Autumn White Lasagna

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I had a butternut squash sitting in my apartment for about two weeks. The time had come to do something. I decided to go for lasagna, but get a bit more creative than the Giada recipe I have used in the past.

I decided to do something with the squash and walnuts, so I decided instead of doing plain boring ricotta, to use Ligurian walnut sauce, which is sort of like a walnut pesto popular in the Ligurian region of Italy. I fell in love with it when I visited on of my girlfriends about three years ago.

  
To start, the first thing I did was clean and prep the squash. As I roasted it in the oven, I prepped the walnut sauce. I used no boil noodles and as I was baking I prepped the bechamel. By doing this in stages prep, I didn’t feel a slave to the kitchen, and I made a few other things for lunch for the week ahead.

My recipe is not exacting, you can definitely play with quantities.

AUTUMN WHITE LASAGNA
No-boil lasgna noodles, about 15 sheets
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
3 linked Italian chicken sausage, cut in 1/4 in slices
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

For the Butternut Squash:
1 regular sized butternut squash
olive oil
salt and pepper

For the Walnut Sauce:
1 cup walnuts
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
salt and pepper

For the Bechamel:
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon onion powder
dash of Worchestershire sauce
salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Arrange butternut squash pieces on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toss squash to coat all pieces. Roast for about 30 minutes or until tender enough to mash with fork. Remove from oven, set aside.
  3. Lower temperature to 350 degrees.
  4. Meanwhile, place all walnut sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until ingredients are well incorporated, maintaining a little texture. Mixture will be thick. Divide in half.
  5. Take half the walnut sauce and mix with ricotta and egg.
  6. Take the butternut squash and place in a bowl, mash with a masher until blended but still a little chunky.
  7. To assemble, spread a thin layer of the ricotta mixture on the bottom of a 9×13 inch pan. Top with three noodles. Spread half the squash, top with noodles, repeat. Over the second squash layer assemble a layer of chicken sausage, top with noodles.
  8. For top layer, spread remaining walnut mixture and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake covered 25 minutes.
  9. While baking, prep the bechamel. In a deep skillet, melt butter and add flour to create a roux. Cook about 3 minutes until well mixed and blonde in color. Add nutmeg and onion powder. With one hand slowly add milk while whisking with the other. Cook about five more minutes until sauce thickens. Add other seasonings to taste preference.
  10. After the 25 minutes, uncover lasagna and add bechamel on top. Bake another 25 minutes until sauce lightly browns.
  11. To serve, cut in 9 pieces and top each serving with a sprinkle of walnuts.
  12. Tip – if reheating leftovers, prepare some fresh bechamel to top on pieces.

   
    
    
 

    Croque Monsieur 

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    Last night I attempted one of my French bistro sandwiches, the simply elegant Croque Monsieur. It’s a fancy sounding name for an elevated ham and cheese sandwich, but once you bite into one, you have to call it by name.

      
    Assembled open faced, finished in the oven, including the broiler should you dare.

    I cannot recommend exact quantities on this, as I feel you just assemble and make it look pretty. The quick bechamel I made was probably enough for two sandwiches, so I will go into a bit more detail with the sauce.

    For the sandwich, I used two medium-thick slices of semolina bread, but any heart sliced bread or baguette will do – Italian, French, you could even go rye, though I prefer a milder tasting bread. I spread a thin layer of super grainy mustard and topped with ham. I then preheated my oven to 400 degrees and got started on the bechamel.

      
    This was not a true bechamel. Instead a made a roux by melting two tablespoons butter and whisked in two tablespoons of flour. When the roux was cooked to a light blond color I added more grain mustard, a pinch of garlic powder (I would have preferred onion powder but I was out), a few dashes of nutmeg, salt and pepper. While whisking over low heat, I added 2/3 cup milk, added slightly more, thinning the sauce a bit more. You want the consistency to fall somewhere between mayo and gravy – thinner than mayo, but not so thin that it drips everywhere. I then added about two heaping tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and a teaspoon of Colman’s mustard powder.

      
    I removed the sauce from heat and continued to assemble the sandwich. I spread about half the sauce I made over the ham on each slice.

      
    I topped the sauce with Swiss cheese (you may also use Gruyere), and placed my sandwich in the oven.

      
    I baked it for about 5 minutes, then switched on the broiler to melt the cheese even more for another two minutes. The result? Heaven.

      

    Crock Pot Patates Yiahni

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    I haven’t written a post in about a month. I did some traveling, celebrated my birthday, and have been a little swamped at work. One thing I have been doing a lot of those is batch cooking on Sundays. In the spirit of my pantry project, I continue to seek out ways to save money. I try not to buy lunch at work anymore, or I will treat myself maybe once a week. Instead, I bring lunch, easily saving me $40 a week. Plus mall food kinda blows if you have it daily.

    I’ve done some fun dishes, like butternut squash risotto that I also rework into arancini, and potato soup remains a favorite. In the meantime, with the weather getting colder I’m missing some of the Greek dishes I’ve enjoyed from my mom over the years, like trahana and Patates Yiahni. The latter is a braised potato stew that can be vegan or with meat. Having a few errands to run today, I decided to experiment with making it in a crockpot. 

    What is great about much Greek cooking is the simplicity of the ingredients. For the stew I combined some olive oil, two chopped red onions (you can use any onion, red I just had on hand), a couple of sliced garlic cloves, chicken thighs straight from the freezer, four potatoes, a box of Pomi strained tomatoes, two cups of chicken broth, salt, pepper, oregano, and some bay leaves. Everything went straight in the crock pot, set on high for about four hours. That’s it, and I have lunch for most of the week.

       
       
    To serve, add a generous sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese and you can also eat with some crusty bread, but I like it as is.