Malto Mario


The Lady & Sons

1,000 Italian Recipes

Friday, March 27, 2009

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

So many new discoveries this month.. let's count!

1- I CAN post more than once a month! I can!
2- Someone's bad karma CAN bite them in the ass eventually! (No, not me :P)
3- I can live on Totino's Pizza Rolls when I absolutely have to!
4- I'm the ONLY Daring Baker who couldn't wait for her lasagne to set up before slicing!
5- Who knew Hubbs would put the kibosh on green noodles??
6- Indoor plumbing is VERY! IMPORTANT!

Okay I'll stop on that last one.. yes, major plumbing issues this month.. and a husband who REFUSED to call a plumber because "I CAN FIX THIS". Two 100 foot plumbers' snake rentals, 3 wax rings and about eleventy billion loads of sopping wet towels later - we have working drains and faucets and toilets and showers and we didn't have to call a plumber.

Now ask me if I've started to hit the bottle around mid-morning snack time. :P

Cooking dinner without working plumbing isn't easy either.. and this is how I found out I could eat pizza rolls 3 nights in a row, where previously they would make me gag. Maybe I didn't gag because the only energy I had left at pizza roll eating time was swallowing.

So needless to say, the Daring Bakers challenge was put off, yet again, until the last week of the month. We were supposed to make it last weekend, but Super Plumber reckoned he deserved a weekend off to play with his brother, and Ivonne and I decided it was high time to get some unfinished The Daring Kitchen website business taken care of. So that left no room for lasagne as planned. But, we figured, this wouldn't be a big deal as there are two of us and only 1 lasagne to make. Should be a piece of cake! Mmmm hmmm....

First off, let me insert the information for this month's challenge:

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

Our lovely hostesses only had one thing to say.. we must make our own pasta sheets from scratch! HAR! Dough! Me! *thud* To say I was a little nervous going into this is truly an understatement. Dough hates me. Seriously, I could screw up a simple pizza dough, believe me. And they want me to make pasta dough? Flavored pasta dough? The kind you have to roll out MANUALLY?? *eek* Oh yeah, Hubbs didn't have a chance of getting outta this one. Even if we had made it over the weekend with all the time in the world, he still didn't have a chance.

Okay well, back to two of us and only 1 lasagne. We figured we'd make the pasta dough and the ragu on Monday night and then make the bechamel and assemble, bake and eat the lasagne on Tuesday night. BAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA! Here's what happened..

Monday it rained, and Hubbs didn't have to work - so I asked if he'd mind making the ragu because that would save us so much time once I got home. We'd only have to make the pasta. Easy Peasy! He agreed.. and he made a mighty fine ragu in my opinion. His opinion.. slightly different.. he didn't feel that it was worth the 3 hours he put into it. When I got home from my 8 in the dungeon, we were to make the pasta dough - BUT - he had decided to surprise me! He made the dough while the ragu was simmering on the stove, bless his reinforced toe tube socks!

Problem was.. and I tried not to giggle, point and stare.. honest. I tried. But his "ball of dough" laying on the counter resembled something that most likely died of a really bad case of the shingles. The thing had scales. And lumps. It was kind of the shape of a ball.. like maybe a rubber ball that's sat in the sun for years and was just flaking apart when the wind hit it just right? I should mention, we did NOT make the spinach flavored dough as requested by our lovely hostesses. No, I'm sorry, but he will not eat spinach pasta. HATES IT. And since I'm not the biggest lasagne fan - I love it! But it's just too rich of a dish for me.. we eat it maybe twice a year, maybe - I really wanted to make a lasagne that he'd eat. So in discussing it the week prior, we decided that we'd take the unbelievably delicious slow roasted tomatoes made from the last of our tomatoes at the end of summer last year, thaw 'em out, puree them and use that in lieu of the spinach. Since the recipe called for 10 oz. of spinach and since spinach is so light, we figured 5 oz. of the pureed tomatoes would work. Apparently not. :) Not enough liquid to keep that dough ball baby alive. Jebus, it's death must have been painful.. poor guy.

So I made the pasta dough this time.. and I upped the amount of slow roasted tomato puree to about 8 oz. and threw in 2 tablespoons of EVOO. Perfection! OHMYGOD I MADE PASTA DOUGH and it didn't give me the big F!U! in return for my efforts! I'm grinning from ear to ear right now, and this happened several days ago! teeeee!

So I started kneading.. and kneading.. when I realized I should be taking photos! Yes Photos! I'm a blogger after all! This is for my blog! "Ohhhh honeyyyy.. can you take over the kneading so I can photograph it??" Muahahahahaahaha And that he did:

We decided to let the dough rest until after we'd had dinner - I think he had micro-waveable creamed beef on toast and I had a hot dog? Something.. might have been cereal.. no wait.. yeah, it was pizza rolls. *sigh* And after our nutritious and very low sodium dinners, we said screw the pasta and watched Two and a Half Men.

The next day after work, we came home and rolled the pasta. No wait.. when I say "we" I really mean "he" - I had to be super photographer again, doncha know? It took him approximately 2.5 hours to roll that dough out to what we thought was paper thin. He went in sections.. very small sections.. and my job was to take pretty pictures and to hang the sheets (I use that term loosely) over our kitchen table chairs. Here, look for yourselves:

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA! All I could do that night was think about Silence of the Lambs.. remember how the serial killer would take pieces parts of his victims' skin and sew them together to form a mask? Holy cow he would have peed himself had he waltzed into our kitchen! Look at this one! It's got the eyes and mouth hole already built in!!

By the time rolling was done, we looked at each other and again said, "screw it". He ate the pizza rolls and I had cereal that night. I think I watched a few Ellen shows I had tivo'd.

Now we're on day THREE. And come hell or high water, we were going to eat this bitch TONIGHT. We were DONE dammit. So I started the bechamel (which neither of us wanted, but I had already cheated with the tomato flavored dough so I couldn't make any other changes without the possibility of the Daring Lynch Mob coming after me), and he put the water on to boil and heated the ragu. 20 minutes into it, we realized that our noodles WEREN'T paper thin and wow.. they were kinda thicker than we thought. So imagine the two of us standing in the middle of our kitchen holding up steamy fakkin hot strips o'noodles debating on whether or not we could see each other through them. "I can see you plain as day! Quit moving", "I didn't move". "oh.. maybe I'm looking at Chloe then?" "Well I can see you!", "Yeah, well I don't doubt it as you've got both eyes open and I'm about 140 times wider than that strip of pasta."

Ahhh.. newlywed love. Can you feel it?

ANYHOO.. we assembled the lasagne and gently covered the pan with foil.. slid her into the hot oven and listened to our stomachs growl for about an hour. At this time, the lasagne was finished and looking wonderful - smelling even better. I should have waited a while for it to cool down a bit and set up, but I truly thought I'd be signing divorce papers had I not cut that baby tout de suite. I mean the man was standing over me with a fork in one hand and a glass of milk in the other. ;)

So I cut.. and it oozed a lil.. and then I slid my favorite fish flippin' spatula underneath and slowly lifted a piece of what smelled like heaven.. and then.. *sploooooge* It totally slid apart and I barely got it on the plate:

This did not deter us from eating it right then and there. And let me tell ya'll.. I am SOOOOOOOOOOOO happy we didn't fall from the recipe a second time - the bechamel was divine with the lasagne. OMG SO GOOD. The ragu was delish, the pasta had a lovely texture, although we couldn't really taste it's flavor with it being buried under all that other stuff.. but all in all, the judges gave this lasagne a 10. No longer will I ever make the heavy lasagne I grew up on.. this will now be my go-to lasagne with maybe just a few small alterations here and there to cut some time.. but nothing major because I wouldn't want to lose that flavor and lightness it had.

Thanks so much for a great experience and a new go-to recipe, Mary, Enza & Melinda!!


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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pineapple Jerky??

Yes.. you read that correctly. Pineapple jerky.

I was approached by a nice man by the name of Douglas. Douglas runs - your one stop shopping site for all things JERKY! :) Douglas asked me if I'd be interested in trying a couple samples of some of their products. Normally, I don't respond to these emails. Honestly? I'm afraid of saying yes, then receiving the product and HATING IT. Then what? I have to waste my time (and theirs) by writing a bad review. Remember my last bad review? It felt good to write that, but all I really accomplished was giving that GOD AWFUL PIECE OF CRAP EMBARRASSMENT of a movie some extra advertising. Gah. So yeah.. product reviews scare me.

With that said.. I was pleasantly surprised when the shipment of 5 slices of Pineapple Jerky was delivered to my house. The first thing I noticed was that the packaging was cute and that the pineapple inside looked moist. I've had many slices of dehydrated pineapple in my life - I love it actually.. but it's usually tough to chew and sometimes downright hard - crispy if you will. This wasn't. This pineapple jerky was so soft and moist.. it practically melted in my mouth. Hubbs tried some and he agreed it was the best dehydrated pineapple he'd ever had too. And he's not big on dehydrated fruit, he prefers beef jerky. He makes his own and it's pretty tasty, so it was a nice surprise to hear him say that.

I've got one package left (1 slice) and I'm saving it. hahaa! It's a great snack in the afternoon between lunch and quitting time - gives me a lil burst of energy that I don't have to feel guilty about (like I would, say, if I opened up that bag of peanut butter MnM's that one of the guys at work gave me).

The only thing that bothers me.. is the price. One-quarter pound is $9.99 - which is like almost $5.00 cheaper on than anywhere else, but still at $40 per pound, uhh.. yeah, that's not very affordable on our income. But the saying is true in this case.. "You get what you pay for" meaning this product is well worth an expensive splurge once in a while, because you are paying top price for a top of the line product.


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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You'll Be Missed WCC!! :(

So I gots this friend.. her name is Sara. Sara writes i like to cook. I love Sara. We clicked from the very beginning and although we've only known each other for a few years, it feels like I grew up with her.. we've got lots in common and she's just as warped as I am in the humor department. hehee!

Anyhoo, my friend Sara, well she runs this lil monthly event that some of you may have heard about (if you haven't.. well where the hell have YOU been?) called The Weekend Cookbook Challenge or WCC. I've had a soft spot in my heart for this lil monthly event and even got to host it once! Aside from adoring the creator of the event, I think what drew me to it is how it's very laid back, meaning hey if you want to contribute but you didn't use a cookbook recipe, sokay. Your submission is kind of a stretch according to the monthly theme? Fogeddaboutit! It's welcomed warmly into the round-up. This group is more about the joy of food and playing with people who share your common interest in sharing recipes than about rules and regulations - and for me, that's a joyous reprieve. ;)

BUT with all of this said.. I'm a slacker. I didn't participate nearly as much as I wanted too and I missed out on a lot of excellent, fun themes over the years. *sigh* But I could not WOULD NOT miss this last "Hurrah!" for the WCC. This round-up is the last one, my friends. Sara has decided to shut the WCC down.

Alrighty then, the last theme for the WCC is LOVE. Of course my first thought was to make something chocolatey.. but after the last Daring Baker challenge, I got my chocolate fix and then some :) So next was something savory - but all of the foods I truly love LOVE, I've blogged about already.. so what to do? WHAT TO DO? I was going over some recipes on my hard drive that I've collected through the years - because seriously, I've only got about 100 cookbooks.. the event is called Weekend COOKBOOK Challenge.. and yeah, I don't think I've ever used a cookbook for a recipe submission to the WCC so why start now, right? Gah. Anyhoo, lately Hubbs and I have been into pickles. Oh we love 'em. I slap those pickle Stackers from Vlasic on anything that doesn't move too quickly. So when I came across a recipe that my friendJohn had made and raved about, I knew this would be a dish of Love. Called Romanian Garlicky Ground Meat Sausages (Carnatzlach) with Sour Pickle Vinaigrette and Roasted Red Peppers. Say that fast TWO times and you'll get a brain aneurysm. No.. no you won't. I don't think. :P

Okay so this is a dish all about homemade sausages without casings. It's very well seasoned ground beef, or as John says, ground turkey would be excellent as well, shaped into a sausage link and grilled, broiled or pan fried. The sausages are served over roasted bell peppers and topped with his very own pickle vinaigrette. Super easy to make.. you just have to remember that the ground meat should "marinate" with all the spices for at least 4 hours before shaping into sausage link shapes.

Hubbs did the marinating part.. and he followed the recipe to a T EXCEPT for the allspice.. we don't have any and frankly, I'm not a fan of it in savory dishes. He mixed it well in the food processor and we let it sit in the fridge for about 6 hours. When I came home from work, I shaped them into links, made the vinaigrette and *cough* roasted some bell peppers. When I say I "roasted" them.. I mean that I picked them out of a jar with a fork. Sue me. It was cold and rainy, I was home for the night and not going back out. :) Anyhoo.. I might have made the links a lil big because I only got 12, and the recipe said 14 to SEVENTEEN (bahahahhaa!). 'kay at 1.5 lbs. of ground meat, if you get 17 sausages.. I'd have to say they'd look a bit more like gherkins. ;)

I chose to pan fry in my cast iron skillet, as John prefers. They cooked quickly and smelled wonderful! Then I plated them, "nestled" in the "roasted" red and yellow peppers and poured spoonfuls and spoonfuls of that AMAZING vinaigrette over them. To say we were salivating when it came time to sit down in front of our faithful TV (the kitchen table is more of a place to dump unopened mail, thankyouverymuch).

The first thing we said to each other was "MEAT DOGS!" I about choked. So funny! These "sausages" are mighty tasty but not very "sausage-y". What we both thought was that this recipe would make a might fine turkey burger instead. But what we both flipped over was John's pickle vinaigrette. Holy mother of a bald goat! This stuff is to die for.. I want it on EVERYTHING now! Much MUCH better than any relish we've ever had.. super easy to throw together and just NOM NOM NOM SO GOOD!

All in all it was a dish we did like very much and will make again - but we'll try ground turkey or chicken next time.. and grill instead. Just to see. In the meantime, try ripping the bowl of pickle vinaigrette from my hands - JUST TRY. :P

Romanian Garlicky Ground Meat Sausages (Carnatzlach) with Sour Pickle Vinaigrette and Roasted Red Peppers
Recipe copied from John with my changes included.

Yield: 4 to 5 Servings

If you're cutting down on beef, well-seasoned turkey is a good substitute here.

2 to 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic, or to taste
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
About 1 teaspoon salt (more if using ground turkey)
1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; or fresh, hot but not searing, while (preferably Fresno or serrano, but Hungarian wax, jalapeno, or other varieties will do fine), roasted (see Cook's Note), peeled and finely chopped (be sure to use rubber gloves when preparing)
1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef (you can substitute ground turkey - the ground thigh meat will work best - with fine results, but you may want to increase the seasoning slightly)
Oil for greasing the broiler rack or pan, if needed


2 large red bell peppers, roasted (see Cook's Note), cut into strips, and seasoned well with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and a little vinegar or lemon juice to taste

Chopped scallions (both white and green parts)

Sour Pickle Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Half-sour or garlic dill pickles, sliced lengthwise; garlic dill tomatoes

In a food processor combine the garlic, paprika, salt, oregano or marjoram, allspice, black pepper or chile, and 14 cup water and pulse until the garlic is chopped very fine. Add a third of the meat and process until thoroughly incorporated with the seasoning. Add another third of the meat and pulse a few times. Add the final third and continue pulsing, stopping to scrape down the bowl, if necessary, until the mixture is well combined, very soft, and almost pasty.

Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight so that all the vibrant flavors will meld together.

When ready to cook the carnatzlach, set out a small bowl of cold water and a large platter. Moisten your hands with the water, take a small lump of the meat mixture, and roll it into a sausage 3- to 4-inches long and i-inch wide (about the size of your middle finger, but a little wider). Place the shaped carnatzlach on the platter and continue making more, wetting your hands as necessary, until all the meat is rolled. You'll have approximately 14 to 17 sausages.

Preheat the broiler, outdoor grill, or (my choice) a heavy ridged cast-iron skillet on top of the stove, to high temperature. (Spray rack or pan lightly with oil first, if not nonstick.) Grill or broil the sausages until beautifully browned, crusty, and cooked to desired doneness, 5 to 7 minutes per side.

To serve, arrange some roasted red pepper strips and chopped scallions on a plate. Nestle a few carnatzlach attractively over them, and spoon a generous amount of sour pickle vinaigrette over everything. Garnish with pickles and garlic dill tomatoes.

Cook's Note: To roast peppers, spear them with a long-handled fork, and roast like marshmallows over an open flame (a gas burner or outdoor fire). Or place the peppers on a roasting rack set directly over the flame. Keep turning the peppers until the skins are lightly charred on all sides. You can also roast them under the broiler. Place the peppers on a foil-lined rack under a preheated broiler, as close as possible to the heat source. Turn the peppers as the skins blister and blacken.

Put charred peppers in a paper bag and twist the bag closed, or put them in a covered bowl. Let them steam until cool enough to handle-this will make them easier to peel. Rub the skins off with your fingers (if preparing chiles, make sure you are wearing rubber gloves). Don't worry if you don't remove every piece of charred skin-a few bits here and there will add smoky flavor. Although this is messy and the peel will stick to your fingers, I don't recommend peeling the peppers underwater, as some suggest, because it washes away the flavorful oils, making the peppers soggy and flat-tasting. Instead, dip your hands into a bowl of water every so often or wipe them on a paper towel to clean them. Pull out and discard the stem, seeds, and ribs. The peppers are ready to be used in a recipe.

Sour Pickle Vinaigrette

Yield: 4 to 5 Servings

1 cup coarsely chopped half-sour or garlic-dill pickles I went with all dill)
2 tablespoons liquid from pickle jar (include peppercorns and other flavorings, if desired)
3 tablespoons best-quality extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh lemon juice Amazingly I had no lemons.. so I used a lil bit of red wine vinegar

Place the pickles and pickle liquid in a blender and process at high speed until pureed. With the machine on, slowly add the oil. Continue processing another minute or two, until the mixture is smooth and emulsified. Transfer to a bowl, and add salt, pepper, and lemon juice as needed. You can serve the sauce right away, but it's best to allow the flavors to mellow for a while in the refrigerator. Stir the vinaigrette before serving. I wanted more of a crunch, as you can see from the photos, so I just diced everything small and mixed with the juice, EVOO, red wine vinegar and S&P


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