Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Retro Halloween Horror Cupcakes!











     During the 1950's through the 1970's, Halloween cupcakes were not a sophisticated art form that were only made by top pastry chefs.  Back then, Halloween cupcakes were simply cute or slightly morbid!  Halloween cupcakes were made with simple designs, simple techniques and simple creepy ideas.
     Adults from the fifties and sixties seemed to have a knack for creating minimalistic Halloween cupcake designs that caused the viewers of the Halloween horror cupcakes to get the creeps.  I remember someone asking my neighbor's mom about how she got her cupcakes to look creepy.  She responded by saying "Just pretend that you escaped from a psycho ward!"  I guess that it helps to create a state of mind that will enable creepy ideas to flow freely.
     It was not till the 1980's that horror movies became reliant on computerized special effects.  Before then, horror movie film makers relied on capturing the viewing audience's imagination and twisting it to hold their imagination in a dimension of terror.  Nowadays, computer graphics and sound play more importance than good horror screenwriting.  Horror novel writing is still a good medium for truly twisting the readers imagination and leading it to a dimension of dementia!
     Some of the scariest morbid looking cupcakes happen to be made by kids who are into creepy things!  Kids do not rely on special effects or sophisticated cake decorating techniques, when they use their natural craft to create a Halloween cupcake that is intended to scare the living bejeezus out of someone.  Not every kid is a genius, artist or brain surgeon!  Then again, neither is every adult.  Many kids who are viewed by naive adults as being less talented than they should be, do create rough looking scary Halloween cupcakes that are truly blood curdling.
     Rough, unpolished and unprofessional looking Halloween horror cupcakes have a way of capturing eye contact.  People try to look away, but they cannot break from their fixated gaze for long.
     Those who gaze upon the terrible looking Halloween cupcake, then wonder what kind of a sick twisted demented mind could have made such a psychotic captivating low quality rough looking masterpiece that is creepy enough to possibly be made by a basket weaver mass murderer from an insane asylum who made the front page of the newspaper by escaping to a suburban neighborhood at night!  Then this rhetorical question starts to slip past the lips of the hypnotized onlooker;  "What kind of a sick twisted....???"
     The hypnotized stare is broken by a child saying "Thats my cupcake I made!  You can have it if you want it!"  The unprepared trembling response by the shocked transfixed Halloween horror cupcake viewer usually goes like this;  "No!  I mean, thats okay!  You can give that cupcake to someone else if....   never mind!  I like that cupcake, okay!  Thanks!  Geesh!  It sure is scary looking."
     Then the child smiles, while thinking "I sure scared the bejeezus out of that one!"
   
     The only sophisticated item in the recipe is the chiffon batter for the cupcakes.  Chiffon cake batter is basically a wet cake batter that contains oil for a very elegant texture.  The wet batter is folded with meringue.  Think of a chiffon cake batter as being a souffle!  Chiffon cake is airy, elegant and light as a feather!  Cupcake lovers can eat a dozen chiffon batter cupcakes and not feel weighed down.
     During the seventies, the healthy eating habit craze began.  Cupcakes that were en vogue had minimal amounts of frosting or icing applied as decorations.  The focus was on the cake and not the evil sugary Halloween cupcake topping.  I used that theme for all but one of the cupcakes in the photographs above.  The Wormy Brain Cupcake had a fair size mound of sweet simple buttercream frosting.  A small pastry bag with no metal tip was used to make the brain.  Store bought gummy worms were cut in half and stuck into the brain.
     I chose a simple buttercream frosting, because it is easy for kids to work with.  Kids like this kind of sweet creamy frosting!  The frosting does not need to be piled a mile high, because these are retro style kid's cupcakes from an age gone by.  Besides, the featherlight chiffon cake is what the cupcake fans are after anyway!
     A few different application techniques were used to decorate the cupcakes.  The Blood Thirsty Ghost Cupcake was decorated with spread, dab and smear techniques.  This style is good for those who have no pastry bags or parchment paper cones.
    The Scary Green Octopus Cupcake, The Bat Costume Trick Or Treater Cupcake, The Black Spider Cupcake, The Black Voodoo Monster Cupcake and the Three Eyed Seymour Cupcake were all decorated with either a mini star tip pastry bag or a mini cone tip pastry bag.  Those are easy kitchen tools for kids to learn to use.  Small round pearl drop cake decorations were used for the eyes.  Shredded coconut that is dried crisp can be easily broken into tiny teeth shapes.
     Adults and children do not have to be certified master pastry chefs, just to make fun creepy Halloween Horror Cupcakes.  Pretend that you have just escaped from an insane asylum and get into making some simple creepy looking cupcake designs that draw stares.  The whole idea is just to have fun and possibly scare the living bejeezus out of somebody!

     Chiffon Cake Batter:
     This recipe makes enough batter for about 24 medium size cupcakes!  I chose to make 12 cupcakes and a few mini cake shapes for projects later in the week.  I will post a few gourmet cupcake toppings this week too.
     Chiffon cake was an award winning dessert that was created by a California insurance salesman, Harry Baker in 1927.  Harry Baker was also a caterer to the Hollywood stars.  The stars and Hollywood restaurants all purchased his chiffon cakes.  The chiffon cake recipe was a closely guarded secret for nearly twenty years, till he sold the recipe to General Mills.  
     Chiffon cake almost never dries out and it remains moist.  Is is perfect for pastry creams, swiss butter creams, mousse and damp icings.  Chiffon cake will hold up well when frozen or when left in open air for days.   
     Chiffon cake batter Halloween cupcakes are light as a feather.  One thing about Chiffon batter is that the baking soda and salt measurements cannot be on the heavy side.  When sweet icing is applied, the salt will be easily noticed.
     An electric mixer is best for both the batter and frosting recipes.  The chiffon cake will not stick to the cupcake paper, because of the oil content.  The top of the cupcakes can become soft if the cupcakes are stored in sealed container.  Allow the surface of the cupcakes to dry before decorating if condensation occurs.
     There is nothing tricky about making chiffon batter.  Just gently fold the meringue into the batter, because it is the air in the meringue that gives chiffon cake its light texture.
     I flavored one half of the vanilla batter with 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder.  If you add a liquid flavoring like orange juice concentrate, then decrease the proportion of water the keep the consistency of the batter in balance.
     Sift together:
     - 5 ounces of cake flour
     - 4 ounces of granulated sugar
     - 1 pinch of salt
     - 1/4 ounce of baking powder
     Set the dry ingredients aside.
     Combine and mix these ingredients together in a mixing bowl:
     - 2 1/2 ounces of vegetable oil
     - 2 1/2 ounces of egg yolk
     - 3 3/4 ounces of water
     - 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
     Add a little bit of the liquid mixture to the dry mixture at a time, while stirring, till the ingredients are combined.
     Set the base batter mixture aside.
     Place 5 ounces of egg white in an electric mixer bowl.
     Add 1 pinch of cream of tartar.
     Whisk the egg white on medium speed, till soft peaks appear.
     Rain 2 1/2 ounces of sugar on the meringue.
     Continue mixing, till medium stiff peaks appear.
     Fold the meringue into the base batter mixture.

     Cupcakes:
     Place cupcake paper liners in a muffin or cupcake pan.
     Fill the paper cups with chiffon batter, till they are 3/4's full.
     Bake in a 350 degree oven, till a toothpick can be inserted and it comes out dry.  (The time depends on the size of the cupcakes.  The time can be between 8 to 15 minutes.)
     Allow the cupcakes to cool.
     Remove the cupcakes from the pan and place them on a drying rack.
     Allow the cupcakes to stale for about 1 hour.

     Basic Buttercream Icing:
     Kids like this sweet icing and it is easy to work with!  
     This is not a stiff icing, so do not attempt to make roses or flower petals.  Food Coloring can be added to small amounts of this icing after the large white icing batch is made.  Just fold and mash the different food colors into the divided amounts of icing in separate containers.  Only 1 or two drops are needed for lighter shades.  Black food coloring takes a few drops to produce a jet black color.
     Place 1/2 pound of butter into an electric mixing bowl with a paddle attachment.
     Mix at a low speed till the butter softens.
     Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
     Add 15 ounces of confectioners sugar, but only add a little bit of the sugar at a time.
     Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl and paddle occasionally.  The mixture will be very stiff.
     Note:  For the next step, you will have to judge how thick that you want the icing to be.  For a stiff icing add 2 tablespoons of milk.  For a medium stiff icing that is easily worked, add 3 to 4 tablespoons of milk.  Only add one tablespoon of milk at a time, then judge the consistency of the icing!  If you add too much milk, then you will have to start a new batch of sugar and butter paste to tighten the loose icing with.
     After the ingredients combine to create a stiff smooth mixture, add 1 tablespoon of milk at a time, let it combine while mixing and judge the consistency to see if it is to your liking.  Three to 4 tablespoons of milk should be the maximum amount added.  The icing should be workable at room temperature.

     Basically, the Halloween Horror Cupcake decorating techniques are up to you or the kids!  Small pastry bags with small metal tips are ideal with adult supervision.  Kids can lodge metal or plastic pastry bag tips in their throat, while unsupervised, so take caution!  Parchment paper cones for piping icing are an alternative and they are easy to make.
     Happy Halloween!  Mwahahahaha!  ...  Shawna  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mezzi Occhi di Lupo al forno con sugo di carne e formaggi






Baked wolf's eye pasta with meat sauce and Italian cheese!

     This is a simple baked pasta entree that is very popular at home and in Italian American restaurants.  Unlike the classic entree baked ziti, this recipe has no ricotta three cheese mixture or salsa di pomodoro.  A rich thick meat sauce that is commonly used to make lasagna takes the place of tomato sauce and turns this baked pasta into a hearty meal.

     Sugo di Carne Recipe:  
     This recipe makes enough for 3 medium pasta portions or 3 to 4 lasagna portions!  Some people like big portions of Italian food, so this recipe may only be enough for 2 large portions when served with pasta!
     Heat a pot over medium low heat.
     Add 5 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 4 cloves of  finely chopped garlic.
     Add 1/3 cup of very finely minced onion.
     Add 1/3 cup of very finely minced carrot.
     Add 1/3 cup of very finely minced celery.   
     Stir and saute, till the fine soffritto vegetables become tender, but not browned at all.
     Add 6 ounces of ground veal.
     Add 10 ounces of lean ground lean beef.
     Stir the meat with a wire whisk occasionally as it cooks, so any clumps of ground meat are broken up into tiny pieces.   
     Note:  Clumps of cooked ground meat are not desirable in this sauce!  Sugo di carne is meant to coat the pasta with flavor and cling to the pasta.  If you want big chunks of ground meat, then that is what meatballs are all about!
     Saute the ground meat, till it is fully cooked and lightly browned.  (Do not allow the meat to overly brown.  That is how a sugo di carne becomes greasy and dark in color!)
     Add just enough imported Italian canned crushed plum tomatoes to almost cover the meat.  (The proportion of ground meat should be slightly higher than the proportion of tomato!)
     Add 1/2 cup of imported Italian canned tomato puree or 3 pureed peeled and seeded fresh overripe plum tomatoes.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 3 pinches of basil.
     Add 3 pinches of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of whole fennel seed.  (Do not add too much fennel seed to a sugo di carne, or that will be the only flavor that can be tasted!)
     Add 1/2 cup of dry red wine.
     Add 1/2 cup of light beef broth.
     Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     When the sauce starts to gently boil, reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Stir the sauce once every 4 or 5 minutes.
     Simmer the sauce for 30 to 35 minutes. 
     Add 3 pinches of finely chopped curly parsley or Italian parsley.
     Note:  Do not simmer this sauce all day!  Meat sauces that are cooked for too much time will start to lose their crisp flavor and bright color.  A meat sauce that is simmered too long will become acidic and dark in color!
     After the sugo di carne finishes simmering, the sauce should be a thick consistency.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.  If the sauce becomes too thick, add a small splash of chicken stock.

     Mezzi Occhi di Lupo al forno con sugo di carne e formaggi:
     Cook one portion of Italian wolf's eye pasta in boiling water, till it becomes al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Place the pasta in a mixing bowl.
     Add just enough sugo di carne to coat the pasta with flavor.
     Mound the sauced pasta in a casserole dish.
     Sprinkle a mixture of grated fontal, mozzarella, parmesan and romano cheeese over the pasta.
     Bake in a 350 degree oven, till the pasta and sauce become hot and till the cheese melts.  
     Note:  The cheese should only have a few light golden brown highlights.  Overly browned cheese becomes very bitter tasting.  The object is to only melt fine Italian cheese!
     Place the casserole on a serving dish.
     Sprinkle 2 pinches of finely minced Italian parsley over the pasta.
     Serve with garlic bread and fine Italian red wine!

     Simple, rich, hearty and delizioso!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna   

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Spaghetti Squash with Tangy Pomegranate Sauce, Rose Water and Garlic Parsley Bechamel









A middle eastern style spaghetti squash creation!

     Spaghetti squash has a delicate light flavor and it is best when it is cooked al dente.  Soft mushy strands of spaghetti squash are not very appealing.  Crunch raw spaghetti squash is not very appealing either.  A very light crunch to the bite is the goal for cooking spaghetti squash.
     Usually I use goat's milk yogurt to make a white sauce for middle eastern style recipes.  Ever since the Italians occupied North Africa, bechamel (besciamella) sauce has become popular in many cuisines of North Africa and the middle east.  Egyptian style moussaka is a good example of how bechamel sauce was adapted to an old traditional recipe.  The garlic parsley bechamel adds a gentle soft flavor to this recipe.
     Tangy pomegranate molasses is a pre-made bottled product that is available in middle eastern market.  Tangy pomegranate molasses is used like a cooking sauce or sauce additive by many middle eastern chefs.  The tangy pomegranate flavor is quite tart, so a little bit goes a long way.
     Many Persian, Egyptian and Arabic recipes are finish with a sprinkle of aromatic water.  Citrus water, orange blossom water or rose water are often the first for adding a pleasant aroma and flavor.  Rose water can be quite strong, so only a light sprinkle is needed to create a pleasant aromatic effect.

     Spaghetti Squash:
     The size of a spaghetti squash can affect the baking time.  For the most part, a baking time of 20 to 25 minutes is sufficient for any spaghetti squash that is smaller than a football.  Any size larger and 5 or 10 minutes of extra baking time may be needed.
     Pierce two small holes on 1 whole spaghetti squash with a metal skewer to create steam vents. 
     Place the whole spaghetti squash on a rack in a 350 degree oven.
     Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, till the spaghetti squash shell feels piping hot when quickly touched.
     Remove the spaghetti squash from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes.
     Cut the spaghetti squash in half across the middle.  
     Note:  Do not cut spaghetti squash end to end, or the spaghetti strands will be cut into short pieces!  Long strands of al dente spaghetti squash is the goal.
     Allow the spaghetti squash to cool to room temperature.
     Use a spoon to scoop out the small amount of seeds and loose pulp from the middle of the squash.
     Starting from the center layer, gently use a fork to loosen, pry and pull the long spaghetti strands of squash marrow out of the spaghetti squash.
     The spaghetti squash meat can now be portioned.  The spaghetti squash can refrigerated in a sealed container for a few days for later use.

     Garlic Parsley Bechamel Recipe:
     This recipe makes enough for 2 sauce portions!  No onion and clove piquet is needed for this bechamel version. 
     Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 4 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring, to form a roux.
     Stir till the roux cooks to a white color, with very little hazelnut aroma.
     Add 1 teaspoon of finely minced garlic and constantly stir the roux for 10 seconds.  (The hot roux will instantly cook the garlic!)
     Add 1 1/3 cups of milk while whisking.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Stir as the sauce heats and thickens to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a thin sauce consistency.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of finely chopped Italian parsley, just before serving the sauce. 
     
     Tangy Pomegranate Sauce:
     To offset the tart flavor of bottled pomegranate molasses, onions and shallot are cooked till they become "sweet" and a small amount of sugar is added. 
     Heat a saute pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of ghee or clarified butter.
     Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced shallot.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small chopped onion.
     Gently saute and sweat the onion mixture, till the onions turn clear in color and till they become tender.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 2 ounces of pomegranate molasses.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till a thin consistency glace sauce is formed. 
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.  Add water if the sauce becomes too thick, while the spaghetti squash strands are reheated.

     Spaghetti Squash with Tangy Pomegranate Sauce, Rose Water and Garlic Parsley Bechamel:
     Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat.
     Place 1 large portion (About 2 large handfuls or 2 cups) of the spaghetti squash strands in a fine mesh trainer basket.
     Dip the strainer basket with the spaghetti squash in the hot water for about 20 seconds, till the squash becomes hot.
     Remove the strainer basket from the hot water and shake any excess water back into the pot.
     Add the hot spaghetti squash to the tangy pomegranate sauce in the saute pan.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Place a tall mound of the spaghetti squash on the center of a plate.
     Spoon any excess tangy pomegranate sauce over the spaghetti squash.
     Sprinkle just a few drops of rosewater over the mound of spaghetti squash.
     Spoon garlic parsley bechamel sauce on the plate around the mound of squash.
     Sprinkle 1 small handful of pomegranate fruit over the squash and sauces. 
     Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of diced red bell pepper over the squash and sauces.
     Sprinkle short pieces of green onion on the sides of the mound of spaghetti squash.
     Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.

     This spaghetti squash recipe is very tasty!  The classic Persian Arabic middle eastern flavors of this recipe bring new life to this winter squash.  The garlic parsley bechamel adds a soothing rich texture and flavor.  So yummy!  ...  Shawna 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Halloween Zombie Fingers!











     "My oh my, Honey!  These are the best tasting Zombie Fingers that I have ever had!  They taste so earthy and fresh from the grave! ... Mwahahaha!"

     Halloween Zombie Fingers!  
     Green Beer Batter Chicken Fingers with Black Tinted Onion Fingernails ... Fried Potato Headstone ... A Mounded Grave of Oregano Flavored Brown Earth Tone Tinted Mashed Potato ... Green Onion Sliver Grass Blade Sprouts ...  An Earthy Dusting of Cumin Powder.  Habanero Ketchup Blood Splatters.  

     This savory Halloween Zombie Fingers entree is very easy to make!  Because zombies tend to rot and decompose in the grave or pretty much any place that they hang out, the Zombie Fingers do not have to look like they are full of life.  They can be presented morbidly in the rough.  The more crude looking, the better!

     Green food color was added to beer batter.  The trick to retaining the bright green color and for keeping the fingernails attached, is to only pan fry one side of each Zombie Finger, till the batter is partially cooked on one side of each finger.  The Zombie Fingers are then placed on an oiled non-stick baking pan with the fried side facing down.  The fingernail can then be attached to the uncooked beer batter on top of the Zombie Finger.  The uncooked green beer batter acts like fingernail glue!  The Zombie Fingers are then baked in an oven.  This cooking method creates a ghoulish green mottled zombie skin effect!
  
     The mashed potatoes must be made stiff and not creamy, because the mashed potatoes need to support five zombie fingers and a headstone.  A combination of red, yellow and green food color will create a nice earthy color tone for the mashed potatoes.

     The Same Old Boring Bar Food, That Every Bar Serves On Halloween? 
     ... Just Say No!
     I am surprised to find that most bar and grill chefs seem to lack any macabre creative imagination during the Halloween week.  Then again, most bars and clubs only hire obedient cooks who are not paid to be creative.  That is one of the problems with corporate run establishments.  Why not let it all hang out and serve fun creative food to customers during Halloween!  
     I spent many years cooking bar and club food and I noticed that during Halloween, customers do get bored with the same old tired standard presentations of food.  I have heard customers who are in a Halloween party going mode say things like, "You know something ... I'm tired of eating the same old food that every bar seems to sell!  Its all the same and it is boring as hell.  Why can't they cook something that has to do with Halloween?"  
     Halloween week is the best time to impress customers with how daring, innovative and macabre food can be.  People in a Halloween mood want to be entertained with bizarre creepy food presentations.  Freaky fun conversations can be inspired by interesting fun Halloween food!  Then the Halloween party mode really starts rolling! 

     Habanero Hot Sauce:
     Ripe orange color habanero peppers can be found at nearly any asian market, Mexican market or regular grocery store.  Wear rubber gloves when handling habaneros, if you have sensitive skin.  This recipe is written in a way that requires minimum direct contact with the habanero peppers.  A food processor, blender or blending wand is required for pureeing this sauce.  The sauce is pureed twice, so it becomes a very smooth consistency.
     Remove the stems from 1/2 pound of orange habanero peppers. 
     Use a knife to slice halfway through each pepper, but do not cut the peppers in half.
     Place the peppers in a stainless steel sauce pot.
     Add enough water to cover the peppers, with 2" of extra water.
     Add 4 cloves of garlic.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped onion.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1 1/2 ounces of cider vinegar.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 3 pinches of white pepper.
     Place the pot over low heat.
     Allow the ingredients to gently simmer, till the peppers become soft.  (About 1 1/2 to 2 hours.)
     Allow the liquid to reduce.  Only add enough water to keep the peppers covered with 1" of liquid.
     Remove the pot from the heat and allow the ingredients to cool to room temperature.
     Puree the ingredients with an electric blending wand, a food processor or a blender.
     Return the thin puree to the stainless steel pot.
     Place the pot over low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce the thin puree, till is becomes a thin puree sauce consistency.
     Remove the pot from the heat and allow the ingredients to cool to room temperature.
     Puree the sauce a second time, so it becomes very smooth.
     The orange habanero hot sauce has a long shelf life, if the sauce is kept refrigerated.
   
     Habanero Ketchup:
     Mix 2 ounces of habanero hot sauce with 2 ounces of your favorite bottle ketchup and chill the habanero ketchup in a refrigerator!

     Chicken Finger Strips:
     Select a 6 ounce boneless chicken breast.
     Cut 5 strips that are shaped like fingers.  The fingers should have a maximum length of about 5".  (Keep in mind that some fingers are shorter than others!) 
     Keep the chicken finger strips cool in a refrigerator.

     Black Tinted Onion Fingernails:
     Peel 1 onion.
     Remove the entire outside ring of the onion and place it on a cutting board.
     Cut the the large onion ring into pointed fingernail shapes that will fit on one end of each chicken strip.  The width of each onion fingernail must be slightly narrower than the chicken finger.  The length of each fingernail should be about 3/4" long.
     Place the onion fingernails into a small glass.
     Cover the onion fingernails with cold water.
     Add 2 to 3 drops of black food color.
     Let the onion fingernails marinate, till they turn black and gray.
     Drain the liquid off of the fingernails.
     Keep the black tinted fingernails chilled, so they do not wilt.   

     Mounded Grave Mashed Potatoes:
     Place 1 large peeled russet potato in a sauce pot.  (About 10 ounces)
     Cover the potato with 2" of extra water.
     Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Boil the potato till it becomes soft and tender.
     Drain the water off of the potato and leave the potato in the sauce pot.
     Partially mash the potato.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of cream.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Note:  For the next step, the amount of food color needed depends on a few variables.  Use your own sense of judgement for when the color tint is correct.  The color tint goal is to create a muddy tan or light brown color.  The black food color will adjust the color tone to a darker shade.
     Add 3 to 5 drops of red food color.
     Add 3 to 5 drops of yellow food color.
     Add 2 to 4 drops of green food color.
     Mash and mix the potatoes, then check the color tint to see if it is an earthy mud color.  Adjust the color tint if necessary.
     Add 3 to 5 drops of black food color, to darken the tone of the mashed potatoes.
     Mash the potato mixture, till it becomes smooth.
     Keep the mashed potato warm on a stove top and allow it to become stiff in texture. 

     Green Beer Batter:
     Place 3/4 cup of flour in a small mixing bowl.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add just enough beer, while gently whisking, to create a medium thick beer batter.
     Add 4 to 6 drops of green food color, while whisking, to turn the beer batter into a green color.
     Set the green beer batter aside. 

     Fried Potato Head Stone:
     Peel 1 russet potato.
     Cut the potato in half across the middle.
     Stand the potato up on the flat end, so the rounded end is at the top.
     Make 2 vertical cuts, on either side of top dead center that are about 3/8" apart to create a headstone shape.
     Trim the edges of the headstone, so it looks real.
     Place the head stone potato slice in a sauce pot.
     Cover the potato with 2" of water.
     Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Blanch the potato slice, till it is only less than halfway cooked and so it is still very firm.
     Remove the potato slice from the hot water and dry off any excess water that clings to the potato.
     Heat some vegetable frying oil in a non-stick saute pan to 360º.  The oil should be about 1/4" deep.
     Fry the potato slice on both sides, till it becomes golden brown and fully cooked.
     Remove the pan fried potato headstone from the hot oil and place it on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.
     Keep it warm on a stove top.
     Season the headstone with sea salt.
     Keep the oil hot in the saute pan hot, so the zombie fingers can be cooked!

     Zombie Fingers:
     Pre-heat an oven to 325º.
     Brush a non-stick baking pan with vegetable oil.
     Dredge the chicken finger strips in flour.
     Dip the floured chicken strips in the green beer batter.
     Place each green battered chicken strip in the 1/4" deep hot oil in the saute pan, till they all are in the pan.  Keep the fingers separated!
     Do not flip the finger in the hot oil!  Only fry one side, till the batter becomes partially cooked and semi solid.  The fried batter should still be soft on the bottom half of each finger.
     Use a spatula to remove the half fried battered fingers from the hot oil and place them on the oiled non-stick baking pan, with the fried side facing down.  
     Note:  If any of the uncooked batter on the topside of the fingers becomes thin or it runs off, spread a thin layer of the excess green batter from the mixing bowl over the bare spots.  It is important to have uncooked batter on the fingertips, where the fingernails will be placed.  
     Place the black tinted onion fingernails on the end of each finger.  The Green batter will act as a glue.  Try to place the fingernails on the fingers, so there is a minimum of overhang, because the heat of the oven will cause the onions to curl!  (Curled fingernails are for fakirs in India not zombies!)
     Drizzle a few drops of vegetable oil over each green battered zombie finger.
     Place the pan with the zombie fingers in the 325º oven.
     Bake till the green batter coating becomes crisp and till some of the excess moisture in the fully cooked chicken meat has evaporated.  (This way the zombie fingers will be stiff instead of limp!  Rigor mortis is an important zombie finger characteristic!)
     Allow the zombie fingers to rest for a few minutes, before using a spatula to free them from the pan.
     Keep the Zombie Fingers warm on a stove top.

     Halloween Zombie Fingers Presentation:
     Gather the muddy dirt mound of of earth tone mashed potatoes with a serving spoon.
     Mound the muddy mashed potatoes on a plate like a mounded grave.
     Insert the fried potato headstone into one end of the mound.
     Note:  Use a fork to tamp the mashed potatoes around and against each item that is inserted.  This will stabilize the mounded grave so each item stand vertically!
     Insert one zombie finger vertically into the grave at a time and tamp the potatoes in place.  
     Tamp the entire mounded grave to create a macabre texture.  (The tamping with a fork will create a harrowed raked look!) 
     Use a pointed chopstick to poke holes in the grave mound.
     Insert thin green onion top slivers and then use the fork to tamp the green slivers in place.  (The onion slivers should resemble sprouting grass.)
     Heavily dust the plate with ground cumin.
     Spatter the habanero ketchup on the plate, so it looks like the blood of a victim of the evil Zombie Fingers!

     "Yes, Igor!  Another Halloween creation that is destined to diabolically and horrifically rule zee world!  Mwahahahaha!"  Yum! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Casseruola of Spaghetti Squash with Salsa Pomodoro, Onions, Peperoni and Formaggi






A tasty Italian style spaghetti squash recipe!

     Honestly, I thought that it might be tacky to make a spaghetti squash recipe, just like how a basic spaghetti pasta recipe can be made.  I thought that the internet and cookbooks would have plenty of recipes that made use of this idea.  I was wrong!  As it turns out, there are relatively few recipes for Italian style spaghetti squash creations.  I cannot figure out why.  The spaghetti squash and spaghetti connection is simple. 
     Choosing to make this recipe al forno (baked), instead of sauteed seemed to be the best choice.  Making this al forno recipe in the style of a casseruola brings this Italian spaghetti squash recipe into the realm of the comfort food zone.  I kept the flavors of this recipe comfortable and familiar.  This recipe has no meats, so it is a nice entree for those who allow dairy products in their vegetarian diet. 

     Salsa di Pomodoro Recipe:  
     This recipe makes about 4 or 5 portions of sauce!
     Heat a pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add about 5 to 6 ounces of olive oil.  (The olive oil proportion should be about 1/10 of the volume of the tomatoes.) 
     Add 8 cloves of finely chopped garlic.
     Add 1 handful of finely minced onion.
     Saute till the onions turn clear in color, but do not let the onions brown.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.
     Add a 28 ounce can of good quality imported Italian crushed plum tomatoes.
     Place a 28 ounce can of imported whole Italian plum tomatoes or San Marzano tomatoes that are packed in their own juices into a mixing bowl.  
     Hand squeeze and crush the tomatoes, till no big chunks remain.
     Add the hand squeezed tomatoes and juices to the pot.  
     Add 4 pinches of oregano.
     Add sea salt and ground black pepper.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh basil.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced Italian parsley.  
     Add 1 cup of Italian dry red wine.  
     Heat the sauce and stir, till it starts to gently boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Leave the pot uncovered.  (Never cover a pot of Italian tomato sauce with a lid, or the sauce will become stewed tomatoes!)  
     Slowly simmer the sauce and stir the sauce once every 5-7 minutes for 4 hours.  
     The sauce should be simmering gently and there should be very little bubbling on the surface.  Scrape the sides of the inside of the pot back into the sauce too.  That stuff is full of flavor!  
     After 4 hours, the flavors will meld and the tomato sauce will a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.  The excess tomato juices should be reduced into the sauce at this point.  The olive oil should be well combined with the tomatoes, because the sauce was stirred often.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat or reheat the sauce to order.

     Spaghetti Squash:
     The size of a spaghetti squash can affect the baking time.  For the most part, a baking time of 20 to 25 minutes is sufficient for any spaghetti squash that is smaller than a football or rugby ball.  Any size larger and 5 or 10 minutes of extra baking time may be needed.
     Pierce two small holes on 1 whole spaghetti squash with a metal skewer to create steam vents. 
     Place the whole spaghetti squash on a rack in a 350 degree oven.
     Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, till the spaghetti squash shell feels piping hot when quickly touched.
     Remove the spaghetti squash from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes.
     Cut the spaghetti squash in half across the middle.  
     Note:  Do not cut spaghetti squash end to end, or the spaghetti strands will be cut into short pieces!  Long strands of al dente spaghetti squash is the goal.
     Allow the spaghetti squash to cool to room temperature.
     Use a spoon to scoop out the small amount of seeds and loose pulp from the middle of the squash.
     Starting from the center layer, gently use a fork to loosen, pry and pull the long spaghetti strands of squash marrow out of the spaghetti squash.
     The spaghetti squash meat can now be portioned.  The spaghetti squash can refrigerated for in a sealed container for a few days for later use. 

     Casseruola of Spaghetti Squash with Salsa Pomodoro, Onions, Peperoni and Formaggi:
     Spread 3 ounces of the salsa pomodoro on a shallow 6" wide casserole dish.
     Mound a portion of spaghetti squash strands over the tomato sauce.  (About 1 1/2 to 2 cups.)
     Pour 4 ounces of the salsa pomodoro over the center of the mound of spaghetti squash.
     Sprinkle 1 small handful of grated mozzarella cheese over the spaghetti squash.
     Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of grated romano cheese over the spaghetti squash.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of oregano over the cheese.
     Sprinkle 1 small handful of thin sliced onion over the casserole.
     Sprinkle 1 small handful of thin strips of sweet red bell pepper over the casserole.
     Sprinkle a small amount of grated mozzarella over the casserole.
     Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the casserole.
     Bake the casserole in a 350 degree oven, till the cheese melts and the casserole becomes hot.  When a few light golden brown highlights appear, then the casserole is ready.
     Place the casserole on a serving dish.
     Sprinkle 2 to 3 pinches of minced Italian parsley over the casserole.
     Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.

     This is not your average tasting winter squash recipe!  Italian flavors can put a smile on any face.  Even when the spaghetti turns out to be spaghetti squash!  Yum!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lasagna a Sugo Di Carne e Formaggi Romano Besciamella








A nice Northern Italian style version of the classic lasagna of layered sugo di carne and ricotta!

     Sugo di carne is a thick rich Italian meat sauce that is a standard Italian recipe.  Sugo di carne can be cooked to a thinner consistency for being tossed with spaghetti or cappellini.  For baked pastas like lasagna, the sugo di carne is cooked till the tomatoes and sauce coat the meat with flavor.  Sugo di carne for lasagna should be thick enough to stand tall in a spoon!  
     Many Italian chefs refer to any four cheese mixture by the name quattro formaggi.  Some Italian chefs say that quattro formaggi never includes ricotta cheese, while other Italian chefs always include ricotta in the mix.  Tre formaggi is Italian three cheese mix and it usually refers to the standard ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan mixture that is used for making baked ziti and many lasagna recipes.  Cottage cheese is never a suitable substitute for ricotta, so just forget about using cottage cheese!
     Italian besciamella sauce is the same as French bechamel sauce.  Besciamella originated in Italy.  Besciamella is a sauce that is commonly used in Northern Italian cuisine.  Besciamella is sometimes flavored with a small amount of grating cheese for al forno (baked) pastas.  I add just enough romano cheese to the besciamella sauce in this recipe to add a nice complimentary flavor for the sugo di carne sauce.  
     At a few Italian restaurants that I cooked in, we used to garnish the baked pastas with a thin streak of salsa pomodoro (tomato sauce) spooned across the middle of the pasta.  I had no salsa pomodoro on hand, so I placed 3 thick slices of ripe plum tomato across the top of the pasta before baking.  This added some nice eye appeal and a pleasant al fresco tomato flavor. 
     Fresh pasta was used to make this lasagna.  My first Italian apprenticeship involved learning how to make perfection fresh pasta from a few great Italian chefs.  I must admit that I am good at making fresh pasta, because I learned from one of the best Sicilian chefs from New York City and a great chef from Venice Italy!  Later during a second apprenticeship, I learned Northern Italian and Genovese styles of pasta.  
     Teachers at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts School usually asked me to demonstrate how to make pasta during class.  Many kids detest those who are older and who have experience these days, so the teachers request for me to instruct the art of making pasta usually only led to more hatred from the stubborn students.  Deservedly so, they did not learn a thing about making great pasta!  Ce est la vie!  Those that paid attention, produced far superior quality pasta during future classes.  
     There are a few tricks and a few rules that need to be followed when making fresh pasta.  I will explain as much as possible.  If you really want to learn how to make great fresh pasta and roll the pasta out like a professional, then seek apprenticeship or tuition from a good Italian pasta chef in person.  Pasta making is a hands on learning experience.

     Sugo di Carne Recipe:  
     This recipe makes enough for 3 medium pasta portions or 3 to 4 lasagna portions!  Some people like big portions of Italian food, so this recipe may only be enough for 2 large portions when served with pasta!
     Heat a pot over medium low heat.
     Add 5 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 4 cloves of  finely chopped garlic.
     Add 1/3 cup of very finely minced onion.
     Add 1/3 cup of very finely minced carrot.
     Add 1/3 cup of very finely minced celery.   
     Stir and saute, till the fine soffritto vegetables become tender, but not browned at all.
     Add 6 ounces of ground veal.
     Add 10 ounces of lean ground lean beef.
     Stir the meat with a wire whisk occasionally as it cooks, so any clumps of ground meat are broken up into tiny pieces.   
     Note:  Clumps of cooked ground meat are not desirable in this sauce!  Sugo di carne is meant to coat the pasta with flavor and cling to the pasta.  If you want big chunks of ground meat, then that is what meatballs are all about!
     Saute the ground meat, till it is fully cooked and lightly browned.  (Do not allow the meat to overly brown.  That is how a sugo di carne becomes greasy and dark in color!)
     Add just enough imported Italian canned crushed plum tomatoes to almost cover the meat.  (The proportion of ground meat should be slightly higher than the proportion of tomato!)
     Add 1/2 cup of imported Italian canned tomato puree or 3 pureed peeled and seeded fresh overripe plum tomatoes.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 3 pinches of basil.
     Add 3 pinches of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of whole fennel seed.  (Do not add too much fennel seed to a sugo di carne, or that will be the only flavor that can be tasted!)
     Add 1/2 cup of dry red wine.
     Add 1/2 cup of light beef broth.
     Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     When the sauce starts to gently boil, reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Stir the sauce once every 4 or 5 minutes.
     Simmer the sauce for 30 to 35 minutes. 
     Add 3 pinches of finely chopped curly parsley or Italian parsley.
     Note:  Do not simmer this sauce all day!  Meat sauces that are cooked for too much time will start to lose their crisp flavor and bright color.  A meat sauce that is simmered too long will become acidic and dark in color!
     After the sugo di carne finishes simmering, the sauce should be a thick consistency for lasagna assembly.  The sauce should stand tall in a spoon.
     Allow the thick sugo di carne to cool to room temperature or refrigerate the sauce for lasagna assembly.

     Pasta Making Information:
     This recipe is not a simple semolina and water pasta dough recipe for pasta extruding machines.  This is a standard pasta recipe for hand turned pasta sheet rolling machines.  A rolling pin can be used to roll sheets of pasta, but a hand cranked pasta rolling machine is much easier to use and it makes sheets of pasta that are very uniform in thickness.  An economical Italian hand cranked pasta rolling machine costs about $18 to $40 dollars and it is a good investment for home usage.  A heavy duty restaurant grade pasta sheet roller costs about $350 to $650 dollars and it will last a lifetime, because it is rebuildable. 
      
     Pasta Dough Making Tips:
     Pasta dough can be started in a metal gear driven electric cake mixer with a dough hook, but it still must be folded and pressed by hand to finish blending the ingredients.  The dough does not need to be extensively kneaded, because it will be run through the pasta rolling machine several times at the widest setting and folded each in half each time.  Using the pasta rolling machine to finish the kneading of the dough is one of the tricks of the trade.
     Before the dough is rolled out as pasta sheets, the dough must rest in a refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours, so the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
     Pasta dough is usually made in batches and the extra dough can be refrigerated.  It is best to drape a cloth that is lightly soaked with olive oil over the block of pasta dough inside of a sealed container, when refrigerating pasta dough.
     The outside of the pasta dough block nearly always turns a grayish color after a couple of days, because of oxidization.  This is nothing to worry about and the gray surface does not need to be trimmed off.  The gray color will disappear after the dough is worked and after the pasta is boiled.
     Like all fresh products, fresh pasta has a Servesafe 7 day refrigerated shelf life.  Pasta dough can be frozen, but it is better when it is fresh.
     Good pasta dough should not be too stiff and it should not be too soft.  The dough should dent when heavy pressure is applied by one finger and the dough should only slightly or partially spring back.  A pasta dough with this texture will produce some fine pasta.
     I usually use a mixture of semolina and all purpose flour to make pasta.  This is how we made pasta when I apprenticed.  Only a tiny fraction of salt is added to the dough recipe.  A tiny fraction of olive oil is also added to the dough.  The eggs are the key to the texture of the pasta and no water should be added during the initial mix.  When the dough tightens, becomes stiff and starts to crumble, that is the time to start sprinkling very small amounts of water on the pasta dough, while kneading, till the dough becomes smooth and workable again.  Too much water in a pasta dough will result in a sticky stretchy dough that is hard to manage when shaping fine pasta.

     Pasta Dough Recipe:
     1 cup of flour per egg is the approximate proportion for Italian pasta!
     Place 1 1/2 cups of semolina in a large mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 cup of all purpose flour.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Mix the dry ingredients together.
     Pile the dry ingredients on the center of the mixing bowl.
     Form a shallow well on the center of the mound of the flour mixture.
     Place two whole eggs in the well.  
     Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil.
     Use a fork to gentle stir the eggs in the flour well, just like you are mixing eggs for scrambled eggs.
     As you stir the eggs in the well, allow the eggs to slowly and gradually gather the surrounding flour.
     Stir like this, till a dough starts to form.
     Scrape the ingredients from the fork back into the mixing bowl.
     Start using your fingers to gradually incorporate the remaining dry flour mixture into the dough mixture.
     At this stage, at some point, the dough will become dry and crumbly.  Now it the time to add a small sprinkle of water.  Do not add to much water!  Add a small amount, then work the dough.  Add small amounts of water till the dough becomes workable again.  The dough should be stiff in texture.
     Fold the dough and press with the heels of your palms after each fold.  Fold and knead the dough this way, till it becomes blended.
     Press the dough with 1 finger under pressure to make a dent in the dough.  The dough should only partially spring back when it has the correct texture.  The texture of the dough can be corrected by adding a sprinkle of water and more kneading if it is too dry.  If to wet, then work the dough on a flour dusted surface, till it becomes the correct texture.
     Form the dough into a thick rectangular block shape and place it in a sealed container.
     Refrigerate the dough for 3 to 4 hours, till the semolina in the dough becomes smooth.  
     
     Pasta Rolling Machine Techniques:
     Follow these instructions and tips for rolling out sheets of pasta!
     A very light dusting of flour on the work surface is best, when rolling sheet pasta.  Sometimes I do not dust with any flour at all, if the room temperature is chilly.
     When running sheets of pasta through a pasta sheet rolling machine, the pasta will pile up like an accordion and stick together, so pause while running a pasta sheet through the roller and gently use the backs of your fingers to carry the pasta sheet from under the machine out over the work surface, so the pasta sheet does not accordion.
     For the widest setting on a pasta roller, the pasta is run through several times, till it becomes smooth and till it starts to become wide.  If the pasta sheet has rough edges, then fold the sheet in half and keep running it through till the pasta sheet has smooth edges.  This is only done at the widest setting on the pasta rolling machine.
     Cut a 1/2" thick, 10" long slab of pasta dough for making the first pasta sheet.  Gently feed the thick slab of dough through the rolling machine at the widest setting to start the process.  The first past through will usually result in a rough broken pasta sheet.  Fold and press the sheet and pieces together, before running the dough through a second time.  On the second pass through the pasta roller, the dough will hold together and start to look like a rough sheet.  
     After the pasta sheet is uniform looking after being rum through the pasta rolling machine at the widest setting several times, then it is ready for the next step.  
     The pasta dough sheet can be run one time through each successive smaller thickness setting on the rolling machine, till the pasta sheet becomes the desired thickness.  
    The pasta sheet can now be turned into desired shapes! 

    Cutting Pasta Sheets For Lasagna:
    A lasagna can be made to be an individual portion with small square of pasta.  A multi portion large lasagna can be made with long sheets of pasta that are cut to the size of the baking pan.  The choice is up to you!  I wrote the following recipe for a single portion lasagna, but the techniques are the same for a large pan of lasagna.          
     Use a kitchen square and a straight edge ruler as guides for cutting and measuring square shapes or rectangle shapes of pasta sheets.  
     5"x 5"or 4"x 6" are standard sheet pasta sizes for an individual size lasagna.  Use one of these sizes if you want to make an individual size lasagna like the one in the recipe below.
     A pizza cutting knife wheel with a straight edge or ruffled edge pastry cutting wheel is best for cutting pasta.
     Cut enough squares or sheets of pasta, so the lasagna will have at least 5 layered decks.  Do not stack the pasta sheets or they will stick together.

     Cooking The Pasta Sheets:
     Bring a large pot of water to a gentle boil over medium high/high heat.
     Add some sea salt.
     Place the pasta sheets in the water, one at a time, till they are all in the hot water.
     As soon as the pasta sheets begin to float, then they are done cooking.
     Drain the hot water out of the pot and cool the pasta sheets under cold running water.
     Place the cooked pasta sheets on a dry lint free pastry towel to dry off any excess water.

     Formaggi Romano Besciamella Recipe:
     This recipe makes enough for 2 sauce portions!  No onion and clove piquet is needed for this besciamella sauce.  This is not a French bechamel! 
     Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 4 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring, to form a roux.
     Stir till the roux cooks to a white color, with very little hazelnut aroma.
     Add 1 1/3 cups of milk while whisking.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Stir as the sauce heats and thickens to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a thin sauce consistency.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 2 ounces of grated romano cheese while stirring.
     Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.

     Tre Formaggi:
     This recipe is enough for 3 to 4 lasagna portions!  Never add salt or pepper to tre formaggi or the delicate "sweet" flavor of the cheese will be lost! 
     Place 15 ounces of ricotta cheese in a mixing bowl.
     Add 3 ounces of finely grated parmesan cheese.
     Add 5 ounces of grated mozzarella cheese.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced Italian parsley.
     Add 1 whisked egg.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Chill the tre formaggi mixture in a refrigerator. 
     
     Lasagna a Sugo Di Carne e Formaggi Romano Besciamella:
     This recipe is written for 1 individual size lasagna portion!  Adjust the other recipes by using baker's math if you want to make a big pan of lasagna.  Simply double the sheet pasta cutting recipe for two portions, because the sauce and cheese recipes will be plenty enough for two portions. 
     Spread a thin layer of the romano besciamella on the bottom of a 6" wide round casserole dish.
     Place one square of the cooked pasta on the sauce.
     Spread a thin layer of sugo di carne on the pasta square.
     Sprinkle a little bit of grated mozzarella cheese on the sugo di carne.
     Repeat the steps for a second later of sugo di carne and cheese.
     Place a square of pasta over the second layer.
     Spread a thin layer of the tre formaggi over the pasta for the third layer.
     The fourth layer should be sugo di carne and grated mozzarella.  
     The fifth layer should be tre formaggi.
     Place a top square of pasta on the stack and leave it bare.
     Spoon a generous amount of the romano besciamella over the lasagna.
     Place 3 thick slices of ripe plum tomato across the top of the lasagna.
     Sprinkle a little bit of grated mozzarella over the lasagna.
     Sprinkle a couple pinches of grated romano cheese over the lasagna.
     Place the casserole dish on a sheet pan.
     Bake the lasagna in a 350 degree oven, till a few light brown highlights appear.
     Place the hot casserole dish on a serving platter.
     Sprinkle a few pinches of minced Italian parsley over the lasagna.

     This is a great tasting lasagna!  Yes, lasagna is a heavy filling meal.  It took 18 hours for my tummy to growl for more food after dining on this lasagna!  Be prepared for that nice relaxing pasta overdose coma feeling after eating a big portion of lasagna!  Yum!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna