Lavanya decided if the food was made then the pictures must be taken, and a follow up to put on the blog. We went out and bought square black plates to highlight the food, then set up the cameras which delayed the start of the meal by a good 45 minutes. That delay is now looking a lot shorter than the year it has taken me to post the follow up - but as they say, better late than never.
Cooking and entertaining friends is a big part of building lasting relationships with our friends. Our love of cooking has helped us save money by eating out less at restaurants. Instead of meeting friends at restaurants and bars we have a dinners and snacks at our place for a fraction of the cost. Our date nights have even changed from eating out at fancy places to seeking out new ethnic neighborhoods, and bringing home exotic spices to cook up interesting dinners.
The crux of the Italian meal is a good sauce, which Shankar always makes at home, and which I am now addicted to. Once you start making your own sauce, you will never go back to the jar. All it takes is a quick saute of diced onion in olive oil. Then the addition of garlic, a can of crushed tomatoes, oregano, basil, thyme, a bay leaf, crushed red chili flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Bring all of this to a boil and then simmer it on low until the tomatoes taste cooked.
Looking back at these pictures, I miss all the flowers I used to buy in Ann Arbor. Flowers are a luxury that I have cut down on now that we live in downtown Chicago. As are most of the menus we plan at home, these recipes are very economical, and are a great cost effective way to entertain a large group of your friends. We made this for four, and enjoyed it for a few days after!
1 cup of fresh basil leaves
1 cup Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Grind all of the ingredients together, and serve as a dipping sauce with bread.
1 store bought baguette
1 cup of chopped fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
Basil oil (see above for recipe)
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
Mix together the balsamic vinegar, basil oil, salt and pepper together. Add the tomatoes and toss. Rub the clove of garlic over slices of the baguette. Top with the tomato mixture and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
1 package of lasagna noodles
1 quart of tomato sauce (see recipe above).
4 cups of diced vegetables for example but not limited to green peppers, red peppers, yellow peppers, mushrooms, red onion, yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant
Mozzarella Cheese (either the balls, or shredded)
1 tub ricotta cheese 250g
1 cup finely minced onion
1. Place the vegetables in a oven proof dish or pan, and drizzle olive oil over them. Salt and pepper the vegetables, and bake at 400 degrees F for approximately 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are nicely cooked and could be slightly blackened at the edges. This will give it an added taste that you will like, I promise.
2. Whisk the egg, and then add in the ricotta cheese, with the onion, salt, pepper.
3. Next, spray a large baking pan with some kind of vegetable oil based cooking spray to prevent the lasagna from sticking. Create the layers in the following suggested order:
- Ricotta cheese mixture
- Roasted Vegetables
- Mozzarella Cheese
Serve this with a salad of fresh mesclun greens lightly dressed with the same dressing as used for the bruschetta.