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Lasagna

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Lasagna! Filling Onions, <a href=website like this celery and bay leaf” src=”http://houseofzeta.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/image-300×225.jpg” width=”300″ height=”225″ />

 

With winter setting in, ask we all want to hunker down and eat.  And what better way then with a big ole piece goodness called lasagna?!  Do you make it at Christmas or New Years, or whenever you want that giant casserole dish of baked noodles with sauce and cheese?  Do you add meat or vegetables?  Maybe you’re a white sauce kind of person?  For me, it all comes down to one thing, tomato sauce.  It screams lasagna.  All red and bubbly with veggies and Italian sausage, yum!

I usually start with one large and one medium can of whole tomatoes.  Giving them a medium rough chop so you have nice chunks of tomato.  Then I saute onions, garlic and whatever vegetables I want in my sauce, like celery and bell peppers, all seasoned with the herbs I’m using in the sauce.  I find it helps get things going.  If I am adding sausage, I cook the veggies in with the sausage, onions and garlic first then the rest.  Next I combine the tomatoes, veggies, meat and simmer for a few minutes then add some paste to thicken.  More herbs and simmer for as long as necessary.  I even slice zucchini to put in between the layers.

When it comes to cheese, fresh is best.  But we all know we can’t always get it or have the time to make it.  So do your best and it will be just fine.  I do stir up my ricotta if it comes store bought, makes it easier to spread or drop.  But my big discovery is to grate most or all of your mozzarella, which can be evenly distributed.  This will keep you from having that moment when you accidentally sliced it too thick and don’t have enough to cover the top.  Oops!  Been there done that! And who ever thought of cottage cheese as a substitute for ricotta should be shot.  Don’t do it ever! You are not doing yourself or your guests any favors.

Then there is the debate on the noodles.  Fully cook, don’t cook, cook partially.  What do you do?  Ive done all three.  I prefer to cook them al dente so they finish with the flavors of the sauce.  Also cook and extra one or two just in case one rips.  If not then have fun eating it while the lasagna cooks.

Once you have done all this, simply put it in the oven at 350 till golden bubbly, about 30-45 minutes and when done, let it stand for about 15 minutes and serve.   What could be more perfect and easy then that?

*if you think you need more sauce, always add another can of tomatoes, medium or large depending on how saucy you want your lasagna.  Or add another dollop of paste to thicken.*

Enchiladas!!!!

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This wonderful heartwarming dish is the anchor in our comfort food week.  Originally from Mexico, adiposity in an area called Valley of Mexico, salve the practice of rolling meat(usually fish) in tortillas dates back to the Mayans.  But it was Hernan Cortes from Coyoacan who first shared this with Spanish Conquistadors, who gave the rolled maize it’s name, Tortilla.   The definition of enchilada is “a rolled maize tortilla stuffed with meat and covered in a tomato chile sauce”, according to the Real Academia Espanola.  Sound familiar?  Not much has changed.  For a while it was street food and consisted of tortillas dipped in chile sauce, not quite the same thing if you ask me.  To me making enchiladas is another family moment of  coming together sharing knowledge and enjoying a meal.   My dad would cook the chicken, and when it cooled we would tear the meat off it’s bones.  As a kid that was the fun part.  We would then grate the cheese and  chop the onions.   Eventually combining these with chopped black olives, to make the inside of our enchiladas.  We would then heat up the tortillas in oil and dip theme in sauce, fill with chicken mixture, roll them up, put them in the baking pan and wait for the goodness to cook.   I still make them the same way except the oil part.  Now I microwave the tortillas, it’s much quicker and makes for easier cleanup and added bonus, less fat.  Pair them with beans and rice and you have the makings of one of my all time favorite comfort foods.