Lasagna – Kosher Connection LinkUp

wpid-wp-1413900909140.jpeg

Hey person, remember when I was a functioning member of the blogging world?? Yeah, neither do I…harrumph, either way, me thinks it’s time to get back on track, so enough chit-chat, let’s go make some lasagna.

KOSHERCONNECTION5.jpg

For this month’s kosher connection linkup, the theme is “The one food you would want if stranded on an island.” Considering my gluttonous ways, I’d probably be ok, with just about anything. As long as I can shovel it into my mouth we’d be good, but I’ve been meaning to write a post on lasagna, so (Russian accent:) “two birds, one stone!” Onward comrade!

Lasagna, like ogres, is all about layers. You got your cheese, your sauce, and your noodles. The easiest layer is the lasagna layer (that is until one of you very grateful and generous and lucky people would love to sponsor a pasta maker lz”n a loved one). Now, I used to scoff at the idea at using no-boil noodles, but after doing some research, it’s actually a lot easier, and better in my opinion (which is all you’ll get here! Mwahahaha …yeah, so…didn’t you miss this weird blog???). so putting the noodles aside, let’s talk about the cheese and sauce.

wpid-wp-1413900905900.jpegwpid-wp-1413900910164.jpeg

I like to really cheese it up, because I’m just that type of guy. First thing first – a cheese sauce; aka – mornay sauce. Mornay sauce = béchamel + cheese. Béchamel = roux + milk. Roux = fat + flour. So really Mornay= Cheese + (milk + [fat+ flour]). It’s actually pretty simple math. So let’s start by melting some butter, and toasting the flour. As with most rouxs, we go until it turns light blonde, and it’s smelling a little nutty, not very much unlike you (aw snap…). In this case, I also added some shallots to sautee in the butter.

wpid-wp-1413855857199.jpeg

 

Just so we’re clear on what we’re doing, the whole idea of a roux is to add a starch to a liquid so it thickens it, but we’re also toasting it, which adds additional flavor. Technically, the more you cook the starch, the less it can thicken a given liquid, but that’s really only a concern, when you make a dark red type of roux, which is common in such dishes like gumbo…but I digress. After adding the milk, you need to cook it until the starch is “activated” and thickens the milk, and once that’s done, you now have your bechamel sauce. In order to complete the mornay experience, we add cheese.

wpid-wp-1413900915532.jpeg

About the cheese, which I guess is really part 2a of this little layer party. Here’s the thing about cheese, its so diverse and multifaceted, that I don’t even know what to say about it. First thing first, I get it that shredded cheese is convenient and hassle free. I get it..in fact I use it from time to time. But here’s the thing – first of all so much of what makes cheese awesome is its moisture. Except for Parmesan, you want your cheese to be runny and gooey right? And that’s all thanks to moisture content, and by preshredding it, you’re basically removing a lot of the moisture (the second reason why preshredded cheeses are inferior is because they add starches to the cheese to prevent it from clumping [take a look at the ingredients next time], now technically speaking, that’s not as big a deal in this case because it will help thicken the sauce, but it does prevent from achieving maximum gooeyness, which is always a bad call).

So now that you remembered exactly how crazy I am, let’s add some grrrrated cheese to the bechamel. Take your shredded cheese, and add it to the hot bechamel, but off the flame and mix until its all melted and uniform. Now we can set that aside and focus on our sauce.
Tomato sauce is another one of those things where sure you can open a can of marinara sauce and kerplop it down, and that’s what I do many a time, however this isn’t a blog post about how to open a can of marinara sauce! Nay, this is a blog post how to open a can of whoop-ass on some lasagna, and show all of ‘Mrrrrrca what freedom tastes like!

wpid-wp-1413900904653.jpeg
Oookkk, you still there? Well, for starters, I always keep a few cans of whole peeled tomatoes in the cupboard, because the easiest sauce you can make is to take a few tomatoes, drain the excess sauce, and grind up those tomatoes to the consistency you like, with whatever added spices you want. If you wanted to step it up a notch, sure you can sautee shallots in butter, add some anchovies and cook the tomatoes until reduced and thick, but come on! I know you, you’re still upset that I told you to shred your own gosh darn cheese, dagnabbit. (Maybe well do a post about tomato sauce in the future? Maybe…no promises..)
All right, so now that we have the cheese and sauce, let’s go crazy.

wpid-wp-1413900910032.jpeg
I like to first put a little sauce in the bottom of the pan, so the noodles have something to stick to.

wpid-wp-1413900907595.jpeg
On top of the noodles goes cheese sauce and tomato sauce, and guess what Mayor McCheese?? More cheese! Huzzah! Obviously you can use whatever cheese you deem fit. Mozzarella, gouda, colby, and jack are all good options.

wpid-wp-1413900903461.jpeg
Then its just a matter of repeating layers. I always top the whole shebang with more grated cheese, and Parmesan on top.

wpid-wp-1413900903977.jpeg
Now to cook it, I like to cook it covered at 350 for about 20-25 minutes, and then crank the oven up to 450 for another 10-15 minutes uncovered, so the top gets nice and crispitty crunchitty. (A nice little trick is to spray the side of aluminum that’s against the lasagna with some Pam so it doesn’t stick)
And that my friend is how you win the war on terrorism.

As always, click on the funny looking thing below to see what people who actually know what they’re doing are doing.

Advertisements

Another one pot noodle thingamabob…plus a link up

Quite a catchy title there, I know. Anyway remember way back in the day when I used to post regularly? And one of those awesome posts was about the one pot noodle dishes that was all the rage a few months back? Oh you don’t? Well fear not, relive the experience by clicking here, but don’t forget to come back for some even more awesomeness. So much awesome, its awesome.

Anyway, moving right along, so this month’s link-up Kosher Connection, is all about comfort food. Well just what is comfort food? Well I guess its food that comforts you, duh…but what’s that? Well I don’t know, but who cares, let’s eat.

So ever since I posted that one pot linguine recipe I was talking about earlier, a few people have told me they really liked it, which is always nice to hear. And to be honest, I’ve made a few different iterations of the same dish, but this one stood out, namely because I actually remembered what I put in to it, and more importantly, I had some quasi usable pictures.

It all starts with stock. Vegetable stock to be precise, but not just any vegetable stock, a really quick vegetable stock; like 20 minutes quick. How, you wonder? Well, you’re going to have wait on that one…that post is coming up…eventually…maybe. Who am I kidding…more like don’t get your hopes up.

So anyway, you’ve got vegetable stock, which makes everything better (by they way, you can obviously use plain ole` water, if for some odd reason you don’t have stock handy), now it’s all a matter of throwing a few vegetables and some cheese together.

For this dish, I sauteed cauliflower, then added my noodles (orichetta), spinach (raw), ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. I added the stock, and let it all cook down.

While the stock was cooking, I took some feta cheese, and mushed it (which is the precise culinary term) with some chopped parsley.

Once the pasta was cooked through, and the stock was cooked out, I topped the whole shooting match with the feta-parsley awesomeness, and obviously some more parmesan, and then proceeded to be comforted.

Wow that was quick…I know you’re sad that that’s all, but if you have any questions type away in the comments below, and as always, click on the funny frog man under this paragraph to see what people who actually know how to blog are doing.

Non-dairy Key Lime Cheesecake Bar with Key Lime Caramel; Plus – A party..and wait, what’s that? A giveaway also?! Who in the what now?? Come on in!

Wow, that’s a mouthful. Anyway, it was quite a hectic weekend, the whole family was down for a kiddush for the daughter, and although I made a whole lot of stuff, I just didn’t have time to take pictures of everything. However, I knew that I had to make at least one thing that I could then post on the blog. I had bought these Key limes a while back, and have been trying to figure out what to do with it.

But before we get cooking, this post is part of this years Rosh Hashana’s Blogger Party, which means a bunch of us weirdos who like food just a little too much, come out with stuff that’s got something to do with Rosh Hashana. What does my post have to do with that? I have no idea, but you could make it and it eat on Rosh Hashana right?

blogger party

Plus there’s also a giveaway! Hooray, for free stuff! The people sponsoring this stuff are giving away 3 of Levana Kirschenbaum’s cookbook – Levana’s Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen.

whole foods kosher

Here are the details –

Welcome to the first ever Jewish Holiday Blog Party, hosted by Jessie of Taste and Miriam of Overtime Cook, and sponsored by Kitchen Aid! As you may know, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year is coming up, and Jewish bloggers from all over the world are celebrating with all kinds of twists on traditional Rosh Hashanah foods.
To kick off the celebration, Levana Kirschenbaum is giving away a copy of her fabulous new book, The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen to three lucky winners. To enter, leave a comment on this post. Limit one entry per reader per blog so click over to the other participating blogs below for your chance at additional entries! Giveaway ends 5 am eastern time on September 11th, 2012.
Prize is sponsored by Levana and available to readers from all blogs participating in the Rosh Hashanah Blog Party. Prize can only be shipped within the US.
This is the first of hopefully many exciting Holiday Blog Parties, so if you would like to join in the fun, please email holidayblogparties@gmail.com.
Stop by and check out some of these amazing Rosh Hashanah themed recipes on the following blogs:

 

Challah and Bread:

Marlene of The Jewish Hostess made Apple Challah
Amanda of The Challah Blog made Pomegranate Challah
Shelly of The Kosher Home made Apple, Honey and Pomegranate Challah!
Sides, Salads and Starters:
Sarah of Food, Words, Photos made Tzimmes (Rosh Hashanah Carrots)
Tali of More Quiche, Please made Roasted Beets and Butternut Squash
Roberta and Lois of Kosher Eye made Simanim Salad
Chanie of Busy In Brooklyn made Pomegranate Coleslaw
Rivki of Life in the Married Lane made Super Salad
Hannah of Cooking Manager made Beets Marinated with Ginger and Garlic
Sina of The Kosher Spoon made Pomegranate, Almond and Raisin Couscous
Shulie of Food Wanderings made Rosh Hashanah Salad
Hindy of Confident Cook-Hesitant Baker made Warm Roasted Beets with Farro
Sarah of Kosher Street made Sweet Potato Apple Tzimmes
Main Dishes:
Jessie of Taste made Smoked Salmon
Samantha of The Little Ferraro Kitchen made Chicken with Dates
Michele of Kosher Treif Cooking made Coconut Chicken Strips with two dipping sauces
Melinda of Kitchen Tested made Key Lime Glazed Duck
Stephanie and Jessica of The Kosher Foodies made Chicken Braised in Pomegranate
Liz of The Lemon Bowl made Beef Brisket
Estee of Anyone Interested? made Easy Breazy 5 Minute Brisket
Desserts and Drinks:
Miriam of Overtime Cook made Mini Apples and Honey Tarts
Laura of Pragmatic Attic made Fresh Ginger Honey Cake
Susan of The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen made Honey Caramel Apple Galette
Danielle of Hugs and Cookies xoxo made The World’s Best Rugelach
Amy of What Jew Wanna Eat made an Apple and Honey Cocktail
Nick of The Baking Process made Apple and Date Honey Squares
Lisa of The Monday Morning Cooking Club made Honey Chiffon Cake and Traditional Honey Cake
Leah of Cook Kosher made Pomegranate Ice Cream
Nossi of The Kosher Gastronome made Non-dairy Key Lime Cheesecake Bar with Key Lime Caramel

DSC_3209

So anyway, back to business, I got it in my brain when I bought these, that I wanted to make some sort of cheesecake bar, but I pushed it off, and pushed it off some more, thinking to myself that I wanted to come up with something else, but alas my brain couldn’t come up with anything. Obviously, I could have made Key Lime Pie, but that would have been too obvious, so that was out (plus, traditional key lime pie is made with sweetened condensed milk, which back in the day since the Keys in southern Florida was very inaccessible was the only thing they had to use to make key lime pie (since milk wasn’t available), but I believe I’m in the process of digressing, so I’ll stop now).

I don’t know how well you know me yet, but I couldn’t just look up a recipe for key lime cheesecake bar, because I had to do it my way. I’m kinda stubborn that way. There were really two steps to the cheesecake bar, the “bar” part and the cheesecake part. For the bar part, I decided to go with a shortbread recipe, and followed the ratio of 1 part sugar 1 part margarine, and 3 parts flour.

DSC_3203

Start by creaming the sugar and margarine, and in order to do that properly, the margarine needs to be at room temperature. I find that limes go well with coconuts, so I used half margarine and half coconut oil (which has the advantage of being at room temperature already, and in recent times has been touted as being better for you than margarine). So into your mixer goes 2/3 cup sugar with 1/3 cup margarine, and 1/3 cup coconut oil (which is a little more than 5 tablespoons by the way), and cream away, until a paste forms. The whole purpose of creaming margarine, is to allow the sugar to punch tiny holes in the fat, which will aerate the dough, which is why it’s crucial for the fat to be at room temperature.

DSC_3204

Scrape that down, and add in your flour (2 cups), salt and vanilla, and continue mixing until it just comes together.

DSC_3206 This is very similar to making a streusal topping, but instead of sprinkling all of this over something, we’re going to press it into a pan, dock it (ie poke it a bunch of times with a fork) and bake it at 350 until nice and golden, approximately 15-20 minutes.

DSC_3207  Now for the cheesecake part. Again, my stubbornness was shining through, and I couldn’t just look up a cheesecake recipe, because that’s what normal people do. No, I had to do it by myself, like the 2 year old I am.

So by classification, a cheesecake is really a custard made with cheese. A custard is pretty much any liquid mixed with eggs, that’s cooked gently so the egg can set up into a solid gel. For a cheesecake, the cheese takes the place of the liquid, and in order to aerate it a little, we cream the cheese with the sugar, and then mix in the eggs. Since we’re going to be making this parve, we used dairy free cream cheese, and dairy free sour cream. Again, the cheese needs to be at room temperature in order to cream properly.

The ratio I normally use for a free standing custard is 2 parts liquid to 1 part egg, as in a creme caramel, or a quiche. If you decrease the amount of eggs and increase the amount of liquid, you get a looser custard (think ice cream, [which happens to be thickened by the process of freezing] or creme anglais [which can be a sauce, and thin, or thickened by a starch…]), or if you remove the whites, and just use yolks, you also get a looser custard (eg a creme brulee).

DSC_3213

I started by creaming equal weights of the cream cheese and sugar (8 oz, or 225grams), until smooth, and then added in the 4 eggs one at a time. Then I added 1/4 cup of the key lime juice, the zest (more on that in a bit), some vanilla extract, and about 6 oz of the non-dairy sour cream, and mixed until smooth.

DSC_3215

I poured it over the now cooled crust, and baked in a 300 degree oven, for about 30 minutes (if you can, bake it in a water bath because of how gently it heats it, but my pan didn’t fit in another container). You want to take it out when it’s still slightly jiggly because it continues to cook after it’s out of the oven, and if you take it out when it’s done, by the time it’s finished cooking, it will be overdone.

DSC_3219

That’s it for the cheesecake bar, but wait there’s more!

Didja notice the “with key lime caramel” part of the heading? Were you wondering what heck that was? Well wonder no more my friend. I saw this idea on Gilt Taste, where they were talking about making caramel sauce, and traditionally it’s made by cooking sugar down to the caramel stage (320-350 degrees), and at which point you add heavy cream, to get what we normally call “caramel,” and they talked about instead of adding heavy cream, why not strawberry puree, and make a strawberry caramel sauce. Well that got me thinking, what about adding key lime juice? So guess what? That’s what I did.

I brought 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of water to a boil, and let it cook, until color started to form

DSC_3220

DSC_3225

I didn’t use a candy thermometer, but just estimated when it was nice and dark, and added the lime juice. It will bubble like crazy, and that’s normal.

DSC_3226

Then I poured that over the cooled cheesecake, and let it set up

DSC_3227

There’s a lot more to say on the topic of candy making, and the science behind it, but I think I’ve taken up plenty of your time, so maybe another time.

Now for critique – the texture of the cheesecake and the bar, were pretty good in my opinion. I think it was a little too tart partly because of the lime zest (which I would leave out next time), and the amount of lime juice I used (I used a total of 1/2 cup [1/4 cup in the cheesecake, and 1/4 in the caramel sauce]) and I think next time I make it, I would decrease that amount also. Also the caramel sauce never set up into a hard candy like shell, which is what I was going for, and that could also be because I added too much lime juice, and it was more like a creme caramel topping consistency, which isn’t a bad thing, but not what I was anticipating.

Also, I poured it on the cheesecake right away, it to harden, but it never did. I don’t know what I would do differently next time. I would decrease the amount of lime, and possibly, wait a little more before pouring it over the cheesecake. Another thing that happened, was even though I added the caramel after the cheesecake was cool, it formed these cracks in the cheesecake, which was more an esthetic issue then anything else, and since the caramel was slightly runny, it seeped into the cracks. Another option is instead of using 1/4 water, I would use the lime juice. The only problem I see with that is, the whole time you’re cooking the sugar, you’re cooking off the water, so it will all but cook off, but maybe the flavors will stay behind just enough to shine through. I don’t know, but it’s definitely worth a try.

It was still servable, and I think the general consensus was that it was pretty good. Oh well, azoy gaytis, ammiright? Or instead of calling it a “caramel,” I would call it a key lime creme caramel, so it’s supposed to be runny, right? I’m a genius

Well that’s it for now, thanks for joining me for this years Rosh Hashana Blogger Party, and I hope you enjoyed, and don’t forget to comment away, and to visit the other blogs, which I’m sure you’ll be able to get real recipes, that you can actually use…at least you come here for the comedic genius, I know 😉

Non-dairy Key Lime Cheesecake Bar with Key Lime Caramel

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup margarin/shortening/coconut oil (I used 1/3 cup margarine, and 1/3 coconut oil), room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package of non-dairy cream cheese (such as Tofutti brand) – 8 oz/ 225 grams , room temp
  • 6 oz non-dairy sour cream (1/2 a tub), room temp
  • 8 oz sugar (which I think comes out to 1 cup)
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons lime juice, divided
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 water

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. To make the Crust: Cream the room temp margarine, and coconut oil, with the sugar, until a smooth paste forms. Add vanilla and salt.
  3. Add flour and combine until it just comes together.
  4. Press the dough into a 9×13 pan, and dock with a fork all over
  5. Bake until golden brown. Appx – 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool.
  6. Lower the oven to 300
  7. To make the Cheesecake: Combine the room temperature cream cheese, sour cream, and sugar, and cream.
  8. Add eggs one at a time, waiting for each one to incorporate before adding the next one.
  9. Add 2 tablespoons lime juice, and vanilla extract, and combine
  10. Pour over cooled crust, and bake until just barely set, approximately 30-35 minutes. The center should still be slightly jiggly, so keep an eye on it.
  11. Allow to cool, and completely set, before adding the caramel layer
  12. To make the key lime caramel: Combine sugar and water, and bring to a boil, and allow to boil without touching the pot until color starts to form.
  13. Once there’s some color, gently swirl the pan, but avoid sloshing it around too much (if you do, you run the risk of having particles burn on the walls of the pan, but if you do have some sugar on the side, you can always brush it away with a wet pastry brush…).
  14. Lower the heat to medium, and allow to slowly get darker, and thicker, until really dark, but not burnt, turn off heat, and add the remaining 3 tablespoons lime juice. It will bubble vigorously. Wait for it to cool, but still warm, so it doesn’t set, and pour over the cheesecake to allow to (hopefully) set.

Potato-Pesto Pizza

IMAG0172

Ah the 3 P’s of weight gain. Well maybe not the pesto, but potato and pizza, what can be better.

For those select few, lucky individuals out there who have the honor of following me on twitter, you’re probably still mouth watering over that delicious picture I posted the other day of that potato-pesto pizza, and honestly, I don’t blame you. It was pretty freaking good, and easy. So without further ado, I present you potato-pesto pizza.

I originally saw this recipe on foodwishes, and I’ve tried it before with great results, and now you too can do it!

First thing first, let’s make some pesto. Oh, you’re not sure how to make pesto?? Well I guess that means you need to do some TKG (TheKosherGastronome if you’re new to the show) review. I mean seriously, it was the last thing I posted, for goodness sake. Ok so the pesto is good to go, now we can focus out attention on this pizza.

I’m no expert on pizza making, but one thing is for sure, you need that oven hot. If you want some sort of gauge how hot you want that oven, come over to my apartment any Friday afternoon, and you’ll get the idea. For home ovens, that means cranking it up as high as it goes, which will be around 500 degrees, and even that pales in comparison to what real pizzeria ovens will get up to.

Also, if you’re using a pizza stone, which I recommend, you’re going to want to pre-heat the stone and oven for at least 45 minutes. There’s really a good reason for all this. A pizza stone is actually not the best conductor of heat, however, it can hold on to a ton of heat (i.e – it has a high specific heat capacity), so it needs to heat up for a while to amass all that “heat.”

Now to make the potato part of this pizza, we need to cook the potatoes, and I find that the best way to do that is by cooking the potatoes in the microwave, for like 4-5 minutes. Just poke a bunch of holes in it with a fork, and zap away. (Remember we cooked potatoes that way for the gnocchi we made a while back? Yeah me too…this is such a nostalgic post). Then slice them up, pretty thin, and while you’re at it (slicing things up that is), slice up some onions. I didn’t have any red onions, so I used some sweet Vidalia onions, and it came out fine.

IMG_4203

As you can see, the potatoes are actually not cooked all the way through, and that’s fine, it will finish cooking in the oven.

For this recipe, I used the Trader Joe’s pizza dough, and I can pretty much bet, that if there are any comments on this post it’s not going to be about how awesome everything was, but rather why/how I didn’t make my own pizza dough. Bunch of pessimists. Well, I hear you, and usually I would make my own dough, but this time I didn’t, so there, you smell. But you have no excuses, so for when you make this, here’s a great recipe for you.

Anyway, the rest is simple – sprinkle some flour or cornmeal on your pizza peel, and arrange your dough on it.

IMG_4201 IMG_4202

Then spread your pesto on it, arrange your potatoes and onions over top of that.

IMG_4204IMG_4207

And top with the cheese. I used goat cheese and gouda. Goat cheese, because I really like the salty, tangy, earthy-ness of it; and gouda, because that’s what else I had. However, you can use any cheese you like, but I would stick with something a little salty like feta or something like that for this.

IMG_4208

Bake until the crusts begins to brown, like 8-10 minutes, and allow the pizza to rest like 10 minutes before devouring, and enjoy.

IMG_4211

One last note – if you don’t have a pizza stone, another trick you can do, is make your pizza on a baking sheet, and bake the dough on the floor of your oven for the first few minutes (to get a nice crust), and then finish it off on the middle or lower rack.

IMAG0175

Potato-Pesto Pizza

Ingredients:

  • pizza dough
  • 3 Potatoes
  • 1 large sweet Vidalia onion or red onion
  • Pesto
  • Goat or Feta cheese
  • Gouda/mozzarella/or any other type of cheese

Directions:

  1. Place pizza stone in oven, and preheat for at least 45 minutes at the highest setting of your oven.
  2. Stab the potatoes with a fork a bunch of times, and place on a plate, and microwave on high for 4-5 minutes.
  3. Slice the potatoes and onions into thin rounds.
  4. Shape the pizza into the desired shape you want, and spread the pesto over top, and top with potatoes, onions, and your cheeses of choice.
  5. Bake until the crust begins to brown, about 8-10 minutes.