Our Golden Week plans (and by “plans” I mean “half-assed, too-late attempt to book a trip to Pusan”) fell through, which left Laura and I with lots and lots of precious, precious free time to enjoy ourselves and the gorgeous late-spring weather. On Monday I spent the whole day cooking, and the whole night eating (and drinking and playing truth or dare). Here is the meal around which that wonderful day off revolved: two recipes for two, one very complicated, one very simple, both very delicious and, as always, completely original!
Pasta (adapted from a recipe by Mario Batali)
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup rice bran
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons sweet vermouth
1 teaspoon olive oil
- Mix all ingredients using either the well method or with a food processor or electric mixer.
- Dust your countertop with additional flour or bran and knead the dough until it is firm, homogeneous, and dry. The dough should not stick to the countertop.
- Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and allow to rest at room temperature for one hour.
- Cut the dough into eighths and process into lasagne, about nine inches long, according to your pasta maker’s instructions. Alternatively, the dough may be rolled out into very thin sheets and then cut into lasagne.
- Dust finished lasagne with a small amount of bran to prevent sticking, cover, and set aside.
3 small eggplants, thinly sliced into long strips
3/4 bunch maitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
about 3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
about 3/4 cup grated Mozzarella
about 1/2 cup Ricotta
about 1/2 pound mixed ground beef and ground pork
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 or 3 large green olives, minced
7 or 8 capers, halved
1/4 teaspoon garam masala (substitute five-spice and curry powder)
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil, for frying
- Salt sliced eggplant and allow to sit for about 15 minutes to sweat.
- Mix cheeses together and set aside, reserving about 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano.
- Combine meat, capers, garam masala, marjoram, fennel seeds, and pepper in a mixing bowl.
- Rinse off salted eggplant and drain and dry well. Toss or brush eggplant with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Warm a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add eggplant and fry until both sides are browned, about 2 or 3 minutes on each side.
- Remove eggplant from heat and set aside on paper towel to drain excess oil.
- Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the same non-stick skillet. Sauté pine nuts, onion, garlic, and olives until slightly browned.
- Add meat and cook just through, making sure to break up any large chunks. Drain excess fat and reserve.
about 20 ounces diced canned tomatoes in juice
1 small eggplant, peeled and diced
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 bunch maitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 or 3 large green olives, chopped
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup red wine or fruit liqueur
dried thyme, to taste
dried basil, to taste
dried oregano, to taste
1 bay leaf
1 dash Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper
reserved fat from meat (see above)
- Warm reserved fat over medium-high heat. Add eggplant, onion, garlic, mushrooms, olives, salt, and pepper and cook until onions become translucent.
- Add tomatoes, vinegar, wine or liqueur, herbs, and Tabasco sauce and bring to a boil.
- Cook uncovered to reduce until sauce reaches desired consistency
fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- Boil about 6 cups water in a large pot. Brush excess flour or bran from fresh lasagne and add to water.
- Cook for 2-3 minutes or until firmly al dente. Remove from pot and rinse under cold water, then drain and dry on paper towel.
- Lightly coat a 9-inch bread pan with olive oil.
- Layer pasta, eggplant, mushrooms, meat, sauce, and cheese two or three times until pan is full. Top with pasta, sauce, parsley, and grated Pecorino Romano.
- Cover with foil and bake at 350º (180ºC) for about 20 minutes, then remove foil and continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes.
In the end, I had extra ingredients, especially pasta, so I made another lasagna-moussaka type thing with extra sauce, sliced onions, and a mixture of beaten eggs. That’s in my freezer now. I’ll let you know how it turns out. After that I still had extra pasta, which I microwaved with clotted cream, dried herbs, and a splash of sweet vermouth. It was delicious.
Simple Almond and Raspberry Tiramisu
about 12 ounces Mascarpone
about 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
about 12-15 lady fingers or amaretti cookies
1/2 cup espresso or strong coffee, cooled
1/4 cup Amaretto
1/4 cup Crème de Framboise
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon roasted almond oil (optional)
about 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
fresh raspberries (optional)
- Blend together cheese, sugar, almond extract, vanilla, and almond oil until homogeneous and set aside.
- Combine coffee, Amaretto, and Framboise in a bowl. Dip lady fingers into coffee mixture until soaked (but not soggy) and arrange on the bottom of bowls or a baking pan.
- Spread out one half of the cheese on top of the first layer of lady fingers.
- Add another layer of soaked lady fingers and then another layer of cheese.
- Dust with cocoa powder, cover, and refrigerate 1-4 hours before serving. Serve with fresh nutmeg and raspberries.