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Mountain Home Magazine

Breaking Up is Easy to Do

Aug 29, 2019 01:35PM
by Cornelius O'Donnell



Fear not, this article has nothing to do with romance. I leave that to the current sob sisters, whose columns appear in our local papers. Rather, I came across a recipe in a cookbook, and it called to mind another recipe I used to demonstrate when I was, as Willie Nelson sings, “on the road again.” And then another came to mind. (I could go on and on but won’t.)

Anyway, I’m always on the lookout for recipes the kids can help with, and these fill the bill. The little ones can help with the prep and you can do the stove top or oven stuff as they watch.

The first recipe is from a fascinating book called 500 Casseroles I snagged from a bargain-book source. Casseroles seem to go in and out of style in favor of stir-fries, roasts, and even kebobs. But these many recipes involve a variety of ingredients, some of which may be especially lovely this time of year and may be in your garden or at your neighborhood farm market. They are dishes that can be put together ahead, say in the morning before you’re off to work, errands, volunteering, whatever. They can cook while you unwind after a busy day. Leftovers later in the week are a bonus.

Shortcut Lasagna

Who wrote the recipes in 500 Casseroles? We don’t know, but, whoever they are, they hit the button with the intro to this old favorite: “When you’re craving lasagna but don’t have the time [or inclination] to make one, this is an excellent stand-in.” Amen to that. I edited this slightly, just because.

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded, chopped
  • 4 crushed canned tomatoes with liquid
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 tsp. crumbled dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • More salt for the pot
  • 1 1/2 pounds thin ripple-edge pasta such as regnitte or mafaldine (they resemble frilly ribbons not as wide as regular lasagna)
  • 1/2 c. grated mozzarella

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Heat olive oil in a 10-inch non-stick frying pan. When the oil is hot, add onion and bell pepper. Sauté for about 3-4 minutes until the onion is softened. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes until you smell the garlic. Add tomatoes*, basil, and oregano, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, have the kids break the pasta into about 2-inch pieces. Add the pasta pieces to the boiling water and cook until softened—about 8-9 minutes. Drain and add to the ingredients in the frying pan, mixing well to combine. Cook for 10 minutes until tomato sauce thickens and coats pasta evenly. Remove from heat and arrange grated cheese over the pasta. Cover the pan for several minutes to allow cheese to melt.

I also made this with no-precook noodles broken as above. Worked fine and one less pot to clean. Hurrah! I may have added a minute or two, so check for doneness.

Many variations:

Try folding in 1 cup of ricotta to the sauce when adding the pasta. And/or add 1 cup sliced mushrooms and sauté with the onion, or dice 1 small zucchini and add this to the onion. I think some shredded or grated Parmigiano Reggiano could be added to the mozzarella. The imported Parma may require mom to sell a jewel, but the taste is worth it.

*If you use whole tomatoes, let the kids crush them (with immaculately clean hands, of course.)

And now for something completely different.

Break the Cake

I seem to be on a heavenly kick. First, angel hair pasta and now angel food cake. I went to a charming website (it’s called Gather for Bread) to get the proper proportions. I’m more of a “toss it in” when it comes to this recipe (I make it often), using the freshest fruit in season—pitted cherries, peaches, sliced nectarines, sliced kiwi, even halved grapes. I use a purchased cake to make this an easy-breezy dessert, but you can certainly bake your own.

  • 1 purchased (or home-baked) angel food cake
  • Pound strawberries, rinsed, dried, stemmed, and medium-sliced
  • 1 1/2 c. rinsed and dried-in-a-towel, blueberries
  • 1 quart heavy whipping cream
  • Dash of vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • Mint and/or crystalized ginger (optional) for garnish

Place the bowl of your stand mixer along with the wire whip attachment in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, break the cake into roughly 1-inch cubes. Put half of them into a trifle dish or elegant bowl. I drag out a handsome Steuben bowl I won years ago. Why not use it?

Remove the bowl and whisk from the freezer and add the heavy cream, vanilla, and sugar to the bowl. Beat on medium speed, watching closely, until stiff peaks form. Spoon half of this over the cake pieces and arrange half the fruit over the cream (youngsters could help here). Then add a second layer of the cake, followed by the remaining cream. Arrange the remaining fruit on top—perhaps in an attractive pattern. Garnish with mint or ginger if you want.

Serve at once or cover tightly and refrigerate for up to several hours.

Be an angel and invite a few local angels who’ve helped you in the past year. They’ll bless you.