By now, even with as few entries as there are in this blog, I'm guessing that most of you aren't reading much of the commentary that I've written in these entries. Nonetheless, I'm keeping up the hope that some of you are, in fact, keen on reading why I'm selecting certain recipes, and maybe even like what I have to say. (I'm not keeping my hopes up on that one though.)
Ultimately, once you get past the stories and the unnecessary raving that I do, you'll see that a theme starts to emerge: attention to the details. This theme permeates the various aspects of what I write. From the selection of ingredients, to the thoughtful nature of melding tastes, to the details of the periphery of a meal with friends, the details are what set you apart and make for successful entertaining.
Those of you who truly know me are chuckling to yourselves at this point. This is because my name and the phrase "detail oriented" don't really go hand in hand. Ultimately, I realize I'm inattentive and have learned to account for this. Thus is the point of my current entry.
There are ways to create an easy solution for any issue you encounter when planning to make a meal for people. In this case, I was asked to make a full meal for a gathering that was being held 450 miles from my home. Although this presents some problems for someone who forgets to pack socks on just about every trip he takes, there are some ways to account for the obvious difficulties.
It's difficult to plan a meal being prepared in a kitchen around the corner from your home, let alone 3 states away. For me, I always feel the need to bring half of my kitchen along with me to ensure I have the tools and ingredients I need, and invariably I find that this isn't necessary, oh well. Lately though, I've found a balance of comfort in following a few simple guidelines.
Meal selection: should include a main dish that's relatively simple with broad appeal, and should be one that much of the preparation can be done at home. (If this sounds like the method for preparing for a potluck, it should.) In this cas it's Lasagna. Which I prepared each item at home.
Preparation: Complete any preparation that requires uncommon tools at your own home. Avoid dishes where this preparation could inhibit the quality of the dish. Assume that most kitchens are going to have a decent chefs knife, a mixer, bowls and other common utensils as well as a stove, oven, and a microwave.
Ingredients: For a 7 hour drive, I wanted to select ingredients that wont go bad or sweat out over a trip. Lasagna was the perfect fit as it could be refrigerated, and all ingredients could be pre-cooked.
Transportation: Making sure you have everything should be reiterated, especially if your mind works in the same way as mine. And importantly, don't forget your socks. Hopefully your selection goes as well as mine. It's hard to go wrong with lasagna.
My traditional Lasagna:
1 can tomato sauce
1 can crushed tomatoes
1/4 c. Chopped Basil
3-5 cloves garlic chopped.
1T olive Oil
1/2lb Ground beef browned drained and rinsed.
Salt, Pepper, Baking soda to taste.
Start by sauteeing the garlic and olive oil in a saucepan, do not allow to brown. Add the tomato sauce and the crushed tomatoes to the mix. bring to a light simmer and add basil oregano, cinnamon, salt pepper and baking soda (if necessary to reduce the acidity [normally only necessary when using fresh crushed tomatoes and sauce])add beef and remove from heat. Set aside.
1 container of Ricotta cheese (forgive me for not knowing the size, get the large one if you're making a 9x13 pan and a small one for a 8x8 pan.)
1/4c breadcrumbs (fresh grated from day-old italian bread)
1 1/2c Mozzarella cheese
Asiago Bechamel(optional if you like cheesy lasagna)
1 clove garlic well chopped
4-6oz asiago cheese (grated and tossed in 1t cornstarch)
Black pepper to taste.
Melt butter in the pan, and stir in flour. Add cream and bring to a simmer. slowly add the asiago by small handfuls into the mix until thick.
1 box lasagne noodles prepared.
1lb Hot Sausage Browned drained and crumbled.
2c Baby portabella mushrooms, sliced and sauteed in olive oil
1 large can sliced black olives.
1c mozzarella shredded and 1c parmesean shredded mixed
1/2-3/4c shredded zucchini
To Assemble the lasagne start by rubbing your pan with the olive oil and pour a thin layer of red sauce on the bottom of the pan. add a layer of pasta and then follow with thin layers of:
By the way, if you're adding the bechamel sauce, add it right after the ricotta mix each time.
Bake this at 375-400 degrees for about an hour. in the last 10-15 minutes, add the remaining cheese mix to the top.
Allow to cool when you remove the lasagna from the oven slightly, this will allow it to set up some and it will be easier to serve.