Category Archives: comfort food

Asparagus and Mushroom Lasagne

       I’ve always loved asparagus season in Central California. I like that it’s a finite season, and it’s an agro-culinary treat you can really look forward to. Resisting the urge to buy those nice looking spears that come from Mexico a month or so before the California season begins, I patiently wait for the local product to finally arrive. I’ve been enjoying this year’s crop in the usually ways: grilled, sauteed, broiled, in salads,  etc. , but wanted to create a recipe that included some of my other favorite flavors. While asparagus has a distinctive flavor, it lends itself well to a variety of cuisines and applications. This recipe for lasagne  has lots of steps, but isn’t difficult to make. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

 

8          ounces              Lasagne Sheets

3          Tblspns            ButterP1040299

½         small                Onion – small dice

3          Tblspns            Flour

1 ¾      cup                  Milk

½         tspn                 Salt

¼         tspn                 Pepper

1          Tblspn             Olive Oil

1          Tblspn             Butter

8          ounces            Crimini Mushrooms

½         tspn                 Salt

¼         tspn                 Pepper

2          tspns                Fresh Thyme (1 tspn if using dried)

1          Tblspn             Olive Oil

8          ounces            Spinach

8          ounces            Piquillo Peppers – diced

12        ounces           Asparagus

1          cup                  Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese

4          ounces           Goat Cheese

1          tspn                 Lemon Zest

2          Tblspns          Basil—chopped

1          large                Egg

½         tspn                Salt

¼         tspn                Pepper

  • Cook lasagne according to package instructions. Cool and set aside.
  • Melt butter in medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until soft and butter is just beginning to brown.
  • Reduce heat to low and add flour. Stir with a rubber spatula to combine and break up any lumps. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes.
  • Slowly add milk while stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Add salt and pepper and stir frequently until mixture is thick. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Trim tough ends from asparagus. Add asparagus to water and cook just until crisp/tender—about 3 minutes.
  • Drain and immediately dunk in ice water to stop cooking. Drain again and set aside.
  • Cut mushrooms into wide, chunky slices—about 3 slices per mushrooms for medium-sized caps.
  • Add olive oil and butter to a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and salt. Sauté for 5-7 minutes or until mushrooms have softened and released their juices. Add pepper and thyme and cook one more minute. Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Wipe out pan and add 1 Tblspn olive oil to pan over medium-high heat. Add spinach and sauté until just wilted, but still bright green in color. Remove from pan and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, goat cheese, egg, zest, basil, salt and pepper.
  • For lasagne assembly, spray a 9” square baking dish with cooking spray. Place a layer of noodles in the bottom of the pan. Top with about 2/3 of the béchamel sauce. Add mushrooms in an even layer.
  • Add another layer of noodles and top with sautéed spinach and about 2/3 of the piquillo peppers.
  • Add another layer of noodles and top with 2/3 of the ricotta mixture. Lay in the blanched asparagus spears in an even layer and top with remaining ricotta mixture.
  • Add another layer of noodles and top with remaining béchamel sauce and piquillo peppers.
  • Cover with foil and bake in a pre-heated 350° oven for 30-40 minutes or until heated through and bubbly.
  • Allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

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Curried Coconut Hand Pies


I seem to be a little obsessed with hand pies these days! Following my previous post for a savory hand pie, I thought I’d follow up with a sweet option. The inspiration for this pie came from browsing the spice blends with Kristina at Stone Creek Kitchen.  I had planned on doing a coconut pudding filling and was inspired to add a savory spice blend for a little extra kick. I used a curry mix, but I’m sure that a garam masala or STK’s Ancient Chinese Secret spice blend would work just as well. The filling for these pies makes a great pudding on its own–just serve with some fresh berries and a crispy cookie.

(yields 12 pies)

Ingredients:

 Filling

1          cup                  Whole MilkIMG_1900

1          can (15oz.)      Coconut Milk

½         cup                  Brown Sugar

¼         cup                  Corn Starch

¼         tspn                 Salt

4          large                Egg yolks

1          Tblspn            Butter

1 ½      tspn                 Curry Powder

1          tspn                 Vanilla Paste or Extract

¾         cup                  Coconut (shredded, unsweetened)IMG_1929

1          medium           Banana

2          Tblspn             Brown Sugar

2          Tblspn             Butter

Dough

3          cups                All Purpose Flour

½         cup                  Coconut

2          Tblspns            Sugar

1          tspn                 Salt

¾         cup                  Vegetable Shortening

1          large                Egg

6          Tblspns            Cold Water

1          tspn                 Cider Vinegar

1-2       cups                Oil for frying (a high smoke-point oil like canola, peanut or sunflower)

Make filling

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • In a medium sauce pan, bring milks just to a simmer over medium heat.
  • Meanwhile, combine brown sugar, corn starch, salt and egg yolks in a large bowl and whisk to completely combine.
  • Slowly whisk the hot milk into egg mixture. Return mixture to the sauce pan.
  • Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Whisk in butter, curry powder and vanilla.
  • Spread coconut evenly on a small baking sheet. Toast in oven for 5-7 minutes or until evenly browned. Watch carefully, as coconut burns quickly.
  • Peel banana. Cut in half and slice into ¼” half moons.
  • Melt butter and brown sugar in a non-stick sauté pan over medium heat. Add bananas and cook until nicely caramelized—about 5 minutes.
  • Fold toasted coconut and caramelized bananas into filling.

Make dough:

  • Combine flour, coconut, sugar and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
  • Add shortening and cut into the flour mixture with two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips until the mix resemble a course meal—kind of like wet sand.
  • Whisk together egg, water and vinegar and add to flour mixture.
  • Combine with a fork until a rough ball begins to form.
  • Pull dough out onto a lightly floured board or clean counter and turn and push mixture together a few times to form a cohesive ball. Flatten into a disk and wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes or more.

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Assemble:

  • Cut dough in half and roll half out to ⅛” thickness on a lightly floured board. Cut out 5” circles and set aside. Roll up scraps and set aside.
  • Roll out second half of dough in the same manner. Gather up all scraps and roll out one last batch. You should have 12 circles.
  • Working in batches of 4 or 6 circles (depending on space), place about a tablespoon of filling in the center of each circle. Wipe the edges of the dough with a finger dipped in water. Fold edges together and pinch with thumb and index finger. Crimp edges with a fork. If fork sticks to dough, dip it in a little flour.

Cook:

  • Place oil in a heavy bottomed pan with sides at least 3” high to a depth of about 1 ½”. Heat over medium heat to a temperature of about 350°.
  • Fry pies, two or three at a time, for about 2 minutes on each side until lightly browned.  Drain on a rack over a sheet pan.

Notes:IMG_1985

  • These pies taste best if eaten within a day.
  • Using pre-made frozen pie crust is an acceptable shortcut.
  • Components can be made a day or two ahead and assembled and fried when ready.

Black Bean and Corn Hand Pies

IMG_1748Hand Pies–the ultimate portable food! It seems almost every culture has a version of this on-the-go lunch or dinner. From Cornwall, it’s the pasty which has made its way to many parts of the world–most notably the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In Latin America and Spain it’s the empanada, also great as a tapa. In Italy it’s the calzone which is pretty much pizza fillings stuffed into an enclosed pizza crust.  You can use any pie crust recipe you like, but I like using a combination of vegetable shortening (or lard, if you have it) and butter for a nice combination of flavor and flakiness.  An egg in the dough adds a certain richness. The idea for this filling came from a visit to The Mmoon Empanadas in Los Gatos. These pies freeze well. Just place the uncooked pies on a sheet pan and freeze them completely, then put them in zip-top bags. They can be cooked straight out of the freezer, just add about 5 extra minutes to the cooking time.

BLACK BEAN & CORN HAND PIES

(makes 6 large pies)

Ingredients:

 Filling

1          Tblspn             Olive Oil

½         cup                  Poblano Pepper—small dice

½         cup                  Yellow Onion—small dice

¼         cup                  Red Pepper—small dice

1          clove               Garlic—minced

½         tspn                 Salt

½         tspn                 Ground Cumin

¼         tspn                 Ground Chipotle Chili (or other chili powder)

¼         tspn                 Black Pepper

½         cup                  Corn

½         cup                  Black Beans–cooked

½         cup                  Queso Fresco (or shredded Jack or Cheddar)

Dough

2 ¼      cups                Flour

1          tspn                 Salt

2          tspns                Sugar

½         tspn                 Ground Cumin

¼         cup                  Shortening

½         cup                  Butter (one stick)

1          Tblspn             Cider Vinegar

6          Tblspns            Ice Water

1          large                Egg

1          Tblspn             Water

Filling

  • Char the skin of the poblano pepper by either roasting under a broiler or placing directly on the burner of a gas stove turned to medium heat. Turn pepper a quarter turn as the exposed side of the pepper becomes evenly blackened. When pepper is completely blackened, place the pepper in a bowl and cover tightly with a plate or some plastic wrap—this helps create steam to loosen the skin.
  • When cool enough to handle, slip off the blackened skin and remove the stem and seeds. It’s best not to rinse the pepper under water so as to preserve all of the roasted flavor.
  • In a sauté pan over medium-high, heat oil until it just begins to shimmer. Add onion and red pepper and sauté until softened, but not browned—about 5 minutes.
  • Add salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and garlic and cook until garlic is fragrant—about a minute.
  • Add corn (fresh or frozen), black beans (rinsed and drained) and poblano. Cook and combine until heated through. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. Place in a medium bowl to cool. Add crumbled cheese and stir to combine.

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Dough

  • Combine flour, sugar and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
  • Add shortening and cut into the flour mixture with two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips until the mix resemble a course meal. Cut butter into ½” pieces and toss to coat with the flour. Pinch the butter pieces flat with your fingers. Working quickly, pinch and mix the butter pieces in until you have a mix with mostly pea-sized pieces.
  • Add cider and ice water and mix together with a fork until a rough ball forms.
  • Pull dough out onto a lightly floured pastry board or clean counter and turn and push mixture together a few times to form a cohesive ball. Flatten into a disk and wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes or more.

Assemble

  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Whisk together egg and water in a small bowl
  • Remove dough from refrigerator and cut into 6 equal pieces.
  • On a lightly floured board, roll each piece out into a circle about ⅛” thick and about 7” in diameter.
  • Place about ¼ cup of the filling in the center of each dough circle. Brush the edges of the dough with egg mixture. Fold edges together and pinch with thumb and index finger. Crimp edges with a fork. If fork sticks to dough, dip it in a little flour.
  • Place pies on a parchment lined sheet pan, brush with egg wash,  and bake for 25-30 minutes or until nicely browned.

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Maple-Apple Tapioca Pudding

Tapioca pudding is a comfort food classic and an all-American favorite. Since it’s sugaring season in the Northest, I thought it would be nice to make a version of tapioca pudding using maple syrup.

On the farm where I grew up in Vermont, my brothers still make maple syrup. The method for gathering the sap and boiling it down into syrup has changed over the years, but the result remains the same—a delicious product that has many uses beyond a sweet topping for pancakes and waffles. Try substituting  maple syrup in marinades and dressings (like balsamic vinaigrette) that call for a small amount of sugar to add an extra depth of flavor. It’s also a great ingredient for experimenting with cocktails.

The key to making a good tapioca pudding is to cook the pearls until they’re just cooked—not crunchy, but also not mushy and falling apart. Soaking the pearls in water before cooking helps to achieve the perfect texture, and it shortens the cooking time.

 (makes 4-6 servings)

2          medium           Apples—tart and crisp (Gala or Granny Smith work well)

2          Tblspn             Butter

IMG_1671

½         cup                  Maple Syrup

½         cup                  Tapioca

¾         cup                  Water

1 ½      cup                  Milk

1          large                Egg – lightly beaten

½         tspn                 Cinnamon

  • Place tapioca and water in medium sized heavy bottomed pan. Let tapioca soak for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, peel and core apples and cut into small dice.
  • Melt butter in sauté pan over medium heat. Add ¼ cup syrup and bring to a simmer. Add  apples and toss to coat. Cook for about 5 minutes or until syrup has thickened a bit and apples are just beginning to soften.
  • Add milk and egg to tapioca, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to a low simmer and cook until tapioca pearls are completely opaque and have lost all of their crunch, but still hold their shape.
  • Add apples, remaining ¼ cup syrup and cinnamon and stir to combine. If too thick, add a bit more milk or water.
  • Serve warm, at room temperature or cooled.

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