tonight we surrender the kitchen to a first-year physician assistant student and friend, ali. in her own words:
coming from a family of professional bakers and excellent cooks, I have always enjoyed working my way around in the kitchen and testing new recipes. starting in middle school, my mom charged me with putting together a meal once a week in an effort to teach me how to cook. initially I enjoyed cooking for my family because if I cooked I didn’t have to clean up; however, as time went on I started to develop a knack for and a love of cooking.
when sue and wardah invited me to contribute to the blog I was delighted. I was so pleased to find people who shared a similar interest. additionally, during such demanding coursework, it is refreshing to connect with new people, learn about their unique experiences and share a good meal.
when I stumbled upon this root vegetable lasagna a few years ago I knew I had found what my husband calls a “once-a-weeker.” it is perfect to serve guests especially at this time of year. the vegetables truly highlight all that the fall harvest has to offer and the squash and sweet potatoes are joined with a light, creamy sauce. a soup seemed like a good pairing and my mom had sent me a leek and potato soup recipe the week prior, so I thought I’d give it a try. it ended up being my favorite part of the meal, not because of its flavor but because I discovered the utility of my immersion blender. my grandma had given me the blender last year for christmas and I am ashamed to say that this was my first use of it. it has now overtaken my kitchen shears as my favorite kitchen tool! I will probably be eating pureed foods for the entire winter just to use such a powerful, mess-free and handy tool.
I have found over the years that cooking is all about discovery. not only does one learn how to use kitchen gadgets, combine flavors and manipulate ingredients but after the preparation is complete, there is so much discovery about those with whom the meal is shared. the social aspect of the meal is my favorite part. the stories shared around meals are some I won’t forget, including the meal shared for the hippocratic toast.
be well – a,s&w
leek and potato soup (to start)
3 tbsp butter
3 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced (about 4 ½ cups)
2 large russet potatoes (about 18 oz. total), peeled, diced
4 ½ cups chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. add leeks; stir to coat with butter. cover saucepan; cook until leeks are tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes. add potatoes. cover and cook until potatoes begin to soften but do not brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. add 4 ½ cups stock. bring to boil. reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.
mash with potato masher or puree in conventional/immersion blender. I like to mash so there are bits for texture. thin with additional stock if soup is too thick. season with salt and pepper and garnish with chives.
goat cheese, candied almond, and cranberry salad
greens (spinach, romaine, or whatever you have)
crumbled goat cheese
dried cranberries (in the summer months I use sliced strawberries)
candied almonds (or walnuts, whatever you have), see below for candying 101
to candy nuts, add 2 tbsp of sugar in a non-stick pan. add about 1 tbsp water (2 parts sugar to 1 part water) and about a tsp of cinnamon. stir in about 1/2 cup chopped nuts of choice and heat on medium-high heat until water evaporates.
assemble and mix goods in large bowl, top with your favorite balsamic vinaigrette. serve and enjoy.
parmesan and root vegetable lasagna
adapted from Cooking Light
6 cups cubed (1/2 inch) peeled butternut squash (about 2.5 lbs)
2 1/4 cups cubed (1/2 inch) peeled sweet potato (about 1 lb)
2 cups coarsely chopped onion, divided
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cups 1% milk
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/4 cups grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
9 packaged no-boil lasagna noodles
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
preheat oven to 450°F. grease roasting pan or baking sheet.
combine squash, potato, 1 cup chopped onion, and olive oil in roasting pan. toss to coat vegetables. bake at 450°F for 30 mins or until vegetables are tender, stirring once; set aside.
combine remaining 1 cup onion, milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, and bay leaf in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a simmer. remove from heat; let stand 15 minutes. strain milk mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids. return milk mixture to pan. weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. add flour, salt, and pepper to milk mixture, stirring with a whisk. cook over medium heat 10 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently with a whisk. remove from heat; stir in parmigiano-reggiano cheese.
preheat oven to 375°F.
grease 13 x 9-inch baking dish. spread 1/2 cup milk mixture in bottom of dish. arrange 3 noodles over milk mixture; top with half of squash mixture, 1/2 cup mozzarella, and 1 cup milk mixture. repeat layer with noodles, squash mixture, mozzarella, and milk mixture. top with remaining 3 noodles. spread remaining milk mixture over noodles, and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella. cover with foil coated with cooking spray. bake at 375° for 30 minutes. uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes. let stand 10 minutes.