Weekend dinners

The two cookbooks I've been working out of the last few days are Linda Fraser's Vegetarian: The Best-Ever Recipe Collection and Louise Steele's Indian Vegetarian Cooking, both bargain books with awesome photos that we got back when we worked at Borders (gosh, that was a long time ago). Unfortunately, both are now out of print, but such is the way with bargain books.

Last night, we had an amazing Broccoli Ricotta Cannelloni out of Fraser's book, cooked in individual crocks so it's adorable as well as being delicious. I used egg roll wraps as the pasta, instead of cooking cannelloni noodles and then having to stuff them. I think I'm fairly obsessed with using egg roll wraps and wonton wraps these days. The cannelloni has a basic cooked-from-scratch tomato sauce at the bottom, then the pasta rolls with their luxurious light green filling, and then cheese and pine nuts on top. I struggle with making my own tomato sauce, because I never seem to get the proportions quite right, but in this dish, homemade sauce provides a wonderful balance of flavors with the freshness of the broccoli and richness of all the cheese. I halved the recipe (see below) to yield six large pasta rolls, which was enough for our dinner last night and my lunch today.

Friday night was another exciting dinner, Egg and Lentil Curry, from the Indian cookbook. We had something similar at a church potluck once, then begged the cook for his recipe, but his recipe didn't use lentils, just a creamy sauce. I love the thickness that the lentils add. We served it over rice, and I attempted to make some parathas (flatbread) using a recipe from the same book but was unimpressed with the results. I might look for a different naan or flatbread recipe next time, or just do it with rice, because it was delicious.

I thought Kent probably wasn't going to like the curry, so I gave him a modified version with eggs, rice, and curry on the side. When he saw me photographing his dad's plate, he insisted on taking a picture of his dinner as well.

Broccoli Ricotta Cannelloni, slightly modified from Linda Fraser

12 cannelloni tubes [or 12 egg roll wrappers]
4 cups broccoli florets
1.5 cups fresh breadcrumbs
2/3 cup milk
4 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1 cup ricotta cheese
pinch of grated nutmeg [I forgot to add this — oops]
6 Tbsp grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese [my addition]
2 Tbsp pine nuts
salt and pepper

Tomato sauce:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup red or white wine [my addition]
pinch of sugar [my addition]
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
thyme, basil, and oregano

Cook the cannelloni noodles if using, and steam or boil the broccoli until tender. Drain both and set aside.

Place breadcrumbs in a mixing bowl with milk and olive oil, and stir until softened. Puree the broccoli with the ricotta in a food processor, then add broccoli mixture to the soaked breadcrumbs. Add nutmeg, half the Parmesan cheese, and half the mozzarella cheese, stir well, and add salt and pepper to taste.

To make the sauce, heat the oil in a large pan, then add onions and garlic. Cook 5 minutes or until onions are soft, then add wine, sugar, tomatoes, tomato paste, and herbs. Season with salt and pepper, bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Divide sauce among greased baking dishes [I used oval-shaped crocks that each held two pasta tubes, but this recipe would probably do fine in a 13 x 9 pan if you don't have individual crocks].

Fill pasta with broccoli mixture, either by piping/spooning it into cooked cannelloni tubes, or by laying egg roll wrappers on a flat surface, spooning mixture in a thick stripe down the middle, and rolling them up, sealing the edges with water. Place filled tubes on top of tomato sauce, brush tops with olive oil, then top with remaining Parmesan and mozzarella, and sprinkle with pine nuts. Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbling and golden.


Egg and Lentil Curry

3 Tbsp ghee or oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 inch ginger root, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
3 oz split red lentils (this was somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 cup)
1 3/4 cups vegetable stock
8 oz can chopped tomatoes
6 eggs
1/4 cup coconut milk
tomatoes, cut into wedges
cilantro, to garnish
flatbread or rice

Heat oil in a saucepan, add the onion, and fry gently for 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and spices and cook gently for 1 minute. Stir in the lentils, stock, and canned tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils and onions are tender.

Meanwhile, hard boil the eggs. [I do this by placing eggs in a pot of cold salted water, covering and placing on a burner on high heat, then turning off the heat as soon as they come to a boil and leaving covered on the burner for 12 minutes. Put eggs into ice water bath when done.]

Stir coconut milk into lentil mixture and season well with salt to taste. Puree the mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth, then return to pan over low heat.

Shell and cut the hard-boiled eggs in half. Arrange 3 egg halves and 3 tomato wedges in a petal design on plate (over rice if desired), then top generously with lentil mixture and garnish with cilantro.

These are both keepers. They got big stars next to them in my meal planning notebook, which means, "Please cook me again!"

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I hate to be the one to tell you this, but since I haven't seen others post it, I'll stick my opinion in here.

You need to write a food piece for your newspaper. Is there still a newspaper in BR? If not, do the Times (London, NY, whatever) as there won't be many more years that ink will coat paper and then be thrown onto folks' front lawns.

Anyway your stuff is great and the photos are good. Three hours of lessons with an art director and a spray bottle of Glycerin and you'd be world class.

Hint: Don't do shrimp. Very hard to photograph well and word has it they will be extinct next month.

PS: I just came from eating too much and reading this made me hungry. Really.
I love the picture of Kent's food. I have a very simple tomato sauce recipe...it is one can of paste, one can of water, basil to taste, and 1 teaspoon of olive oil. I never added salt or sugar... It worked great in Haiti and was always the base for pizza, spaghetti, and lasagna sauce...we added vegetables to it..its not fancy, didn't require cooking for hours, but it won many awards when folks were hungry for pizza and could not find a "traditional" tasting pizza there.
Two things: 1) Ela LOVES curry... as long as it's not tooo spicy. So you might let Kent try a bite, just in case. I never figured she'd like it but she licks her plate and everything when I give it to her. 2) I have a great marinara sauce recipe that I abducted from an Italian ex-boyfriend. It's so yummy, but it makes a huge amount of sauce, so only make it when I have lots of room in my freezer. If you want, I'll send it your way sometime.
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