Tag Archives: Special Occasion

Cheesy mushroom lasagna

I made this lasagna as dinner for our New Year’s party. And it made my boyfriend believe in lasagna again. His exact words? “I used to think that lasagna was gross. But this is, like…actually good.” Followed by, “I think this is the best lasagna I’ve eaten in maybe…ever.”

This, my friends, is a lasagna to be reckoned with: decadent, woodsy, gooey, salty, cheesy, meaty, dense. It’s also an elaborate project. There are noodles to prepare (more on that in a minute); a head of radicchio, sliced and roasted; a pile of mushrooms, sauteed to golden-edged limpness and doused with white wine; a pungent, garlicky white sauce; and four–count ’em, four–different cheeses. This is an all-afternoon Sunday kind of meal, for showing lots of love or making a great impression. And if you persevere, you will be rewarded with the richest, tangiest, most profoundly savory mushroom lasagna you’ve ever tasted.

Because this is a special-occasion dish, the mushrooms matter. You could use a jumble of fresh wild mushrooms, if they’re available and affordable. They weren’t when I went shopping, so I cheated. I used a mixture of fresh and dried mushrooms–in this case, a pound of creminis and an ounce each of dried shiitakes and dried oyster mushrooms, soaked in hot water until pliable. The dried mushrooms are damply intense, the fresh ones are meaty, and together they’re dark and murky and altogether perfect.

Oh, and about those lasagna noodles: I know you’re supposed to boil them first. But I don’t like the slippery wateriness that sneaks into many lasagnas that way, and besides, I don’t have a pot big enough to fit the noodles without cracking them. So this time, I took a cue from my dried mushrooms: I laid the lasagna noodles flat in a pan, covered them with boiling water, and let them soak while I prepped the other ingredients. The result? Supple, completely intact noodles that reached the perfect al dente texture in the oven. I’ll never boil a lasagna noodle again.

cheesy mushroom lasagna

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Lobster orzotto

When Sam was a kid, he spent summers at his grandparents’ house in Maine. It was there that he got well and truly schooled in the art of eating lobster: the cracking of the shell, the careful extraction of the meat, the gentle dunk in a sunny pool of butter. His eyes still shine when he talks about it.

But we don’t live in Maine.  Sam doesn’t often get to eat lobster anymore.  Except on special occasions, like, whatever’s happening tomorrow.

It’s not really a surprise that lobster shows up often around Valentine’s Day. It’s the kind of sweet, succulent indulgence most of us only get very rarely, if at all. And very little needs to be done to it to make it sparkle.

So, in honor of my lobster-loving boyfriend, here’s a nifty twist I came up with on a classic special-occasion splurge: lobster “risotto” made with orzo pasta and lots of champagne.

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Ice ice baby

Happy Fourth of July! Looks like summer has finally arrived, and with a vengeance. It is HOT, you guys.

I love summer, but getting through these days usually involves a little suffering. Yesterday I went outside for a half-hour trip to the farmer’s market, and spent the rest of the morning with sweat pooled in my hair and dripping slowly down my temples. I went over to Kate’s place for a visit, and her two dogs were huffing and puffing and panting like I’ve never seen them do before. It was mighty tempting to flop down on the floor and pant right along with them.

So what’s a girl to do, when the sky is unfathomable blue but the sun is scorching?

Make granita, obviously.

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Day of the Dad

Awright. Time for me to gush about my pops.

You know how, whenever you hear about tall, sturdy guys, the first thing everyone says is, “Oh, he’s just a big teddy bear?” In my dad’s case, that’s 100 percent true. He’s 6’4″, and an utterly gentle soul. He’s a born-and-bred intellectual, a fierce verbal sparring partner, and a profoundly moral thinker. He’s also the first person I ever heard call himself a feminist. He’s a remarkable man, and an amazing father. And given the events of the past month, with our family’s first-ever cancer scare, I’m struggling all the more to express how much he means to me.

So, instead of going completely mushy splat all over your computer screen, I’m going to tell you about the Manly Man Macho Meal I made for him for Father’s Day. Salmon burgers, grilled to perfection.

Yeah, you’re jealous. Don’t lie.

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Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to…

It’s spring. The air is so downy and soft I could float away on it. The water in the San Francisco Bay is gemstone-blue and sequined with bits of sunlight. The trees are green again; the sky is cloudless and infinite. On days like these, I daydream about nothing but strawberries.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that robin redbreasts have strawberry bellies. The arrival of both bird and berry has always been my personal signal to get excited for warmer times. Even in Northern California, where we only have three seasons, the start of strawberry season is always occasion for at least a little joy.

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My mama loves me; she loves me…

A day late and a dollar short, but…Happy Mother’s Day anyway!

My mother is, without doubt, the most bestest mama I’ve ever met. She’s five feet tall, 100 pounds, and the purest example I know of the Mexican jumping bean in human form. She’s always moving, always doing, always thinking and wondering and checking up on business. She’s a bottomless well of unconditional love and nurture, mixed with a healthy dose of clear-eyed practicality. She’s endearingly, sometimes cringe-inducingly silly; she will regularly crack herself up to tears before even reaching the punch line of a joke. And she’s the only woman I know who has never given her firstborn child grief for the horrific length of time she spent in labor with her. (Sorry, Mom. I hope it was worth it.)

So of course, when Mother’s Day came around, I jumped at the chance to cook for her. I’ve written before about my impulse to shower people with love in the form of food. So I made dinner.

And, if I may say so, I knocked it out of the park.

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Passover 2011–where’s the beef?

I know, it’s not technically Passover anymore. Time to move on. But I couldn’t let this holiday season pass without talking, ever-so-quickly, about Molly, my Jew-cooking partner in crime.

Or, more specifically, her brisket.

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