Tomato, Tomahto

My step-sons are way way into Garfield comics. And Joe told me he thought Garfield was like the funniest thing ever, when he was a kid.

Well I thought he was funny too but not like they do. Maybe it’s a boy thing. They almost always get a new Garfield book when we go to the library and then they battle over who checked it out so that they know who gets to read it at bedtime. It’s such a kid thing.

Well what I am way way into is comfort food that is comfortable in it’s own skin because it’s healthy without skimping on the good stuff. Like lasagna with a whole bunch of veggies.

I made a really amazing version of this classic last night, and I think Garfield would have approved even though it wasn’t your traditional tomato and ricotta style dish.

The kids approved too, considering how many unlasagna-like things were in it. Pine nuts, kale, onions. And squash. A big heaping serving of it: as much as the noodles or more. Because I like to go easy on the noodles, even though they are really my one true love. They even asked for seconds.

And you know, what would a lasagna night be without a big bowl of Caesar salad, complete with homemade croutons (made from a few rolls leftover from the first time I baked with my sourdough starter) and freshly grated parm. I normally don’t eat this kind of salad because I like salads with a lot of stuff in them, but we had it last week when we went for dinner at a friends and I just needed more, you know? If that’s wrong, then I don’t want to be right. I made myself feel better about how bad it can be for you by making the dressing myself. The boys wanted seconds on croutons too, of course.

And I couldn’t say no because I’d been eating them straight off the pan for like 10 minutes before dinner.

There might be some lasagna purists out there among you, who say that it should always be the traditional thing. And maybe you would say that this is just a casserole with some noodles in it. But I say to you “Don’t be so quick to judge! Lasagna loves you no matter what.” So you should try this dish, no matter what. After all, potato, potahto. Let’s just drink a glass of wine.

What? Those aren’t the lyrics?

Butternut Alfredo Lasagna
Makes one 9×13″ pan

2 lbs butternut squash, peeled and sliced in 1/8″ slices. You could sub another squash here, but the butternut makes nice big slices so that’s why I went with it.
1/2 box lasagna noodles
1/2 bunch kale of choice, or about 4 loosely packed cups, roughly chopped or torn
1 jar alfredo sauce (Yeah, I cheated. Sorry.)
2 medium sized onions
2 cups grated parmesan, more or less depending on your tastes
freshly grated nutmeg, about 1/2 a nut
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
salt to taste
white wine, about 1/2 cup

Heat a large skillet oven high heat, and when it’s good and hot add a splash of olive oil. Toss in the squash slices, add a pinch of salt and the grated nutmeg, and let them cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften and some of the pieces are getting browned. Put into a bowl and set aside.

While the squash cooks, prepare the noodles. Just follow the directions on the box for al dente, but subtract like one extra minute so they are very al dente. After draining them run cool water into the pot so that they don’t stick together while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

After taking the squash out of the pot reheat it and add another tiny splash of oil. Toss in all the onions and cook till nice and brown and soft. Deglaze the pan with the wine and let it reduce by about half. It will go pretty fast, so add more if it evaporates too quickly. Then add the kale. Cover and let steam for a couple of minutes, until it’s just soft, then give it all a good stir and turn off the heat.

Coat the bottom of your dish with a couple of table spoons of alfredo sauce and top with a layer of noodles. Next add half the kale and onions, 1/2 the pine nuts, then a handful of grated cheese following that with a layer consisting of 1/3 of the squash. Spread the pieces of squash out to make a flat surface for the sauce to go on, then spoon about 1/2 a cup of alfredo, more if you need it, on to that and spread it thin. Next go back to noodles, and do another round all the way through, using the remaining half of the kale. Once you get to the top layer of noodles, add the remaining squash, top with whatever sauce you have left in the jar and the rest of the cheese. Give it another good grating of nutmeg all over and let it sit for 1/2 hour or so, at room temp, so the noodles can absorb some of the sauce.

While the lasagna sits, heat up the oven to 350ºF. Put the lasagna in the lower third of the oven and bake for about 1 hour, or until it’s bubbly and getting browned on top. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving. I know it’s hard to wait, but seriously the lasagna will be sooo much better if you do. Mostly because you won’t have burned your mouth with molten hot cheese and you’ll be able to taste it.

It’s even better the next day. Promise.

Advertisements

Bare Bones

What’s a girl to do when she wants to make a tart and her flour bin looks like this?

Well, she could experiment with some of that gluten free flour mix in the cupboard, or she could find a recipe that calls for some other obscure flour. Or, if she has already made bagels that day and is feeling sorta lazy after that, she can reach deep into the freezer and pull out a patty of chocolate short dough the origins of which she can’t quite recall. It can’t have been in there that long, right?


And then, she will take out a pound of fresh black figs, but in so doing realize that there is a disturbing lack of ingredients for pastry cream in her refrigerator. This is, again, the bagels’ fault. She was making bagels instead of going to the grocery store. 

This is what happened to me yesterday. I wanted to make something like this tart, but I wound up making my own instead.  I impulse bought some figs at the end of last week, and they have been waiting for me to be inspired. Well, inspired to do something with them, the figs. I’ve done plenty of other things since they made their way into my kitchen. Like make lemon curd frozen yogurt, and go to an awesome cookbook club picnic. But those are altogether different stories. 

Back to the figs.

I grew up in a house with a huge fig tree in the front yard. I mean huge. So huge we would have to go up on the roof to pick the figs. Birds always ate them, and my mom would sometimes pick them and sell them to an organic juice bar near Greenlake. I have vivid memories of my mom running out onto the porch during the day to try and scare the birds away. It was pretty futile, but I think it made her feel better. Our figs were green–my mom always said they were Adriatic figs. 

Ours was like this, but about 3 times bigger. Photo courtesy Route79 via flickr.

I don’t really know how we had such a prolific fig tree, being in Seattle (Yes, I’m a Seattle native. It’s OK to be jealous…), but we did, nevertheless. There was always way more figs than we could do anything with, and I don’t really remember anybody but me ever even eating them. I do remember some failed teenaged attempts at making fig type bars, but I guess I had some learning to do in the kitchen department. 

I do still love figs. I almost always keep some dried ones around, and when summer comes I like to eat them fresh with honey and yogurt, or some other tangy dairy thing. So yesterday, with these figs in hand and the mystery chocolate dough thawing on the counter, I got to work. 


Since our chickens are kind of…not really laying a lot right now, for some mysterious reason…I am short on eggs. I couldn’t make any fancy fillings from scratch. But I did have some thick, molassesey pecan pie filling that I saved from a big batch I made for a dessert tasting. I know, I know. Right now you are thinking, that sounds…terrible. I know that you are thinking that because I thought it too. And then I thought about chocolate and pine nuts, and then I thought about food processors and that lemon curd frozen yogurt…

And then I made a delicious tart. 

We ended up eating the tart all by itself, because by the time we sat down to eat it I was so excited/curious/nervous to try it that I had forgotten all about the frozen yogurt. Maybe tomorrow.

Fig and Chocolate Tart
serves 8

For the dough: (adapted from The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg)

4 oz granulated sugar
14 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb 2 oz bread flour
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

This recipe makes quite a bit of dough, so if you want to cut it in half, use only the yolk from the egg. If it’s a touch dry, add a little water, just a tsp at a time, until the dough comes together.

Sift the flour and cocoa powder together and set aside. Mix the sugar, egg and vanilla on a low speed using a dough hook, just until combined. Add the dry ingredients, and mix until just smooth. Press dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before using to allow the flour and butter to really meld.

To prepare the shell for baking, use a patty about the size of a large hamburger bun. Let the dough warm up a bit, and roll it out until it is about 1/2 cm. thick. Gently transfer the dough to your tart ring (on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper) and press it into the sides as you rotate the pan slowly. Instead of cutting off the scraps, carefully press the overhang down into the sides of the pan. This will give the sides a little bit more strength and make them less likely to break when you remove the tart from the ring, since the crust is very delicate. Put it into the freezer for about 10 minutes while you heat the oven and prepare the filling.


For the filling:

1 lb fresh figs
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks, or chop your own from a favorite bar
1 cup of your favorite pecan pie filling, preferably one with some molasses in it

Heat the oven to 350º F. Rinse the figs, and trim off the stem end. Quarter them and toss them into your food processor. Pulse for a minute until the smallest pieces are about the size of a black bean . Add the pine nuts and pulse a few more times. You don’t want the filling to be a paste–the nuts and fig pieces should still be recognizable as what they are. 

Put the filling into a bowl and stir in the chocolate and pecan pie filling. Pour it into your shell and put it straight in the oven. Bake about 35 minutes, or more depending on your oven, until the filling is set in the middle.  Remove from the oven and place the sheet pan on a rack to cool completely. 

If your tart pan has a bottom disk (unlike mine) you are in luck because it will be very easy to get out! Just slowly press the bottom upwards until it is free of the ring, and, using a pancake flipper, gently slide the tart onto a cake plate. If it doesn’t, put a piece of parchment paper on top, then a cutting board. Flip the whole thing carefully over, take off the ring, then flip it back onto your plate. Applaud for yourself if your tart is in one piece.