Here is a little secret, I never made bolognese sauce before, I never looked at a recipe for bolognese sauce but here I am, in the middle of the corona crisis. I am quarantined and trips to the store to get necessary ingredients are not an option.
However, I am well stocked and as I enjoy my morning coffee I think of the ingredients that are available to me to make bolognese sauce. I pull the vegetables out of the fridge and select some that need to be used pretty soon. I find a handful of shiitake mushrooms, a beautiful looking fennel bulb and some garlic. Beside the onion, carrots, celery, zucchini I find some very tired mini peppers in the back of my refrigerator. There are a few leftover shiitake mushrooms from last weeks barley soup. Then I remember my Italian friend telling me that she uses two different kinds of meat when making her bolognese. I use some pieces of prosciutto and the leftover meat from last night’s short ribs. I have some overripe tomatoes that are not good for anything else and pull out a can of tomato sauce. That should do it.
But let’s not forget the pasta. I was given several boxes of dried pasta from an on-line store in Virginia. The pasta was outstanding and I will order some more. We had two delicious dinners, slurping the pasta being coated by the rich sauce. I served my lemon caesar salad with it and a nice glass of wine.
These days I have only one tester, my husband . He can be a picky eater, he doesn’t like vegetables and could live on steak and potatoes for the rest of his life. I love sneaking in some vegetables and this is a good way. Of course you could substitute different vegetables and use different meat like leftover pot roast or beef stew. Or, leave out the meat entirely and make a vegan sauce. The possibilities are endless.
Usually I test my recipes several times before I post them. This recipe was such a big hit during Oscar night that I am going to post the first iteration. There are many versions of this sauce that are delicious but for once I am going to stop adjusting and just post as it is. The sauce has a strong tomato taste seasoned with Italian herbs. If you like these flavors this sauce is for you.
My husband and I have a new friend we adore. Her name is Tara and her home is in Berlin with her mother. This school year she is living with her American father and his family here in Santa Cruz. What is amazing about her is that she is truly bi-cultural. She loves German comfort food like dumplings, red cabbage with duck, and beef- or cabbage rolls. This is similar to food that her German grandmother prepares for her. I enjoy being her substitute grandmother and cooking her favorite meals. Early in the year she was a little homesick but now she enjoys life in Santa Cruz. After making meatloaf, stuffed cabbage, and several other German dishes it was time to change the menu, hence the tomato sauce.
Every Sunday I walk to our little farmer’s market around the corner and get whatever looks good. I haven't made a lot of pasta lately but when I went to the market this week I decided to splurge and make pasta with tomato sauce. I bought ground pork from a young farmer who raises pigs on a nearby farm. The meat was outstanding and I will get it again. I decided to get fresh pasta shells for my sauce and some crusty bread. Instead of a salad we had artichokes from the market. The sauce was easy to make while watching all the beautiful people on the red carpet. Tara had never seen the Oscars before and also enjoyed watching them while finishing her homework assignment.
Lasagne with Butternut Squash and Hazelnuts
This vegetarian lasagna is a dish with an incredible combination of flavors.
When I first came to this country many years ago, I left a family, a home, a scholarship, and many friends behind in Germany. There were times when I just wanted to go home and I knew it I could because of my grandfather. My grandfather was a wonderful man who I loved dearly. Two world wars had taken his only son, his wife and several of his brothers. His gentle soul poured all the love he had into me when I was born. We all lived together in one large farmhouse. As a baby, he carried me when he thought I was not comfortable. As I grew up, he took me everywhere, holding my hand. I have a picture of the two of us all dressed up going to a garden show. There is this giant of a man in riding boots and little me holding his hand and smiling. He never learned to drive a car, but he took his horse and carriage to the neighboring town to deliver eggs to his customers. I came along whenever I could. These were old-fashioned grocery stores and some private customers.
I remember getting the best dill pickles or candy from his customers. He was an extremely proud man: when he said something, it meant something. Many evenings I went to a woman who sold beer and beverages in our village and got him one bottle of beer. Yes, kids in Germany were allowed to carry alcohol. That same woman also had a machine to seal cans of cooked meat and vegetables. The only time he got mad at me was when he saw me in a very short mini-dress. He didn’t like that at all. I can just imagine how sad he was when I immigrated to the United States. He went to a travel agent and asked her how much a return ticket from the States to Germany would cost. He gave me enough money to return to Germany if I had to. He gave me some other money too, but this amount he said I should always keep in case I wanted to come home. And my grandfather did not have a lot of money. So, I kept that money for a long time, and when I was really homesick, I knew I could go home whenever I wanted to.
Recently, I had a wonderful visit from my niece and her boyfriend and both of them got to choose their favorite food. My niece chose butternut squash lasagna and her boyfriend picked meatloaf. We had such a good time together, and I hated to see them go. We remembered stories from my mother, how she encouraged my niece, who was her granddaughter. I made this lasagna several times for parties (and my vegetarian friends) and it always gets rave reviews. The recipe is from an old issue of Gourmet Magazine.
Pappardelle with Fava Bean Leaf Pesto , Fava Beans, Salmon and Shiitake Mushrooms
When I did my weekly shopping at the farmer's market, I came upon a treasure I had never used before—fava leaves. I adore and love fava beans, but I don't like hulling and peeling them. A real pain in the tush. Preparing fava beans is a lot of work, but you do end up with a wonderful spring treat. Fava beans (also known as broad beans) are the king of all beans. Their flavor is smoother, sweeter and richer than most other beans.
When I spotted some fava bean leaves in a bag, my cooking antenna went up. "What do you do with them?" I asked. " Pesto" was the answer. That bag of leaves went in my basket faster than a dog chasing a cat.
A chance to produce the taste of fava beans without all the work . Here I had lived all my life without knowing that you could make pasta out of fava bean leaves! I made the pesto and it was delicious.
The dark green, shiny pesto had a tinge of bitterness with a nutty flavor similar to arugula. I played with it all week. I had it on all my sandwiches and on my leftover veggies, and potatoes.
I used some of the pesto to make my pasta dish using Mike's pasta. An ode to Mike and his delicious fresh-made pasta that is light, smooth and to me, the perfect pasta. It is made in Santa Cruz and delivered fresh to several local grocery stores. I fell in love with Mike's pasta many years ago when there was little fresh pasta available. Many a night when I came home from work thinking of making dinner, I would stop and get some of his tasty raviolis. I would cook them and add some tomato sauce or some garlic and butter. Within 20 minutes a mushroom, sweet potato, cheese, or tofu ravioli would smoothly slide down my throat delighting my senses. My family and I would enjoy a great meal. What more can you ask for? I use his fettuccine pasta for my seafood pasta. Mike's pasta has kept the same quality over the years. Nobody talked him into adding stuff, so his pasta would have a longer shelf life. He didn't go public or franchise his business, no sireee, he just kept making perfect fresh pasta. Thank you, Mike, from the bottom of my heart for the many good meals. Disclaimer: I don't know Mike and I'm not getting paid or anything . But I might go visit him one of these days.
I took my last ½ cup of fava bean pesto to the cabin. We needed to remove potential fire material around the cabin. But it snowed and there was no work to be done outside. Instead we lit a cozy fire and enjoyed the winter scenery. I had brought up some pappardelle from Mike, some fava beans and shiitake mushrooms from the Farmer's Market. I had splurged and bought some local wild king salmon that was caught in our bay. This is such a treat but it is becoming very expensive. I prepared a wonderful spring meal in a winter wonderland. We opened a bottle of crisp white burgundy, which was a perfect complement to the meal.
This is my signature dish. The presentation is lovely. I frequently prepare it for my friends and family, who always seem to enjoy it. I cook it differently according to the season. In the spring, I use asparagus. In the winter, I use sun-dried tomatoes from Trader Joe's. But right now, I have some wonderful tasting tomatoes from Robert's garden. You can make this with shrimp only and it will be just as good. Omit the seafood and you have a vegetarian entree. I use my homemade pesto when preparing this dish.c. At this point , my cooking is much better than my photography. You get the picture. I assemble everything on one plate. My husband broke my antique round serving plate one evening when washing the dishes, so all I have now are oval dishes. I have to tell you, he always cleans up my mess and washes the dishes after a meal. Bless his heart! I wouldn't do half the cooking if I had to clean up by myself.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means a lot to me and I would love to hear from you .
Comments in English and German are welcome!
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