"Food is essential to Life; therefore make it good."- S Truett Cathy

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Soul soothing squash pasta

I love a good bowl of pasta. It just soothes my soul like no other food group can. Once you know the basics you can create so many awesome flavors using what is on hand. Sometimes a substitution ends up making the dish better than the last time!

I was craving some pasta tonight and needing to use an acorn squash I had on hand. My usual go to when I  need a pasta fix and don't want to fuss much is carbonara. I use a version based on the one from Rachael Ray and it is delicious. Usually I don't mess with it. Tonight I decided to get creative.

It starts with a bit of olive oil and some bacon cut into small pieces. I use kitchen scissors to cut the bacon as I find it's quicker and less messy than trying to chop it. To the cooking bacon I throw in chopped onion and a dash of red pepper flakes.  Usually once that cooks down I add white wine as the base for the sause, using it to wisk up all the browned bits in the skillet from the bacon. I looked in my fridge tonight - No wine to be found! So instead of subbing in chicken broth which is the norm- I thought, bacon, squash, hmmm apple juice!!

Sloshed it in and wisked it up and then added the squash and some egg yolks, lots of parm and pepper and DONE!

Wow. I love it. The apple lends just a touch of sweetness and melds with the squash just perfectly. I could eat the whole pan but I guess I should feed the rest of the family.

Soul Soothing Squash Pasta

1/2 lb your favorite pasta. I use Barilla Plus multi-grain Penne
1-2 TBSP Olive Oil (2 turns of the pan)
1/2 package center cut bacon chopped
1/2 red onion chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes ( I don't measure- this is a guesstimate, two shakes is what it was for me)
1/2  c apple juice (again- just a glug or two, enough to be able to scrape the pan and create a light sauce)
1 acorn squash
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Start the pasta in boiling water according to package directions. You're going to need a ladle full of pasta water so remember to pull that out before you drain it.

Poke a few holes in the squash with a sharp knife and microwave whole for 5 minutes on high

In a large skillet, add the olive oil and the chopped bacon. Stir to break up the bacon into pieces. Allow the bacon to cook for a few minutes and then add the onion and red pepper flakes. Allow this to cook on medium until the bacon is just starting to crisp in spots. You don't want it all totally crispy

Add the apple juice and wisk up all the nice browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat just a tad and allow this to cook and reduce a bit more.

Remove the squash from the microwave, allow it to cool a tad and then cut it in half and remove the seeds. Use a knife to score the flesh like you would a mango, 3 to four cuts lengthwise and then also widthwise. Scoop the flesh out with a big spoon and it'll come out nicely in small chunks. Add it to the bacon/onion in the pan and stir. If needed add another splash of juice or some pasta cooking water if the sauce needs more volume.

By now your pasta should be done. Separate out the three egg yolks into a bowl and add a ladle full of hot pasta water to the eggs.  Drain the pasta and add to the pan followed by the egg mixture. Turn off the heat and toss it all together. Add the cheese, lots of fresh ground black pepper and a bit of salt to your taste.

Serve topped with more cheese. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Eggplant Lasagna

Tonight we had three eggplants to use and so we decided to make a lasagna with eggplant slices in place of the noodles. It's chock full of veggies with a nice meaty sauce and the traditional ricotta cheese layer, yumm!

2 large or 3 small eggplants, cut into thin slices lengthwise
1 onion chopped
1 bell pepper chopped
2-3 cloves fresh garlic
8-10 mushrooms sliced thin
1 lb ground beef

1 jar your favorite marinara sauce
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
dried oregano, basil and pizza seasoning blend to taste
8 oz ricotta cheese
8 oz cottage cheese
handful of shredded parmesan
1 egg
additional dried spices
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat oven to 350
Slice the eggplants thin (1/4 inch or less) and lay them out on a cookie sheet. Brush lightly with olive oil and season with salt/pepper. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.

To a large skillet add olive oil about three turns around the pan and heat on medium. Add chopped garlic, onions, green pepper and mushrooms. Stir to coat in the oil and cook until starting to soften, about 5-7 minutes. Push all the veggies to one side of the pan and to the other side add ground beef, cook until no longer pink using a wooden spoon to break it up as much as possible.  When the beef is close to done stir the veggies into it to finish cooking. Drain if you need too at this point. Add the jarred sauce and fire roasted diced tomatoes and allow to simmer. Season with dried spices tasting as you go. Turn off the heat and finish prepping your assembly line. 

Mix the ricotta, cottage cheese, parmesan and the egg in a bowl. Add some oregano and basil and black pepper to the cheese mixture. 

Assemble the lasagna: in a rectangular baking dish layer sauce, eggplant slices, cheese, more sauce, eggplant, cheese and then the remaining sauce. Top with mozzarella to cover and a sprinkling of more parmesan if you like. 

Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes until bubbly and the cheese has formed a nice browned crust. Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting for easier slicing. It's a one dish meal for us, we just had some garlic toasts on the side as we were too tired to chop salad!