Sunday, March 22, 2015

Baked Ziti

It was a get-together with plenty of good friends and good food, and a surprise birthday girl. I decided to contribute something Italian, since it is hard to compete with all the authentic Indian, Bengali and Sri Lanka cooks. – Lasagna was first on my mind, but I switched to Baked Ziti since it is easier to serve buffet-style. It came out great, but next time I will add more sauce and cook it less long, since it starts to dry out during reheating. Tasty, nevertheless.

Baked ziti consists of precooked pasta, a meaty tomato sauce and a ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan mixture, ultimately all mixed, layered and baked until bubbly.

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I cooked a mixture of pasta, and added 2 bay leaves to give them extra flavor.

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The meat sauce with tomatoes.

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The mixture of ricotta, shredded mozzarella, parmesan and 1 egg, all mixed. Then add the pasta.

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Add most of the meat tomato sauce (but leave 4 cups for layering)>

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Prepare the dish.

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Bake until bubbly.

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Baked Ziti

  • 1 package of pasta (typically 1 pound)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 dash of sweet vermouth (optional)
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 ts dried thyme
  • 1 ts dried basil
  • 1 ts chili flakes (and a dash of cayenne if you like it hotter)
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small can of tomato sauce
  • 1 15oz container of part skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 packages of shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan
  • 1 egg
  • fresh mint or parsley or basil

Cook pasta with salted water for about 9min (slightly undercook).

In a large pan, sautee the onion and garlic in the olive oil, and once softened add in the meat, and break it up with a large spatula. Brown it from all sides. Then add in the tomatoes and tomato sauce and the herbs and spices. Simmer for about 20min.

In a separate large bowl, mix up the ricotta cheese, 1 pouch of mozzarella and parmesan with the egg with a fork. Just mash it up. Add in the pasta, and mix through.

Once the sauce is done, reserve about 4 cups, and mix in the rest of the sauce to the pasta.

Layer half of the pasta mix in an 9x13 inch oven safe baking dish. Even out, and then layer half of the sauce on top, and half of the mozzarella from the second bag. Add the second half of pasta, even out and finish with the remaining sauce and mozzarella.

Preheat oven to 375F, and bake dish for about 25min. To get a brown crust, turn on the broiler for 1.5min at the end of baking. Sprinkle with fresh mint before serving.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Indian lunch

The sun is out, bright sunshine, blue sky and good sleep are such a bump in energy in the morning. Yesterday, I finished “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, there is just one season available after all, and I can only recommend to mono-task when watching it, because otherwise it is hard to follow the jokes and all the nuances. Or any jokes because they are said my New Yorkers with a rapid speedfire way of talking.

At least the sky feels like spring. The ground feels like winter.

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The weekend is near, there is another bump up of energy. The snow forecast has been downgraded to 2 inches from 7 inches, maybe the weekend is actually something to write off as ‘spring approaching’. And hope dies last.

But then, why complaining? It is a beautiful day, it is a day of my life that never comes back, if there is snow on the ground or not, if I can walk around in sandals or not, who much does it really matter? How much will it really impact anything that happens today? We can sometimes be so caught up in the things we want instead of the things we have, we miss out on a beautiful day/person/child/ourselves that is just in front of us. To appreciate what is giving to us today and find its beauty instead of desire something not in our grasps right now (but maybe some other time/day just arriving on its own when the time is right). It’s all a process and sometimes we want to rush it, with the eyes fixed on the result instead of enjoying the daily developmental steps, seeing the process that unfolds in front of us.

The sun shines, it is a beautiful day, one day spring will come, it is not clear when but it will, let’s be busy with the beautiful today and go skiing one more time, on a day I can fit in a lot more because it is long and bright and I can go sking after work not during lunch break. A beautiful, new, fresh day to be alive!

Pictured above is my lunch --- in a glass container, Indian spices spinach (with butter, onion, nutmeg and cardamom, and salt), vegetable biryani, and sauteed mushroom with butter and onion, salt and pepper.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Unbreakable on a late March snow day

After a whole day of snowflakes for St. Patrick’s Day but fortunately hardly any new accumulations it is cold and windy and the 10 days forecast does not promise any significant changes in temperatures or that there would be any break from more snow showers. It’s almost April.

We had our first plowable snow on November 2, this starts to feel like a really long winter. The days are long now but it just more daylight hours to see it snowing.

After coming home from work, I browsed through my Netflix instant movie list, watched a little bit of “Ready to wear”, a mildy funny 1990s movie about the fashion industry. After I lost interest after 10min, I moved on to the Isaac Mizrahi movie “Unzipped” also did not hold my attention for long. The next one promised “Adventures of Kimmy Schmidt after 15 years living with a cult”. Sounded mildly promising, and with a sigh I start to watch it. It reminded me of Escaping the Amish and inspired by the Duggars, then it became wonderful crazy and funny and by the end of the first episode, I was in love.

Immediately, I clicked on the second episode. Whatever this show was, of which I had never heard before, it was hilarious and reminded me of the belly laugh when watching Friends, just better and more kooky. I held my abs in pain laughing so hard that after a long day of more snow and a visit to the dentist things were finally looking up.


At the beginning of the second show, I saw a screen flickering by that said “Created by Tina Fey”. Now, it made sense. This was no accidental funny show. Tina! The Katy Perry of acting. The SNL writer, Sarah Palin improviser, 30Rock writer and actress, and not to forget author of Bossy Pants, Mean Girls and Baby Mama (I wondered what she had been up to after 30Rock ended, besides having a 2nd child and making us all sniff dryer sheets when we deal with writer’s block).

I watched 4 more episodes and the day was saved. “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’', a Netflix original series. If you loved “Orange is the new Black”, and “House of Cards” this is for you. Netflix, you are starting to have the best content around.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Butternut Squash Indian Style

Old Man Winter looks like a blushing new bride on her wedding morning. It is winter wonderland outside, a beauty that always makes up for the cold temperatures and the rest of winter. I spent all weekend hunkered down, the snow was coming and seemed not to stop. As my friend V. commented “The whole country has sunshine and spring temperature, only we and NH have snow. Argh!” The joys of living in Maine. Plenty of winter wonderland, as pretty as in Switzerland.

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Lunch looks good. German dumplings and butternut squash with peas Indian style (with popped black mustard seeds and curry leaves).