Lasagna

On October 27, 2015, in Featured, Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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Growing up with an Italian mother, well 3/4 Italian and 1/4 French, made for some pretty amazing meals that a young boy never could truly appreciate. However, there was one dish my mom was famous for: Lasagna. It was a staple of the holidays at our home. She definitely took a lot of pride making it for family and guests and people lavished their praise.

As I grew older and as my own taste matured too, I came to appreciate what a great lasagna takes to perfect. Many restaurants and home cooks try to make this classic dish and fail.  There is too much sauce, they use sub-par ingredients or there are too many extras spinach, mushrooms and meats that it all becomes too complex and loses the perfection of a simple lasagna.

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Mine is different than my mother’s, not because I think less of her’s; rather, I wanted to do my own take on this dish.  For me it is all about using the best ingredients.  Since moving to Los Angeles, that hasn’t been too easy with some failures in finding the key ingredient – fresh ricotta cheese.  Fortunately, I finally found a rich and creamy ricotta that is sold by Laurent Bonjour’s Cheese Corner found Saturdays at the La Canada Farmers’ Market.

I also make a homemade pasta sauce that I lightly blend with a hand mixer. You can use two jars of your favorite pasta sauce. I recommend Mario Batali’s marinara if you do not have time to make your own.

The sauce, ricotta, and a quality Parmigiano-Reggiano have the most impact in my opinion. I haven’t found much difference when it comes to the pasta noodle or even with the mozzarella you choose.

Lasagna
Serves 4-6

1 lb lasagna noodles
4 cups basic red pasta sauce
1 lb fresh ricotta cheese
3/4 lb mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
2 Spicy Italian sausages, cooked and crumbled
or 1 bunch spinach, washed and rough chopped lightly sauteed)
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Preheat oven at 35o degrees.

Cook the noodles for about 6 minutes in boiling  water. Do not overcook. You want the noodles to be soft but still firm. Drain and set aside.

In a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan, parsley and the oregano.

Spread a layer of sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 lasagna pan. Add a layer of noodles.  Spread ricotta cheese mixture over noodles. Sprinkle some crumbled cooked sausage (or chopped spinach) over ricotta cheese mixture. Add a thin layer of pasta sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella.  Repeat this process two more times. Finally add one last layer of noodles and then add a layer of pasta sauce and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle top with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Cover the lasagna with foil and cook in the oven for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove foil and cook uncovered for 15 minutes more. Finally remove from oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Cut and serve.

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I Think I’ll Pass on “Bratwurst in Bed”

On June 11, 2015, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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Filed under things that will give you nightmares is this Father’s Day ad from Johnsonville. This time it’s not the factory farm meat that is scary. No, the whole bizarre advertising to sell you stuff trend is what’s scary. Does anyone really want drug induced images of their sausage coming to life? And even if you do, are you likely to rush out and buy it?

Let’s not even discuss how the sausage puppet looks like a penis with a STD. We’ll save that diagnosis for another time.

And a note to my family, please bring me some granola and fresh fruit if you are going to bring me breakfast in bed. Thank you.

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Kale, White Bean and Sausage Soup

On January 13, 2013, in Featured, Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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I was definitely coming down with something and knew a good hearty soup would help get me through a couple days of sickness. Sadly by the following day when I finally made it to the doctor I found out the flu that has become an epidemic was what I had. This soup definitely helped; though, the Tamiflu medicine is pretty helpful too.

Whether you are healthy or sick this soup makes for a hearty dish during the winter months. It can also easily be made vegan by removing the sausage.

Kale, White Bean and Sausage Soup
Serves 4

2 medium onions, diced
8 cloves garlic, slivers
1 tsp paprika
4 bay leaves
pinch chili flakes
2 cans cannelini beans
1 bunch dinosaur kale, chopped
1 25 oz chopped Pomi tomatoes
3 cups vegetable broth
3 spicy italian sausages, bite-size cut
olive oil
pepper and salt to taste

Put a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium-high heat stockpot and add the onions with a pinch of salt, chili, bay leaves and paprika.  Let that cook for a 5 minutes until the onions become translucent, then add the garlic.  Cook for another 2 minutes.

Add everything else except the sausage and kale.  Bring everything to a boil and season with your liking of pepper and salt.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.

While everything else is cooking, heat the sausage in a saute pan and brown it with some olive oil turning and cooking on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes for precooked sausage. Add to the soup. When you are about 10 minutes away from serving, add the kale to the soup.

Serve with some sourdough bread and some shaved parmesan cheese.

 

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Chorizo Tacos

On February 13, 2012, in Featured, Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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These easy to make tacos are full of flavor and require very little preparation and cooking time.

The Chorizo I bought came from a local ranch called Rehoboth Ranch that sells at the Coppell Farmers Market.  The ingredients are simple including only pork, salt, paprika, ground pepper, garlic, and oregano.

I also used some locally made corn tortillas from Two Chefs, sold at the same market. I highly recommend their corn tortillas as they are the best I have found around Dallas.

Chorizo Tacos
Serves 3-4

1 lb Chorizo Sausage, remove casing and crumble
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, rough chop
10 corn tortillas
1 lime
hot sauce (optional)
oil

Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a saute pan and heat on medium-high.  Place crumbled chorizo into pan and add cumin and fresh pepper.  Let this cook, watching it and stirring it often. Keep cutting the chorizo into smaller bits and let the sausage get a bit burt in places.  This will add to the flavor and should take about 7-10 minutes.

Meanwhile heat some oil in a pan high enough to barely cover a tortilla.  Let it get hot enough, about 3 minutes.  Dip each tortilla in the oil separately and turning over quickly. This should only take about 5 seconds per tortilla and move the tortilla to a plate with paper towels and remove any excess oil.  Repeat with remaining corn tortillas.

Place a few tortillas on a plate and add about a 1/3 cup of meat and a small handful of cilantro and red onions.  Cut up a lime adding a couple wedges to each plate.

Serve with your favorite hot sauce for added flavor, like Valentina.

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Sausage, Chickpea Smoked Paprika Soup

On January 23, 2012, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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I confess. I’ve been on a bit of a meat kick lately.  Take for instance last night when I had a perfectly good sounding vegan soup I planned to make.  Looking at the recipe on the Farmersgirl Kitchen blog, the recipe screamed for some italian crumbled sausage.

If you wish to make this recipe as a vegan meal, please visit the Chickpea Smoked Paprika Soup recipe here.

For the more carnivores minded, here is that recipe done with some sausage.  The flavors from the original recipe really compliment the sausage nicely and I developed a few modifications to help the recipe if using meat.

For the paprikas, try an Indian market.  If you do not have the two mentioned below, 1 1/2 teaspoon of store bought paprika is fine.

Sausage, Chickpea Smoked Paprika Soup
Serves 6

1/2 lb crumbled Italian sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
2 celery stalks, washed and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
2 15 oz cans of chickpeas
1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon tomato puree
14 oz cherry tomatoes, cut in half
6 cups of vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a dutch oven on medium-high heat. Form small bite-size chunks of sausage and place in the pan, careful not to crowd the pan.  Cook the sausage for about 5-8 minutes until they start to brown and turn over to brown each piece careful not to overcook.  Remove the sausage and set aside on a plate.

Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrot and rosemary. Saute for a few minutes to soften then add the chickpeas, paprikas, tomato puree and cherry tomatoes. Cook for a good 3 minutes to let flavors combine. Add vegetable stock and bay leaves. Bring everything to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 10 minutes.

Remove the soup from the dutch oven and place, in batches, into a blender. Leave some of the soup including some chickpeas and tomatoes in the dutch oven.  With the rest pulse two times for a rough blend and then return all of it to the pan. The trick here is to add some thickness, but keep some of the chickpeas and tomatoes together so everything is not blended into a puree.

Now add the sausage and heat to boil then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves and salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

 

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Mustard, Cabbage and Cannellini Beans with Sausage

On October 9, 2011, in Featured, Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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The kids and my wife will definitely not eat this one. I’m the sole kielbasa fan in this house. In fact, sausage is rarely made since the boys and Stephanie will only eat frankfurters from Burgundy Pasture Beef Ranch.  I’m sure Oscar and Theo will come around, but for now sausage is too spicy for their little taste-buds. As Oscar put it today, “if it’s a little spicy to you daddy, it’s a lot of spicy to us.”

For those of us who enjoy a pot of sausage, cabbage and beans, this recipe makes the perfect afternoon lunch for Sunday football. Just add some beer and you are all set.

Mustard Cabbage and Cannellini Beans with Sausage

1 kielbasa sausage, sliced in half and cut into 4-6 inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds, slightly crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
2 garlic cloves
1 head of cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 can cannellini beans, drained
Salt to taste

Cook sausage in a little olive oil in a pot at medium-high heat. Cook about 4 minutes on each side to lightly brown. Remove from pot.

Add onion to skillet and saute for 5 minutes. Add the fennel seeds, coriander, and garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Add cabbage; cook 6 minutes or until tender. Add broth and mustard; cover and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in thyme, salt and beans cooking for 5 minutes to heat.

Serve with a Newcastle Brown Ale.

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