Welcome back and Happy New Year!
We took a week off to recuperate from our New Year’s celebration. It is amazing to me that having a kid can rob you of your ability to stay up past eleven.
Anyway, this being our first week back, I wanted to do something special. I thought having a few courses would work nicely – start with soup, move onto salad, dig in to a main, and finish off with dessert. Problem was, I was still grossly sleep-deprived from the week before. Staying up until three-thirty threw my clock off, which gave me a case of the night owls, so I was up late all week. By Sunday, I was a bag of dog crap. I couldn’t focus on anything. (Note to self: in future, read box of lasagne noodles carefully to see if they are pre-cooked or not … dumb ass.)
There is nothing scarier to me than standing in front of a counter covered in cutting boards, knives, vegetables, and utensils, and seeing nothing but a mess. The chaos of a nearly-organised dinner is magical. Conversely, the abstract shapes and disparate colours of a nonsensical blend of culinary insanity assaults my senses like an Hieronymus Bosch painting.
After Cara threatened me that we weren’t going to have dinners at our place if that was the way I was going to talk to people, I calmed down, refrained from having a glass of wine yet (Megan wasn’t there with the camera anyway), and set about making dinner.
On the Menu: Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup, Rustic Spinach Salad, Garlic Bread, Spinach Lasagne, Amaretto Syllabub
The soup is very easy.
- Pre-heat oven to 180° C.
- Chop into quarters a dozen ripe tomatoes.
- Stand them on end in an oiled roasting tray. Don’t worry about spacing, since they are going to be turned into soup anyway. Just as long as there is some air between each quarter so the flavours can move in between them.
- Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, dried dill, dried basil, garlic powder, and about two tablespoons of ground black pepper. (I use ground pepper, since I covers everything more evenly, as opposed to cracked, and because it will slip through the sieve later, giving the soup its characteristic speckling.)
- Pop into the oven, uncovered, for about an hour. (You want the tomatoes to be completely roasted and falling apart, but not so roasted that they are dried out.)
- Remove from oven and scoop everything into a food processor.
- Puree the hell out of it.
- Run through a sieve into a pot. (Don’t throw away the husky stuff, since it makes a great spread for your garlic bread later. Wink!)
- Add one cup of whole milk, one cup of condensed milk, and one cup of water.
- Simmer until thickened.
- Taste and make adjustments.
The salad is just rough chopped tomatoes and onions with a balsamic and olive oil dressing. (For kicks, try adding some melted butter and garlic to the dressing. Nobody will know why the dressing rocks, but they’ll drink it like gravy.)
With the soup and salad served, we finally got down to the wine.
Wine: Finca, La Linda, Torrontés, 2010, $153 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles
Fruity and vibrant, this is a really fun bottle of wine. With a heartier meal like lasagne, it doesn’t really pair as nicely as say, a really spicy soup. Thank goodness we had one on hand!
For a white, it was a little more complex than we were used to – citrus blending with peaches and bell peppers – but it was a very pleasant wine and complimented the soup and salad nicely.
This wine would also go very nicely with seafood like sushi or ceviche, as the fruitiness and citrus flavours would be complimented by the subtly of raw fish.
And then the wheels (almost) came off …
Lasagne is one of my favourites to make, but as I alluded to earlier, you really should check the box for what type of noodles you bought since parboiling precooked noodles turns them into pasta shrapnel. (Don’t believe me? Try it out. You’ll be a laughing stock.) I managed to salvage the better noodles for show and saved the lesser noodles for the places where people wouldn’t see. That being said, this lasagne is awesome.
First layer, spinach, tomato sauce, and mozzarella. Second layer, ground beef, ricotta, spinach, tomato sauce. Third layer, spinach, tomato sauce, mozzarella. Fourth layer, prosciutto, spinach, tomato sauce, and mozzarella. Fifth layer, tomato sauce, béchamel sauce, mozzarella. Bake until golden. I let it stand for about ten or fifteen minutes so the lasagne has a chance to set a bit.
Wine: Trapiche, Broquel, Bonarda, 2009, $209 MXN
Rating: Two Bottles
This wine went very well with the pasta – dry, but the tannins weren’t so harsh that they were all you could think about. A mix of black currant and cherries with a hint of blackberries and blueberries. Very enjoyable, this was a substantial wine.
For the price, very enjoyable, and we are thinking of buying a couple of bottles and putting them aside as the tasting notes on the label recommend waiting a few years. If it was this good now, imagine what it will be like then.
The dessert was an amazing find of Megan’s from Nigella. Really incredible and perfectly Italian – Amaretto Syllabub. For the recipe, visit Nigella’s Food Network page. Basically, it’s a dessert based saved for after the kids have gone to bed. Mostly because then you don’t have to share it, but also because it’s filled with booze. Megan pulled it off to perfection, as usual.
Next week, a special treat, but you’ll have to read it to find out what.