Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Consommé and Wild Boar

Yesterday afternoon was particularly active, rife with kitchen prep work and the preparation of culinary delights. The finishing touches were applied to the consommé which has taken on an opulent golden hue and smells of winter vegetables, beef, and fresh herbs. A consommé is basically a clarified broth made by adding layer upon layer of flavor to create a nuanced though simple dish. Yesterday the final round of meats and vegetables were added to the broth before being purified by egg whites and several rounds of straining through a fine sieve. The final touch is an outstanding display of showmanship; passing the broth through a kitchen clothe draped over a strainer and suspended over a stool. The liquid drips slowly through, leaving any solids, impurities, and fat behind. It was amazing to see kitchen know how at its best, an improvised gadget to filter and further purify the broth.

Last night we ate a light dinner of the leftovers we have accumulated over the past few days coupled with a large salad and some cheeses. Everyone welcomed the lack of theatrics, savoring the simple meal before the caloric overload to come on New Years Eve. My father cooked one dish however and quite a dish at that. Our neighbor is an accomplished hunter and fishermen who periodically offers us the gifts of the forest. Two days ago he came by to drop off two beautifully butchered legs of a young wild boar, a game meat which is principal gustatory allure of the region. My father roasted them in the oven with whole garlic cloves, rosemary, and sliced shallots accompanied by roasted potatoes and a deglazed pan sauce. The leftovers and small taste of wild boar were a delicious treat to tide people over for the debaucherous night ahead of us. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Pork Two Ways

As New Years Eve rapidly approaches, so do the seats at the dinner table and number of dishes to feast on. Our first guests arrived this afternoon and the count at the house swelled to ten. The nice thing about the holiday atmosphere is that everyone gets involved in the kitchen. Whether baking cakes, preparing ice creams, roasting meats, or peeling vegetables, one cannot help being swept up in the conviviality. One of the highlights of the vacation thus far, although it has only been a day, is the ham leg. My father and some friends took a tour of Spain after renting a car in Sevilla and brought back a number of culinary spoils. Among the olive oils and candies was an entire dry cured Spanish ham typically referred to as pata negra or Iberico. This particular leg was cultivated, cured, and aged for two years by a butcher in a small village near Cordoba. We have been picking at the ham since breakfast, slicing off thin strips like they do for tapas platters in Spain. It is pure gustatory pleasure with a relatively low salt content and flesh that melts in your mouth; I can easily imagine that the nine plus pound leg will whittle down to nothing by the end of the holiday madness. The dinner was a simple feast of pumpkin soup, roast pork (more pork products!), mashed potatoes with goose fat and cumin, and a mixed salad. The pork was marinated in parsley, garlic, and olive oil before being wrapped in caul fat and roasted slowly in a hot oven. It was tender, juicy, and aromatic which is everything I look for in roasted meat. The mashed potatoes cooked with melted goose fat and seasoned with salt, pepper, and cumin was a sumptuous accompaniment that married well with the pork. A green salad helped cleanse the palate and provided a bit of refreshment after the heavy meal, just what we needed after a few bottles of heady Chateauneuf-du-pape. So far so good and I hope that this is a just a taste of things to come. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

Le Foie Gras Au Sel

It is a tradition in my family to spend New Years Eve with friends and cook up a storm at our house just south of Orleans. Chateau La Touche has been an integral part of my upbringing and has fostered my love of food, cooking, wine, and eating. To borrow one of M.F.K Fisher’s lines; here at La Touche we live to eat and not eat to live, enjoying each others company over good wine and fantastic food. Every year our New Years Eve celebration is taken to another level, laughably intricate with a menu pushing ten courses of incredibly varied foods. There are a few staples like foie gras au sel which is just one of the trio of foie gras that will be served as a second course.

“Cooking” duck foie in salt is a dry curing method that highlights the smooth buttery texture and natural flavor without augmenting its form. My father and his friend Jean-Claude have long been declared the resident foie experts and usually treat us to a tasting of different foie recipes. Apart from the foie gras au sel, there will be a foie au porto cured in a dousing of aged port, a luxurious bath for one of the most heavenly foods imaginable. The final foie is the most traditional and common incarnation exported to other countries, cooked in a hot water bath to bring out the fat and create a thick two-toned terrine. I am not sure if one can purchase fresh duck foie in the States or on the internet though I am game to try.

To prepare a foie gras au sel at home, use a whole deveined duck foie rinsed in slightly salted cold water overnight. Pat the foie dry and season with crushed peppercorns and juniper berries. While the foie is resting, prepare a large bowl of grey sea salt seasoned with spices of your choice. We flavored our salt with wintry spices like nutmeg, allspice, clove, cinnamon, and Guinea peppercorns. After seasoning, wrap the foie in kitchen gauze or cheesecloth to avoid “burning” which results in unattractive brown spots and a bitter flavor. Place about a two cups of seasoned salt at the bottom of a ceramic French terrine or small casserole dish, nestle the foie comfortably, and cover with remaining salt. The foie should cook in its savory white nest for about eight hours at room temperature then promptly removed and served within three days. This is about as easy as making classic French foie gras goes and I highly recommend trying it at home. Like any other dish or food product, the home version is infinitely more rewarding and of course tastes better. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pomander Saveur Is In France!

I am thrilled to be spending the first days of the new year in France and will be sharing my experiences in and around the table. I arrived in Paris this afternoon and my father and I drove directly to our wonderful property in the Loire valley famous for its wild boar, Chinon, and marvelous chateaus. Airplane food gets worse every time I fly and eight hours of abstaining from over salted peanuts and boiled salmon left me yearning for a tasty snack. Fortunately we arrived at an appropriate time to start cooking and set to work preparing dinner. My father’s close friend, and an amazing cook in his own right, had begun working on the base of a consommé earlier that day (more details to follow in later posts). After straining and clarifying the first round of simmering, we were left with a pot of savory stock and a heaping pile of beef that had been simmering for hours. To make a meal out of the consommé, which will be served as part of the New Year’s Eve feast, he bathed some roughly chopped turnips, carrots, and leeks in the broth and served them alongside the stewed beef. This variant of pot au feu, a traditional French dish of lightly boiled beef in highly flavored broth, made a hearty and well-anticipated main course that we paired with a light salad and roasted pumpkin wedges from the garden. The highlight was the marrowbones, lightly cooked in the broth to retain their natural flavor and rich tenderness. Marrow spread on toast is a little taste of heaven in my opinion though I rarely get the chance to have it. My posts from France will be a bit different given the presence of multiple masters, my father included, from whom I have learned so much. My respect for them leaves me with a certain bashfulness in the kitchen and I feel content to just savor the delicious food and wine as a spectator. I look forward to sharing my experiences and hope to provide a little taste of France along the way. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Dinner

I typically leave the hardcore holiday cooking to the more experienced members of my family and choose to steer clear of the kitchen altogether. This Christmas was the exception to the rule; the first time I have been left to spearhead a holiday meal and feed my friends and family gathered for the celebration. My sister, her boyfriend, her father, a very good friend of mine, and I spent Christmas at the charming Tillinger household in Connecticut. I was in charge of the bulk of Christmas day dinner though my sister did prepare the salad and her father got a decadent carrot cake from a local restaurateur. After much thought and preparation I settled on a menu of leg of lamb, celeriac brandade, potato gratin, and peas.

Lamb is delicious, plain and simple though I hardly ever make it. I prepared the leg of lamb the way my father and mother used to for Easter lunch, crisply roasted with garlic and rosemary aroma permeating the tender meat. I made small 1/2-inch deep incisions in the leg and stuffed a sliver of garlic, a sprig of rosemary, and a few fresh mint leaves in each slit. Mint and lamb is a match made in heaven and fresh mint leaves add a bright flavor to the roast. After generously seasoning the lamb with salt, pepper, and a few sprigs of rosemary, I roasted it uncovered in a 325-degree oven till medium rare and then let it rest for about twenty minutes.

Celeriac, or celery root, is one of my favorite winter vegetables and is currently at its prime availability. I thought the light celery anise taste would lend itself well to the lamb, throwing a different flavor profile into the mix. Brandade seemed like an appropriate dish and I happened to want to try one with Celeriac. Brandade is a traditional dish from the south of France composed of salt cod, olive oil, and milk served with bread. Potatoes and butter are sometimes substituted but I thought it would be interesting to use celeriac and fennel instead of fish. It was a snap to make, just steam cubed celeriac, fennel, and a few potatoes over boiling water and then puree them with heavy cream, sautéed garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. The dish is a very good vegetarian alternative to the classic though I feel it was a little too rich next to the potato gratin.

Who doesn’t love a good gratin with all that bubbly cheese and creamy goodness! A potato gratin or gratin Dauphinois as it is lovingly referred to in France is a perfect holiday dish because it is rich, elegant, and can easily feed an army. I made a deep-dish gratin with tons of Gruyere, milk, and cream which are basically the only other ingredients besides russet potatoes. Needless to say it was a big hit and people kept coming back for second helpings. For the final side dish I sautéed peas with finely minced red onion and a handful of fresh mint ribbons. The dishes added some much needed greenery and the mint in the dish paired well with the mint flavor running throughout the lamb. I would say it was not a shabby first attempt at a holiday feast. Everything went smoothly in the kitchen and everyone seemed to savor the dishes that I had prepared to celebrate Christmas. I wish you all the very best and hope that 2009 brings nothing but joy and happiness to us all. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Three Course Dinner Party

  • Parsnip Soup
  • Grilled Shrimp and Sweet Potato Mash
  • 5 Spice Pork Tenderloin, Braised Red Cabbage, and Apple Cranberry Compote
That was the menu at a dinner party I hosted this past Sunday at my apartment. Cooking for others is one of my great pleasures. I love to watch people brighten up after a particularly delicious bite or guffaw at a strange flavor combination. Cooking allows me to spend time with people I love to see and key them into seasonality, organics, and regional cuisine. My very good friend Nick was in town visiting from Ithaca this weekend on his way to Utah and we decided to catch up in the kitchen over an Haute meal. Nick and I have a long history of cooking together and have shared many a meal at some of the best restaurants in the US and abroad. The other guests were friends of ours from college that live in the city. Nick and I drew up potential three course tasting menus before settling on soup followed by a seafood app and a pork main that I would plate and serve from the kitchen. Three course meals are the perfect size, just enough food to leave a guest satisfied and not overly stuffed. Soup or salad is a good first course to spark the palate and pave the way for heavier and more robust dishes. The progression of seafood followed by meat just make sense to me though I sometimes substitute a pasta or rice dish as a second course the way the Italians do before finishing a meal with roasted meat. Parsnips are in season and remind me of the holiday season so I decided on a pureed parsnip soup. Pureed soups are rather formulaic, just sauté onions, garlic, parsnip cubes, and a bay leaf until soft and cover with good stock. Then puree the mixture until smooth and finish with a touch of cream, parsley, and a pinch of smoked paprika. For the second course, I grilled some really good looking large shrimp from my fishmonger at Joon and paired them with a roasted sweet potato mash. The mash is a great side dish and is super easy to make. Cut the sweets in half lengthwise and score them by making long incisions across the flesh. Coat them with olive oil and salt and roast them in the oven for about forty minutes at 350 degrees. My guests all favored the shrimp admitting that it is a weird flavor and texture combination that happens to marry quite well. The final dish was my personal favorite and I plan on making it again in the very near future despite its complexity and long prep time. Pork, cabbage, and apples are commonly cooked and served together, a combination that descends from eastern European and Germanic cooking traditions. This dish was inspired by my friend Risher, a close friend and school chum since preschool who I have spent time with in his father’s house in Tubingen near Stuttgart in Germany. My time there introduced me to good beer, sausages, and other culinary delights that continue to pique my taste buds and experimentation in the kitchen. Pork tenderloin has a wonderful flavor and requires relatively little preparation to remain moist and tender. I rubbed the meat with a blend of chili powder, Szechuan pepper, cinnamon, Paprika, and salt before browning on all sides and roasting in the oven. I braised the red cabbage with onions, juniper berries, and a splash of white wine vinegar to make a sauerkraut of sorts. The apple compote was made of sliced honeycrisp apples and reconstituted dried cranberries cooked down for about an hour on low heat in butter and a touch of brown sugar and cinnamon. The spice and bacony pork flavor of the pan roasted the presentation I placed slices of the pork on a bed of cabbage next to a spoonful of apple compote topped with a drizzle of bourbon cream sauce and chives. It was ultimately a successful evening that was enjoyed by all. Hopefully this is the start of a new trend for the new year; the bimonthly three course tasting menu dinner party. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Comfort Me With Braised Meat

Conceptions of comfort food vary tremendously from person to person dependent on one’s personality, taste, upbringing, and cultural identity. Foods that comfort are warm and simple, consisting of few ingredients that recall past memories steeped in love and happiness. Macaroni and cheese, potato gratin, and Caesar salad are dishes that connote comfort and warmth in my mind and also effectively make my mouth water. Polenta is another comfort food that I eat often in winter months either as porridge or baked into crisp little squares. Polenta is very versatile and can easily be paired with virtually anything from game and fowl to fish and vegetables. It has recently been bitter cold in the city and I wanted to cook something warm and of course comforting for a lazy Friday dinner during a snowstorm. Polenta and braised meat came to mind during my brainstorming, something heady and deeply flavored with red wine and beef stock cooked for hours. I did precisely that with a piece of stew meat, beef chuck I believe, cooked with a mirepoix (the classic French triad of onions, celery, and carrots), half a bottle of Cabernet, and two cups of beef stock. Polenta is incredibly easy to make, just follow the directions on the box and experiment with your favorite accouterments. I like to add a bit of olive oil or butter to mine and sometimes I throw it in the oven to crisp it up. For my comfort food supper I cut the baked Polenta into squares, topped them with meat, and finished the plate with a drizzle of the reduced cooking liquid monté with butter. This was definitely a comforting meal that made me feel warm and fuzzy all over, a great feeling to have when it is almost 20 degrees outside. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Smoky Breakfast

Eggs and chorizo have a natural affection for one another and their flavors marry beautifully. This may sound overly poetic but its true; chorizo and dairy products are born to share a pan. Spain and most Latin American countries influenced by Spanish rule make frittatas, tostas, and other egg dishes with chorizo. The smoky and spicy albeit greasy dark red sausage adds rich flavor to any dish and is a unique addition to a charcuterie platter. I had brunch a few weeks ago at a hip little restaurant in the Lower East Side that boasts a fantastic scramble made with chorizo, scallions, and smoked Gouda. I am a big brunch fan and this smoky eggy delight was not to be believed. I was smitten with the dish and had to try to cook it at home otherwise I would run the risk of going back 2 or 3 times a week, not the smartest move given the current economic woes. I routinely draw inspiration from my experiences traveling and eating out though I rarely copy dishes verbatim but this dish was perfect and warranted appropriation.

Start by briefly sautéing thin slices of chorizo in a nonstick pan to render some of the fat. After the chorizo has crisped and curled a bit add sliced scallions. Whisk two eggs per person into a bowl with about a half a cup or so of grated smoked Gouda. I happened to use my mother’s farm fresh eggs from upstate, which brings even more flavor to the party. Add the egg mixture to the pan and scramble, careful not to burn or overcook the eggs. Serve with toast or biscuits and enjoy. This is a great breakfast or brunch item full of flavor and substance that is sure to please. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dinner With The Nonnas

This morning I felt the urge to cook and cook up a storm. I studied my selection of cookbooks, particularly a new book from my father featuring the Italian recipes of “Italy’s Grandmothers.” Every recipe comes complete with a small photograph of a white haired Italian nonna. After spending a half hour with the nonnas, I switched gears to Alice Water’s Chez Panisse cookbook. My taste buds and mind were soon reeling from the possibilities and I was ready to hit the gourmet grocer. I decided on an aged Rib Eye steak, beautifully marbled with a deep brick color. I also bought a large can of imported Italian Cannellini beans and Belgian endives for side dishes.

Steak is one of the more glorious staples of the animal protein world, especially cooked rare with freshly ground black pepper and nice crust. I always prepare my steaks the same way, cooked in a cast iron pan and finished in the oven. After rubbing both sides of the steak with a generous helping of salt and black pepper, let it rest until room temperature. Heat the pan and melt equal parts butter and olive oil until just smoking and sear the steak for 2-3 minutes a side. The pan will smoke and spatter so be sure to have adequate ventilation. Finish the steak in a 350-degree oven for 3-7 minutes depending on how you like your steak. I am a rare, or bleu, person, which I attribute to the periods of my life spent in France. Wrap the steak in foil and let it rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing, serving, eating, or whatever it is you plan to do with perfectly cooked and flavorful meat. Deglazing is the first step to any good pan sauce and any alcohol or vinegar at hand will work though something that one would drink paired with the meal is best. I would normally use wine or cognac to deglaze but I only had bourbon on hand so I added about a shot to the hot pan and stirred like crazy to loosen the drippings. To create a sort of steak au poivre variation I sautéed minced shallots in the pan and added a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, about a quarter cup of heavy cream, and salt and pepper. Simmer for five minutes to thicken the sauce, marry the ingredients and serve on the side or drizzle over sliced steak.

To round out the meal I sautéed the Cannellini beans with garlic, olive oil, chili flakes, rosemary, and tons of lemon zest, a recipe inspired by Alice Waters and the memorable meals I have had at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. The beans are wonderful as is but I suggest roughing them up a bit with the back of a wooden spoon, smashing the ingredients coarsely into a flavorful puree. I served them in a small bowl topped with a bit of lemon zest, good olive oil, and fresh parsley. This is a very Italian side dish and goes well with just about anything, though it goes best with beef, lamb, or oily fish like Monkfish. I improvised with the endive trying something I have had in France on a number of occasions though my version turned out a bit bitter, drawing out the natural flavor of endive a bit too sharply. I grilled them plain until nicely caramelized and topped them with a light mustard vinaigrette. I succeed in shaking off the rust of a week without cooking, creating a delicious and complete meal in about an hour. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Scallops and Squash?

I have already sung the praises of butternut squash, a winter vegetable that graces the tables of countless restaurants during the holidays. A few days ago I wanted to make a dinner for my sister and our friend Robin that would showcase my talents in the kitchen. I decided to recreate a dish I had several months ago at a French/New American restaurant in Los Angeles consisting of seared scallops with butternut squash, dried cranberries, and pistachio nuts. I know it sounds like a wild and wacky combination but it was really very good. The sweetness of the berries, the silky smooth flesh of the scallop, and the nutty flavor of the squash complimented each other perfectly though pairing it with wine was tricky. I made a variation of the dish with plump sea scallops from my fishmonger at Joon's Westside Fish Market, which has consistently fantastic fresh seafood. I peeled and diced the butternut squash into small uniform cubes and sautéed the pieces in olive oil until browned and crispy on all sides. I poached the scallops in more butter than I would like to admit and served them over the squash cubes. I topped the dish with a drizzle of sauce made with white wine, butter, and maple syrup to bring out the sweetness and butteriness of the scallops. The dish was a big hit and I made my sister very proud. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

You Thai Now

Thai food is delicious and intriguing, full of unique flavors, textures, and ingredients. There is a phenomenal Thai restaurant around the corner from my apartment that makes just about the best Tom Yum soup imaginable. The spicy and slightly sour soup with galangal and lemongrass running throughout is a perfect starter or dish on its own. I often order a large soup for take out and eat while reading or watching a movie on lazy nights home alone when I do not feel like cooking. I have a plethora of Asian ingredients in my pantry and have been experimenting with Thai cooking recently. Nigella Lawson has a great recipe for Thai peanut noodles with watercress, bell pepper, and snow peas which I have made a few times. Tom Yum is on my list though it seems like a lot of work and also requires a trip down to Chinatown for ingredients.

I was craving curry a couple of nights ago and decided to make a wok full of green curry with chicken. I cheated a bit by using a small jar of green curry paste from the gourmet grocer, an authentic blend of green chilies, ginger, garlic, and kaffir lime leaves. I sautéed the chicken in minced garlic, ginger, and onions in a piping hot and well seasoned wok then set it aside before frying up broccoli, bell pepper, string beans, and scallions. Before returning all ingredients to the wok, I sautéed the green curry paste thickened sauce to toss with the chicken and vegetables. I would say the dish rivaled my favorite Thai place around the corner though they still have the Tom Yum on me. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Turkey Day!

Everybody claims that their family Thanksgiving meal is the best and that all others pale in comparison. That ubiquitous comment may in fact be a truism in the case of the feast and a half I consumed last week chez ma mere at her farmhouse in upstate New York. It was cold and snowy with about an inch or so of fresh powder lining the walk to the front door on Wednesday and the cooking was already in high gear. The kitchen and those permanently installed in it for the preparation were amid a whirlwind of slicing, dicing, sautéing, and pureeing all things turkey and side dish related.

This post is a bit different from others because I in fact
did very little cooking, content to be a spectator with a healthy appetite and volunteer dishwasher. Our Thanksgiving dinner is always traditional in the sense of the dishes served, the usual suspects always make it to the table though variations of the classics show up as well with hints of Asian and European flavors.

We started Thursday morning with a round of Bloody Mary’s. My good friend Beau makes them strong, spicy, and limey, a perfect compliment to the lazy day. My mother made a terrine served with country bread and a batch of 1950’s deviled eggs that ran the risk of ruining everyone’s appetite. For the past two years my mother and her friend Claudia have been avid supporters of the brine, lauding the moist and flavorful turkey the result of a 24 hour dip in a witches brew of cider, chopped apples, garlic, and tons of other things. It was really a delicious bird especially nice and crispy, which is how every slice should be if well carved, with hints of apple flavor running throughout.

Our side dishes included Brussels sprouts with parmesan, sweet and sour pearl onions, two types of smashed sweet potatoes, green beans cooked with soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic, corn and wheat bread stuffing, and two types of homemade cranberry sauce to compliment the bird. Every single element was delicious on its own but the gastronomic unity was completed by a full plate housing a taste of each as evidenced by the picture of Beau’s plate…I am still impressed by that smorgasbord of Thanksgiving goodness. Though I must admit that I think the pearl onions are my favorite, besides the turkey of course. I also love a crisp Brussels sprout here and there especially if bacon is involved but that is another story.

For dessert we had a Bosc pear and Bing cherry cobbler with cornbread biscuits made lovingly by Claudia and two pies, pumpkin and pecan, made by my mother. They are two classics that are always welcome at my table no matter the season or holiday. It was really a fun, memorable, and tasty repast that was shared by all and my mouth is already watering as I look at these photos. I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving with friends and family and as always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Italian Schmatalian

As I have mentioned in earlier posts I have an infatuation with Italian food to the point where I could eat it almost everyday of the week…almost. I love all things pasta, one of the most versatile culinary products on earth easily adapted to myriad gastronomic contexts. Although I am French, and hold steadfast to my culinary heritage, I have a secret love affair with Italian cuisine. I rarely cook Italian with the exception of a lazy single course meal of spaghetti carbonara or ravioli pomodoro after work or a long day at the library. I have recently been experimenting with Italian dishes that I typically reserve for Italian restaurants like gnocchi, carciofi (fritti or crudo), and lasagna. The last dish, that creamy, cheesy, tomatoey delight really gets my motor running. Lasagna is one of those things that seems so easy to make though I have had my fair share of disappoints especially those falsely advertising a mamma or grandmamma connection to Italy. Although I should not judge because I happen to think that my mamma makes the best lasagna and one day about seven or eight years ago I asked her for her secret recipe. It turns out that the tasty treat I looked forward to once or twice a month was none other than the recipe printed on the box of de Cecco lasagna noodles. I had a craving recently for something cheesy and nostalgic and lasagna seemed to fit both criteria perfectly. This version was made with kale and chard as a filling, a vegetarian alternative to go with all that delicious ricotta, mozzarella, pecorino, and parmesan. I simply sautéed chopped kale and chard with a little thinly sliced garlic in olive oil before blending it with the four cheeses. To accompany the noodles and filling I prepared a rustic tomato sauce with chopped onions, garlic, crushed tomatoes, fresh basil, and chili flakes. It was a really good dish and I am proud to say that I totally winged it even though I was cooking with the insights garnered from my childhood. I would go as far as to say it is seasonal, with the usage of kale and chard, nutritious, despite the pound and a half of cheese, and above all mouthwateringly good. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!