Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

Ooops, It's been quite a while since i updated. March has been pretty stressful/busy for me due to our Pharmacology NBME finals. Never ever have i started studying 2 weeks before a test. You'd think 2 weeks would've given me a sufficient amount of time to cover all the subjects and have a least a good night sleep on the night before the test but, NOPE! Once again, i took my time and procrastinated... had to pull many all-nighters on the last few days . And having a 1 week accumulation of caffeine and theanine in my system didn't help w/ the anxiety either, sigh... i need a lot of work on my time/stress-management skills!

If it wasn't for the Daring Bakers Challenge, i'd probably put off updating for another 2 weeks (muahahhaa), but since i just joined DB, skipping the 2nd challenge didn't seem like the responsible thing to do. SO! Here it is, my 2nd challenge-- Lasagna with homemade Spinach Pasta! When i first found out this month's challenge, I was a bit reluctant about trying out the recipe cuz making my own pasta just sounded too hardcore... I didn't make the lasagna until 2 days before the posting date (today), muahaha. [Seeee, Pharmacology can just drain the life out of you] I used my own ragu and white sauce recipe for the challenge... i was afraid I'd fail on both the pasta and the sauce recipes DB provided, so i cooked from my old tried and true recipes to make sure SOMETHING wouldn't go wrong, bahaha. The spinach pasta was quite easy (but messy) to make and it turned out GURREAT! Not to mention super healthy and fresh :D JLo loved IT! Thanks, DB! Wonder what's in store for the April challege, I'm excited!

Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes
Equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.
The halved recipe makes enough pasta for a 9x13 inch baking pan.

  • 2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
  • 10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped [picture 1]
    [or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry]
  • 3 1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose plain flour

  1. Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle [picture 2].
  2. Add the eggs and spinach [picture 3]. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach.
  3. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump [picture 4].
  4. With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic [picture 5]. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step.
  5. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours [picture 6].
  6. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. For lasagna, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours [picture 7, 8].
  7. Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag [picture 9].
  • Homemade Spinach pasta sheets
    (If using dried, store-bought pasta sheets, just assemble them as indicated in the directions and pour 1/2 cup of water down the sides of the lasagna before baking.)
  • 3/4 cup of cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan (to top the lasagna)

  • RAGU (Red sauce)
  • 500g ground beef
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup onions, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 - 3 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons parsley
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 3 cups cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup cheese, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 1.5 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 egg, beaten

  1. To make the Ragu, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a big skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Stir in onion, green pepper, garlic and saute for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the ground beef and cook until almost brown in color.
  4. Pour in the tomato sauce, tomatoes, parsley, basil, sugar, and salt. Stir often and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside [picture 1].
  5. If the ragu is too dry, add in more tomato sauce or 1/2 a cup of water or stock.

  6. To make the white cheese sauce, in a medium pot, add all white sauce ingredients together.
  7. Place it over medium-low heat and cook for 5 minutes. Stir often to prevent the bottom from burning. Set aside [picture 2].

  8. Drop about four pieces of pasta in boiling salted water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes.
  9. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender [picture 3].
  10. Lift the lasagna from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.
  11. Spread a thin layer of Ragu (red sauce) over the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish [picture 4].
  12. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the red sauce [picture 5].
  13. Spread a thin layer of Ragu (red sauce) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the Cheese sauce (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls). Then sprinkle a bit of shredded cheese [picture 6].
  14. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with Ragu (red sauce) [picture 7].
  15. Seal the baking pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350 F for 45 minutes [picture 8].
  16. Remove the foil and top with a generous dusting of cheese and Parmesan. Bake for another 10 minutes until golden brown.

Lasagna with Spinach Pasta
(sorry, i kinda burnt my cheese topping this time)

Monday, March 09, 2009

S'more Cupcakes

These were the other cupcakes that I made during semester break. I made them again a few weeks ago but that batch came out pretty ugly... so no pics of cottage cheese cupcakes to show :P. I was surprised when most of the people i gave them to never had S'mores before so i thought I'd take a minute to explain what they are. S'mores are a traditional campfire snack: you roast the marshmallows until soft and toasty and sandwich them between graham crackers with a chocolate bar. The marshmallows melts the chocolate, turning everything into a big gooey mess... it's great :D. Check out the huge campfires we used to have back in Paraguay! I miss my childhood :'( So don't get discouraged by the complicated recipe, it'll all worth your while after taking the first bite through the multiple layers of graham crackers, cake, chocolate fudge, and marshmallows! *omnomnomnom* ... Okay, back to my pharmacology flashcards now, frickidy freak!

S'more Cupcakes
derived from and
makes 12 cupcakes
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature [i used 1/3 cup]
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar [i used white sugar]
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • Chocolate Fudge Filling [recipe below]
  • Marshmallow Frosting [recipe here]

  1. Combine 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs and 1/4 cup of melted butter [picture 1].
  2. Scoop a heaping tablespoon into each cupcake paper, pressing down to cover the bottom[picture 2]. Set aside.
  3. Beat 1/2 cup of butter on high speed until soft, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add in brown sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds after each [picture 3]. Set aside.
  6. Mix together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
  7. Measure out milk and vanilla together in a separate bowl.
  8. Add about a fourth of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine [picture 4].
  9. Add in about one third of the milk/vanilla mixture and beat until combined [picture 5].
  10. Repeat above, alternating between flour and milk, ending with flour mixture.
  11. Fill cupcake cups with cake batter (they should be 2/3 - 3/4 full) [picture 6].
  12. Place muffin tins on the middle rack of a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for approximately 20-22 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  13. Remove cupcakes and let it cool down for 20 - 30 minutes.

  14. After the cupcakes have cooled, use a knife and cut a hole into the cupcakes. Fill with chocolate fudge filling (see recipe below) [picture 7]. (you may put the top back on to prevent marshmallow frosting from seeping in)
  15. Top each filled cupcake with marshmallow frosting with a greased spatula [picture 8]. [if using homemade marshmallow frosting, remember to frost right after whipping for easy handling. ]
  16. Decorate with chocolate drizzles and graham cracker crumbs.

S'more Cupcakes

Chocolate Fudge Filling
  • 150g semi-sweet chocolate, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 teaspoons milk
  1. In a double boiler, mix all ingredients together until fully combined.
  2. Allow to cool.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Better Butter Chicken & Tandoori Chicken

Okay, so i had a major sweet tooth for the past few weeks so I thought I'd balance it out with a savory update on an improved butter chicken. There was huge snow storm 2 weeks ago in POZ, forcing me to hibernate and cook enough curry that could last me 3 blizzarding days. I was going to use my old butter chicken recipe but wanted to try something new since I had nothing better to do. So after researching through dozens of websites and youtube videos, I decided to make a more authentic Butter Chicken by using baked Tandoori chicken pieces. The Tandoori chicken was quite time-consuming with its long marination and baking time but oh my, the end-result was worth it. As for the Butter Chicken, this time I added even more spices and another star ingredient: cashew nuts-- trust me, they make a world of a difference! I also blended the sauce into a smooth paste before adding the chicken, makes it much more rich and silky. This recipe is so much better... i'm seriously considering deleting the old post. And if i didn't have a love/hate relationship with red food coloring, I'd have prettier pictures of orange-red curry to show... so damn those ridiculous prices!! GAHHH!!

The Better Butter Chicken
derived from #1,,,
  • 1.5 kg (3 lbs) chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
    [i used 4 chicken thighs and one chicken breast]
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) salt
  • 2 teaspoons (10mL) chili powder
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) lemon juice
  • 1 cup (250 mL) yogurt, thick
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) ground cumin [kminek in Polish]
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) ground coriander [kolendra in Polish]
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground turmeric [kurkuma in Polish]
  • 2 tbsp (10 mL) minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) minced fresh ginger
  • Red food coloring (optional)

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp ground turmeric [kurkuma in Polish]
  • 3/4 tsp ground coriander [kolendra in Polish]
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon [cynamon in Polish]
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin [kminek in Polish]
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup cashew nuts [orzechy nerkowca in Polish]
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • Red food coloring (optional)

  1. FOR TANDOORI CHICKEN only: Clean and cut a few long slits on each skinless chicken thigh. Rub salt, chili powder, and lemon juice all over and into the slits [picture 1, 2].
    FOR BUTTER CHICKEN: Clean and cut up the skinless, boneless chicken thighs into pieces. Season with salt, chili powder, and lemon juice.
  2. Add in yogurt, cumin, coriander, cayenne, garam masala, turmeric, garlic, ginger, and red food coloring to the chicken [picture 3, 4]. Mix well.
  3. Seal and refrigerate overnight (at least 4-6 hours) [picture 5].
  4. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Place chicken thighs on a baking sheet lined with foil and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cooked through. Do not overbake the chicken, or it will be dry [picture 6].
  5. FOR TANDOORI CHICKEN: Remove from oven and serve hot, garnished with sliced onions and lime wedges.
    FOR BUTTER CHICKEN: Remove from oven and set aside.

  1. While chicken is baking, make sauce. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat [picture 3].
  2. Add onions and garlic. Cook slowly, stirring often, until onions are tender, about 5 minutes[picture 4].
  3. Add gingerroot, chili powder, turmeric, ground coriander, cinnamon and cumin. Cook 1 more minute [picture 5, 6].
  4. Add drained tomatoes, broth, cashew nuts, brown sugar, salt and pepper [picture 7]. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally [picture 8]. Remove from heat.
  5. Transfer the sauce to a blender and purée until smooth [picture 9].
  6. Return puréed sauce to pot with remaining sauce. Mix well and return to heat.
  7. Stir in heavy cream, mix until smooth [picture 10].
  8. Add cut-up Tandoori chicken and mix well [picture 11].
  9. Add 1 teaspoon of garam masala and mix well. Cook just until chicken is hot [picture 12].
  10. Serve with some butter over hot basmati rice, if desired.

Better Butter Chicken

Tandoori Chicken