Thursday, February 21, 2013

An Ode to the Casserole, Asian Inspired Soup, and a Pizza Failure

Last weekend was a tough one - but a weirdly good one.

It's tough times in a family that can bring everyone together the most, and that was proven Saturday and Sunday as Gina and I found ourselves gathered at my Aunt's house - as we had been so many times before - and despite it being a shockingly serious occasion, we all I think had a weirdly good time being together again laughing around the dining room table.

A big Italian family around a table full of food is not uncommon, and nothing on this planet speaks to the need for comforting like a big tray of casserole.

Make that two.

Gina spent Sunday afternoon making two really delicious trays of "lasagna".  It was layers of eggplants, zucchini, mushrooms with a ricotta-like mixture of tofu and spinach between each and a layer of mozzarella flavored Daiya.  We didnt have time to make our own sauce - which, for this occasion would have been perfect - but instead opted for jarred, store bought sauce (sorry moms).

Gina also made the most delicious cookies ever - seriously.  You may be reading this thinking, "I've probably had better cookies."  But you haven't.

They were so delicious, in fact, that they were eaten before a picture could even happen.

I humbly assembled a forgettable salad, all of this is pictured below (minus the cookies), spread before my overjoyed niece, Tessa:

Here's a different angle.  This doesn't really do them justice.

The Gina-Made casserole's are bookending my Aunt's Stuffed Shells in the middle.  She did actually make the sauce for hers.

The left overs got us through a good part of the week.  Gina made another casserole with some leftover polenta that we had.  She used nutritional yeast and tofu in it and the whole cooked final product had the taste and texture of - I kid you not - for real scrambled eggs.  It was delicious.


I'd like to take a moment here for us all to raise a glass to casserole's in general - Thanks casserole for being so easy to make, and for saving us all from cooking due to your inevitable leftovers.


Okay, I had to look up our fine friend casserole in wikipedia.

Here's the gist - Casserole is the French word (who knew?) for "Saucepan".  The British call it a "Bake" instead but what do the Brits know?

It usually (unless you're weirdos like Gina and I) consists of a Meat, or Fish, various vegetables chopped, a starchy binder like pasta or potato (or tofu and spinach - don't judge.) and a sometimes a crunchy, cheesy topping.

They also make your soul weep with bliss (okay, Wikipedia did not actually say this, it was my own addition.  BUT IT'S TRUE.)

Historically speaking, I was surprised to discover that casserole's aren't that old compared to the antiquity of a lot of the things we eat.

They're credited (via Wikipedia) to a French Canadian (CANADIAN!?) immigrant by the name of Elmire Jolicoeur in Berlin, New Hampshire.

New Hampshire.


In the 1950's, when new forms of metal and glass cookware began to develop, the casserole gained widespread popularity.  Wikipedia claims that by the '70s the casserole "took on a less-than sophisticated image." - but it's not a real encyclopedia anyway so don't listen to them.  This is sophistication with a capitol S.



We have not been cooking much recently in light of the vaguely mentioned family stuff that's been going on.  Loving Hut has been our dinner plan to an almost embarrassing extent.

The other night we did make the below soup:

It was surprisingly quick and easy to make.

Its like a pound of Shitake mushrooms, chives, ginger, garlic, soba noodles and 4 cups of vegetable broth, 4 cuts of water.  Spinach.  Lime.  Soy Sauce.  In total, prep work included it took about 40 minutes to make AND IT WAS AWESOME.

We had tried to make this a month or so ago and failed at it miserably.  The problem was, last time we put too many soba noodles into it and they soaked up pretty much all of the broth making it this weird, starchy,  Asian  inspired stew.

Oh, we also made pizza dough one night - but despite the final product tasting great, it was kind of a failure.  We had like 45 minutes of time to make dinner one night last week so we took the dough (which we had made over the weekend) out of the fridge and tried to work with it.  Bad idea.  It was way too cold to work with and the pizzas were roughly the size of a CD.

That's the messy little guy going into the oven there.  I didn't even bother taking a pic of the final product, it was so sloppy.  When we have more time we'll try pizza again and I'll run through the dough making process (which was pretty cool) more thoroughly.

That's all I gots!

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