Greek Classics Sampling Class

August 17, 2017

While we haven’t done any cooking in the Greek Classics Sampling Class at Parthenon Foods European Market, I wanted to share a photo of the “leftovers” after the sampling.  Don’t those olives look yummy?  Not to mention the feta cheese, taramosalata, olive oil, honey, and wine?  The sesame bread was put to good use to enjoy all of it.  Hope that you can join us for the next sampling class!

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Pumpkin Lasagna with Pumpkin Orange Bechamel & Ricotta Parmesan Bechamel

February 8, 2017

At the end of December, Gary and I hosted our oldest nephew, Robby, and his study group from Carroll University’s physical therapy program for supper.  Robby lived with me and Gary last semester while he was finishing up the last bit of his academic coursework and we heard about his study buddies throughout the semester.  We invited them to all have supper with us on one of their last nights together before they all scattered for clinical rotation internships all over the United States this semester.

My default entree for large groups in the winter is lasagna.  Just days before our meal with Robby and his gang, I came across a recipe for lasagna with a pumpkin sauce in the cookbook, Purely Pumpkin, by Allison Day.  Allison blogs about her cooking adventures at www.yummybeet.com.  She graciously gave me permission to include the recipe here (thanks, Allison!) and I encourage you to try it while lasagna is still a great way to heat the house this winter.  I didn’t get a picture of the lasagna before setting the hot pans on the dining room table.  This is the picture that I texted to our family afterwards.  Brother-in-law Michael (Robby’s dad) texted back, “Are those lick marks in the pans?!”  Not quite, but this was all that remained after feeding 9 hungry graduate students and their hosts!  Consider this a credible endorsement and create some lasagna goodness for you and your family.  The recipe looks long (lasagna recipes always do, don’t they?), but it is super easy and comes together quickly once all of the elements are prepped.

Pumpkin Lasagna with Pumpkin Orange Bechamel & Ricotta Parmesan Bechamel – makes 1 9″x9″ pan

For the Ricotta Parmesan Béchamel Sauce (base):

3 tablespoons butter

3 T all-purpose flour

3 cups whole milk at room temperature

1 C whole milk ricotta

1 C Parmesan cheese, grated

1 t dried oregano

¼ t grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper

For the Pumpkin Orange Béchamel

1 C Ricotta Parmesan Béchamel (from above)

2 C roasted pumpkin or squash, mashed, or 1 can (15oz) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)

Zest of 1 orange

 

7 – 9 lasagna noodles (cooked if serving that day, uncooked if resting overnight)

1- 20 oz. jar roasted red peppers and juice

 

To make ricotta bechamel sauce:

In a stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour.  Cook, continuing to whisk, until fragrant.  Whisking constantly, gradually add the milk.  Whisk to prevent any lumps from forming and cook until thickened and bubbling and the sauce coats the back of a spoon.  Remove from heat.  Whisk in the ricotta, Parmesan, oregano, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

To make the pumpkin sauce, scoop 1 cup of the base sauce into a bowl and stir in the mashed pumpkin and orange zest. Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

To assemble and layer:

Into the bottom of a 9 x 9-inch baking dish, spread the juice from the roasted peppers and a thin layer of the pumpkin bechamel sauce. Arrange a layer of noodles (they will be too long, so break and reserve the broken pieces to be used in a later layer), and then a layer of plain béchamel sauce.  Cover with a layer of roasted peppers.  Alternate layers of pumpkin béchamel, noodles, plain béchamel, and roasted peppers.  Continue until ending with a final layer of base and pumpkin béchamel sauce to cover the noodles.  Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place lasagna dish on top, cover, and put on the middle rack of the oven.  Bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 15 – 25 minutes. Broil for the last 2 – 5 minutes to achieve a golden brown top. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.  If refrigerating overnight, remove from fridge for an hour before baking.

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Pesto

September 17, 2016

Ah, pesto….is there any more luxurious way to preserve garden goodness than to make a batch of pesto?  While it is great to eat immediately, the true luxury comes in enjoying that basil flavor in the dead of winter.  While we used the freeze-in-an-ice-cube-tray-and-defrost-a-cube-at-a-time method for several years, we had good success storing a quart in the fridge last winter.  When we dipped into it (with a scrupulously clean spoon!), we made sure to smooth the surface and cover it with a fresh layer of olive oil each time before popping it back into the fridge.

Pesto also makes me think of two especially good friends.  One provided me with a steady supply of huge beautiful basil bouquets for several summers before my husband and I started to grow our own.  The other friend nearly put me into physical therapy many years ago when I picked her up from the airport after she returned from 3 weeks in Italy.  She handed me her carry-on bag and I stumbled from the weight.  The bag was only medium-sized, but it was FILLED with small jars of Genovese pesto  (it is the only time I’ve rented a luggage trolley at the airport!).  This was back in the day when you still met arrivals at the gate and you didn’t have to cram your carry-on liquids into small plastic bags and you could travel with a bulging carry-on bag without fellow passengers glaring at you, so you know how long ago that was.

In the nearly 20 years since, I’ve discovered this awesome pesto recipe.  Use it before the basil stops growing and I guarantee that you’ll really enjoy the pesto this winter!  (Since basil leaves are more photogenic than pesto, I hope you enjoy this shot of our latest harvest.)

Easy Pesto – about 5 cups

6 oz. Parmesan, grated (freshly grated by you is the best)
8 garlic cloves, peeled
4 C tightly packed basil leaves, washed and spun dry (not necessary if harvesting from the tops of the plants and the leaves aren’t gritty)
3 C walnut pieces (yes, I know that pine nuts are traditional, but they are also EXPENSIVE and I guarantee that you won’t miss ’em)
1 t salt
2 C olive oil

If necessary, grate the Parmesan cheese.  Change the blade in the processor and drop garlic cloves through the chute of a food processor with the cutting blade running. Turn off when the garlic is minced, about 10 seconds. Put basil in the food processor. Put walnuts and salt on top of the leaves. Process until finely chopped, but still a bit rough. With the machine going, slowly pour in the olive oil. Stop the machine and add Parmesan. Process briefly to mix. Taste and adjust seasonings. Enjoy with veggie burgers, raw veggies, bread or crackers or heat to eat with cooked pasta or hot, cooked vegetables.

 

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Zucchini Cakes

July 27, 2016

No, not zucchini cake, loaf, or even bread.  This recipe is for little tiny cakes that are more like fritters.  They are a savory way to enjoy zucchini that will leave you feeling like you’ve used the bounty of fresh zucchini to its best advantage.  This isn’t a recipe that you can use in the dead of winter with defrosted grated zucchini – go ahead and make a loaf of zucchini bread then.  For best results, this requires not only a fresh zucchini, but that you quickly combine the freshly grated zucchini with the other ingredients and get the little cakes in a hot frying pan as soon as you can.   Getting distracted by dogs or husbands once the zucchini is grated will turn your light zucchini cakes into mushy messes that won’t crisp in the frying pan.  So, don’t get distracted!  Fry on!

Italian Zucchini Cakes

1# zucchini
¾ t salt
1/3 C grated Parmesan
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 green onions, sliced (1/4 C) or ½ C onion, chopped
3 T flour
¼ C chopped almonds
1 T pesto or 16 leaves basil, sliced
½ t oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ t each, thyme, black pepper, and red pepper flakes
Olive oil for frying

Grate the zucchini over a clean kitchen towel.  Roll up the grated zucchini in the towel and squeeze as hard as you can to remove most of the moisture.  Scrape the zucchini into a medium mixing bowl.  Add salt and mix.  Combine cheese, egg, onions, flour, almonds, pesto or basil, oregano, garlic, thyme, black pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Fold into zucchini.  Form into 24 small cakes (about 2 T of mixture for each).  Saute in olive oil, turning once, until browned, about 3 minutes each side.  Serve immediately.

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Yorkshire Pudding

July 22, 2016

Our Downton Abbey cooking classes seem so long ago, but while vacationing in Seattle last week, I was reminded of how much fun they were when I stumbled upon a display of tea inspired by the program.  I still have a few bags of “Mrs. Patmore’s Pudding Tea” left from class, but it’s good to know that one can still purchase the teas.  They were created by the Republic of Tea and I found several varieties in the World Market in Tukwila, Washington.

But, back to our Downton Abbey classes.  The recipe that most students were really excited to learn was the Yorkshire Pudding.  Many of them were expecting that it would be a dessert, but very intrigued to find out that the pudding was savory and would be our “starch” for the meal.  Traditionally served with a beef roast, due to time and expense, we served ours with baked cod.  And, while our cod created a nice “au jus,” we prepared an onion “gravy” to serve over our Yorkshire Pudding instead.  Both recipes are below (make a note to return to them when it is significantly cooler outside, as you need a really HOT oven to bake the puddings).  Even without special tea, it makes a yummy side dish.

Yorkshire Pudding

Makes 12 puddings

3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups milk, at room temperature
3/4 t table salt
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces), sifted

1 tablespoon oil, plus 6 – 12 more teaspoons

In large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and salt. Sift in the flour in three stages, each time whisking until flour disappears before adding in more flour. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes and up to 3 hours. Preheat oven to 450F. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil into the batter. Fill each cup of muffin pan with ½ – 1 teaspoon of the oil. When oven has reached temperature, place muffin pan with oil into oven for 3 minutes until smoking hot. (Use baking sheet to protect oven.)

Carefully take out pan and pour batter into each cup, filling to 2/3 full. Immediately return to oven and bake for 20 minutes. Do not open oven door during baking, or puddings will collapse. Reduce heat to 350F and bake an additional 10 minutes until golden brown. (Reduce stock in onion gravy while puddings bake.)

Remove from oven, pierce each pudding with toothpick to allow steam to escape and prevent them from collapsing, or just let them collapse.

 

Onion Gravy (make while the pudding batter rests)

2 T olive oil
2 large onions, sliced finely
4 t Dijon mustard
1 quart vegetable, beef, or chicken stock

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Add the sliced onion and cook over low heat until soft, golden and caramelized. Stir in the mustard and pour in the stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes or until the liquid has thickened and reduced by half.

 

 

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Julie's Cooking Creations