Serving our mission in Italy has allowed me to learn about local dishes, and today’s blog features a favorite! Thanks to the generosity of Laura, co-owner of a local ristorante kitchen located in the historical center of Barga, I have been learning about traditional regional dishes during my time in Italy.
This white lasagna is different than anything I had ever made, as it showcases artichokes as the main flavor in this Italian classic. Rather than eat the outer leaves as we do in the States, the more tender inner leaves and heart are selected. Tasty and oh-so delizioso, this has become a surprise favorite on our table!
Ingredients and directions for the béchamel sauce are listed below, but you may also refer to our Baked Cauliflower Pie blog. That recipe is doubled below for this lasagna.
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Lasagne al Carciofo - Tuscan White Artichoke Lasagna
Melt butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add shallots (if using) and sauté 2 minutes. Do not let brown.
Reduce heat to low, add flour, and whisk until smooth and raw taste is cooked off, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Add bay leaf and cook until just thickened, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
Stir in nutmeg and salt. Season with ground white pepper. Cool sauce slightly. Discard bay leaf before using.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Prepare the artichokes by cutting off the tops, about 2 inches. Chop the stem, leaving the leaves attached and cut the whole artichoke in half.
Thinly slice the artichoke in half vertically and set aside.
Drizzle the bottom of a pan with olive oil and add the slices of artichoke. Season with salt and pepper and cook until tender. Remove from heat.
Gently combine the cooked artichoke with béchamel sauce and set aside
Thinly coat the bottom of a casserole dish with the béchamel sauce and begin layering the lasagna, beginning with the noodles, béchamel, and mozzarella. Continue layering for 3 layers, ending with a topping of mozzarella cheese.
Bake in the oven approximately 45 minutes or until the noodles are fully cooked, and the lasagna is bubbling around the edges.
Our retreats, both group and personal, often include guests with specific dietary restrictions. We support them, trying our best to accommodate the needs of those concerned—and it broadens the scope of our menu planning and recipe research.
We’re discovering all kinds of recipes—gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian, and more. I’ve selected a gluten-free recipe, which is a proven winner with our Sisters that need gluten-free foods. We find these hot rolls fresh out of the oven are eagerly received by non-gluten-free Sisters as well! They’re easy to make and taste fantastic when hot and crispy, a little chewy inside, and with a generous dollop of butter!
Combine milk, oil, and salt in a saucepan; bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally, and remove from heat as soon as you see big bubbles coming through the milk.
Add the tapioca flour and stir with a wooden spoon until all the flour is blended; it will be sticky and gelatinous.
Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl, and let cool for a few minutes. Then with the paddle attachment, beat for a few minutes.
Beat the eggs in, one at a time, on medium speed
Beat in the cheese until fully incorporated; dough will be sticky and stretchy.
Scoop the dough with a medium-size ice-cream scoop, dipping it in warm water between scoops, spacing them about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with baking, parchment paper.
Place in oven, and immediately turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes until puffed, outsides are dry and crispy; rotate pan and bake another 10 minutes, and bottoms are golden brown,
and the tops not too golden.
Our community looks forward to autumn for many reasons, but chief among them is harvesting fruit from our orchards: apples, pears, stone fruit, and grapes from the vines. The abundance is truly something to be grateful for as we compare the delicate spring blossoms to the bountiful fall harvest that we enjoy into the first frosts of winter…an annual miracle!
Recently, we tried this simple recipe for our supper as a twist on the classic avocado toast–this time with sun-ripened pears and fresh ricotta with milk from our cows. Drizzled with honey, this may well become another reason to look forward to autumn.
Oops! We apologize to our readers who received this new recipe via email with the subject line: Tortellini Salad.
One of our sisters has a special interest in cooking the foods of other countries. Over time she has heard me repeat many stories of my Ukrainian mother’s experiences with food and what I learned about it through her.
Perhaps my favorite memory is that of packing our picnic boxes for our all-day blueberry picking excursions. These always contained fresh baked babka, lots of butter some fresh boiled eggs from our chickens and a little horseradish root from our garden. Today’s blog features a glorified babka bread filled with chocolate…enjoy!
Combine yeast with warm water and let stand until it begins to bubble, about 5-8 minutes.
Mix flour, sugar, yeast, and lemon zest in a mixer on a low speed until combined.
Add eggs and water, and mix on medium speed until dough comes together, 2-3 minutes. Add salt, then butter, adding a few cubes at a time, mixing until thoroughly combined. Continue mixing for about 10 minutes on medium speed, until dough is completely smooth,and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl during this step!
Place dough in a large greased bowl cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
Grease two 9x4 inch loaf pans with oil and line the bottom of each pan with waxed paper. Divide dough in half and keep one half covered in the fridge.
Filling and Baking
Whisk together powdered sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate, and butter until you have a spreadable paste.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface and shape into a rectangle as wide as the pans are long.
Position dough so that a long side is closest to you and spread half of the chocolate mixture over the rectangle, leaving a ¾ inch/2 cm border all around.
Roll up the rectangle like a jellyroll, starting from the long side closest to you and ending at the other long end. Press to seal the dampened end, then use both hands to even out the roll into a uniform roll and place it on your surface seam side down.
Trim about ¾ inch/2 cm off both ends, and slice the loaf into even 1-inch segments. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for 1½ hours.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove plastic wrap and place loaves on middle rack of oven, and bake for about 25-30 minutes.
Remove from oven when done and let cool. Babka will stay fresh for 24 hours in an airtight container at room temperature or tightly wrapped--don’t place in the fridge.
Babka freezes well for up to 2 months. To thaw, leave on counter or overnight in the fridge, and leftovers make excellent bread pudding or fabulous French Toast!
One of our favorite Lenten traditions here at the C of J is the baking and sharing of Hot cross buns on Good Friday a.m. First attributed to a 12th century monk, it has blesses countless numbers of believers over the years. This meaningful little act is a significant way of remembering and acknowledging our Lord’s death on the cross on our behalf.
There are many legends connected with this tradition. One of my favorites is that a fresh baked bun hung in your kitchen window will bring blessing upon all the baking done there throughout the coming year.
Each year I intend to do this, but before I get to it every bun has disappeared.
Dissolve the yeast by sprinkling it over the very warm water and add a pinch of sugar to activate.
Heat milk in a medium saucepan over low heat until about 100 degrees F. (but no more than 110 degrees)
In a mixer, fitted with a dough hook, add the warmed milk to the yeast mixture.
Plump the raisins (or currants) and citron in the microwave with a little orange juice; cool and set aside
To the yeast & milk mixture add the remaining sugar, melted butter, egg yolk and extract.
Add the salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger to the mixture and continue kneading.
Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
Remove the orange juice from the raisins and citron and discard.
Add the raisins and citron to the dough and mix well. The dough should be slightly sticky and not dry.
Knead until soft and elastic, about 8 min. Shape into a ball.
Brush the inside of a large bowl with butter. Put dough in the bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hr. 30 min. **
To form the rolls: Pam a 9x13” pyrex pan. Turn the dought out of the bowl and roll into a log. With a dough cutter or sharp knife, divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Roll each of these pieces into a round bun shape, tucking the edges under.
Place them seam side down in the prepared pan, leaving a little space between each roll. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the rolls are doubled in size, about 45 min. or longer.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. and prepare your egg wash.
Prepare glaze: In a mixer, combine powdered sugar, milk and vanilla or almond extract and oil until smooth (the oil will give it a high gloss). The icing should be quite thick. If too runny, add more powdered sugar. Transfer icing to a pastry bag or a ziplock bag with a corner snipped off.
Remove the plastic wrap from the top of the rolls and brush the buns with egg wash. Bake rolls until golden brown and puffy, about 25 min. (an instant read thermometer inserted into the roll should read 190 degrees F.)
Ice buns with a thick cross shape on the top of the warm buns and serve.
With the holidays just around the corner, you might be looking for a new and unusual crowd-pleasing side dish to wow your guests. This is one of my favorite vegetable dishes, introduced to me by Tessa Kiros in her wonderful cookbook: Twelve: A Tuscan Cook Book. She introduces the readers to the twelve months of Tuscan cooking and seasonal ingredients. When I’ve served at our mission house in Tuscany, I would cook through this book and this recipe became one of our house favorites. As Tessa says, “pastry-less baked vegetable pies are very common and are made with various vegetables depending on the season, such as green beans, artichokes and spinach.” You can also use broccoli in place of cauliflower.
We just served this last night for the opening to our Gregorian Chant Retreat and received great compliments. This would make a lovely addition to your Thanksgiving table. If you want to make it gluten free, just substitute gluten free flour for all purpose flour in the the béchamel sauce.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees/ Wash the cauliflower and trim away the hard stem. Put it into a pot of boiling salted water and boil for about 10 min. or until it has softened.
Meanwhile, make the béchamel sauce:
1) Melt butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add shallots (if using) and sauté 2 minutes. Do not let brown.
2) Reduce heat to low, add flour, and whisk until smooth and raw taste is cooked off, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Add bay leaf and cook until just thickened, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
3) Stir in nutmeg and salt. Season with ground white pepper. Cool sauce slightly. Discard bay leaf before using.
Drain the cauliflower and chop it up finely or roughly puree it. Put into a bowl and mix in the eggs, 2 cups béchamel, parmesan cheese, a grating of fresh nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste, adjusting if necessary. Mix well with wooden spoon.
Butter an oven dish or loaf pan and sprinkle with half of the breadcrumbs to line the pan, shaking away the excess (use gluten free breadcrumbs if making gluten free). Pour in the mixture and sprinkle the surface with the remaining breadcrumbs.
Bake for 30-40 min. in the hot oven, until the top is golden and slightly crusty. Serve warm.