And yes, admittedly, I'm a little late on this, since there have already been 2 weeks of Gossip Girl, but for me and my busy self this was the first week things returned to the norm. My roomie and I cooked up a delicious feast and watched the newest Gossip Girl over a bottle of red wine. C'est perfectament!
For this special inauguration of the semester, we cooked up something quite special indeed. On the menu: boiled artichokes with hollandaise, rosemary and olive rolls, and roasted vegetable lasagna.
Appetizer: Boiled Artichokes with Hollandaise Sauce
2-4 artichokes, depending on the crowd and your appetite
3 egg yolks
1/2 lemon of fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash cayenne pepper
1/2 cup butter, melted and bubbling
1. Start a large pot of water to boil with a dash of salt.
2. Cut the stems of the artichokes so they might stand flat. Then cut off the top inch-ish of the artichoke. Rub the cut edges with a lemon, to be used later in the Hollandaise Sauce, to prevent browning.
3. Plop the artichokes in the pot, and yes, they will float, but they need to be covered by the water. If someone has a trick to this I will love you forever. As for now I am risking my safety each time I come up with a new, probably unsafe, but heavy item to set on top of the artichokes to keep them down in the water.
4. Let them cook for about 45 minutes or until a bottom leaf pulls off readily and tastes done.
5. About 5 minutes before they are done or even just after they are done, start making the Hollandaise.
6. Add egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper to the blender, and blend about 5 seconds. With blender running, and partially covering top, pour in bubbling hot butter in a steady stream. Blend until thickened, about 30 seconds. Serve immediately.
Bread: Olive and Rosemary Rolls
*Start these first because they have to rise for about 2 hours, plus prep/kneading/cooking*
1 tsp. dry active yeast [very important you use "dry active yeast" NOT "instant" or "rapid rise"]
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup lukewarm whole milk
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup-ish black olives, diced
11/2 Tbsp.-ish rosemary leaves, chopped
Flour, for kneading
Olive oil, for brushing
1. Place the yeast, sugar and milk in a bowl and mix to combine. Set aside in a warm place for 5 minutes, or until bubbles appear on the surface. [In my past breads this bubbling business has always happened, but for whatever reason it didn't for me this time. Have no fear though, this bread still turned out amazing. Conclusion: if you don't get bubbles, carry on carry on.]
2. Add the flour, salt and olive oil to the yeast mixture and mix until a smooth dough forms.
3. Knead on a lightly floured surface for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic, adding a little extra flour if the dough becomes too sticky, and luckily this dough is not too sticky to knead comfortably. Cover with plastic wrap, set aside in a warm place/on the table for 1 hour or until doubled in size. [Also to note, my dough didn't really magically double in size as usually happens in bread making, but it did expand some and this was fine too]
4. Brush 1 or 2 round cake pans with olive oil. Mine took 8in cake pan plus 2 rolls, so yeah.
5. Knead the olives and rosemary leaves into the dough on a generously floured surface. Divide into 16-ish pieces and roll into balls. Place in prepared pans, cover with a clean tea towel and set aside in a warm place for 45 minutes or until the dough is doubled in size. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350°F.
[Now that I think about it, I don't think we let them rise this second time officially. We probably left them out for a bit before sticking them in the oven, but none of this tea cloth and doubling again business. Oh well, again they were scrumptious and perfect.]
Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
One 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes
Two 14 oz. cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes
One medium onion, diced
Tsp-ish of fennel seeds
Tsp-ish of chili flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
Slice of butter
1 container ricotta cheese
Fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/2 package of Lasagna noodles
[All of the following ingredients could be increased, decreased, added to, eliminated etc, according to your preference and available veggies.]
4 delicata squash, halved longwise
3 thin eggplants, halved longwise
2 packages of whole baby bella mushrooms
1/2 cup of black olives, diced (leftover from bread)
1 package frozen chopped spinach
Artichoke hearts (leftover from appetizer)
2. Cut up all of your veggies as described above. Spoon out the seeds from the squash. Rub the squash, eggplant and mushrooms with olive oil, pepper, salt and oregano. Stick them all on a baking sheet and put them in the oven to roast for about 20 minutes, or until they look done. Beware that eggplant will be ready first so check on them and take them out before they crisp...like I forgot to do a little bit.
3. Start on the sauce. Saute in olive oil the onions, fennel seeds, chile pepper flakes, butter and garlic in a large pan. Then add the cans of tomatoes, including the juices, and bring it to a boil. Once boiling bring it down to a simmer and let it go until you taste it to be ready. [Some may puree it all at this point but I found that just mashing the whole tomatoes with my wooden spoon as it cooked resulted in a delightfully chunky sauce.]
4. Mix the defrosted spinach (just like Mama made it) into the ricotta cheese and add your leftover olives from the bread too. You might just add in some chopped up artichoke hearts that you have so cleverly already prepared for another purpose.
5. Get the pasta cooked and shred the parmasan.
6. Slightly mash up the squash (keep the skin or remove to your personal preference), chop the eggplant and half or quarter the mushrooms.
7. Now for the layers. Start with sauce, then add the ricotta mixture, then noodles, then roasted veggies, then parmesan, repeat. Finally top it off with chunks of fresh mozzarella to seal it all in and make sure no pasta is exposed because it will get all crunchy then.
P.S. I dedicate this post to Charlemagne, my cat, who helped choose what to cook this week. See?