Saturday, February 13, 2010

For the Love of Lasagna Part 2 of 2- The Lasagna

For the Love of Lasagna Part 2 of 2 the Lasagna

Here is a link for where I buy my long black pepper ( as well as many other spices, extracts and such). The prices aren't bad and the quality is superb . Frontier Natural Product Co-Op the link should take you right to the long black pepper ( aka long peppercorns page).

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrease F.

Bring a very large pot of water to boil ( I used a 20 quart pot filled 1/2 full of water) with about 3 tablespoons olive oil in the water.
Count out 26 noodles ( remember this is for 2 casserole dishes) I make 2 or 3 extra just in case. ( life happens right)
On the closest counter to your stove, lay a piece of waxed paper at least 2 feet long ( I wouldn't go much over this though )
Lay 1/2 of the towel over the waxed paper . I use 2 flour sack
towels that are 28 inches x 29 inches there-abouts.
Get out your longest handled tongs .

Only place about 4 to 5 noodles at a time into the pot and you will want to tend them .
Cooking the lasagna noodle is like watchen' after after kids, you gotta keep an eye on them. I have permanent metaphysical bald spots cause by lasagna noodles ... and kids.... (giggle)
Seriously though, to many noodles in the amount of water you have to work with 99.999% of the time is a disaster waiting to happen. There are those rare people that can make it work, but I am not one of them.

Using your tongs, move the noodles about in the water to keep them from sticking and to get them out at the perfect doneness for this dish. You want you noodles flexible but not cooked. The noodles will continue to cook when in the oven and will help absorb any excess moisture from the sauce or fresh veggies you will add.

These are perfect, Just starting to turn lighter on the edges, but the "meat" of the noodle is firm and flexible.

Lay the noodles in a single layer on the side of the towel with the wax paper under it . Fold the other half towel over them to keep them from drying out . Some folks mist the towels with warm water.. it' depends on how wet my noodles are coming out , I don't want to have to clean up a big puddle or any thing .

Continue doing this till all the noodles are worked with.

Roll the toweled noodles up and tuck the ends if you can. Let them rest a minute while you prep the sauce .

Taste your sauce at this point and adjust any flavors you want to bring up more.

You can work with your sauce cold or warmed. I work with it right out of the icebox.

Crack an egg into a small mixing bowel and check it over for imperfections and shell bits.

with a fork beat it well , very well.

Add the container of ricotta cheese. and blend it very well .

When I have them I like to add fresh Sweet Basil or fresh Dani Basil- torn to bits, lemon thyme - give them a good chop or two if you want, and garlic chive-cut to tiny bits, to this mixture.
Note: Frozen fresh herbs work fine in many dishes , but I cant say I liked the bits of slime produced when used in this mixture.. that was just ... nasty. Dry herbs made the cheese-egg mixture a bit .um..gritty. That wasn't pleasant either. Use only fresh herbs to spice this part up if you choose to do so .
Since I didn't have any of those fresh, we just went with the
ricotta and egg mix this time.

Chop the zucchini , egg plant, yellow squash into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces.. You can slice them into 1/8 to 1/4 inch rounds if you like and serve them that way. I chop them because I use more of the vegetable that way .. no wondering what to do with what's left.
(eggplant doesn't freeze all that well, unless maybe breaded and only up to 24 hours before going right into the deep fryer oil.)
You can use your sliced mushrooms as they are or break them up. that's your choice. I break them up.

Rub a bit of olive oil all over the bottom and side of your casserole dish and the handle tops and top rim.. helps on the clean up . This is usually when you will find me asking the kitchen Gods to please make this dish as wonderful and pleasing and I intend it to be and maybe I am thinking of some one special and what they need in thier life. It's like the time I spend stirring the sauce. I am thinking of goals and dreams and life paths and the blessings of the positive, plentiful outcomes. I try not to bring anger to the pot or frustration to the pot if I can help it .
"Sourpusses at the pot
sours the out come of the whole lot. "
That's what I have taken to tellen' people who want to bring "sour-tudes" into my kitchen!
Then I promptly chase them away with the kitchen broom if they need further... um..
encouragement !

Back to the Lasagna...
As in the photo above lay down a bit of the sauce, you don't want it thick , just a ladle or 2 to thinly cover the bottom. then lay down your first layer of noodles .

Then add 3 to 4 ladles of sauce and add your fresh veggies. for me the goal of spreading them is to get a bit of each flavor in every bite. ( The mushrooms are in the second pan. We had company coming to diner that doesn't like mushrooms So I was accommodating thier taste.)
So first the egg plant, then the yellow squash and the zucchini, then the mushrooms ( have I mentioned that baby portabellas are awesome as are the spring morels?? Oh baby you can't beat the fresh harvested mushrooms of spring in this dish! wrap them in
peaces of prosciutto before slicing and adding yyuumm!
oh man I wish spring was here!!)

add small "plops"( about the size of the chopped veggie pieces)
of the ricotta-egg mixture all over the top of the veggies 9 about 1/4 of the ricotta-egg mixture should be used per layer ( remember this makes 2 pans) .. I personally don't like taking a bite of lasagna and tasting nothing but ricotta... it's meant to enhance the dish, Not over power it. Just remember the goal of being able to taste a bit of every thing in every bite.

next Use a fork to "sprinkle" very small bits of the cottage cheese about.
then add about 1 cup to 1-1/4 cup of the mozzarella
and good sprinkling of the grated Parmesan

Lay the next layer of noodles splitting one noodle down the center
and laying half along one side and the other half along the top trimming it to lay flat. ( when you add your 3rd and final layer of noodles repeat this but lay the cut noodles at the opposite end and side from this first placement.

Top this layer with sauce and veggies and cheese just as you did the first layer .

Guess whats wrong with this photo......
your third layer should consist of noodles and sauce
no veggies and ( clue) no cheese on top yet!

I generally don't put the cheese on the top till it has been in the oven for at least 15 to 20 min. this will prevent your cheese from burning before your dish is done . oops Don't scrap it if you make
this mistake, just wrap the edges in foil like you would to protect
a pie crust being careful not to let it touch the cheese.

Place each pan on a baking sheet to catch any spill over that may occur (I keep two old fuggly cookie sheets around just for this).
Place in a 375 degrease F. oven for 20 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 degrease F. and top the lasagna with your final layers of cheeses in this order,
1 cup to 1-1/4 cup of the mozzarella
good sprinkling of the grated Parmesan
and about 1/8th to 1/4 cup of the cheddar cheese
continue to bake for 45 to 50 minutes more

Remove the lasagna from the oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before serving so that it all settles in and "firms up".

if it is cut to soon you will end up with "watery" lasagna.

now that was worth the 2 days of cooking ( or more in my case)

serve with your best home made Italian or French bread . or your favorite garlic bread and a salad and enjoy the family and friends you are sharing with..

Now, I am off to make a Red Velvet cake for Valentines day

Warm fulfilled Blessings upon your rumbling bellies
( be glad this isn't smell-a-blog... it smells heavenly)

Ma Fey

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