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Friday, October 26, 2012

Kale Salad and Pesto Lasagna

At Matt and Karina's wedding, the Rabbi said that since they are postponing their honeymoon til December, it is the duty of their friends and family to host them for dinner and drinks during the two weeks following the wedding.  I think of Rabbis like black cats: it's unlucky to cross them; so I threw my name in the ring to have Matt and Karina over for dinner.

Since it was a weeknight (last night, to be exact), it all had to be easy.  I wanted to be calm and relaxed when they arrived so that I could properly celebrate their recent nuptials and Matt's 28th bday (this past Wednesday).  Celebration is downplayed when you're harried and running around so it was my goal to keep it simple.

Lasagna was the first thing that came to mind because I knew I could prepare it in the morning before work and just stick it in the fridge until it was time to bake it off just before dinner.  Instead of the typical red sauce lasagna, I decided to mix things up a bit.  One reason for this was so I could test out a new recipe, pesto lasagna.  I layered storebought pesto, lasagna noodles, ricotta that had been mixed with fresh basil and pine nuts, and shredded mozzarella.  After a couple rounds of that, I covered the top with a mix of shredded mozzarella and panko bread crumbs.  I used no-boil lasagna noodles for the first time because the store was out of normal ones.  Lo and behold!  They worked and saved me a cooking step and a pot to wash.  The whole thing takes about 45 minutes to cook at 350.  Perfect, because that's exactly how much time I needed to roast my brussels sprouts so I could do it all at once.  You may be cheating a little by using storebought pesto, but the fresh basil and pine nuts bring this recipe right back to home-cooked territory.  Don't be so hard on yourself about the storebought part.  Cooking, just like the marriage we were celebrating, is all about compromise.  Unfortunately, I got wrapped up in Matt and Karina's interesting conversation and forgot about the lasagna so it got a little overcooked but the flavor was still great so it's one I'll make again (when I'll be sure to set a timer).

While the lasagna was bubbling away, I took the time to prepare my salad.  After recent success with kale salad, I decided it was time to try another version.  This time, I laid off the cheese since the main course was already cheese-heavy.  Once again I used Trader Joe's pre-chopped and washed kale.  I tossed it with Granny Smith apples, sunflower seed, and bacon and then dressed it, again, with Trader Joe's champagne vinaigrette. (Sorry, I forgot to take a pic.)  Fish takes about as long to cook as it does to eat a salad, so I decided to make that for my simple protein.  Again, I took some help from the store by covering it with Trader Joe's bruschetta topping and baking it.  I figured if it tasted good enough slathered on a piece of bread, it was bound to be fine on fish.  I figured correctly.  It's always great to make your own marinade or toppings, but when you're pressed for time, re-purpose dips or salad dressing.  You won't even have to get your hands dirty.

We rounded out the meal with celebratory champagne.  If there was ever a reason to break out the good stuff, this was it.  I made Karina open it because it is a skill I have not mastered (though I consider a cork popping to be one of the most beautiful sounds).  There was also dessert, but I'm saving that for a later post, which means you'll just have to visit my lil blog again next week.

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