Every once in a while, King Soopers produces a pleasant surprise, like the Antica Pasteria fresh lasagna noodles that I found recently in the refigerator section (next to the fresh tortellini and gnocchi). I’ve become fond of no-boil lasagna noodles, so I was really delighted to find fresh rather than dried ones. With the 8.8-ounce package in my cart, I picked up some fresh mozzarella and reduced-fat ricotta. I had everything else in the house that I’d need for a quick basic lasagna.
And it was quick. It didn’t take me more than 15 minutes to assemble this dish and shove it into oven. Lasagna isn’t fussy, and as long as even a little of the sauce covers each layer of noodles, especially at the edges, it’ll come out fine. While it was resting after I took it out of the oven, I made a simple tossed salad with oil and vinegar dressing. We opened a bottle of red wine and sat down to eat 55 minutes after I started — less time than it would take to wait for a pizza delivery on a Friday evening.
Quick Cheese Lasagna
1 package Antica Pasteria lasagna noodles
1 jar good-quality tomato sauce (Whole Foods, Newman’s Own, Trader Joe’s, etc.)
1 container low-fat ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
Fresh herbs if available, chopped (I harvested late-season basil and parsley)
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
Grated fresh Parmesan, to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix ricotta with egg and herbs. Ladle a small amount of sauce on the bottom of an 8 x 12-inch or 9 x 13 lasagna pan. Put down a layer of noodles. With this brand, the long side noodles fit perfectly into the the short side of the pan, with a little space to spare between noodles. With kitchen shears, cut one lasagna noodle into 3 or 4 slices to fill in these gaps. Top noodles with another layer of sauce, the ricotta mixture and mozzeralla torn into small pieces. Repeat the process until you run out of something, but do finish with sauce, mozzarella if you have any left and Parmesan. Cover with foil (the no-stick kind would be good if you have some) and bake for 1/2 hour. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before cutting.
Servings: How hungry are you? Two of us comfortably ate half of this lasagna.
Thanks to Rocky Mountain News restaurant critic’s “Nibbles” column today, I checked out http://papayapate.blogspot.com/ , a mouth-watering food blog by John Broening and Yasmin Lozada-Hissom. She is a pastry chef and he is an executive chef. They are now partners in life and also in the kitchen at Duo Restaurant, which I haven’t been to yet. But Broening has a great rep in the kitchen but previously cooked in Colorado restaurants that didn’t make it. His food at the late Primitivo in Colorado Springs was a culinary highpoint of that food-blighted city (fine eating at The Broadmoor, The Cliff House and just an ephemeral sprinkling of other worthy places). His offerings at the late Brasserie Rouge in LoDo, just a block from Union Station, were wonderful as well, but the place was huge, and it was just too far from the main traffic flow to make it. In neither case did the fault seem to lie in the kitchen but rather with a business plan and/or financing — not unusual in the restaurant game. I hope the duo’s Duo is wildly successful, and I love their blog. If you enjoy food and recipes, you will too.
In the year-plus after Culinary Colorado was published, I traveled all over the state giving talks, presenting my slide show, appearing on panels and signing books. Over time, those promotional activities tapered off. Yesterday, I was one of the two authors invited to speak at the Rocky Mountain Skyline Bookstore Association luncheon in Fort Collins — the first time in months I’ve done such a presentation for this book.
It was a beautiful day for the drive (though the aggressive sprawl and the “de-ruralization” in the Berthoud-Loveland area was a shocker, but that’s another matter). The attendees were book people are with college and university bookstores, mostly from the Front Range. Questions are always enlightenting, and it was surprising how many were also foodies or married to foodies. “What is your favorite restaurant in Colorado?” is a common one, but I was also asked what my favorite new kitchen gadgets are (microplanes in a couple of sizes and an immersion blender, I answered), whether I shop at a farmers’ market (yes, of course, Boulder’s Saturday market whenever I’m around) and what I think of the Palisade Wine Festival (I haven’t been there since the relocated from the in-town park to a larger space on the outskirts of town, but I love the energy and the growing enthusiasm for and quality of Colorado wines). In my talk, I had mentioned that four Colorado chefs have been named as one of Food & Wine’s 10 best chefs of the year and named Frasca’s Lachlan Patterson, the most recent (2006). Someone asked me who the other three were. Answer: Charles Dale, then of Aspen’s Renaissance; James Mazzio, then of Triana, and Bryan Moscatello, then of Adega. None of those three is still around, but I think Frasca will last for a long, long time.
I drive to Fort Collins “the back way,” west of the towns between here (Boulder) and there, in what a few years ago had been rural (horse country, farm country), and driving through the construction zone that exists west of U.S. was not encouraging. It reminded me that to encourage farmers and ranchers to remain on their land, we all have to help them stay in business. If you want more info on the Boulder County Farmers’ Market, which is ending soon for the season, go to http://www.boulderfarmers.org).
Every once in a while, I Google the titles of my books. When I did so for Culinary Colorado this morning, up popped a blog that included a blog entry called “Culinary Colorado and Coconut Crawfish Soup.” What a surprise — and what a delight to read the bloggers’ comments about some of our restaurants and our foods. Go to http://www.deliciousdays.com/archives/2005/10/15/culinary-colorado-coconut-crawfish-soup/ to read what I did and see the wonderful food photographs.
After mostly warm summer and a long, dry, and also warm autumn in Colorado, Boulder’s weather changed and the weekend was cool and wet. A group of writer friends who get together for Friday morning coffee at the Book End Cafe grabbed an outdoor table, as if to bask in the last warm rays. Good thing too, because it now finally feels like fall. I’ll write about the Friday morning coffee tradition at some other time, but now — after vowing to start a blog — I just want to get on with it!
The shift in the weather also means that dining on our own deck is over until next year. The covers go on the outdoor furniture and on the grill. The leaves will soon be off the big elms in the backyard. Our view of the mountains will improve, but we’ll be eating indoors.