Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Veal and Hot Capicola Lasagna

This lasagna is inspired by one my mother-in-law typically serves as a first course. Mrs. Monaco makes this with ground beef and capicola, but I’ve taken some liberties. My husband loves veal, so I've used it instead of beef. Veal lasagna is typically made with a white sauce, such as bechamel, but I prefer the red sauce. The capicola adds just a touch of spicy heat to this dish.

1 ½ pounds/680 grams ground, lean veal
4.4 ounces/125 grams hot capicola ham
1 yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
3.5 ounces/100 grams carrots
10 fresh basil leaves (plus more for optional garnish)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
22.8 ounces/675 milliliters passata (strained tomatoes, tomato puree)
Pinch of black pepper
12 whole-wheat, oven-ready lasagna noodles
15 ounces/425 grams whole milk ricotta cheese, room temperature
8 ounces/226 grams (ball) of fresh mozzarella, sliced
2 small handfuls of grated Romano cheese

Brown the veal over medium heat in a large pot. Drain and reserve the excess oil. Set aside the cooked veal.

In a food processor, pulse the ham, onion, garlic, carrots, and basil until finely chopped or do it by hand with a knife.

In the same pot, sauté the ham mixture over medium heat for 5 minutes, to soften. Add the tablespoon of olive oil if needed or use some of the oil from the veal. Pour in the passata and add a pinch of black pepper. Stir well to combine and heat the entire mixture.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a 9x13 lasagna dish, layer the ingredients by spreading a large spoonful of the sauce on the bottom. Place 4 lasagna noodles side by side on top of the sauce.  Dollop the ricotta over the noodles and spread evenly. Add a layer of sauce, then noodles, then ricotta, sauce, and noodles. Finish with remaining sauce and top with the sliced mozzarella and the handfuls of Romano.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover the lasagna in the last 10 minutes of cooking to brown/melt the cheese.

Optional: Garnish with fresh basil leaves before serving.

Serves 8

Copyright © 2009-2011 Madame Monaco All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chicken and Poblano Fajitas

While browsing through the small Mexican market above Chipotle and Jalapeno restaurant on Amherst in Montreal, I smelled the most wonderful smoky scent coming from a small package of brown chipotles. These are red jalapenos that have been smoked then dried. They add a really intriguing flavor to Mexican dishes.

I bought them whole and then processed the entire pod with the seeds in my coffee/spice grinder to have powder readily available. Brown chipotles can be bought online or try to find them in a small Mexican market, as I did.

The agave, lime and salt will help to bring out the other flavors in the dish. I’ve used poblano peppers instead of bell peppers in these fajitas to add a little something different. Poblano peppers don’t have a lot of heat, but you can get the rare one that has a small bite. I've never been opposed to a little chili pepper roulette.

This can be served on its own in tortillas or over rice. For more flavors, add shredded or crumbled cheese and/or my quick guacamole or either of my salsas: fresca or garlic and oregano.

1 tablespoon safflower oil
1 pound of chicken breasts, sliced into strips
1 tablespoon brown chipotle powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 poblano peppers, sliced
1 white onion, sliced
2 fat garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup of water
Juice from ½ of a lime
1 teaspoon agave nectar
2 plum tomatoes, cut into 6 slices
To serve: tortillas or rice, cheese or guacamole, and/or salsa.

Heat the oil over medium in a large skillet. Add the chicken and cook for 2 minutes or until almost cooked through. Add the chipotle powder, salt and black pepper. Toss with tongs to combine.

Add the peppers, onion, garlic, water, lime and agave. Continuing tossing until the ingredients are coated while allowing to cook another 6 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Serves 4-6

Check out my other fajita and quesadillas recipes:
Ancho Chicken Fajitas
Barbecue Duck Quesadillas
Chili, Lime and Agave Turkey Quesadillas
Crawfish Quesadillas
Steak Fajitas with Cipollinis
Vegetable and Feta Quesadillas

Copyright © 2009-2011 Madame Monaco All Rights Reserved

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Southwest Lentil Pie

My husband thinks it is necessary to "warn" folks that this pie is vegetarian. After 3½ years of marriage, he now eats vegetables (because I serve them relentlessly) but that hasn't stopped him still seeing them as a threat to his meat consumption. This is actually a vegan pie that combines smoky flavors of the Southwest with lentils, squash, zucchini, corn, and tomatoes.

This is my take on the Mexican tamale pie ready meal put out by Amy's. It is one of my favorites, but the Mexican pies are hard to come by in Quebec. My version uses lentils, squash and my own blend of seasonings. It's messy, but very tasty. My husband ate all of his, except one extra large piece of yellow squash - on principle, I assume. Serve it by scooping some out with a big spoon.

1 pound dried brown lentils
6 cups of cold water
1 tablespoon safflower oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 chipotle in adobo + 1 teaspoon sauce, finely chopped
1 large yellow squash, cubed
1 large zucchini, cubed
Cold water, as needed
2 cups fresh or frozen corn
750 grams/26.46 ounces boxed chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper

For the topping
3 cups cold water
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup polenta/yellow corn grits

Rinse and pick over the lentils. In a large pot, bring 6 cups of cold water to a boil. Add in the lentils, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

While the lentils are cooking, chop and cube all the vegetables. The onion, garlic, and chipotle can be finely chopped in a small chopper.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Once the lentils are finished cooking, drain them in a colander and rinse the pot. Add the oil to the pot and heat over medium. Sauté the onion, garlic, chipotle, squash and zucchini for 5 minutes or until softened. Add water (1/2 cup) as needed to deglaze the pot while cooking. Add the corn, tomatoes, tomato paste, and all the seasonings. Return the lentils to the pot and stir to combine. If the mixture seems too watery, allow some of the liquid to cook out, otherwise turn off the heat and set aside.

For the polenta: Bring the water and sea salt to a boil. Add in the polenta and cook for about 3-5 minutes, while stirring. Allow to thicken, by letting it cool briefly, before spreading.

Pour the mixture into a 9x13 baking dish. Gently dollop the polenta over the top of the mixture then spread with a spatula to cover. Place a baking tray under the dish to catch any spills. Bake for 30 minutes.

Serves 6-8

Copyright © 2009-2011 Madame Monaco All Rights Reserved

Friday, July 29, 2011

Market Day: Marché Jean-Talon

Sunflowers on display at the Jean-Talon Market.
Marché Jean-Talon in Montreal is an absolute feast for the eyes. Last year when I went with my parents my dad noted that it was a Petri dish for the entire human race. Dad has a way with words. This farmers market is definitely a place where cultures converge and everyone is welcomed. So if you are into people watching, like my dad, there is one of each and Jean-Talon is the perfect spot for it. I like it most for the ingredients.

Marche Jean-Talon has a lot to offer, including a huge assortment of fruits and vegetables, cheeses, spices, game meats, fish and seafood, coffee and crepes, smoothies, homemade soaps, a bookstore, a cookware store, a gelato spot, flower baskets, potted plants and herbs, and a handful of bakeries and cafes. There are street musicians providing the background music around the market.

A few stores offer up specialities items that are a rare find in the rest of Montreal. Olives and Epices carries ancho chili powder and hot, smoked Spanish paprika. Le Petit Olivier which is in a small, nondescript stall offers balsamic marinated cipollini onions. Chez Louis is great for blood oranges, edible flowers, micro lettuces, fresh cipollini onions (for when I want to do the braising myself), and any unique vegetable you might have missed finding at the stalls.

I never miss a stop by Havre aux Glace which makes the most delicious gelato in eye catching flavors - pear and cider, masala chai, and hazelnut are favorites. Many of our trips to the Jean-Talon begin with asking my husband if we wants to go for gelato and to look at the colors even though I don't really need anything. Of course, I always find something I need or a deal that can't be passed on when we get there. He knows this, but he always says yes anyway.


Marché Jean-Talon
7070 Avenue Henri Julien
Montreal, QC H2R 1T1
(514) 277-1588
Open Mon-Wed, Sat 7am-6pm; Thu-Fri 7am-8pm; Sun 7am-5pm

Copyright © 2009-2011 Madame Monaco All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bacon, Manchego and Marmalade Bites

Most cultures offer sweet and savory dishes. The Thai like to dip their skewered beef in a peanut butter sauce. The English like a bit of mint jelly with lamb (or a strong flavored mutton). French Canadians add sweet cream-style corn to cottage pie, called pâté chinois (Chinese pie) here. North Africans braise chicken or lamb alongside dried fruits, such as apricots and prunes. The Chinese like a bit of plum sauce with their duck. Southerners, well...

Southerners never shy away from blackberry jam slathered on savory corn bread (not the yellow cake variety served in the North) or a smear of strawberry jelly on a sausage and cheese breakfast biscuit. I won't get started on the Coca-Cola recipes of the South, like drowning peanuts in Coke and my Grandma's delicious Coca-Cola ham which she made for us every Christmas.

This appetizer is inspired by my love for sweet and savory combinations. It started back at my college in Mississippi. A friend of mine got me addicted to Keebler Club Crackers topped with marble cheddar and a small dollop of grape jelly. What could be better than that? Well, top it with bacon. So this is my new addiction - an orange, Manchego and bacon variation.  

2 slices of smoked (streaky) bacon
8 wholegrain crackers
8 small slices of Manchego cheese
Orange marmalade, to serve
Cook the bacon according to the package instructions. Or cook on a microwave tray, covered with paper towel, for about 2 minutes or until crisp. Cut each slice of bacon into four pieces.
Top each cracker with a slice of cheese, a smear of marmalade and a piece of bacon.
Makes 8 bites for 2-4 people.
Copyright © 2009-2011 Madame Monaco All Rights Reserved