Well, they say, “When it rains, it pours.” And they (whoever they are) were not joking. Sandy came through and thoroughly trashed the Northeast- including my beloved home beach town of Sea Isle City, New Jersey.
My brother, his wife, and three sick children, are holed up in a South Jersey hotel- the second hotel of the week- so they can have power to run the nebulizers the kids need every four hours. And they are aware that their situation is not nearly as dire as that of many others whose homes were literally washed away. In times like these, I am encouraged by the strength of the human spirit and the kindness of strangers
and made incredibly aware of just how lucky I am to have a roof over my head, warmth, and good health.
The last few weeks on my home-front have also been a bit chaotic, nothing remotely as traumatic as dealing with Sandy’s wake, but super busy and a bit unsettling nonetheless. My sixteen-year-old car, which I wrote about in my last post, let me know in an all-too-obvious moment that her days of being reliable were over. Adam and I spent all of our free time (haha) hunting for a replacement, and with a hectic schedule, I had to rent a car to make my deliveries to clients in the meantime. Of course, this was the exact same week when both my cousin and my best friend from college came into town for visits. Having friends and family in Atlanta is a rarity, and I cherish those occasions. I am thrilled that I was able to hang with those ladies and hug their necks- it just all felt a little harried. I was a little harried. I am a soul that craves order, and when my ducks aren’t in a row, I have to take deep breaths. I’m a little whacked- I know it, and I accept myself for each and every one of my quirks these days. Thankfully.
Here’s a glimpse at what I’ve been doing since I last wrote…catering a brunch party for a teacher friend of mine,
and cooking my little fingers to the bone. I’ve incorporated fall fruits and veggies into every kind of dish imaginable, including
a stellar kielbasa quiche with kale, turnips, and local peppers;
apple braised collard greens;
a seriously stunning pot of butternut squash, apple, and yellow pepper soup;
enchiladas stuffed with the likes of
black beans, kale, and kohlrabi;
and an Everything Including the Kitchen Sink Fall Soup.
I’ve been think about writing you and sharing each of these wonderful meals…but time has not been my friend.
Anyway- I am calling this post “the winds of change” because I can feel a positive shift transpiring.
I’ve got a new-to-me car, named Sylvie who has been making me smile and feel so modern-day!
We pulled together some last minute costumes
and attended a huge Halloween party in the name of raising funds for Leukemia.
I also got a much-needed pair of sneakers for work, switched to a more effective medication for my neurotic and incessantly itchy dog, landed a new client, and secured some holiday time gigs. Oh! And my spices are organized by frequency of use!!!
Things are on the up and up. I think the silver lining is going to become the new norm and we’ll finish out 2012 with a very happy bang. I hope that everyone’s recovery from Sandy’s mess will lead them to positive places as well.
Somehow, in all the madness, I didn’t even realize that our CSA magic has come to a screeching halt. I will pick up my last box of farm-fresh goodies tomorrow at the market. I’ve been totally spoiled by the wonders of locally and naturally grown fruits and vegetables since the beginning of May, and I have loved every second of it! The good news is that the Grant Park Farmers Market will continue to run through December 16th. Phew!
Here’s what the market looked like last week…(awesome Halloween mayhem!)
Look what John was selling!
Aaron looked pretty scary too,
but his table did not at all.
and tons of cabbage. Man, it is a good time for slaws! SO many root veggies and apples. Yum.
The diversity of the season is almost unbelievable. There are so many vegetables to choose from-
sweet potatoes as long as my arm,
loads of peppers- sweet and hot,
and scallions too.
Crack in the Sidewalk’s beautiful wild salad always catches my eye,
and they had some fresh parsley that I had designs on using for dinner.
And let’s not forget about fall’s star- the pumpkin!
With such abundance at our fingertips, it really was tricky to decide what to make and share with you this week. But, this meal was created to warm our souls and embrace the comforts of home.
So, I give you Individual Fall Lasagnas with Kale and Turnips accompanied by a Roasted Cabbage and Radish salad.
This one is real simple.
For the cheese mixture:
1 16 oz. container part-skim ricotta cheese
zest of a lemon
3/4 – 1 Cup shredded Parmesan cheese (a good handful)
4 cloves garlic, pressed
2 – 3 sprigs fresh oregano, chopped
handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped
6 – 8 leaves fresh basil, chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
freshly grated nutmeg- about 1/4 teaspoon
hefty pinch or three of salt and pepper
Mix the ingredients together and taste a tiny bit to be sure your seasoning is right. You want this cheese mixture to be strongly seasoned, since it will be so prominent in the lasagna.
Once the cheese is mixed, set it aside. Then you’ll need:
1 lb ground beef, let it sit out for about 20 minutes before cooking
3 – 4 Cups homemade tomato sauce (You did put some in your freezer, right!?!?!?) You can use store bought sauce if you need to!
About 1/2 a box whole wheat lasagna noodles
1/2 bunch kale, stripped from the ribs
3 turnips, diced small
1 lb mozzarella cheese, shredded
Heat a pan to medium heat and place your beef into the hot pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, breaking up the meat, until it is browned and cooked through.
Dice up your turnips.
And when your meat is browned,
drain the fat away and add the beef to your sauce. Mmmmhmm.
You can let it hang out over medium low heat until you are ready to use it. Test it to make sure it is well-seasoned, but try not to eat it all with a spoon. That part was hard for me.
Meanwhile, blanch your kale in salted boiling water for about 2 – 3 minutes. It will cook through in the lasagna, but blanching it allows more kale to fit in the crock!
(Please forgive steamy kale-blanching photo.)
Remove kale to a bowl of ice and water to cool down. If you remove the kale with tongs, you can use the same water to boil your pasta noodles. Just be sure the water is salty like the sea before adding the pasta.
Cook noodles until they are al dente. I think ours took about 6 minutes. Then drain them carefully and drizzle with olive oil.
We laid ours out on a sheet pan covered in parchment paper so they wouldn’t stick.
Once your kale is cool, drain the water. Then, grab a fistful of kale and squeeze it out over the sink. Repeat until all of your kale is well wrung out. Chop it into small pieces. And you’re ready to build. Simple, right? Preheat your oven to 350°.
In order to cut the lasagna noodles to fit into your crock, just use the crock itself. Flip it upside down and use the edge to cut the noodles. They don’t have to be perfect. : )
Then, let the layering begin!
Layer one- sauce.
Three- cheese. Just use the back of a spoon to spread it.
Four- kale. Yes.
Six- sauce it up.
Seven- mozzarella. Lay down another noodle in the opposite direction from the first and press it with your fingers. Then, lather, rinse, repeat.
You know what I mean. All the way up to
noodles to cover the top. Then, add one more layer of sauce and top with cheesy goodness.
Sprinkle with a little bit of salt.
Then, place your crocks onto a sheet pan covered in foil or wax paper or parchment.
As you can see, Adam left his noodles hanging out of the crock a little bit to create crispy noodle edges. I made mine a little neater…imagine that. You can make at least four 2 Cup crocks with these ingredients.
Bake for 45 minutes or until the cheese turns brown and gorgeous.
While the lasagnas bake, you have time to make a little salad. Traditionally, a cold green salad is served with lasagna, but we have been loaded down with cabbage and radishes, so we decided to make a roasted salad instead. It was yummy. I’m glad we went that route!
1/2 a large head of cabbage or a whole small head, core removed, cut into about 1 inch thick wedges
1 bunch radishes, sliced in half longways
the juice of half a lemon
a pinch of dried oregano
handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped just roughly. I wanted to keep the leaves mostly in tact.
handful or 2 roasted pistachios
drizzle of honey
salt and pepper
Slice your cabbage into wedges and place them on a sheet pan brushed with olive oil.
Drizzle the tops of the wedges generously with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and dried oregano.
Toss the radishes in olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano. Then, place them face down on the sheet pan.
When your lasagnas come out of the oven,
tent them with foil and crank your oven to 425°. Place the cabbage and radishes into the oven and cook for about 8 – 12 minutes on the first side. When the cabbage is brown on the underside, use a spatula to flip it over carefully, guiding it (willing it) to keep its shape with your fingers. Really, that’s more important if you are serving the wedges by themselves. For this salad, it’s no big deal if the leaves separate. Just get ’em roasty! Flip the radishes too. Go another 5 minutes or until the second side of the cabbage is browned as well.
Remove them from the oven and add the cabbage and radishes to a bowl with the remaining ingredients.
You can just separate the cabbage with your fingers, but I did cut the radishes into bite-sized chunks before they hit the bowl.
Toss, taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. I did end up adding more honey than I thought would be necessary to balance the acidity of the lemon juice. But, yummmmmy!
Alrighty, time to plate.
Scoop some of your salad onto a large plate and then slide your lasagna crock right on there. Add a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley to the top of your lasagna for a pop of green.
Check this out…
That’s me showing you the crust that formed as kind of a wall around the insides of the crock. A thing of beauty! No oozy, wet mess here. This is a fabulous way to serve lasagna. Everyone gets their own cheesy topping and the layers stay in place. It was delicious and warm and comforting. The turnips provided wonderful bites of moisture with a slight hint of welcome bitterness, and the chew of the kale offered superb texture and flare. It was cheesy, and the sauce was just divine. Oh, how I will miss fresh, homemade tomato sauce when my stash is depleted. The salad on the side was such a treat. I loved the roasty flavor on the cabbage, and the radishes were scrumptious and tender cooked like that. The spiciness from the parsley really brought something special to every bite. The richness of the pistachios was spot on, especially against the acidity of the lemon juice. Alternating from the cheesy, savory lasagna to the roasty, acidic salad was a lovely experience. I would do it again in a heartbeat. I only ate half of my lasagna that first night, but, my leftover half slid right out into a container without falling apart, and it reheated beautifully. Mission accomplished.
This meal has lots of wiggle room for customization. You could easily change up the veggies in the layering process depending on what you have in your fridge. Adding fresh peppers, cauliflower, kohlrabi, or broccoli would work quite well. You could also make this a totally vegetarian meal if you were so inclined. Using different cheeses is always an option too.
Make it your own, and have fun with it.
Here’s hoping that you are feeling settled and calm and that your ducks are in a row (if you like them that way). And if your silver lining hasn’t quite come around yet, know that it will. Count on your friends and family to help you get there. I am truly impressed by the outpouring of love and support I have seen over the last few days- so find out how you fit into the equation. Help someone if you can- or be open to receiving love and support from others if you need it.
I am sending love and good wishes to every one of you.
Happy cooking and eating to you. Hope it warms your soul and brings a smile to your face.
Like I said, I think highly of this blog of yours! I see your passion just brimming through and your thoughtfulness is ever present. The time spent reading this gave me an extra dose of enthusiasm for the day for learning more about cooking. : ) I plan on visiting this blog regularly now.
Thank you so much, Catherine! I appreciate your kind words. It means a lot to know I’ve inspired some enthusiasm inside of you!!!!!!!!! Talk soon!