lentil marinara

lentil marinara 5

When my coworker came back to work after spending weeks in the hospital (and in my small town, that means a hospital over two hours away from home) with his sick newborn baby, I figured they could use a home-cooked meal. I thought tomato soup, homemade bread, and some nice cheese to make grilled sandwiches would be the perfect comfort food. Unfortunately, it would require a trip to the store and a couple free hours to cook, and when I saw how exhausted my friend was, I figured getting something to him soon was more important than getting the perfect meal to him.

lentil marinara 1

So I made extras of what I was having for dinner that night. Spaghetti is warm and familiar, so fits the comfort food bill, and who doesn’t like the pasta and tomato sauce combination? The lentils, though, might seem strange to some people.

It makes perfect sense to me, because lentils are a great protein source, and while I can’t claim that they taste like beef, there is something meaty-like about them. Besides, what’s more comforting than knowing that your dinner is not only delicious, it’s healthy?

lentil marinara 2

And now I have another friend who needs comfort food after the death of her father on Thanksgiving day. Unfortunately, I can’t just bring her my leftovers, because she lives a thousand miles away. I don’t think virtual comfort food is quite the same, but at least she’ll know I’m thinking about her and her family and wishing them the best during a difficult time.

lentil marinara 3

One year ago: Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Pine Nuts
Two years ago: Thai-Style Chicken Soup
Three years ago: Pumpkin Ginger Muffins

Printer Friendly Recipe
Lentil Marinara (adapted from Branny Boils Over)

6-8 servings

I simmered this for 30-45 minutes, but, if you have the time, I suspect that a longer simmering time while covered would really help the lentils absorb the tomato flavor.

I like canned whole tomatoes for sauce because they break down better, but if you don’t mind larger tomato chunks in your sauce, diced tomatoes will work fine. I chop canned whole tomatoes by sticking kitchen shears into the can and snipping away.

Update 4/23/12 – I’ve made this a couple more times, and I’ve decided that it’s probably too heavy on the lentils.  Using up a whole bag at once is nice, but 8 ounces of lentils for 2 cans of tomatoes will make a tastier sauce.

2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon oregano
¼ cup white or red wine
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 (1-pound) bag brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil until it flows like water when the pan is tilted. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion just starts to brown around the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2. Add the wine, scraping any browned residue on the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender and the sauce is thickened.

lentil marinara 4

yukon gold and sweet potato gratin

sweet potato gratin 5

This is not the potato dish I made for my big Thanksgiving meal last year. Last year, I made a potato and wild mushroom gratin, which followed my goal of including more vegetables in the meal. This gratin doesn’t fit that theme.

sweet potato gratin 2

Here’s the thing though: I cannot remember anything about that dish. I don’t remember it being bad, at least, but I don’t remember how good it was. Maybe there were too many mushrooms? I don’t know.

sweet potato gratin 3

I only made this Yukon gold and sweet potato gratin last week, but even if it had been last year, I know I would remember it. Potatoes baked in herby cream sauce and topped with nutty cheese are usually a hit, but adding sweet potatoes to the mixture makes it even better. I can’t guarantee the same thing for adding wild mushrooms to potato gratin.

sweet potato gratin 4

One year ago: Green Chile Mayonnaise
Two years ago: Wheat Berries with Caramelized Onions, Feta, and Lentils
Three years ago: Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin Medallions

Printer Friendly Recipe
Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin (adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious)

8 servings

1½ pounds medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, sliced ⅛-inch thick
1½ pounds medium red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled, sliced ⅛-inch thick
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
1½ teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon black pepper
1¼ cups (5 ounces) coarsely grated Gruyére cheese

2. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small saucepan, combine the cream, milk, butter, and garlic; bring to simmer. Remove from the heat.

2. Butter a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Evenly spread half of the potatoes on the bottom of the dish. Top with half of the thyme, salt, pepper, and cheese. Repeat the layering with the remaining potatoes, salt, pepper, and cheese. Pour the cream mixture over the gratin, pressing lightly to submerge the potato mixture as much as possible. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Remove plastic wrap before baking.)

3. Cover the gratin tightly with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the top of the gratin is golden and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

sweet potato gratin 6

roasted root vegetable stuffing

root vegetable stuffing 6

When I was creating my Thanksgiving menu last year, it occurred to me that most of the traditional Thanksgiving courses are based on carbs – stuffing, potatoes, rolls. The only traditional non-carb sides are the green bean casserole that nobody likes and the sugar-laden cranberries. I have nothing against carbs, and I know all about splurging for a holiday, but I actually like vegetables. Plus, if you include lower calorie food in the menu, you can eat more before filling up!

root vegetable stuffing 1

I would go so far as to almost call this healthy, although it depends on the cornbread you use. It’s mostly vegetables – vegetables whose natural sugars are intensified through roasting. The sweet earthy root vegetables meld perfectly with similarly flavored cornbread.

root vegetable stuffing 2

Beyond the parsnips and rutabaga, it’s a typical dressing recipe with eggs and broth binding the ingredients together before the mixture is baked until it’s crisp on top (but maybe not dry and burned like mine). The result is a dressing that’s almost too good to be topped with white wine gravy.

root vegetable stuffing 4

Two years ago: Glazed Lemon Cookies
Three years ago: Wheatmeal Shortbread Cookies

Printer Friendly Recipe
Cornbread Dressing with Roasted Root Vegetables (adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious)

Serves 6

6 ounces shallots, peeled, halved if small, quartered if large
8 ounces carrots, sliced ¼-inch thick on the diagonal
8 ounces parsnips, sliced ¼-inch thick on diagonal
8 ounces rutabaga, cut into ½-inch cubes
salt and pepper
olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
2 cups ½-inch cubes of cornbread
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup low-salt chicken broth (or Golden Turkey Stock)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spread the shallots, carrots, parsnips, and rutabaga in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper and drizzle with just enough olive oil to coat. Roast for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and browned around the edges. Add the garlic during last 15 minutes. Set the roasted garlic aside; transfer the other vegetables to a large bowl.

2. Spread the cornbread cubes over the now-empty baking sheet. Bake until dry, 10-15 minutes, stirring about halfway through the cooking time.

3. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray. Mince the garlic; add it to the vegetables along with the herbs and cornbread cubes. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the broth and butter; pour the egg mixture over the vegetable mixture and gently fold to combine.

4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Cover the pan with foil; bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until browned and crisp, about 15 minutes longer.

root vegetable stuffing 5

glazed pecans

glazed pecans 4

One of the hardest parts of making a full Thanksgiving dinner for two is dealing with the ridiculous amounts of food. Probably I could have made a course or two less than what people make for a huge group, right? But that would be too easy. I have to go the other direction and make every single course I would make for a crowd.

glazed pecans 1

If family and friends were coming over, I would want casual snacks set out to munch on while people sip their wine and wait for the appetizers to cool. With only the two of us, these little pecans were supposed to hold us over between breakfast and the big eating part of the day, but instead they became irresistible little nibbles whenever the pecan bowl was in sight.

glazed pecans 2

I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed these, because pecans aren’t one of my favorite nuts. I think of them as bitter, but once they were coated in a sweet herby glaze, the nut itself seemed almost meaty. Now I know that sharing them with a crowd is actually a bad idea – because I want them all for myself.

glazed pecans 3

Two years ago: Cranberry Orange Scones
Three years ago: Chickpea and Butternut Squash Salad

Printer Friendly Recipe
Rosemary and Thyme Candied Pecans (adapted from Seven Spoons)

Makes 8 servings

I bought demerara sugar just for this recipe and have found other uses for it, but if you don’t want to buy it, I’m sure brown sugar would work just fine.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
¾ teaspoon finely minced fresh thyme
½ teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary
¼ teaspoon cayenne
Scant ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 pound pecan halves

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then add the maple syrup and the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the herbs, spices, and salt. Add the pecans to the butter mixture; stir to coat. Spread the nuts in a single layer on the prepared pan.

3. Bake, turning occasionally, until the nuts are glazed, shiny, and deep golden, around 15 minutes.
Cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

glazed pecans 5

fried eggs with garlic yogurt sauce

eggs garlic yogurt 6

I had no idea what I was in for when I planted mint in my backyard this spring. Not only did I not realize that it would encroach on the basil and oregano to either side of it, not to mention the jalapeno on the other side of the raised bed, but I’m not a big mint eater anyway. Mostly I figured it would make a pretty garnish for desserts.

eggs garlic yogurt 1

When I started to see what I was in for as a mint-grower, I thought I might get into mojitos, but as refreshing as they are, my loyalty still lies with margaritas. Eventually I gave up and let the mint have its way with my raised bed. It went to flower, which happily drew pollinators to my garden for the acorn squash, cucumber, and pea and/or green bean seeds I planted on a whim after all of my tomato plants died.

eggs garlic yogurt 2

This is one of the few recipes I’ve used mint in regularly this summer, and one of the only savory dishes I like it in. It’s a perfect weekend breakfast, in that it’s easy, healthy, filling but not too filling, and of course, it tastes good. It’s a classic favorite combination of breakfast foods, with eggs on toast covered in sauce, but instead of a rich sauce of egg yolks and butter, it’s a garlicky minty yogurt sauce

eggs garlic yogurt 4

One year ago: Raspberry Lemon Petits Fours
Two years ago: Pumpkin Cupcakes (comparison of 3 recipes)
Three years ago: Lavash Crackers

Printer Friendly Recipe
Fried Eggs with Garlic Yogurt Sauce (original recipe from Linda and Fred Griffith’s Garlic Garlic Garlic via my brother)

Serves 2-4

I’ve simplified the recipe even more than the original, which called for poached eggs plus a butter sauce; I only wanted to use one pan, not two, so I fry the eggs in the seasoned butter and then drizzle any liquid remaining in the skillet over the cooked eggs.

¾ cup Greek yogurt
2 garlic gloves, pressed through a garlic press or minced and mashed
2 teaspoons fresh mint, minced
salt
1 tablespoon butter
⅛ teaspoon cayenne
4 large eggs
4 small pitas or slices of toast or 2 English muffins

1. In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, garlic, mint, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

2. In a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt the butter with the cayenne and a pinch of salt. Crack each egg into a small dish; tip them into the prepared pan and sprinkle with salt. Cover the pan, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for 5-7 minutes for over-medium eggs.

3. Place the pita or toast on plates. Top each with a fried egg and a spoonful of the yogurt sauce, then drizzle any remaining seasoned butter from the skillet over the tops of the eggs. Serve immediately.

eggs garlic yogurt 5

pesto

pesto 4

Pesto is super simple, right? Just dump some ingredients into the food processor, and thirty seconds later, you have pesto. And while that’s true, with a few extra simple steps, you can ensure that your pesto will live up to its maximum potential every single time.

pesto 1

Traditionally, pesto was made in a mortar and pestle, which smashes the ingredients into each other instead of cutting them like the food processor does. It sounds horribly tedious. You don’t want to do that.

pesto 2

However, it is important to do more than slice basil with the food processor blade. Consider that when you want to smell an herb, what do you do? You rub it between your fingers, not tear it in half, because bruising the leaves is what produces flavor. So to maximize the flavor of your basil, you need to bruise the leaves before cutting them.

pesto 3

You can do this with almost no extra effort using a trick I picked up from Jamie Oliver – just put the basil in the food processor, but with the plastic dough blade instead of the knife blade. It takes only a few seconds longer and produces just one more small utensil to clean, but it makes a big difference in flavor. Before I started using this trick, sometimes my pesto would taste grassy, but now it always tastes basil-y.

pesto 8

You probably also know that toasting nuts brings out their flavor, and it isn’t hard to do on the stovetop. I also like to toast the garlic, because I am not a fan of the tongue-stinging sharpness of raw garlic. Toasting the unpeeled cloves in a dry skillet tames garlic’s bite with very little effort. And that’s it – you’ve maximized the potential of every ingredient in pesto, ensuring dependably outstanding pesto, and it only took an extra minute or two.

pesto 7

One year ago: Yogurt-Marinated Lamb Kebabs
Two years ago: Tortellini Soup with Carrots, Peas, and Leeks
Three years ago: Summer Rolls

Printer Friendly Recipe
Pesto

2 ounces pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
Salt
1 large bunch (6 ounces) basil leaves, washed and dried
1-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ ounce (¼ cup) freshly grated parmesan

1. Heat a small empty not-nonstick skillet over medium heat for several minutes. Add the pine nuts and cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute, until they’re golden brown and fragrant. Pour the nuts into a food processor bowl fitted with the knife attachment. Add the garlic to the skillet and toast, without stirring, for about 1 minute. When the first side is dark brown, turn the garlic cloves onto another flat side and continue toasting for another minute. Peel the garlic and transfer it to the food processor with the pine nuts.

2. Add ¼ teaspoon salt to the garlic and pine nuts. Process until the nuts and garlic are finely ground, 10-15 seconds. Replace the knife attachment with the plastic dough blade. Add the basil to the food processor and pulse until the basil is bruised and fragrant, about ten 1-second pulses. Remove the dough blade from the bowl and return the knife attachment. Process until basil is finely chopped, a few seconds.

3. With the machine running, slowly pour the oil into the feed tube. Scrape the sides of the bowl; process until evenly mixed. Stir in the parmesan. Serve, refrigerate for a few days, or freeze for months.

pesto 5

farro and pine nut salad

farro tabbouleh 6

It’s a good thing I really like farro, because I accidentally bought 26 dollars worth of it. Apparently I need to pay more attention to the prices on the bulk bins. I should also start enjoying barley or wheat berries or some other equally healthy grain that doesn’t cost $12 per pound. (I actually looked at the prices the next time I was at the store, and farro cost about five times as much as the other grains.)

farro tabbouleh 1

I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is about farro that I like so much. I don’t think the flavor of the different grains are so different that I notice a big difference once dressing and other ingredients are mixed in, so it must be more textural. It’s all about a balance of the tender and the chewy. Rice is soft and tender. Barley is very chewy. Farro is just right.

farro tabbouleh 3

Usually I mix it with caramelized onions and feta, which, with a squirt of hot sauce, becomes one of my favorite meals that also happens to be incredibly healthy. But having two pounds of farro is good incentive to branch out. There are few things that aren’t improved with the addition of summer vegetables, pine nuts, chickpeas, and a squirt of lemon juice, farro included. It looks like I have another delicious farro meal that also happens to be healthy.

farro tabbouleh 4

One year ago: Grilled Potato and Vegetable Salad
Two years ago: Casatiello
Three years ago: Soba Salad with Feta and Peas

Printer Friendly Recipe
Farro and Pine Nut Salad (adapted from Self magazine via epicurious)

If you choose a grain other than farro, your cooking time will probably be different.

The original recipe included jalapenos, which is why they’re shown in the photo above, but I decided not to use them.

1 cup farro (or another whole grain, such as wheat berries, barley, or brown rice)
salt
1 clove garlic, unpeeled
¼ cup pine nuts
Juice from 1 lemon
½ small red onion, very thinly sliced
2 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped, or 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 small cucumber, quartered and sliced ⅛-inch thick
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup feta, crumbled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Bring 2 quarts of water to a roiling boil; add the farro and 2 teaspoons of salt. Cook for 20 minutes, until the farro is tender but slightly chewy. Drain.

2. Squeeze the juice of the lemon into a large bowl; add the onions and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

3. Heat a small not-nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and toast it, turning once, until browned, about 2 minutes. Remove the garlic from the pan. Add the pine nuts to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and slightly browned, 3-4 minutes. Remove from the pan. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, peel and mince it.

4. Stir the drained farro into the onion vinegar mixture, then add the remaining ingredients. Let the salad stand at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before serving.

farro tabbouleh 5

bruschetta with chickpea puree

chickpea bruschetta 5

I wouldn’t say I have a black thumb, but I certainly don’t have a green thumb. Every spring I get really excited about gardening. Besides the quality and convenience of produce from the backyard, I love to watch things grow. I especially enjoy watching seeds sprout, as the green shoot springs up and then slowly uncurls, stands tall, and spreads its first two leaves. I like creating something so impressive from almost nothing at all.

chickpea bruschetta 4

Gardening in southern New Mexico is relatively easy. Our growing season, from last frost to first frost, extends from March all the way to November. Overwatering and mold certainly aren’t problems, since it almost never rains here. Our soil is hardpacked clay, but it wasn’t difficult or expensive to build a small raised bed. A layer of mulch and the lack of rain keep most weeds at bay. With a timed sprinkler system, there’s little effort involved with keeping a garden beyond the initial planting.

chickpea bruschetta 3

Except for the bugs. Squash bugs always get my zucchini plants eventually. And last year I think grasshoppers ate more tomatoes than I did. This year, even worse, I bought a diseased tomato plant and it spread its fungus to the rest of the bunch. They’ll have to be pulled, I’m afraid.

chickpea bruschetta 2

So my hopes for panzanella, slow-roasted tomatoes, BLTs, pasta with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, big pots of sauce to freeze, and a whole long list of other tomato recipes I love – this isn’t the year for that. Instead of topping grilled garlic-rubbed slices of Tartine’s country bread with fragrant tomatoes from my garden, I’ll have to find other ideas.

chickpea bruschetta 1

While nothing is going to live up to perfectly ripe summer tomatoes, I won’t complain about this chickpea spread. Something that could so easily be bland – a bowl of mashed beans – is kicked up with all sorts of good things, like tangy bits of red onion, spicy red pepper flakes, sweet balsamic vinegar, and tart lemon juice. Then it’s topped with crunchy toasted nuts and fresh herbs. It’s not garden-fresh tomatoes, but it’ll do in a pinch.

chickpea bruschetta 7

One year ago: Stuffed Squash Flowers
Two years ago: Dried Fruit Compote
Three years ago: Sautéed Shredded Zucchini

Printer Friendly Recipe
Bruschetta with Spicy Chickpea Purée (adapted from Rick Tramonto’s Fantastico via epicurious)

8 slices rustic bread
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 (16-ounce can) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ small red onion, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (use more or less to taste)
½ teaspoons honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
8 lemon wedges

1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the chickpeas, onion, 2 tablespoons of oil, lemon juice, vinegar, red pepper, and honey. Scrape down the sides of the bowl several times and pulse until the mixture is smooth. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. The texture of the paste should be that of spreadable peanut butter; if necessary, thin it with water and pulse again.

2. Prepare gas or charcoal grill or preheat the broiler or a panini press. The heating elements or coals should be medium-hot. Cut the slices in half and brush both sides with a generous amount of olive oil. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Grill or broil the bread, turning once, until lightly browned on both sides. Rub 1 side of the toasts with garlic.

3. Spread the bean paste on the bruschetta. Sprinkle with pine nuts, tarragon (if using), and parsley. Drizzle with olive oil, and serve garnished with lemon wedges for squeezing over the bruschetta.

chickpea bruschetta 6

slow cooker spinach mushroom lasagna

crockpot lasagna 12

Lasagna cooked in the slow cooker is not that different from lasagna cooked in the oven. It has the same ingredients, the same layers, the same browned cheesy top – and the same amount of effort required to make it. Really the only thing that’s different is the amount of time it takes to cook.

crockpot lasagna 4

This was good news in a way. I was surprised that the lasagna wasn’t watery and that the top looked almost exactly the same as a baked lasagna. The problem, of course, was that it wasn’t any easier to put together.

crockpot lasagna 2

Another problem is apparently that béchamel sauces curdle in the slow cooker. This recipe was originally based on a cream sauce instead of tomato sauce. Since béchamel didn’t work, the recipe called for a jar of Alfredo sauce.

crockpot lasagna 8

I’m not usually one for dumping jars of prepared foods into my recipes, but after a scan of the jar label revealed no unrecognizable ingredients, I had just about acquiesced to buying it – until I looked at the fat content. Jarred Alfredo sauce (like homemade Alfredo sauce) is almost pure cream, and I just couldn’t stomach the idea of adding all that fat to what I intended to be a weeknight meal.

crockpot lasagna 7

Replacing the cream sauce with tomatoes made this recipe very similar to my favorite vegetarian lasagna, but that’s okay, because they’re flavors I like. In fact, the lasagna had a lot of qualities I love, with its meaty flavor without any meat, plenty of cheese, and plenty of vegetables to even out the cheese.  While it wasn’t any better than oven-baked lasagna, it wasn’t any worse, and it can’t hurt to have the option for a longer cooking time.

crockpot lasagna 14

One year ago: Basic Pancakes
Two years ago: Brioche
Three years ago: Salad with Herbed Baked Goat Cheese

Printer Friendly Recipe
Slow Cooker Spinach Mushroom Lasagna (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s Slow Cooker Revolution)

Serves 6 to 8

I have a 4-quart slow cooker, but I don’t see any reason this wouldn’t work in a 5- or even 6-quart cooker.  The lasagna just won’t be as tall.

I did not line the slow cooker with foil, because it seems so wasteful. Individual slices of lasagna were still surprisingly easy to serve intact, although the first one was messy.

I used half this amount of cheese. I’m sure the full amount is great, but I was trying to lighten it up a bit.

nonstick spray
8 curly-edged lasagna noodles (7 ounces), broken in half
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
1½ pounds white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, minced
16 ounces fresh baby spinach
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
1¼ cups (2½ ounces) grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup minced fresh basil
1 large egg
4 cups (1 pound) shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Line the slow cooker with an aluminum foil collar: Layer and fold sheets of heavy-duty foil until you have a six-layered rectangle that measures 16 by 4 inches. Press the collar into the back side of the slow cooker insert. Fit two more large sheets of foil into the slow cooker, perpendicular to each other, with the extra hanging over the edges of the cooker for a sling to help remove the lasagna later.

2. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Add the broken lasagna noodles and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until the noodles are al dente. Drain the noodles, rinse them under cold water until cool, then spread them out in single layer over clean kitchen towels and let dry. (Do not use paper towels; they will stick to the noodles.)

3. Heat the oil in the same pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and ¼ teaspoon salt, cover, and cook until the mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Uncover, add the onions, and continue to cook until the mushrooms are dry and browned, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Stir in the spinach, cover, and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt.

4. In a bowl, mix the ricotta, 1 cup (2 ounces) Parmesan, basil, egg, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper together. Spread ½ cup of the mushroom-spinach sauce into the prepared slow cooker.

5. Arrange 4 lasagna noodle pieces in the slow cooker, overlapping if necessary, then dollop 9 rounded tablespoons of ricotta mixture over noodles. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella, then spoon 1 cup more mushroom-spinach sauce over top. Repeat the layering of lasagna noodles, ricotta mixture, mozzarella and mushroom-spinach sauce twice more. For the final layer, arrange the remaining 4 noodles in the slow cooker, then top with the remaining mushroom-spinach sauce and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and remaining Parmesan.

6. Cover and cook until the lasagna is heated through, about 4 hours on low. Let the lasagna cool for 20 minutes. Using the sling, transfer lasagna to serving platter and serve.

crockpot lasagna 13

pizza bianca with goat cheese and greens

kale goat cheese pizza 4

When it comes to grilled pizza, I’m a slow learner. We’ve made crusts so burned that we had to chip flakes of blackened bread off before we could eat it. We’ve also made pizza with doughy undercooked crusts and with unmelted cheese and raw toppings. About the only problem we haven’t had is the dough sticking to the grate, so at least there’s that.

kale goat cheese pizza 1

This was my most successful attempt at grilling pizza so far, but even so, it’ll be a while before there’s any kind of grilled pizza tutorial from me. Instead, I will provide my standard foolproof oven method for a very non-standard pizza. My ears perk up whenever anyone mentions goat cheese, which is no surprise since it’s so creamy and tangy. But I like kale almost as much, which is maybe more surprising.

kale goat cheese pizza 2

This is the first time I’ve eaten them together, but it’s a combination that makes good sense, because the tart goat cheese will balance the earthy kale. With crushed red pepper spicing things up and mozzarella holding everything together, this was one different and delicious pizza – with charcoal flavor or not. It was almost as good as the pizza margherita we made to go with it, and that’s really saying something.

kale goat cheese pizza 3

One year ago: Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
Two years ago: Sourdough Bagels
Three years ago: Salmon Clubs with Avocado Butter

Printer Friendly Recipe
Pizza Bianca with Goat Cheese and Greens (adapted from Love and Olive Oil)

1 pound pizza dough (½ of this recipe), fully risen and at room temperature
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 bunch kale, washed, stems removed
salt
4 ounces (½ cup) part-skim mozzarella, shredded
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 500ºF. Divide the dough in two and shape each portion into a ball. Set the balls of dough aside, loosely covered, to allow the gluten to relax.

2. Heat the oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper in a Dutch oven over medium heat until the garlic sizzles. Add the kale, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons of water; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking and stirring until the water evaporates, about 1 minute.

3. Work with one ball of dough at a time on a lightly floured surface or a damp cloth. Flatten the dough, then pick it up and gently stretch it out, trying to keep it as circular as possible. Curl your fingers and let the dough hang on your knuckles, moving and rotating the dough so it stretches evenly. If it tears, piece it together. If the dough stretches too much, put it down and gently tug on the thick spots. Transfer the round of dough to a large square of parchment paper; slide onto a pizza peel.

4. Top one round of dough with half of each of the kale mixture and cheeses. Slide the pizza with the parchment onto the hot baking stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the crust is browned around the edges. Transfer the pizza to a cooling rack without the parchment. Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes before serving. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

kale goat cheese pizza 5