Thursday, October 18, 2012

Eating is Joyous - Fall Feast by Lily

Soundtrack to post [selected by Alexandra for her friend Lily]: Girl On Fire by Alicia Keys on Grooveshark

So my dear wunderkind friend, Lily the gorgeous heart surgeon, not only recently successfully completed a HEART TRANSPLANT SURGERY (the harvesting AND the implant surgeries), she also put together a delicious fall dinner party menu...from scratch.  *Stunned in amazement.* What did *I* do this week??!!  She never fails to amaze me and she inspires me to find a life where Work Play & Love all meld into one.  In order to spread her feast over several posts give each piece of her dinner menu the attention it deserves, I'm starting out with the buttersquash lasagna recipe - doesn't that sound perfect for a cold fall evening not to mention healthy and full of fresh, quality ingredients? Okay Californians, I know you're currently in a heatwave with temperatures in the 90s, but it's been 55-60 degrees plus rain every day for the last 2 weeks here in Paris and I was kind of salivating on my keyboard while I uploaded Lily's pictures while wearing my newly purchased wool coat (I can't believe I got here in June...).

Enjoy!  Don't forget to be good to yourself and to treat yourself to something delightful everyday...just like Lily; for her, cooking gives her immense pleasure, is a form of stress relief and is soul nurturing.  And makes her friends, like me, who get to sample her delectable creations, very, very happy.

Okay people, it’s fall.  FALL!  I know this may not seem like exciting news to some of you…but being that I’ve lived in southern California my entire life…this concept of “seasons” is both new and exciting to me.  So where fall has arrived in Colorado, it has also brought seasonal foods.  Which has kept me busy in the kitchen.  A few of the following came from a recent Bon Appetit, so apologies if you’ve seen these, but I made a few adjustments, and hope you can benefit from my experimentation!  Enjoy your own time in the kitchen, best spent amongst friends.  Feel free to play with this whole menu, or try one addition at a time.  Have fun!

Dinner Party Menu:
Onion dip
Salad with toasted hazelnut vinaigrette
Butternut squash lasagna
Brussels sprouts with bacon
Kale sautéed with red onions
Dessert:  (make a guest bring a lemon tart!) [Alexandra:  Genius!]

Butternut Squash Lasagna [Alexandra:  rest of this delicious spread upcoming next week!]

This one takes a bit of time, so enlist the help of friends in the preparation, then socialize while it's cooking.  It will make your home smell amazing!


4 pounds butternut squash, cut into 1/4 inch pieces (don't make these too big or they won't cook well)
1/4 c (scant) olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds broccoli rabe (rapini), large stems removed
crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated (if too soft, chop into small pieces)
1 pound whole milk ricotta (don't get low-fat, please!)
1 cup high quality parmesan block, freshly grated
1T finely grated lemon zest
2t minced fresh sage
1t minced fresh rosemary
1/4c (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4c white flour
5c half-and-half (I used half-nonfat and half-regular to decrease calories and it still tasted great!)
1/4t nutmeg
2 bay leaves
1 pound lasagna noodles

Let the fun begin!  

Preheat oven to 400F.  Mix squash slices and oil in a large bowl, then season generously with salt and pepper. 

Spread into a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast until just tender, 15-18 minutes.  Do in batches if necessary.  Let cool.

Blanch rapini in a large pot of salted water until it begins to wilt, about 90 seconds.  Rinse in cold water to stop cooking.  Squeeze between paper towels to eliminate excess water, then chop coarsely.  Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  Set aside.

Mix mozzarella, ricotta, Parmesan, lemon zest, sage and rosemary in a separate bowl, then season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Cook lasagna noodles in a large pot of generously-salted boiling water.  Cook until al dente, approximately 2 minutes less than box indicates.  Plunge in ice water to stop cooking.  

Spread noodles out on kitchen towels or parchment-lined baking sheets so they don’t stick to each other.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add flour and stir continuously about 2-3 minutes until thick but not browned.  Slowly whisk in half and half, but ½ c increments, stirring thoroughly to mix between rounds.  Increase heat after 2-3 additions,  so mixture remains at a low simmer.  Add nutmeg and bay leaves.  Reduce heat and cook about 10-15 minutes longer, until thickened.  Season with salt and pepper.

Begin assembly in a 13x9x2 baking dish by ladling ¼ c béchamel sauce into bottom, then layering with a single layer of lasagna noodles. 

Top with 1/3 of cheese mixture, followed by squash and then rapini.  Pour ½ c béchamel over, then repeat with noodles and subsequent layers. 

Finish with a top layer of noodles, then pour remaining béchamel on and top with remaining parmesan.

Bake uncovered at 375F until bubbly and browned on top, approximately 45 minutes.  Finish with a broil for 5-8 minutes until golden.  Cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.  Attack and enjoy.

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