Round 2

30 Mar

Success!!!

This month’s DB Challenge was a huge success…one of the best meals I have ever made.

The challenge this month was pasta – homemade spinach lasagna to be exact.

I was excited to dust of the pasta maker and get started.

Having seen how creative DBer’s are I wanted to make something special, different, unique.

And boy did I succeed…

I went all greek. Taking the concepts of Greek Pastitsio and the lasagna recipe provided by DB to create this delightful dish.

greek-db-lasg

The most interesting part was the buttermilk bechamel.  As far as I have seen…no one has done bechamel with buttermilk.  It made a tart, lemony almost “avgolemono” sauce that set off the cinnamon fused base beautifully.  In combination with the spinach pasta and the feta it was a super Greek treat.

I served the dish with a traditional Greek salad.  It was divine.

We shared this meal with two of our most favorite friends to rave reviews all around.

I have two balls of spinach pasta left in the freezer and I can guarantee we will make this again…very very soon.

The basics…

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes

Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand:

Equipment

A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.

A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.

A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.
Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.

Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.

A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.

Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

Kneading:
With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

Buttermilk Bechamel

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) buttermilk milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
zest of one lemon

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and zest.

Greek Ragu

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onion, diced
2 medium stalk celery with leaves, diced

1 small parsnip, diced

2 cloves garlic minced

1 Tablespoon parsley

2 t dried thyme

1 3/4 # ground dark turkey meat
1/2 cup dry red wine

28 oz can tomato (I always use Pomi)

2 t cinnamon

1t allspice

juice of one lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions:

Sweat the onion, garlic, and parsnip in olive oil for 10 minutes over low heat.  Add the parsley, thyme, and meat and brown over medium heat.

Add the wine and let evaporate for a minute or two then add the tomato, cinnamon, and all spice.  Let is simmer and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated and the meat is cooked through.  Squeeze juice of lemon and stir in.

ASSEMBLE

lasgana

Put a little bechamel in a lasagna pan and layer pasta, meat, and bechamel to the top.  End with bechamel and sprinkle feta on top.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350 Degrees. I popped it under the broil for a minute to brown the feta.

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