June 2009

This may be one of my more time consuming recipes. Noticed that I said, time consuming, not difficult. To that end, when you take the time to make this, prepare two lasagnas. Enjoy one on the day you make it, and freeze the other one. They freeze beautifully and taste freshly made up to a month later.

Writing this up was also time consuming, but I took care of that for you!

The pieces of this puzzle are: no-boil lasagna noodles, bolognese sauce, ricotta mixture, spinach bechamel.

Ten Layer Lasagna

Ten Layer Lasagna

Ingredients – Bolognese Sauce
2 TB olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs lean ground sirloin
14 oz top quality canned crushed tomatoes, like San Marzano*
salt and pepper
2 TB tomato paste
3 TB chopped green olives
3 TB chopped roasted red peppers
2 TB capers, rinsed
2 teaspoons dried french thyme
6 fresh basil leaves, thorn by hand

1. To a saute pan add the olive oil and heat up. Add the onion and cook till translucent, about 3 – 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and the ground beef. Cook till the meat begins to brown.
2. Turn up the heat and add the remaining ingredients, except the thyme and basil, waiting 1 – 2 minutes before each addition.
3. Turn the heat down to medium and cook covered for 15 minutes. Add the thyme and basil, stir and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from the burner.

Ingredients – Spinach Bechamel
2 TB unsalted butter
2 TB all purpose flour
1 cup milk
6 oz Boursin cheese**
1 pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

1. In a heavy saucepan melt the butter. Add the flour and combine well. Cook for a couple of minutes.
2. To the flour mixture add the milk and continue to stir until the mixture starts to thicken. Add the boursin cheese and cook for 5 minutes until the cheese melts and is well incorporated.
3. Add the spinach and cook for another 5 minutes. Set aside.

Ingredients – Ricotta Mixture
2 cups part skim ricotta
1 cup grated parmessan
2 TB dried oregano
1 teas red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

1. Stir all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Assembly & Bake

This is the easiest part! Start by spraying a pan, that is at least two inches tall, with non-stick spray. Put a thin layer of the bechamel sauce in the bottom of the pan and then add your first lasagna sheet. From there the layers go in this order:
– bolognese
– ricotta
– bechamel
– noodles
– bolognese
– ricotta
– noodles
– bechamel

Once assembled, bake in a 375 oven for 45 minutes, covered. Even if you plan on freezing the lasagna, I have found that it is better to bake immediately and then freeze.

*Alternatively, if you have a kcik-ass, home made marinara sauce, substitute here. When I have time, I use my oven roasted garlic & tomato sauce.
** If Boursin is not readily available, plain whipped cream cheese may be used.

There are a lot of sweet and salty combos hitting store shelves and bakeries these days. When it comes to this trendy combo, on the top in my list you will find salted caramel cupcakes from More in Chicago and the simpler things, like kettle corn. I have been wanting to try my hand at salted caramels for some time, and it finally happened.

Salted Caramels

Salted Caramels

I can not post the recipe for the caramels here. The original recipe, is a family recipe that came from one of my good friend’s late grandmother. However, any well rated recipe from Cooks Illistrated, or even Epicurious, should do the trick. Just add 2 teaspoons of Fleur de Sel as you are cooking it, and then sprinkle some more over the top as they cool. Just make sure to use very good quality salt. Also, don’t take the mix past 140 degrees if you want a chewy consistency.

There is more than berries to this. A hint of lemon in the ricotta mixture adds just a little edge, and enough tartness to create a great flavor contrast. If you have a great dough recipe, and time, definitely go for it in this recipe. I opted for the pre-made variety which is actually pretty good.

Ricotta Berry Tart

Ricotta Berry Tart

For the crust simply unroll Pillsbury pre-made pie dough (red box), onto a 9″ tart pan. With your fingers press along the fluted sides of the pan removing and discarding any excess. Bake blind, according to package directions, and set aside.

While the crust bakes, and cools, prepare the filling.

1 pint of strawberries, sliced
2 TB simple syrum
1 cup blueberries
1 cup part skim ricotta
3/4 cup sugar
2 TB fresh lemon juice
2 egg yolks, beaten

1. Toss berries with the simple syrup and refrigerate.
2. In a medium bowl stir together the ricotta cheese, sugar, lemon juice and eggs.
3. Pour ricotta mixture onto the baked shell. Wait till the shell has cooled off to room temperature before pouring the ricotta mixture.
4. Bake in a 350 oven for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes.
5. Arrange the berries and refrigerate for an hour prior to serving.

Ricotta Berry Tart2

In Puerto Rico we serve this with rice, shocking, I know. However the beautiful asparagus I got at the market yesterday made the perfect side dish for them.

While the chops cooked, I turned the oven to 375 and placed a seasoned cast iron skillet in said oven, so it would come to temperature. The grill would have worked great too, just decided to go this route. Actually these were “grill perfect” asparagus as they were thick and meaty. Hopefully I can get more next week!

So to cook the asparagus, I simply drizzled them with olive oil and sea salt. Then baked them for a total of six minutes, turning them half way through the cooking time.

Garden Style Chops

Garden Style Chops

2 TB olive oil
2 bone-in, center cut chops, trimmed of all fat
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped onion
2 TB minced garlic
splash of cooking sherry
2 TB tomato paste
1 14 oz can of chopped tomatoes*
1/2 of a green pepper, chopped
2 TB chopped cilantro

1. Heat up the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the pork chops once you have seasoned them with salt and pepper. Cook until well seared, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside.
2. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring a few times.
3. Add the cooking sherry to deglaze the pan. Follow with the tomato paste and the diced tomatoes and cook for two more minutes. Add green peppers.
4. Return the chops to the skillet and cover with a lid. Cook for an additional 25 minutes, turning once, and adding the chopped cilantro half way through the cooking period.

*I used Rotel’s original tomatoes to add an extra zing. If you are up for some spice, definitely try it!

Who said you have to cook your Farmer’s Market purchases? Try this the next time you have watermelon and strawberries laying around!

Berry Melon Rita

Berry Melon Rita


In a blender, combine the following:
2 cups watermelon
3 cups strawberries
juice of two limes
6 oz white tequila
4 oz Grand Marnier
2 oz simple syrup
4 cups crushed ice

Blend well and pour into martini glasses rimmed with sugar. Serves 6.

And yes, the Market was great, as usual!!! It was great to see some of my favorite vendors and get some super fresh produce and eggs.