Roasted Asparagus Lasagna

10 05 2010

Roasted Asparagus Lasagna is a delicious way to enjoy the seasonal delicacy

Asparagus is finally in season and I couldn’t be happier.  I absolutely love asparagus and for the few short weeks it’s at its peak I go a bit nuts and eat it almost every day.  Perhaps it’s my imagination but this year’s crop seems to be especially delicious, possibly because of the unusually mild and dry spring we’ve had in Southern Ontario.  Last night I sautéed some in olive oil and added a splash of water to steam them until tender-crisp.  Sprinkled with a bit of sea salt, the fat spears were sweet and delicious.  I look forward to enjoying more over the next few weeks.

While a simple preparation is a great way to show off top notch ingredients, occasionally something fancier is in order.  A decadent roasted asparagus lasagna fits the bill perfectly: roasted asparagus bathed in a luxurious cheese sauce and baked until bubbling will tempt even die hard carnivores.  Serve with a lightly dressed green salad to cut the richness.

Roasted Asparagus Lasagna

Serves 6 to 8

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 1-1/2 lbs. fresh asparagus
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil or neutral oil such as canola or safflower
  • Salt and pepper

Sauce:

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups whole or 2% milk (do not use skim)
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely minced
  • Salt, to taste

For Assembly:

  • 3 or 4 large fresh lasagna noodles or parboiled regular lasagna noodles
  • 1 packed cup grated mozzarella cheese (about 4 oz.)
  • ¾ cup grated asiago cheese (about 3 oz.)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Trim woody ends from asparagus and discard. Cut asparagus spears into 2” lengths. Toss with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Spread asparagus pieces on a baking sheet in one layer. Roast in the oven for 12 minutes, until spears are just beginning to soften. Remove from the oven and let them cool slightly.
  4. While asparagus is roasting, prepare sauce. In a large saucepan, heat butter on medium heat until fully melted and beginning to bubble slightly. Add flour and whisk briskly until incorporated into butter.
  5. Cook butter and flour mixture for about 2 minutes. Add one cup of the milk, whisking constantly. As the mixture begins to thicken slightly (about 2 minutes), add the second cup of milk and repeat the process for the third cup. Continue to stir sauce so it doesn’t burn or turn lumpy.
  6. Add nutmeg, parmesan cheese and garlic to the sauce. Stir thoroughly until cheese is melted. Season with salt to taste. Remove sauce from the heat.
  7. In a dish approximately 9” X 12” X 3”, spread 1/3 of the roasted asparagus spears evenly on the bottom. Drizzle 1/3 of the sauce over asparagus. Top with a layer of fresh lasagna noodles, cut to fit the pan.
  8. Repeat the layers: asparagus, sauce and noodles, asparagus, sauce. Make sure the final layer is sauce. Top with shredded mozzarella, asiago and parmesan cheeses.
  9. Bake at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and golden.
  10. To serve: let the lasagna cool for about 20 minutes. Use a very sharp knife to slice through the asparagus. Accompany with a salad and crusty bread.

This article first appeared on Suite 101.com

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Dark Chocolate Fondue

18 02 2010

 

Dark chocolate fondue with a plate of fruit and cake is a fun way to enjoy dessert by the fire.

 

We’re mid way through February, a month many consider to be the grimmest of the year.  However, we can make the best of the season by enjoying winter activities such as skiing and skating.  What better way to end a day of outdoor activity than by putting on a fire and gathering to enjoy some chocolate fondue?  Almost anything goes when it comes to dippers – you can try everything from fruit to cookies to cake (or let your imagination run wild!).  Fondue is also a great casual dessert for a romantic date. The fondue sauce and dippers can be prepared in advance, making things simple after dinner.

Visit Suite 101.com for a great dark chocolate fondue recipe and some dipper suggestions: Dark Chocolate Fondue.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Arancini (Fried Risotto Balls)

9 02 2010

 

Arancini: A great way to use leftover risotto

 

I recently featured a primer on how to make basic risotto, a Northern Italian rice dish. It’s very versatile and is delicious as a base for braises or as a main course dish on it’s own. But what if you have some risotto left over at the end of the meal?  Not to worry  – it can be transformed into a delicious snack.

Arancini are small balls of risotto that have been rolled a crumb crust and lightly fried.  You can make them with plain or flavoured leftover risotto and I often make a simple tomato sauce to serve with them.  I like arancini so much that sometimes I deliberately prepare extra risotto just so I can make them!

You can find the recipe on Suite 101.com:  Arancini – Italian Fried Rice Balls Recipe

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Pumpkin Breakfast Treats

24 11 2009

Pumpkin: it's not just for pie!

With pumpkin pie on the Thanksgiving menu this week in millions of homes, there will likely be some leftover pumpkin purée. Why not put it to good use by whipping up some delicious breakfast treats for a house full of guests?  Try these delicious recipes I wrote for Suite 101.com:

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Pumpkin Spice Muffins – Pumpkin purée helps keep these muffins nice and moist. Filling the muffin cups almost to the top will make large, puffy bakery-style muffins. The recipe can easily be doubled to serve a crowd.

Pumpkin French Toast – French toast is always popular for breakfast but adding pumpkin and spices makes it even better. It’s also a great way to use up leftover bread. Serve with real maple syrup.

Pumpkin French Toast with maple syrup

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Stuffed Pork Tenderloin Wrapped with Prosciutto

8 11 2009
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Stuffed Pork Tenderloin Wrapped with Prosciutto

Pork is the perfect autumn dinner – it pairs well with seasonal herbs such as sage and thyme and it’s robust enough for cooler weather.  It’s also incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed as ham, bacon, chops, ground, pulled or roasted.  Tenderloins are available at any supermarket or butcher and are small enough to cook quickly. Unfortunately, they can also be a bit dry and boring. By stuffing it with a savoury mix of bread cubes, herbs, swiss chard, diced prosciutto and mozzarella, I’ve made a basic loin a little more interesting.  Wrapping it in prosciutto helps keep the meat moist and adds extra flavour.  Serve with orzo, rice, risotto or roasted potatoes.

To get the recipe, check out a recent article I wrote for Suite 101.com: Stuffed Pork Tenderloin Wrapped with Prosciutto.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

27 08 2009
Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

Summer is winding down but there’s still time to host an outdoor party before the evenings turn chilly.  Miniature tomatoes stuffed with a little bit of avocado and crab salad are always a hit and are easy to put together.  This dish was inspired by a salad I had on my honeymoon in France.  We enjoyed a fantastic multi-course lunch one day while overlooking the Mediterranean – everything was local and seasonal, including rosé wine, fish, vegetables and a salad of tomatoes and crab.  I took this idea and turned it into small bites that can be eaten as hors d’oeuvres but you could always serve it as a first course if you’d prefer.  Just use larger tomatoes and adjust the number of servings accordingly.  You can substitute lobster meat for the crab if desired.  

Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

Makes 12 hors d’oeuvres (recipe can easily be doubled)

  • 12 cocktail or large grape tomatoes (about the size of a ping pong ball)
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked crabmeat (approximately 6 oz.) or lobster meat
  • 2 Tablespoons Hellman’s or Best Foods style mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon very finely diced red onion
  • 1 Tablespoon very finely diced celery
  • 1 Tablespoon finely diced red or yellow pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chives, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 very ripe Haas avocado, skin and pit removed
  • 1 Tablespoon sour cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Using a sharp knife, cut a small sliver from the bottom of each tomato so it makes the bottom flat enough for them to stand upright without rolling over.
  2. Cut the top ¼ off the tomatoes. Scoop out the seeds and pulp and discard (be careful not to scoop right through the bottom of the tomato). Set tomatoes aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the crabmeat, mayonnaise, onion, celery, red pepper, parsley, chives, salt and pepper. Mix until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. In a small bowl, combine avocado, sour cream and salt and mash with a fork until smooth.
  5. To assemble: Spoon a small scoop of avocado mixture into the bottom of each hollowed out tomato. Top with a spoonful of the crabmeat and garnish with chives.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This recipe first appeared on Suite 101.com.





Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta

19 08 2009

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Mid-August is peak tomato season and usually markets are bursting with all shapes and sizes of the delicious fruit (yes, tomatoes are fruit).  However, this year many areas have been plagued with cold, wet weather and an unfortunate blight has taken a toll on vines in some regions.  The few local tomatoes I’ve tried have been tasteless and mealy but I’m hoping to find better specimens in coming weeks.  I have found that smaller cherry, grape and cocktail tomatoes have been sweeter and juicier than the field varieties I’ve tried.

If field tomatoes are poor in your area, why not make a delicious dish with cherry tomatoes?  They should be easy to find at most markets and roasting them concentrates their flavours, giving them a sweet and slightly charred flavour.  Turned into a simple sauce with fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil, it makes delicious vegetarian summer meal.  

Click here to get the recipe from a recent Suite 101.com article I wrote:  Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Roasted Cherry Tomato Spaghetti

Roasted Cherry Tomato Spaghetti





Zucchini Pie with Fresh Basil

16 08 2009

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It’s no secret that I love savoury tarts. I have posted a number of different recipes for vegetable-based pies/tarts/quiches including Swiss Chard Tart, Leek and Ham Tart, Crustless Asparagus Quiche and Tomato Tart with Herbed Ricotta.  There’s just something about them that appeals to me and luckily the French and Italians have a strong tradition of cooking seasonal produce in pie form so I find inspiration everywhere. 

This pie is a great way to use the abundance of zucchini that crops up every summer. As a child growing up in the country, zucchini would over take gardens by the end of summer and people would give them away by the basketful.  I’m sure that farmers must laugh at city folk who actually pay for zucchini at the markets but since I don’t have room to grow my own, I have no real choice. One of my favourite recipes is Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting but I enjoy savoury main dishes made with this versatile summer squash as well. 

Zucchini Pie makes a great vegetarian main dish or an delicious side to grilled meats. Click here to check out my recent article for Suite 101.com:  Zucchini Pie with Fresh Basil.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Corn with Red Pepper and Herbs

10 08 2009

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It’s corn season again!  It’s one of my favourite vegetables so I have fun experimenting with various ideas during its brief season. While corn-on-the cob with butter, salt and pepper is a classic that’s hard to beat, sometimes the menu calls for something a little more elegant.  Sweet roasted corn with red pepper, crispy herbs, brown butter and a hint of heat makes a tasty dish that pairs well with grilled meats, seafood or vegetarian dishes.  You can also toss the corn with pasta for a quick and delicious main course.  Click here to read my recent article for Suite 101.com: Corn with Red Pepper and Herbs.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Learning to Cook

8 08 2009

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I used to be a terrible cook.  When I first met my husband back in university, I didn’t even know how to boil spaghetti and once messed up a boxed cake mix!  Luckily for both of us, he managed to look past my kitchen incompetence and now enjoys delicious home cooked meals and is an enthusiastic taster of my test recipes.  So how does someone go from kitchen failure to putting together tasty meals without fear?  

It takes time and a bit of patience but it can be done.  Basically, if you can read a recipe, you can cook.  Cooking needn’t be a chore or something to be feared.  If you or someone you know is interested in starting to cook, check out some of the guidelines I highlight in a recent article I wrote for Suite 101.com: Learning to Cook. So grab a knife, get in the kitchen and get cooking!

Bon Appétit and Good Luck!

Trish