The Perfect Meal…

…at least in my book.
Our Easter lunch (well, late lunch) was at my house this past Sunday. My grandfather was bringing his lasagna, and I was going to make some dessert along with a few other things.

Now, I know my Nonno’s lasagna and we really didn’t need much else to go with the meal. I figured a light salad and a vegetable would be plenty. I decided on a salad I saw in one of Giada De Laurentiis’s cookbooks, her Italian Caesar Salad. I am in love with this salad. I love everything about it…the dressing, the sundried tomatoes, the pine nuts…heaven. I have never made the polenta croutons but I can only imagine what that would add to an already delicious salad.

My family’s lasagna is a classic. I’m really not sure who started making it this way, but it’s the same lasagna we’ve been eating for as far back as I can remember. Now, normally, we eat lasagna on Christmas, well at least for the last several years…but this past year, my family had an unusual holiday, lots of illness – nothing serious – but enough to make it a very quiet holiday with no visiting. I know my grandfather could not wait to make this for Easter since we missed out on it in December.

(you may not be able to tell by the picture, but this lasagna had to be at least 30lbs, maybe more. I’m not kidding…my cute grandpa likes to make sure we are fed well so he used a very large roasting pan to make his lasagna…it took at least 2 hours to cook!! And I have lots of leftovers in the freezer!)

The lasagna is made like most traditional lasagnas…layers of noodles, ricotta, parmesan, ground beef and sauce. But added to the layers in our family lasagna are peas and chopped hard boiled eggs. It may sound unusual, but it is absolutely delicious.


As far as I am concerned, you can’t have pasta and salad without good bread. I finally got the courage to try making my own bread using the famous Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day Master Recipe. Wow, I am not only proud of myself for slowly getting over my fear of working with yeast, but am so shocked at how wonderfully easy this was to make!! If I can do it…anyone can do it.

Here is the complete recipe for the salad, but I’ll tell ya, I made mine simply by tossing chopped romaine, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, and dressing, then topping with the shaved Parmesan cheese.

Italian Caesar Salad with Polenta Croutons
Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis, Everyday Italian

Dressing:

3 garlic cloves
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Polenta Croutons:

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups Basic Polenta, recipe follows
Vegetable oil, for deep frying

Salad:

3 small heads (or2 large heads) romaine lettuce, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 1/2 ounces shaved Parmesan

To make the dressing: Finely chop the garlic and anchovies in a food processor. Blend in the lemon juice and mustard. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil. Season the dressing, to taste, with salt and pepper.

To make the croutons: Spread the olive oil over a small baking sheet. Transfer the hot polenta to the baking sheet, spreading evenly to form an 8 by 5 by 3/4-inch-thick rectangle. Cover and refrigerate until cold and firm, about 2 hours.

Cut the polenta into 3/4-inch cubes. Pat the polenta cubes dry with paper towels. Add enough vegetable oil to a heavy large frying pan to come 1-inch up the sides of the pan. Heat the oil over high heat. Working in batches of 10, carefully add the polenta cubes to the oil 1 at a time and fry until golden brown, stirring to keep the cubes separate, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the polenta croutons to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil.

(The dressing and polenta croutons can be prepared 1 day ahead up to this point. Cover the dressing and polenta croutons separately and refrigerate. Rewarm the polenta croutons on a baking sheet in a 350 degrees F oven before serving.)

To make the salad: Prepare the barbecue for high heat. Grill the lettuce until lightly charred, about 2 minutes per side. Cut the lettuce into bite-size pieces.

On a serving platter, mound the grilled chopped lettuce. Decoratively scatter the sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts. Drizzle with enough dressing to evenly coat. Sprinkle Parmesan and scatter the warm polenta croutons over and serve immediately.

Basic Polenta:

3 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup yellow cornmeal

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a heavy large saucepan. Add salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 12 to 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the butter, and stir until melted.

Lightly oil a half sheet pan. Transfer the hot polenta to the prepared baking dish, spreading evenly to 3/4-inch thick. Refrigerate until cold and firm, about 2 hours.


Enjoy your week!

(my sweet Nonna and Nonno with their great grandkids…)

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Another Zucchini Bread recipe for you!

A couple of weeks ago we were going to visit my grandparents and I wanted to bring my sweet grandmother some zucchini bread. I’ve seen some great zucchini bread recipes in blog land this summer and I was inspired particularly by recipes from Stephanie’s Kitchen and Prudence Pennywise. Zucchini bread is one of those foods that you want to feel good about eating (right?) so I wanted to lighten mine up a bit…everyone was happy with how it turned out so I will be making it again soon!

FYI…my pictures show one of the loaves with chopped nuts on top, that is because I forgot to add the nuts until it was too late…I added them while they were in the oven…it turned out pretty good! : )

Aggie’s Zucchini Bread

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg (I use whole nutmeg and grind it on microplane – so good!)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
3 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 cup finely chopped pineapple (fresh or canned)
1/2 – 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Grease bottom and sides of 2 loaf pans.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine sugar, applesauce, egg, zucchini, pineapple and lemon zest. Mix until well combined.
Add zucchini mixture to the dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Fold in walnuts or pecans. (Or layer them on top of loaf!)
Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Test if toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on rack for about 10 minutes before taking out of pan. Cool a bit longer before slicing.

Stephanie from Stephanie’s Kitchen sprinkles Cinnamon Sugar on hers…I just know my kids would love that so I am going to try that next time.

Enjoy!

P.S. I have this set to post while I’m on vacation…hope it worked! : )

Bookmark and Share

Another Zucchini Bread recipe for you!

A couple of weeks ago we were going to visit my grandparents and I wanted to bring my sweet grandmother some zucchini bread. I’ve seen some great zucchini bread recipes in blog land this summer and I was inspired particularly by recipes from Stephanie’s Kitchen and Prudence Pennywise. Zucchini bread is one of those foods that you want to feel good about eating (right?) so I wanted to lighten mine up a bit…everyone was happy with how it turned out so I will be making it again soon!

FYI…my pictures show one of the loaves with chopped nuts on top, that is because I forgot to add the nuts until it was too late…I added them while they were in the oven…it turned out pretty good! : )

Aggie’s Zucchini Bread

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg (I use whole nutmeg and grind it on microplane – so good!)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
3 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 cup finely chopped pineapple (fresh or canned)
1/2 – 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Grease bottom and sides of 2 loaf pans.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine sugar, applesauce, egg, zucchini, pineapple and lemon zest. Mix until well combined.
Add zucchini mixture to the dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Fold in walnuts or pecans. (Or layer them on top of loaf!)
Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Test if toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on rack for about 10 minutes before taking out of pan. Cool a bit longer before slicing.

Stephanie from Stephanie’s Kitchen sprinkles Cinnamon Sugar on hers…I just know my kids would love that so I am going to try that next time.

Enjoy!

P.S. I have this set to post while I’m on vacation…hope it worked! : )

Bookmark and Share

Another Zucchini Bread recipe for you!

A couple of weeks ago we were going to visit my grandparents and I wanted to bring my sweet grandmother some zucchini bread. I’ve seen some great zucchini bread recipes in blog land this summer and I was inspired particularly by recipes from Stephanie’s Kitchen and Prudence Pennywise. Zucchini bread is one of those foods that you want to feel good about eating (right?) so I wanted to lighten mine up a bit…everyone was happy with how it turned out so I will be making it again soon!

FYI…my pictures show one of the loaves with chopped nuts on top, that is because I forgot to add the nuts until it was too late…I added them while they were in the oven…it turned out pretty good! : )

Aggie’s Zucchini Bread

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg (I use whole nutmeg and grind it on microplane – so good!)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
3 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 cup finely chopped pineapple (fresh or canned)
1/2 – 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Grease bottom and sides of 2 loaf pans.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine sugar, applesauce, egg, zucchini, pineapple and lemon zest. Mix until well combined.
Add zucchini mixture to the dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Fold in walnuts or pecans. (Or layer them on top of loaf!)
Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Test if toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on rack for about 10 minutes before taking out of pan. Cool a bit longer before slicing.

Stephanie from Stephanie’s Kitchen sprinkles Cinnamon Sugar on hers…I just know my kids would love that so I am going to try that next time.

Enjoy!

P.S. I have this set to post while I’m on vacation…hope it worked! : )

Bookmark and Share