What's Cooking in Carolina?

Mainly creative menus and recipes (usually healthy) and always from scratch with tips for party planning, theme parties, weddings and decorating tips so you can give swank parties or dinners to delight your guests from a part time caterer, owner/operator of a coming soon Entree Vous, but mainly a cook and eater who grows much of her own food and loves to laugh.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Spinach Lasagna and Caramelized Onion Flat Breads

Some days we want comfort food and some days we feel creative. Over the last few days, we have had nachos, venison stew, chicken noodle soup, and last night we had spinach lasagna with a caramelized onion flatbread and a green salad.
I found hand dipped ricotta at Whole Foods, so this should be particularly delicious. Earlier today, I made the dough for the flat breads as well as caramelizing the onions, so the final cook and assembly would be easy. I also sautéed the onion and cooked the spinach, mixing it with ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella as well as cooked tomatoes with garlic so putting together the lasagna would also be a cinch. We make our own noodles for the lasagna (of course) and use home canned tomatoes. I wrote down the recipe with approximations on what we really do.

The tomato sauce: We used one quart plus one pint of home canned tomatoes, simmered with a four to six chopped cloves of garlic, salt and pepper to taste and fresh basil and oregano, also to taste. For us, that means a lot. Simmer about 45 minutes until it thickened somewhat, but we still like a fair amount of liquid since we cook the pasta in the lasagna.

For the spinach filling: We used one of those extra large bags (20 oz) of fresh spinach. The easiest way to precook the spinach is to poke a bunch of holes inthe bag and microwave until it is almost cooked. We zapped it 2 minutes; then for several 1 minute intervals. Dice one medium sweet onion in two tablespoons olive oil for about 5 minutes until soft. Add several cloves of minced garlic. Sauté for 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook until it finishes wilting and all of the ingredients are well mixed. Add fresh grated nutmeg, about 1/8 teaspoon. Cool. Mix with 20 ounces of ricotta, 8 ounces of mozzarella and 1/3 cup parmesan.

For the pasta: Add 2 cups of flour plus 2 eggs and 2 T olive oil to food processor. Add enough water so it is starting to come together. (note: if we make pasta to cut through spaghetti or egg noodles, we make it drier (less water) than if we are making it for lasagna, since the lasagna noodles are not going through the cutters, are being cut by hand and can be wetter. Bottom line, the cutters require drier pasta and closer monitoring, at least
for us.). Depending on your pasta machine, we like some size (thickness) to our lasagna and roll it no thinner than 4 on the machine. Cut into the proper length for your pan.

Assembling: Spoon a layer of tomato sauce in pan. Sprinkle with Mozzarella and parmasan. Top with a layer of pasta. Spread with the spinach mixture. Next: tomato sauce, cheese, pasta, spinach, etc, etc. When you get to the top layer of pasta, top with tomato then cheese. Cover with foil. Bake in preheated 350 oven for at least 30 minutes. Cool before serving. Serve with pasta and bread.

Caramelized onion flatbread recipe: see February 2006 Bon Appetit or see if you can find it at the epicurious website. This is the way ours turned out:

Wine we had with this: Maipo Valley Compass Navigato's Reserve red wine 2003, a nice blend of Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from Australia, also found in Whole Foods for under 10 bucks!

I had a lot of the spinach filling left over, which is okay by me. We'll have egg white omelets filled with the spinach for breakfast as well as making some spanikopita by adding feta. Left overs like this are great and some of our favorites.

Enjoy! Let us know what you think and check out our website: www.swankcatering.com for menu ideas, recipes, and how to reach us if you want to have a party or wedding, cooking lessions or a private or personal chef! Eat and drink well. Laugh often. Exercise more (especially if you eat and drink well, like we do!).



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