Monday, January 31, 2011

A Weekend of COOKING!

So, first off, let me apologise because I don't have any pictures to show (it was just too busy for that!!!) for all the work that I produced this weekend. I made lasagna, salads galore, stuffed peppers, stuffed tomatoes, stuffed mushrooms, and garlic bread. I was cooking for MANY, so if you know me, you know I was HAPPY! Here is how it all came about with some recipes sprinkled in between.

Earlier in the week my friend Taljit (he'll be thrilled to be published in the blog) asked me if I would help him cook a special meal for some workmates and friends. I readily agreed and then reminded him that he promised some of my workmates and friends that he would be hosting a dinner party for them at his house. He sighed, hummed and hawed and then decided to kill two birds with one stone and do a full weekend of dinner parties. Being that his kitchen is gloriously large and he was supplying the groceries, I readily agreed to be the kitchen slave for the entire weekend. We met on Saturday morning and got to shopping and chopping. Thankfully the menu for the following day allowed me to pre-make or prepare lots of ingredients the day before. Here is the menu for Saturday:

Lasagna, fresh salad, garlic bread

*Taljit could be Italian with the amount he wanted to make, I had to reign him in a little so this is for 2 LARGE lasagnas

Here is what I did for my lasagna:

I made a meat sauce (reserving some of the ground beef mixture for the stuffed peppers the next day) that is just like my mama's which you can view by clicking the link to that post. Then I made a cheese sauce of 1 1/2 containers of ricotta cheese (big containers), washed and squeezed dry fresh spinach (about 2 cups), 3 eggs and 2 tsp of oregano, 1 tsp of granulated garlic and salt and pepper. Then I used the Barilla brand of lasagna sheets that don't need to be precooked. I layered them alternately with the meat sauce and cheese sauce while sprinkling a little mozarella into the meat mixture (my theory that melted cheese makes everything better still holds). Then I generously put shredded cheese on the top and baked them covered in foil (spray your foil to keep the cheese from sticking to it, or use toothpicks to keep the foil off the cheese) and cooked them for about 1 hour at 350-375 degrees. They were GORGEOUS!!!!

For the salad I threw together several different kinds of lettuce and a variety of fresh veggies that were colourful and tasty. For the dressing I combined 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil with 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2/3 cup pomegranate vinegar, 1 tsp granulated garlic, 1 tsp sumac, a dash of salt and a pinch of pepper. It was incredibly fresh and tasty!!!

For the garlic bread I simply combined butter, freshly chopped garlic, a pinch of salt and a BIG pinch of oregano. You kind of need to feel this one out for the amount of bread that you have. I put it in the oven face up to melt and then toast the bread in the oven... super yummy and would have only been made better by sprinkling a little parmesan cheese over the top.

So that was Saturday... Sunday's menu was stuffed peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms, served with a side salad. I'd never done stuffed anything before so this was a bit of an adventure with NO RECIPE to help me... I am most proud of this dinner and how beautiful it looked on the plate. SO SAD I DON'T HAVE A PICTURE!!! *sigh* But here is what I did:

There were 6 dinner guests so this is a pretty hefty meal in regard to recipe proportions, but you can be creative and scale it down however you like.

I prepared enough Basmati rice for each person (1 1/2 cups rice to 3 cups water.... lightly salt the water and wash the rice 2 or 3 times to remove excess starch and keep the rice fluffy.).

Stuffed Peppers/Tomatoes:

6 large bell peppers and 6 large tomatoes (take the tops off and clean out the insides, then wrap them in foil and place on a pan. They will go into the oven at 350 for about 15 minutes to soften them before stuffing)
Mix the cooked rice with beef (the cooked ground beef from the day before is what I used) and a veggie mixture (see below) as well as 1/2 a large container of ricotta cheese.

Veggie mixture:
Dice up the following: eggplant (1 small one or 1/2 a big one), 1 onion, 2 carrots, 3 cloves of garlic, 5 or 6 mushrooms, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tbsp crushed hot red chillies, and some of the tomato innards. Cook these down in a pot with olive oil until the eggplant is soft.

Once the shells are out of the oven, stuff them with the filling, top with cheese and send back to the oven until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browning. The hard part is plating because you have to get that hot foil off the peppers and tomatoes.

Stuffed Mushrooms:

Peel the mushrooms instead of washing them because of the moisture inside the mushroom. Pull out the stems and reserve them. Once you have the buttons all cleaned and peeled, pop them into a pan with hot olive oil and let them brown up a little. This will also help to get some of the moisture out of the mushroom.

In a bowl, combine the chopped up mushroom stems with one package of cream cheese and an equal amount of blue cheese and 2 chopped green onions.

Flip your mushrooms into a baking pan and make sure the indent is facing up so you can spoon the cheesy goodness in them. Then sprinkle a little parmesan on top and send them to the oven at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted and they are hot. Don't be alarmed when there is a heaping amount of liquid in the bottom of the pan... it's NORMAL! Just take them out of the pan to serve. They are incredibly yummy and the recipe comes from my friend Raymond!

So there you go... a weekend of shopping, chopping, stacking and cooking... A GREAT WEEKEND.

Happy Eating!!!

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