Monday, November 13, 2006

Brian: Iron Chef Baked Pasta

I think the whole ordeal of pregnancy + broken foot has helped Brian realize what things might be like after we have the baby and I begin my job as a dairy cow. In the second trimester I was pretty tired, so I didn't feel a whole lot like cooking when I got home. Also I was completely starving to death and I didn't have time to wait for food to be cooked. Then I broke the stupid foot, which rendered me completely useless in the evenings - sitting at my desk or lab bench all day gets my leg and foot nice and swollen inside the cast (not that I'm even having an inordinate amount of pregnancy-associated swelling - at this point I probably wouldn't even notice it if the area available for swelling wasn't restricted by the cast) which is really uncomfortable, so I end up spending the entire night sitting on the couch with my leg raised up on a couple of pillows (this actually seems to be getting a bit better this last week or so). So yeah, not getting a lot done with the cooking now either.

Brian has always insisted to me that he could cook but that he just didn't know how to cook anything that didn't have meat in it. I maintain that following a recipe works the same way whether there's meat or no meat in it, and that if he could really cook, he could cook meatless stuff too. Also, I have an entire cabinet full of vegetarian cookbooks and cooking magazines so its not like he's got to make up the recipe or anything. He has a few times this year made vegetable soup for me when I've been sick, but so far that (and mashed potatoes) have really been the extent of Brian's cooking.

He wanted to help with the cooking when the baby comes, so he said he was going to put together a little cookbook for himself and that once a week he and I could make something together so he could see how to do it. That was before the broken foot and the couch. We only made one thing together (baked ziti) and the cookbook has remained otherwise empty. Last week he started to think about how much eating take-out this might result in (we've been doing a lot of that lately) and he wasn't nuts about the idea, so he got back on the cooking kick.

So on Monday night Brian decided to make lasagne. He had found a recipe online and had stopped at the grocery store on his way home to get what he needed. He called me on my cell phone to ask me whether I usually cooked the vegetables before I put them into the lasagne. When I got home, it was about 6pm and he had just gotten home and was starting to get ready to go. I looked at the lasagne recipe he had chosen. It was like, THE most elaborate lasagne recipe EVER. It involved making a puttanesca sauce, grilling (or broiling in this case) vegetables, making a pesto oil, assembling these all together. This is not something that I would have made on a Monday night starting at 6pm, and I've been cooking for a while and also have the benefit of knowing my way around the kitchen. But Brian was not to be deterred, so he set off. And he wouldn't let me help, so I sat upstairs (in our glider/ottoman set we bought for the baby's room. Almost didn't get the ottoman, but it is great for the cast!) playing Final Fantasy XII.

Three hours later, Brian had finished. So we ate dinner at 9pm. Keep in mind that Studs is sucking the very life out of me lately, and I'm usually ready to go to bed at like, 8:30. I force myself to stay up at least past 9 (most of the time). The lasagne was good, but Brian had a few first-timer problems - the vegetables were cut too thick and/or not broiled for long enough, so they were still a little bit uncooked, and he hadn't cooked the lasagne noodles first. As we've discussed somewhere on this blog in the past, I don't cook the noodles either - you don't really have to. And you also don't have to use those yucky no-boil noodles. But it does help to rinse them off in hot water first to cut down on the starchiness, and (and this is the major part that Brian missed) you've got to have sauce on top of all layers of pasta because, after all, that is where the liquid the noodles cook in comes from. The top layer of Brian's lasagne was noodles topped with cheese, so the noodles had pretty much just baked and turned brown and had cheese melted on top of them. Hee. I think he was a little disappointed, but in general it tasted good and the mistakes he made were ones he wouldn't make the next time. I tried to tell him that he had picked an excessively complicated recipe, especially for a first-timer.

The next night he made mashed potatoes which, as I've mentioned, were already in his repetoire. However this time he made a more involved mashed potato recipe with russets + unpeeled redskin potatoes + garlic, and he even garnished with chopped scallions and BacOs (love that BacOs are vegetarian!). I tried to make potato pancakes with the leftovers yesterday and it was a dismal failure - it was more like mashed potato hash browns. Or like when you're trying to make a fried egg and you end up somehow making scrambled instead.

He also got a recipe for some baked pasta dish from '30 minute meals'. You made a caponata separately (without the eggplant because eggplant and my stomach are generally not too friendly with eachother, much to my dismay, I will however suffer the consequences for french fried eggplant!) and then mixed it with cooked pasta, topped with cheese and broiled. This one was good and much easier for Brian. He doubled the recipe so we'll be having that again tonight.

Now I'm trying to get him to branch out into bean dishes so we can get some more protein in the mix. I have a few easy recipes for him to try that I already know he likes to eat.


Anonymous said...

I'm going to side with Brian and Peter from The Family Guy on the meat-less cooking:

"That's not food! That's what food eats!"

Lisa said...

Hahaha. Except that Brian has recently (and voluntarily and with no pressure from me) given up meat as well. Believe me, I wouldn't make him do that, and we've been married for 6.5 years, so if I was going to make him I would have done it already.

Adrienne said...

I'll have to ask my mom for you on this one. My dad is veggie and she is not, so she knows good receipes to make in bulk and freeze.
Good potato receipe for Brian: 2 lbs boiled potatos (cubed like for potato salad), two lemons juiced and zested, 1/2 red onion diced and cooked in EVOO until tender. Mix in big bowl and thank goodness for Rachel Ray! You can also add capers if you like those.