Saturday, October 30, 2010

Comfort Food Recipes

As the season is winding down towards the winter solstice, and the garden is wrapping up its delights, and putting them away until next season, I am craving comfort foods: casseroles, warm soups, easy-to-chew things that are sweet and nourishing.

Last night's meal was a pesto-eggplant lasagne. Oh, it was good, so I thought I should post the recipe so others can enjoy it.

Pesto-Eggplant Lasagne

1 package lasagne noodles
2 roasted eggplants (see instructions below)
1 recipe basil pesto (see instructions below)
1 recipe red sauce (or a jar of prepared tomato sauce)
2 large balls fresh mozarella
3 large slicing tomatoes for topping

Begin by roasting your eggplant.

2 medium globe eggplant
olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400F or so. Oil a baking sheet. Slice your globe eggplants into rounds about 1/4 inch thick. Brush them all heartily with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bake about 15-20 minutes one side, then flip over and keep baking until they are very soft and lightly brown.

While that is roasting, make your pesto. You will need:

4 cups packed basil leaves
1-2 cloves garlic, pressed
1-2 Tbsp pine nuts or sunflower seeds
3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmaggiano Reggiano

Place all but the cheese in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add in the cheese and set aside.

Next, make your Ricotta Custard:

1 15-oz. container of ricotta cheese
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

Beat the cheese and eggs together, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

NOW, if you are a superstar, you could make your own tomato sauce: Here's my favorite way:

Tomato Sauce

1.5 lbs sauce tomatoes, pureed in a food processor, or finely chopped
1 onion, finely diced
ground beef (optional)
3 cloves garlic
2 bell peppers
1 med. zucchini
herbs of your choice (basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage, whatever you like)
1 cup of dry red wine (merlot or cabernet, for example)
bay leaf
olive oil
salt and pepper

Saute onions well in olive oil (10-12 minutes) over medium heat till very soft. If using meat, add now and stir until cooked. Add herbs, peppers, and zucchini, and saute until beginning to soften. Turn up the heat to high, and pitch the wine. Simmer until reduced by half, and then turn down the heat and add the pureed tomatoes and bay leaf. Cover and simmer as long as you like over low heat, to combine the flavors.

Assembling the Lasagne

Now that you've got all your components, begin your assembly. Scoop some sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Smear ricotta custard onto DRY (uncooked) lasagne noodles and lay into the pan in a layer. Cover with the roasted eggplant rounds. Cover with a layer of pesto. Lay another layer of noodles smeared with ricotta over top. Add more red sauce. Add another layer of noodles. Top with fresh mozarella, sliced, and fresh tomato rounds, if you've got them. COVER, and bake in a 375 F oven for about an hour. Serve with a green salad with balsamic vinaigrette, and listen to the comforting ooo's and ahhhh's around your table.

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