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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January 17, 2012: Lasagna--It's a Food Group! And Mincemeat Chocolate Chip Cookies (not a joke)

Thanks to follower "Nails" for pointing out lasagna should be its own food group. And we should definitely have to eat it every day.

In the continued quest for providing excellent lasagna choices for my husband and his business associates (this is my first "wifely" business dinner.YIKES!), I tried yet another lasagna experiment:
Here is the recipe:

Kosher salt
Truffle salt*
Good olive oil
1/2 tsp black truffle oil**
3/4 pound dried lasagna noodles***
4 cups whole milk
12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 pound portobello mushrooms****
1/2 pound button mushrooms
4 oz shitake mushrooms
4 oz lobster mushrooms
1 cup freshly ground Parmesan

* & **Not necessary but so yummy!
***I used "no boil" type.
**** You need a total of 1.5 lbs of mushrooms. Use whatever type are available, but I would think all "button" might not be as good. I adapted this from an Ina Garten recipe and she used ONLY portobello.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

If you are using regular and not NO BOIL NOODLES, bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon salt and a splash of oil. Add the lasagna noodles and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside.

If you use NO BOIL, I recommended Dellalo (what I used here) or Barillo.

For the white sauce, bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan. Set aside. Melt 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture all at once. Add 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper, and nutmeg, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring first with the wooden spoon and then with a whisk, for 3 to 5 minutes, until thick. Set aside off the heat.

Separate the mushroom stems from the caps and discard the stems. Slice the caps 1/4-inch thick. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan. When the butter melts, add half the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and they release some of their juices. If they become too dry, add a little more oil. Toss occasionally to make sure the mushrooms cook evenly. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms and set all the mushrooms aside.

To assemble the lasagna, spread some of the sauce in the bottom of an 8 by 12 by 2-inch baking dish. Arrange a layer of noodles on top, then more sauce, then 1/3 of the mushrooms, and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Repeat 2 more times, layering noodles, sauce, mushrooms, and Parmesan. Top with a final layer of noodles and sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.

Bake the lasagna for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned the sauce is bubbly and hot. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes and serve hot.

DELICIOUS! If I could do it over again (and I might!), I would make 5 cups of the cream based sauce. I felt like I could have used just a little more on each layer. However, it was FINE just like this.

Back when my sweetheart and I first started dating, starting with Date #3, he instituted a "gift per week." We did this for a whole year. Gift for dating week #3 was a great bracelet made out of typewriter keys. I still love this bracelet, even though Eddie Vedder seems very upset about where the typewriter went and I can't say I blame him. I don't remember what week my baby gave me truffle salt (I think around week 20), but I have been hooked on using it in certain dishes ever since. It is excellent in mashed potatoes! Especially with some roasted garlic. Heaven on a plate. And it is STELLAR in this lasagna.

"The mention of truffles conjures up images of the expensive French black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) from the Périgord region of southwest France, used in making pâté de foie gras, or the renowned odorous white truffle (Tuber magnatum) of Alba, in the Piedmont district of Italy.
Since the times of the Greeks and Romans these fungi have been used in Europe as delicacies, as aphrodisiacs, and as medicines. They are among the most expensive of the world's natural foods, often commanding as much as $250 to $450 per pound." Yikes. So this salt is pretty expensive, but it doesn't take a lot of it to impart the flavor. My honey bunny gave me this jar for Christmas. He buys it from EARTHFARE for about $20. I found a website that has it for $11.
"Truffles are harvested in Europe with the aid of female pigs or truffle dogs, which are able to detect the strong smell of mature truffles underneath the surface of the ground. The female pig becomes excited when she sniffs a chemical that is similar to the male swine sex attractant. The use of pigs is risky, though, because of their natural tendency to eat any remotely edible thing. For this reason, dogs have been trained to dig into the ground wherever they find these odors, and they willingly exchange their truffle for a piece of bread and a pat on the head. Not a bad trade for the truffle hunter!" I think I am a lot like the female pig (way scarily too much) when it comes to truffle salt and oil.

I served this lasagna with a "kitchen sink" salad... That's when I look around the fridge and think, I better use this stuff or it will go bad. Mine contained red leaf lettuce, a little mint, a little cilantro, celery, carrots, red bell pepper, a few spiced almonds and goat cheese. I have often looked up recipes for salad to serve to Paul, but he seems to like the KITCHEN SINK the best. In fact, it is probably the goat cheese. I believe he would eat things I cannot mention in a G rated blog, as long as it had goat cheese on it! Paul put an asiago ranch dressing on his and I used vinagerette.

Lastly, I topped off this meal with sweets for the sweet. Here is a habit I have picked up mostly from mental images when I was six years old of third world children cutting off their arms so they could eat the canned beets on my plate. Did you have a mom like that? I always felt so guilty about not eating food or wasting it. While I agree that food should not be wasted, please ask your child to contribute a portion of their allowance or earnings to many wonderful charities that feed the hungry. But I grew up believing wasting food was a sin, and now I am down to "a bad idea, unless it is rotten." So once or twice a week, I look in my refrigerator or cabinets and ask myself, "What is in here that I need to use so I am not guilty of throwing it out." The answer: MINCEMEAT. I bought some on a lark, and made Paul a mincemeat cake for the holidays. But it only called for a cup of mincemeat, so there was some left in the jar. I discovered a cookie recipe at a site called BETTERRECIPES.COM. Unusually, this contained chocolate chips. The ratings were high, so I thought, Why not?


¼ cup Butter, softened

¾ cup Packed Brown Sugar

2 Eggs

¾ cup Mincemeat

1 tsp Vanilla

1½ cups Flour

1½ tsp Baking Soda

½ tsp Cinnamon

¼ tsp Nutmeg

Pinch or Two of Ground Cloves

¼ tsp Salt

1/2 cups Mini-chocolate Chips*

½ cup slivered almonds **

*Original recipe calls for 1.5 cups. I thought that was too much, but you may not.
** Nuts are optional or use your favorite kind.


In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and the brown sugar. Add eggs, vanilla and mincemeat, mix well. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt; add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts. Drop by tablespoonfuls, 2-inches apart onto greased baking sheets (or onto parchment lined baking sheets). Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.


Kitchen Sink Salad: "Good."
Mushroom Medley Lasagna: "This is really good, but don't think 'lasagna.'
Think white pizza."
Mincemeat Cookie: "I like the chocolate chips."

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