Monday, March 16, 2009

for the love of lasagna

I think I'm particularly addicted to the tang of tomatoes combined with the voluptuousness of dairy -- in almost any form which is why I'm particularly enthralled with lasagna.

My love affair with the decadent dish began as a child. My mother would take the time to make a lasagna which substituted cottage cheese and egg for ricotta, which she must have found in some woman's magazine back in the 80's. I still adore this lasagna, parmesan that comes in a Kraft green box and all.

Later on, I joined the culinary club at Amherst College, and was delighted to learn how to make a Wild Mushroom lasagna with bechamel sauce taught by Betty Rosbottom who features recipes in Bon Appetit. It was one of my first lasagnas with bechamel, and I still feel pangs of regret that I've misplaced that recipe.

One of my ex-boyfriends made me a homecoming lasagna. I often compare food with love, and the tangy goat cheese lasagna filled to the brim with vegetable was a valentine my taste buds will never forget.

One of my sisters must have mentioned my friend Angela's scrumptious lasagna. Turns out it had been pioneered by her father. This lasagna includes boiled eggs, spinach, and canned spaghetti sauce. It's a quickly made lasagna intended to overload you with protein. It's one of my boyfriend's favorites.

Lastly, of all the lasagnas is my friend Francis Strand's Turkey Walnut Lasagna. Never could a lasagna be further from the original lasagnas my mom used to make. Francis Strand's cooking always has a bent towards the decadent -- despite the inclusion of turkey.

From the kitchen of Francis Strand:

Mushroom Walnut Lasagna

500 g (1 lb) mushrooms
4-5 dl (1 cup) walnuts
1 tub mascarpone cheese
500 g (1 lb) ground turkey
1/2 yellow onion chopped
1-2 T dried sage
Lasagna pasta sheets (ones you don't have to boil, or fresh)
300-400 g (10 oz) grated Pecorino or Manchego cheese
optional: walnut oil

Bechamel sauce
2 T butter
3 T flour
1/2 (2 cups) liter milk
pinch of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 175 C (350 F).

Brown the turkey in a skillet and add salt and pepper to taste along
with the sage; set aside. Cook the onions in the drippings until soft,
add to the turkey.

Combine in a food processor the walnuts and mushrooms (you can add a drizzle walnut oil) until relatively finely chopped but not so fine to become a paste. Mix with the mascarpone.

Melt the butter, add flour to form a paste, then slowly add the milk, keep stirring to prevent lumps. Cook for about five minutes.

Alternate the various parts, starting first with a little bechamel,
then the lasagna sheets, a thin layer of the mushroom walnut mascarpone mixture,
then turkey, then some of the pecorino. You can probably get at least
four layers, maybe five. Make them pretty thin. The last layer should
be cheese, save plenty for the top.

Bake for 20-30 minutes.

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