Savory Lasagna (Gluten-Free)

I made this “off the cuff.”  I was surprised at how well it came out.  Because this was a surprise, I didn’t take any photos of the process or the final outcome.  But, the beautiful thing about lasagna, you probably already know the process and what the outcome is supposed to look like.  Also, if you have access to RP noodles, you can make this gluten-free.  That is how I made it.  They have some great gluten-free noodles.  Lastly, all my spices come from Penzeys.

Ingredients:
1 Package of Lasagna Sheets (RP Gluten Free Lasagna Sheets if you want Gluten-Free)
1.5 lbs. Ground Bison (Lamb would work just as well)
2 lbs. diced butternut squash (frozen is fine)
1 Jar of Pirro’s Rustic Vodka Sauce (Whole Foods)
1 15 oz. Part Skim Ricotta Cheese
1 15 oz. Light Ricotta Cheese
.5 lbs. shredded mozzarella cheese.
3 Tbs. Butter
Anise Seed
Fennel Seed
Thyme
Marjoram
Sage
Sweet Curry Powder
Garlic
Nutmeg
Cinnamon
Ginger
Cardamom

Preparation:

  1. Roast anise seed and fennel seed.  I’m going to say “to taste” because I like my flavors big and bold.  Therefore, I used perhaps a tablespoon of each or more.  When done, allow seeds to cool.  After the seeds have cooled, add them to a spice grinder and grind them lightly.
  2. Add some olive oil to a large skillet, then sauté the squash with some salt until soft.  When I say soft, I mean that the entire consistency is like mashed potatoes.
  3. When squash has reached the desired consistency, add 3 tablespoons of butter and roasted seeds from step 1 and mix until butter has melted and all have ingredients have blended.  Then remove from heat.
  4. In a bowl, add both containers of ricotta cheese along with thyme, marjoram, and sage to taste.  Again, perhaps a tablespoon of each.  Yes, I really am that heavy handed…Mix all together until the cheese is smooth and has spices incorporated.  Set aside.
  5. In another large skillet, add some olive oil and brown the bison (or lamb) with some salt.  I suggest these two meats because of their “meaty/hearty” flavor.  Bison is leaner than lamb so if you want less fat, go with that.
  6. As the meat cooks, add garlic, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom to taste.  You have already been apprised of my tastes but I only use a touch of cardamom.
  7. Add vodka sauce to skillet and bring to a simmer.  I used  the Pirro’s on a lark.  I just happened to be in Whole Foods and was looking at the sauces and it looked interesting.  I had never had it before but it worked well.  You can use whatever vodka sauce you wish though.
  8. Prepare lasagna in the following layers:
    Noodles
    Squash
    Noodles
    Ricotta Cheese
    Mozzarella Cheese
    Noodles
    Meat Sauce
    Noodles (optional)
    Mozzarella Cheese
  9. Put in oven following the directions on the pasta package.
  10. Let cool and eat… Leftovers will be better after the flavors “marry” overnight.

Thanks!

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Pan Seared Salmon with Roasted Corn and Mango-Lime Relish

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Alright… So, I had a late meeting last night and by the time I got home, the wife and I were both starving.  The best thing about this, is that it’s quite fast to make and (as far as I am concerned) quite tasty!  As far as this “relish” thing goes, the name just sounded fancy.  It probably isn’t a “relish” but it’s better than calling it chopped vegetables and fruit.

Ingredients:

1 lb. Salmon filet (skin on please…)
1 Lime (for zesting and juicing)
4 oz. (or so) of fresh Cilantro
1 Mango
1 Avocado
2 ears of Corn (fresh is preferred)
12 (or so) small Tomatoes
1/2 of a medium Onion
1 Tbs. of Honey

For seasonings, besides salt and pepper, I use (don’t ask me why but I like it) Mrs. Dash (original flavor) and Penzey’s Arizona Dreaming.  I like Mrs. Dash on fish because it has nice flavor and some fish (like Salmon) tend to be a salty naturally.  The Arizona Dreaming is just incredible on corn, period.

Start by cutting the tomatoes into bite sized pieces and put into a bowl.  Then sprinkle salt on then and mix to get the juices flowing.  Then dice (french) the onion, chop up the mango, avocado, mince the cilantro, zest and juice the lime and add the honey, pepper, just a touch of EVOO, and some Arizona Dreaming with all of the above to the bowl with the tomatoes.  Mix lightly so you don’t crush the avocado.

Next, we need to roast the corn.  You can do this which ever way you like.  If you like to shave the kernels off the cobb or roast them while attached, suit yourself.  I shaved them off the cobb with a knife or mandolin and then roast them in a cast iron skillet with some OO and the Arizona Dreaming.  When that’s finished, you can add it to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients.  Mix lightly but thoroughly.  Once done add to the serving vessel.

Lastly, heat up a skillet for the fish.  When I sear my fish, I do skin-side up (flesh down) first- just enough to (duh) sear the top and add a nice color.  I like my skin to be super crispy so I cook it for longer on the skin side.  The other benefit to this is that, for those of you who don’t like crispy fish skin, the meat comes off the fish quite easily when finished.  I prefer my salmon rare to medium rare but you can prepare it to taste.  Once done, place fish on to “relish” and serve… 

This should yield enough for 2 or 3 people easily.  If you like smaller portion sizes, 4.

Just so you know… All the cooked items were done on the GRILL!!  I love cast iron cooking!

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(Mis)Adventures in… Ugh…

Subtitled: My first foray with Zucchini blossoms…
Alternate Subtitle: Roasted, stuffed Zucchini blossoms.

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Okay.. So I’ve always wanted to do something with Zucchini blossoms.  I’ve never done anything with them in the past so…  Adventure time!

Last Saturday, at my farmers market, there were a number of vendors selling them.  I walked around and found what I suspected to be some of the freshest and of the best quality.  Keep in mind that I have never purchased or made these before… So.. I was guessing..

When I got home with my newly acquired flowers, I scoured the internet and found mostly recipes for fried blossoms.  I generally try not (but this isn’t a hard and fast rule) to fry things.  I saw very little for anything else.  Furthermore, most sites suggested that the blossoms should be used within 1 day (more or less) of purchase.  Fast forward…

*Looks at watch* Oops.. It’s Tuesday… What’s still in the fridge?  The blossoms.. I open the bag expecting to see quite a bit of dead loss.. To my surprise, 95% of the blossoms were not wilted in the least… Bonus.. I guess I chose wisely…  Now, I have good blossoms but nothing prepared to cook them with…  Okay… stuffed blossoms… Not fried, but they need to be “crispy”… How about roasted!  Okay…What gets crispy when roasted?  Bread crumbs.  Panko it is..

The fried ones are generally filled with cheese… Cheese, what do I have?  Goat.. Mozzarella.. Not a lot of either.. Okay so, let’s do this.. (Turn your oven on Broil at 500 degrees…)

1) Combine the dead loss blossoms, diced up and (totaling to about 4 equal parts) 2 parts Panko bread crumbs, 1 part Goat cheese, 1 part Mozzarella.

2) Add some dried herbs, basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary along with some black pepper.

Viola.. Blossom stuffing..

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Time to load them up…

3) Carefully stuff the blossoms with the mixture.  Once stuffed, gently twist the blossoms closed.

4) Lay them in opposite directions on a pan (foil covering optional).

5) Lightly drizzle each blossom with good quality EVOO.

6) Sprinkle remaining stuffing mixture on the top of the blossoms.

7) Add a pinch (or two) of salt over the top.

Viola.. We are ready…

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8) Put the pan in the oven on the middle rack.  I didn’t time it specifically but it was about 10 to 15 minutes total.  You can gauge the doneness to your tastes by the coloration of the crispy bread crumbs.

9) Remove and let cool briefly..

The result was pretty good for being “off the cuff.”  I am sure some tweaks could be made along the way or for someone who knows a lot more about this stuff then I do.  It was crunchy and creamy.. All in all… Thumbs up.. Enjoy..

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Updated Scriptio

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For starting information, look here.

I recently was introduced to this tool at my new workplace.  What it is in specific is a tiny utility that allows you to script out database objects en masse without using the SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS).  It worked well however it had a few flaws.  I worked these for the past couple days and here it is.  I don’t know what the differences are between this and 0.5.5 since I was given altered source code.  But, what I can say is this.

  1. It works with SQL 2005/2008/2008R2/2012.  It uses SMO so no SQL 2000.
  2. Schema (dynamic) filter implemented and functioning.
  3. Object filter now has trigger type values, assembly value and is sorted.
  4. Object name filter implemented and functioning.
  5. All filters now include previously checked items allowing you to build object list before scripting with exception of ALL in schema and ALL in ObjectType which resets the datagridview filter.
  6. All DDL triggers types can now be scripted (might be buggy, it’s fresh).
  7. System assembly removed from return.

I was not the original author of this, Bill Graziano from the Microsoft SQL Team was.  The “current” (0.6.1 – but not mine) source code can be downloaded from Codeplex.com.

Download the zipped file from here.

If you give it a whirl and find an issue, let me know.  I will see what I can’t do about fixing it.

Thanks!

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SQL Server 2014 CTP Available!

For you SQL folks…  It’s coming.. It’s downloading…

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/dn205290.aspx

(I know this is a lame post, but it’s true and I’m excited!)

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Red Salad

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Okay, with fresh Strawberries and Basil already here, fresh tomatoes on the way, here is a dead simple and tasty as H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks side salad.

Ingredients:

1 lb. of Tomatoes (your choice, pictured above are Cherry Tomatoes)
1 lb. of Strawberries (I just got mine fresh from the famer’s market)
12 (or so) leaves of Basil (more if you loves it like I loves it!)
Salt
Pepper
Italian Herb Mix (Okay, I cheated a little here as it’s from Penzeys)
Minced Garlic
Parsley
1/4 cup (more or less) of good EVOO
1/8 cup (more of less) of good balsamic vinegar

  1. Prepare the tomatoes as you desire.  Pictured above, the tomatoes were quartered.  Add them to a mixing bowl with some salt.  Mix well so that the salt can start to extract the tomato juices.
  2. Prepare the strawberries as you desire.  Since they come in various sizes, I will quarter the small ones and make bite sized pieces out of the bigger ones.  Put into mixing bowl with tomatoes.
  3. Chiffonade (cut into ribbons) the basil.  Put that into mixing bowl with everything else.
  4. Add all of the spices (except salt since you already used that) to taste!  Now, I love my flavors to be big and bold so I will generally add a lot of spices.  I would generally start at 1 teaspoon of each.
  5. Add the EVOO and balsamic.  My bottles have pour tops and I generally give it a 5 second count on each.
  6. Mix well and the let it sit.  Let the salt do it’s work and let the juices flow!  Occasionally, mix and let sit some more.  How long do you let it sit?  With something like this, I might prepare this part of the meal first so the flavors can “marry” while I prepare and make the rest of the meal.  To each their own..

Serve it up… Now, you notice that in the ingredients or in the steps I didn’t mention anything about the “white” deliciousness on top.  There are a number of flavor combinations that I just heart very much.  Tomatoes and blue cheese… Strawberries and blue cheese.. Oh… hey… Tomatoes, strawberries and blue cheese!  I choose to garnish mine with just a little bit of blue cheese.  My wife, on the other hand, is not a fan of any of the moldy cheeses.  So, she likes to garnish hers with goat cheese.  The added “creaminess” of the cheese just gives it another dimension.  I will confess that when I first started making this, I had no cheese on it at all (shocker!!!).  It’s still excellent without any cheese.  So, it’s your choice as to whether or not you wish to add a little ummmphf to it or not.

Enjoy!

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Duck Panzanella

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If there is one thing I love, it’s duck!  Last year (started writing in 2010 but finished and posted 2013), the wife and I went to Italy- what a culinary delight!  We had loads of fantastic meals that just don’t compare to the made from mass-grown foods here in the United States. 

While in Tuscany, on a wine tour (highly recommended), we had Panzanella as an appetizer.  What a truly fantastic and simple dish, especially when made with fresh ingredients.  With the exception of the bread (which my wife hasn’t graduated to baking individual rolls yet), balsamic vinegar and the duck, the ingredients in this salad were grown by me, purchased from a farmer’s market or acquired at the greatest spice house ever, Penzeys.  You can skip the duck and eat it with no protein or substitute it for canned tuna in oil (not water).

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Ingredients:

2 Ciabatta rolls
3 Medium tomatoes
4 Salad pickles (or two small cucumbers)
1 Onion (Walla-Walla or Vidalia recommended)
1 1lb duck breast (Muscovy or Moulard recommended)
12+ Fresh basil leaves
1/4 Cup good olive oil
1/4 Cup good balsamic vinegar
Minimum of the following (All from Penzeys of course!):
1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Flake Salt
1/2 Teaspoon ground pepper (blend or black only)
1/2 Teaspoon dried basil
1/2 Teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 Teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 Teaspoon roasted garlic flakes (garlic powder works too)

Mise En Place:

You should have a good, sharp knife for this.  I use several as a matter of fact.  For the salad preparation, I use the Shun Ultimate Utility knife because it’s razor sharp and serrated.  This is useful for both the bread and tomatoes.  For the other items in the salad portion, this knife doesn’t make a huge difference.

The first thing to do is to prepare the Ciabatta rolls.  Typically, in Italy, these rolls would be stale for this salad.  Why?  Because this is what Italians did with their leftovers!  If you wish to leave your rolls unpackaged for a week or so prior to making this salad then be my guest.  Otherwise, you can do what I suggest below.

The rolls need to be cut into small, bite-sized pieces.  The only utensil needed to eat this salad should be a fork or a spoon (though I like to use a shovel!).  To prepare the bread, first cut the roll into strips lengthwise and then cross-cut the strips width-wise making the bite-size cubes of bread.

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Ensure that your studio audience gets a taste along the way.  They can help you determine whether or not you are on the right track.

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After you have cut the bread into cubes, preheat the oven at 200 degrees.  Spread out the bread on a baking sheet.  After the oven has heated appropriately, turn it off.  Yes. off.  Then place the sheet with the bread on it into the oven.  I know what you are thinking.. “Why would I put bread into a heated oven that’s off?!?”  The answer is simple.  Remember I said that the Italians made this with stale bread?  What happens when bread gets stale?  It dries out.  The reason you turn the oven off is because you don’t want to toast the bread – just dry it out.

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Whilst the bread is drying out, you can prepare the other ingredients.

First, we are going to prepare the tomatoes.  The ones that are being used for the photo spread are home-grown heirloom Brandywines.  What a great tomato!  Start by cutting them in half followed by cutting out the stem portion of the fruit (yes, tomato is a fruit!) on both halves.  Cut each half into small slices and then cut once or twice across the slices depending upon how large or small of chunks you wish to have in your salad.  I generally do two cross-cuts.

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Put them in a stainless steel or glass bowl then sprinkle them with the salt.  This will cause the juices of tomato to start to be brought out giving extra flavor to the salad.  Consequently, the salt will be drawn into the tomato!  Thanks osmosis!

Onion – some people love ‘em and some people hate ‘em.  I am in the “love ‘em” camp but I won’t make you use too many onions.  I use 4 thin slices of onion. 

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And when I say “thin”, I mean two to three times the thickness of the knife blade or about 1/8th of an inch.  This is precisely why we need a sharp knife.  You’d never be able to cut it that thin with a dull knife.

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Just like the bread and tomatoes, make cuts from end to end and then cross-cut in the opposite direction as shown in the following image.  However, if you wish to “French” the onion instead, feel free to do so.  Just make sure that the onion pieces are small.

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For this version, I have chosen to use salad pickles- some call them Kirbies (don’t ask ‘cause I don’t know).  Part of the reason I use these is because the seeds are barely noticeable.  If you exchange the pickles with cucumbers, you might want to cut out the seeds during this preparation.  First things first – cut them in half.  Then, yep- you guessed it, cut them in half again!  At this point, if you are using cucumbers, you can de-seed the spears by cutting them out!  Duh… Next, coarsely chop the spears in to chunks like so…  (Psst… Cross-cut…)

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More tasting… Please?  Wow.. These pictures are before the kitchen rehab.  God, that linoleum was awful!

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Next, let’s work on the basil.  After cleaning and drying, pile up the leaves one on top of the other.  The reason is because we want to chiffonade (cut into ribbons) them.

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To chiffonade, roll the leaves up into a tight “tube” and then cut across it.  I generally don’t cut off too much of the stem as it is edible.

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You can make the ribbons as large or as small as you wish.  Also, if you want to use more than the dozen, go for it!  I am a large fan of big, bold favors!

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After all the prep work is done, mix the cucumber (pickle, kerby), oinion and basil in the bowl with the tomatoes.  Mix well so what remaining salt gets on to the cucumber and onion to extract and impart their flavors.

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Okay, now that all that is done.. It’s time for the grill! I love duck… Did I say that?  Yes.. I did and I do!  I have had great luck with this brand and type of duck.  However, if you have a preferred duck boob you like to use, be my guest!

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When I grill my duck, I generally heat my grill to the hottest it will go.  At the time I took these pictures, it was my old grill which got to about 800 degrees.  I have since gotten a new one and it has more BTUs!  At any rate, I will throw the duck breast on there skin side up until the flames start from the fat oozing from it.  At that point, I will turn off the burners and continue to move and flip the breast until it’s at the appropriate done-ness.  Personally, I like mine rare.  If you’ve never cooked duck breast before, cook it like you would a steak.

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For the duck preparation, I use two different knifes – both sharpened like razors.  I use a Wusthof Classic 3 1/2” pairing knife to remove the skin form the breast and then a J. A. Henckels 7” hollow ground santoku to slice the breast.   Wow, I don’t much use these knives any more either..  I have since moved, almost exclusively to Shun knifes.  But I digress..

Remove the skin!! WHAT?!?  Yes, my wife cannot stand skin, fat, or bones in her food.  Don’t ask me why… She doesn’t know either.  So, in order to appease her (Happy wife = happy life), I remove the skin.  But, please keep it on if you enjoy duck skin!

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After removing the skin, slice the breast in to strips and then then cross-cut them.  Look at that rare bird!  Mmmmmmmm… My mouth is watering…

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Don’t forget to give tastes to the studio audience.  Isn’t that yummy!?!  Duckie! Does this shot make me look gray?

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After you have prepared the duck, mix it into the bowl with the other ingredients.  Don’t forget to include the juices from the cutting board!  Now is a good time to add the spices listed above.  Keep in mind, that these a just guidelines not rules.  If you prefer your flavors to be more bold as I do, then add more than the suggested size.  I am a firm believer that cooking is all about creativity and experimentation.

Lastly, before adding the bread, add the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  I cannot stress the fact that you should add good EVOO and good balsamic.  Adding marginal or low quality products will only bring down the wonderful flavors of the fresh food.

After mixing everything together well, remove the bread cubes from the oven (if you haven’t already) and mix them into the salad.  The bread should start to get soft again because it will suck in the juices of the other items in the bowl.  This is the desired effect!

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Finally, plate and serve!!  Personally, a nice full bodied red wine would be my choice, but white would do as well.  If you aren’t a wine drinker, then whatever liquids you wish to imbibe during the consummation of this meal is your wish..

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This recipe serves 2 with leftovers (and I am a PIG when it comes to eating this!), 3 with reasonable, wife-sized portions, 4 as a side item, or more as an appetizer.

Enjoy!

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