up basil, freshly ground black pepper and the cheese. Cook carefully until the eggs have set and thickened and the bottom has a light brown color (not burnt) and only the top is runny. Turn the broiler on. I use the low broiler for 3 minutes.
In the United States and Europe, rhubarb is known as the pie plant and in fact we tend to use it in sweet dishes; however, in Asia, it is more used in savory dishes. Today, I’m presenting a savory dish that was inspired by a blog. The rhubarb gives the sour taste that is balanced out nicely with the sweet and hot Chinese sauce and the bitter bamboo shoots. I chose broccoli as the main vegetable for the dish. If you prefer a vegetarian alternative, please check out my previous recipe that is a similaly made with tofu.
Rhubarb is everywhere here in the Midwest right now. It is almost ready in my garden but it has been available for a few weeks at the farmers’ market for sure. It is actually a healthy plant. Rhubarb has favorable health effects in the spring and the summer as it is cooling and detoxifying to the liver. The stems are good source of antioxidants, vitamin K and fiber. The Chinese also use the roots for its medicinal properties. In fact, it is so important for the Chinese that they consider it to be one of the ten most important herbs for healing.
So what’s up with the ketchup? Is it Chinese? … I think of American cooking when I hear the word ketchup but in fact it originated from China. It is basically a sweet and tangy sauce made with tomatoes, sugar, vinegar and spices. It actually means fish sauce as they traditionally addded fermented fish sauce. For this recipe we just need the basic ketchup, so go ahead and just use store-bought ketchup – unless of course you want to make it yourself.
This is a very tasty dish! I really wanted to make a dinner with rhubarb and I found this recipe. I made a few changes to suit my taste. I cut the pork into long strips instead of squares. I replaced the green peppers with broccoli. Also, I wanted to bring in more of the bitter flavor so I added bamboo shoots to offset the sourness of the rhubarb. And for garnishing, I also added peanuts to get a bit of crunchyness. I think this is a fabulous recipe with an interesting twist to the usual sweet and sour pork dish that is served in restaurants with pineapples.
300g pork fillet, cut into thin long stipes or 1 inch cubes
About 3 medium stems of rhubarb (200g) cut into 1 inch batons – please use a scale
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 large onion, peeled, halved and cut into thin slivers
2 heads of broccoli
1 thumb of ginger, peeled and chopped (1 Tbsp)
sesame oils, for frying
1 small can of bamboo shoots
2 cups of raw rice (or rice noodles)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 small thumb of ginger, peeled and grated
1 Tbsp of corn starch
2 Tbsp tomato ketchup
4 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup of water
5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 spring onion, finely sliced
1/2 mild red chilli pepper (optional), finely chopped
handfull of chopped peanuts
Prepare rice according to its instructions. I used rice noodle last time.
Cut the pork pieces into longer (2 inches) thin (half inch) stripes. You can do squares too but the Chinese do long stripes traditionally.
Whisk together the marinade ingredients, add the pork, cover well and set aside for at least a half an hour or up to a couple of hours.
In another bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients. Cover and put aside.
Heat oil in a large frying pan and add the rhubarb batons in a single layer. Cook for about a minute and a half and keeping them moving. Add a heaped tablespoon of soft light brown sugar, toss and cook for about minute more. You want them to have tenderised but still to have some bite. If they start breaking up, you’ve gone too far. Whip them off the heat immediately. Scoop into a bowl and set aside.
Take the pork out of the refrigerator, pour off the marinade and dry with a towel.
Put a tablespoon of vegetable oil, I used sesame oil in a wok and stir-fry the pork on a medium-high heat for three or four minutes, until golden brown. Remove and keep to one side.
Make sure you’ve prepped all the vegetables before you start cooking the main event, because they will cook fast.
Saute the sliced onion until translucent. Add the ginger and the broccoli and continue sauteing for about 5 minutes or until it is crunchy on medium high heat. Give the sauce (from above) a quick whisk, then pour it into the pan. Add the rhubarb and the bamboo shoots and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for three or four minutes until thick. Add the pork and toss and coat well until the pork is warm.
Add soy sauce and chilli pepper if needed.
Serve over rice, garnished with the sliced spring onion , cilantro, nuts.
In the United States and Europe, rhubarb is known as the pie plant and in fact we tend to use it in sweet dishes. However, in Asia, it is more used in savory main dishes. Today, I’m presenting a savory dish that was inspired by the following blogs: ( blog 1 and blog 2). The rhubarb gives the sour taste that is balanced out nicely with the sweet and hot Chinese sauce and the bitter bamboo shoots. I chose broccoli as the main vegetable for the dish. Traditionally, pork is used but is replaced here with the tofu. In the original recipe, the raw rhubarb is blended in the sauce but I made it more traditionally sautéed like the rest of the vegetables.
The sauce: 5 cloves garlic, 3 Tbsp honey, 3 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp ginger, 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes (or to taste).
Vegetables: 200g (3 medium sized) rhubarb stalks, 1 large onion, 2 heads of broccoli, 1 can of bamboo shoots.
Toppings: handful of chopped peanuts, 4 scallions, small handfull coriander, soy sauce and limes.
The rice. Make the rice of your choice. I used sushi rice.
Cut up the tofu so it is about 1 cm / 1/2 inch thick. I made triangular shapes but rectangular or square shapes are fine too.
Mix the ingredients of the marinade in a small bowl and pour it all over the tofu. Cover and put it in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Make the sauce. Put all the ingredients in a blender and mix to get a nice sauce. Set aside.
Take tofu/marinade out of the fridge and strain off marinade. Pat dry tofu with a towel. Sautee tofu slices in small amount of oil for about 5 minutes on each side. Cover and set aside.
Cut up the vegetables. Thinly slice the onions, cut up the broccoli flowers. Cut rhubarb diagonally in 2-3 inches length. If stalks are bigger, cut them in half first.
In a larger pan or wok, heat seasame oil, add rhubarb batons in a single layer and cook for abot 1-2 minutes while stiring to make sure all sides cook well. Make sure you don’t over cook rhubarb, they should be firm and not mushy. Add 1 Tbsp sugar and cook for 1 minute. Take off heat and set aside.
On medium high heat, sauté the sliced onion for about 10 minutes until translucent. Add the brocololi and continue sautéing on medium high heat for about 5 minutes or until it is soft but still crunchy. Add the sauce made earlier. (Quickly whisk, then pour it into the pan). Add the rhubarb (that was set aside from earlier step) and the bamboo shoots and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for three or four minutes. Add the tofu and toss and coat well and cook until the fofu is warm.
Serve on rice with chopped cashew nuts, chopped scallions, cilantro, lime wedges and soy sauce.
I have been making lasagna recently quite a bit. It is not too hot outside yet so I can turn the oven on but we want something on the lighter side too … so this dish seems to fit the bill. Of course, you can make this dish any time of the year. Lasagna is an Italian specialty. Traditionally, it is made with layers of tomato sauce based ragu, cheese and béchamel sauce. In this dish, I replaced the meat with spinach, mushrooms and cheese. I served it with red wine that seemed to compliment it very nicely.
Spinach is a great vegetable for the spring, it is hardy and nourishing for the liver.
Of course, an important part of the lasagna is the pasta. The best is if it is home made but good, high quality packaged pasta will do too.
Also, the cheese is also important. Try to get the best quality you can afford. Honestly, when I was in Italy, the first thing that I noticed was how tasty the cheese was in their dishes. I like to use a mixture of cheeses, here I used fresh mozzarella cheese balls, feta cheese and Parmesan cheese.
I make my own Italian seasoning but of course any store bought mix would work too. I think this is a nicely balanced mixture of spices grown in Italy. They are carefully selected herbs so one herb will not overpower the other. Also, they all are carminative therefore will help with digestion. Historically, we can thank the ancient Greek doctors who added these herbs to dishes so people can get their benefits all year along.
The warming, aromatic oregano is the key ingredient in pasta dishes. I like to use it because it gives a nice, distinctive flavor to Italian dishes. The sweet fennel seeds are acrid and compliment the strong aromatic oregano in the dish. The delicate basil is probably the most loved and popular spice used in Italian cooking. If you can, try to use the fresh plant instead of the dried. Its aromatic flavor is a nice addition to any Italian dish. The pungent chili pepper is not a big part of the Italian cuisine but Italians enjoy adding a little to their pasta dishes. The oregano and the fennel seeds both can offset the heat of some stronger spices.
2 TBSP (6 tsp) dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil or handful of fresh basil
2 tsp ground fennel seeds
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4-1/2 tsp hot red pepper or to taste (optional)
Serves 6-8 people
lasagna pasta (I used 10 strips)
10-16oz spinach (frozen is fine too)
4-8 oz chopped up mushrooms
2 slices of bacon (optional)
1/2 cup of tomato sauce + (more for the top and the bottom if needed)
1 cup of Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup for the filling, 1/2 cup for the Béchamel sauce)
8oz (100g) fresh mozzarella balls
8 oz (200g) of feta cheese
1 Tbsp of Italian seasoning plus more for the top
handfull of fresh basil leaves (if you have them)
3 cloves of garlic
1 egg, lightly beaten
About 4 oz grated Mozzarella cheese for the top
Bachamel sauce ingredients
5 Tbsp of butter
1/2 cup of flour
2 cups of milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 egg yolks (optional)
Rosso Piceno wine. Bottled by Saladini Pilastri 2018 (optional) It is the best and not expensive!
parsley leaves (chopped)
Start boiling the water for the pasta (omit if your pasta does not need to be boiled).
Preheat the oven to 400F and have the rack in the middle of the oven.
Making the filling: In a pan, sauté bacon (optional) and mushrooms in a little oil for 5-10 minutes. Transfer into a bowl. Meanwhile wash and take stems off the spinach. If using frozen spinach of course no need to do it. Sauté in a little oil and water. Remove and try to drain off water. Chop spinach well and transfer into the bowl. Add mashed feta cheese, tomato sauce, 1 egg, garlic, 1 Tbsp of the Italian seasoning (see recipe above). Mix.
Preparing the béchamel sauce. It is not too hard, just follow the steps. I used a whisk. Warm up 5 Tbsp of butter on low heat, when melted increase the heat to medium high and add the flour slowly, stirring continuously. Then start adding the milk very slowly, stirring after each addition and wait for a minute to let the flour mixture soak up the milk. When you start seeing bubbles, it is done. Take off heat. Grate some nutmeg. Add 1/2 cup of Gruyere cheese (optional) and 2 egg yolks. Last time I forgot the eggs and the sauce was still fine. So I will add here that it is optional especially if you are already adding cheese. Mix well. I use a double boiler but is not necessary.
Prepare the lasagna pasta according to its directions. If you need to boil the pasta, put it in the boiling water that was started in the first step. Proceed according to its instructions. When done take out of the water and try to make sure they don’t stick to each other. I like to cook the pasta more at the end to prevent sticking. So try to make sure you have everything ready before the pasta is ready so you can start assembling the lasagna.
Assembling the lasagna: Put a thin layer of the béchamel sauce or tomato sauce on the bottom of a 3 Qt size baking dish. (2Qt size will work ok too). Place 1 layer of the pasta strips on the bottom of the pan. Put the filling on top of the pasta, followed by the fresh mozzarella balls (cut up if using the larger balls), pour the béchamel sauce and top it all with another layer of the pasta. Spread some pasta sauce and the shredded mozzarella cheese on the top. Sprinkle some Italian spice on the top.
Turn the oven heat down to 375F and put the lasagna in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is nice and golden brown.
Serve hot with a little grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley on the top. I really enjoyed a glass of red wine with the dish. I felt like I was in Italy! I would recommend this bottle of red wine if you are looking for one to try (please see details above in Ingredients).
Chana masala is a delicious Indian dish that would be great for the spring. I still vividly remember the first time I had chana masala at a friend’s house. He had us over for dinner when his parents came to visit like 25 years ago. I did not even recognize the chickpeas … I actually thought they were chestnuts. I never got the recipe but his mother gave me some tips. (Thanks to the internet I found this recipe on line and I think it is very close to what we had that night).
Chana means garbanzo beans and is the main ingredient in the dish. IMO it is crucial to prepare these beans properly. I remember our friend’s mother told me to cook the beans for a long time. They should be cooked for 3 hours or you can use a pressure cooker according to its instructions, of course. Cooking for this long will soften the beans and let the flavors come out. So if time is not an issue, I would recommend home cooked chickpeas instead of using the canned ones. The canned beans will not have the same results for sure.
Garam masala is the main spice in the dish. It is not just one spice but is actually a cleverly chosen mixture of a few spices: fennel seeds, star anise, mace, black cardamom. It is nicely balanced so one flavor will not overwhelm the dish. You can blend it yourself or you can just buy it. (I ended up buying it at the store).
This is a common dish that people in India make on a regular basis for lunch or dinner. It has an interesting flavor, taste and texture. It can be made less spicy, if you don’t like spicy dishes, just leave out the green chili. So chana masala is basically a chickpea curry cooked in an onion tomato sauce with the spices. I always wonder how poor people in India get by on very little money and still eat well. This dish might be one of their secrets …
-I doubled the recipe
serves 3-4 people
1 cup of dried chickpeas or 1 (15oz) can
3 cups of water
Ingredients for the tomato sauce
2 Tbsp vegetable oil/ghee
2 large onions, finally chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch ginger piece, finally chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2-3/4 TBSP of red chili powder (adjust to taste)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
Ingredients for the chana masala gravy
1 bay leaf
1 inch cinnamon stick (If you double up the recipe, you will not need to add another cinnamon stick)
2-3 clove pieces
3 green cardamom pods without the shells.
1 green chili pepper, chopped (optional)
1-1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
2 pinch mango powder (amchur) (optional)
fenugreek leaves (optional)
Clean and soak the chickpeas for at least 8 hours. Pour off soaking liquid. Add fresh cold water and cook for 3 hours. Less for pressure cooker. Save cooking liquid. Omit if using canned beans.
Directions for the tomato sauce
Sauté the onions in oil or ghee until golden. Add the chopped ginger for 1 minute, stir.
Add red chili powder and turmeric. Stir for 1 minute. Add garlic quickly, stir.
Quickly add chopped tomatoes and little salt, stir. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until there is a nice sauce. The onions should not taste raw.
Let this mixture cool. Add 1 tbsp liquid from the beans. Make a thick gravy with a blender. Set aside.
Directions for the Chana masala gravy
Dry heat the spices (cinnamon stick, bay leaf, cardamom, clove) in a pot for 1 minute until you can smell the aroma of the spices. Stir. I grind the cardamom as some people don’t like them in their foods whole.
Pour the blended tomato sauce mixture from the previous step back into the pot, the chopped green chili pepper, coriander and garam masala powders and the spices.
Mix and cook for a few minutes until ingredients are mixed nicely.
Add the cooked chickpeas and the cooking water. You might have to add more water.
Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes.
Taste the mixture and see if you need more garam masala. Boil and simmer for 2 more minutes if spices were added.
Take out the larger spices like bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves.
I also added salt here.
Keep it covered until served.
Serve hot with cilantro, yoghurt, lemon, rice, vegetables and roti.