Sunday, October 08, 2006
Columbus Day Weekend
Ah, Columbus Day Weekend! This is my absolute favorite time of year, and after two years in a row of pretty crappy color, I am am enjoying every second of this magical and vivid season (behold a lovely tree on our local university's campus and the glorious view from my office window at the community college!). Normally, this is also my favorite time to take a road trip, but it just didn't work out this year. Mainly, we have so much work to do at home, from decorating for Halloween to harvesting everything that's left in the garden before the first killing frost, that it seemed like a better plan to stay home this year. Plus, school is just kicking my butt this semester, and getting lots of sleep over the three-day weekend sounded irresistible. As it turns out, we have had a very nice weekend without travelling. On Friday night, we had dinner with friends in their lovely little Mansard-style house in Peru, NY, the highlight of which was vanilla cake served with a brown sugar sauce on top. Yum! Then last night, my friend, Vicky, had a huge bonfire at her Adirondack cabin, and we ate bruschetta that I brought made from the last haul of tomatoes, campfire chili (both carnivorous and vegetarian varieties), cornbread with the last of the local sweet corn in it, hot dogs cooked on a stick, and of course, S'mores! We had so much fun! But perhaps the most fun was had by my dog, Grady. He got to run through the beautiful, colorful woods before sunset, play with my friend Terri's dog, Happy, steal food off the picnic table, and finally pass out by the roaring bonfire. Good times for a little hound!
With all the activities and projects (and, yes, the continued lack of an oven--though, there's supposed to be a man coming with a replacement part on Tuesday, but I'm not holding my breath), there hasn't been a lot of exciting cooking to talk about, but I do have two real time-saving ideas for quick meals to share. One comes from the ubiquitous Rachael Ray. Love her or hate her, the girl does come up with some clever shortcuts from time to time. The best one I've heard so far is using store-bought fresh or frozen ravioli to assemble a quick lasagna dish. I won't even bother posting a proper recipe. Just brown some hamburger and/or sausage (I like both), and add a jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I like Prego). Pour a little of the meat sauce into the bottom of an oblong baking dish, then place an even layer of cheese ravioli on top of it (it took 15 of them using the brand I bought). Add some more sauce over that, then a generous amount of shredded mozzarella and maybe some grated parmesan for good measure. Do another layer of ravioli (so probably 30 total for the casserole, depending on the size), more sauce, and top with lots more cheese. Bake it at 350 for about a half hour, and you have a quickie mid-week "lasagna." What a great tip for a working folks!
My second casserole comes from Gourmet Magazine by way of the guys over at Culinary in the Country. It is a remarkable recipe because it's comprised of just four main ingredients, but you'll be shocked at how much flavor the dish has, not to mention how easy it is to throw together. It's really just macaroni and cheese with an elegant and tasty twist. Here's the recipe:
Orzo with Ham and Goat Cheese
(Adapted from Gourmet)
1 lb. orzo
1/2 lb. (I used about 3/4 lb.) thickly-sliced ham, diced or coarsely chopped (I used a combination of maple ham and spicy capicola)
1/2 lb. mild soft goat cheese, crumbled
5 scallions, thinly sliced
Preheat broiler and lightly oil a flameproof three-quart shallow baking dish (two inches deep).
Cook orzo in a six-quart pot of boiling chicken broth until al dente. Reserve 3/4 cup pasta cooking broth, then drain orzo in a colander. Toss hot orzo with remaining ingredients, reserved cooking liquid (if needed), and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl until cheese is melted.
Transfer orzo mixture to baking dish and broil two inches from heat until lightly browned, about four minutes.
Make either of these two easy casseroles, and you'll have plenty of time and no good excuse not to get out there and make the most of this gorgeous autumn season!