Come find yourself...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A fantastic Meatless Chipotle Burger (and yes, it's actually good)

WARNING: This is blog has been disowned from the
American Society of ADD Readers.

If you cannot read more than 500 words in one sitting,
log off now!
You've been warned.

I had a comment a few days ago (meaning, someone other than my sister).

The Anonymous reader wrote:

"Food Therapist.... a word of advice: try working on concision! Most of your posts seem interesting, but they're too long. Just think "short, sweet, and too the point" Don't lose your personality, just lose some of the fluff."

I did a simple search for the word 'concision' on the web.

Here are the first two hits:

"Conciseness: terseness and economy in writing and speaking achieved by expressing a great deal in just a few words..."


Concision - (Gr. katatome; i.e., "mutilation"), a term used by Paul" contemptuously of those who were zealots for circumcision (Phil. "3:2). Instead of the warning, "Beware of the circumcision" "(peritome) i.e...".

I had two reactions when I read their post:

#1 - "Cool! Someone read my blog!"

#2 - "Screw you."

Let me explain in my most concise prose.

I've been writing for years and one of the first things a teacher told me was 'you write way too many purple prose. Be sparse, direct, to the point. Cut to the chase."

In the writing program at NYU (where I graduated), the teachers said, "Cut to the chase, get to it. Stop the purple prose. Get to the point, but be yourself. Kill those babies."

'...your posts SEEM interesting..."

Breathe, breathe...

In junior high, high school, community college and the university, there was rarely any 'I like this' or 'I like that' or 'This is effective'. Simply, 'get to the point' and 'stop writing so much' and 'I'm bored' and 'kill those babies.'

I've come to realize people who comment in this manner are assholes, but I can't get mad at them because they don't KNOW their assholes.

It's like having a retarded relative at a summer barbecue who thinks flinging raw sausages at the guests is the right thing to do, when, in fact, it's horribly rude. To him, the tossing of raw meat is going to better those around him and he feels good doing so.

In the theater (where I worked for years as an actor), the protocol after seeing another actor perform was to praise them and tell them how good they were. Why? Because it was the polite thing to do and it was showing respect for someone having put themselves out there. Would it help them become a better actor? Of course not. But telling them then and there they were destined for dinner theater in Cleveland wouldn't either.

Oh, sorry. Let me be concise.

This thinking is crap and this is why: People need to hear what is good, so they can be receptive to what is not. I know, radical idea.

I won't continue for fear of not 'cutting' to the chase or 'killing' my babies on a blog which 'seems' interesting (implying a possibly passive interest or the fact it was never read in the first place - there are so many other more concise blogs out there!), but on this I am certain -- I could help the reader make a mean sausage patty out of the raw meat they unintentionally flung, if they would give me a chance.

Not sure that is such a good idea.

A definition of the word detour: "An alternate path of travel used while a regular path of travel is temporarily closed."

I find the alternative path the most interesting. Just like life. You never know what is around the corner and by embracing this, you embrace the new.

So if you are open to exploring new, unstructured lands, come with me...if not, I am sorry. You will (perhaps) be missed.



I love how meat makes me feel.

Get your minds out of the gutter.

I find meat very satisfying. I grew up in a house of meat and potatoes. My mother would make meatloaf, roast beef, beef kabobs, ragu meat sauce over pasta, sirloin steaks drenched in butter and name it, she'd cook it. She could get huge cuts of cheap beef. We were a house of very modest means, so cheap meat was essential.

Whenever I would eat red meat as a kid, I'd always be full. I wouldn't feel the need to snack or eat anything beyond what was served me. Meat = feelings of comfort and safety.

One of my mother's favorite meals was taking ground chuck, making it into a patty and shoving it into a freezer, one atop the other. When she would come home from her nursing practice (I loved my mother was a nurse; she could take care of everyone, except herself...big life lesson for me), she would take a patty out and throw into onto the frying pan.

It would make a sickening THUD as the frozen meat sat on the pan and slowly cooked.

My mother would then open a can of green beans and a container of cottage cheese. She's warm up the beans on the stove and put the open cottage cheese container on the counter, a spoon shoved in the center. As she cooked the meat patties, she'd press down on them with all of her might, ensuring the well-done cooked patty would resemble cardboard left out in the rain for a week.

Needless to say, my Dad and I ate at Wendy's a lot.

I know how to cook a mean turkey burger, chicken burger and, yes, the dreaded hamburger. It's never what goes ON the burger it's what goes IN the burger and HOW SLOW IT'S COOKED.

My husband is a fanatic about meat. He hates it. UNLESS it's masked deep inside of sauce or vegetables. I have to agree the pure thickness and grit of meat is gross. I don't like meat tasting meat. So I am always on the hunt for a meatless burger which will give me the same sense of comfort and safety my childhood burgers often did.

Not eating me isn't political for me. I know lots of meatless people join protests and sign Internet blogs to stop killing animals...too much energy for me. I am not a fan of meat unless it's prepared well. That's it.

I have tried every veggie burger you can name. Bulgar, chickpeas, green beans, red kidney beans, black beans, toasted wheat germ, Tahiti...all with the same result. TOTALLY GROSS. I know vegetarians love to say how eating healthy and meatless can't always taste good. Screw that. I don't live my life like that.

So what to do?

Last night I finally came upon the perfect combination for a truly meatless burger even I like. We all know they are loaded with fat, can be filled with antibiotics and steroids if you don't buy organic and for the long haul, not great for us to eat often.

This will fill up and satisfy even the most rural guys in Montana.

I call it:


This recipe is the perfect example of the kind of meal I'm about - cheap, solid, inspired and very tasty food made on a budget which fills out emotional needs while keeping out money in stocks, where they belong!



* 2 tablespoon canola oil
* 1 large white onion, chopped
* 5 garlic cloves, sliced
* 2-3 large chipotle peppers, chopped
* 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1 teaspoon chipotle pepper sauce - optional
* 2 can no-salt canned black beans, drained and rinsed*
* 3/4 large yam, peeled and grated
* 2 jumbo eggs, lightly beaten
* 1/2 cup plain low-salt packaged bread crumbs
* 1/2 whole wheat low-salt Pakno bread crumbs
* 1/3 cup mixed low-fat Mexican cheese

(* I often use re-hydrated black beans. They taste better and are more plump. Rinse a 1-pound bag of dry black beans in cold water, taking out any discolored ones. Soak in a bowl of cold water overnight on the kitchen counter at least 3 inches higher than the lip of the dry beans. The next day, cook for one hour in simmering water and you are all set!).

I use yams instead of white potatoes, or, the most common choice, sweet potatoes. Yams have 1/3 less calories than sweet potatoes, 50% LESS CARBS, with the same amount of fiber as sweet potatoes and lots of potassium. Yum!

And they look great in the cakes.

Here is what you do:

Dice up the onion and set aside.

Dice up the garlic and chipotle (watch touching the chipotle - very hot) and put them into a small bowl with 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt. I put in three chipotle peppers and the sauce...if you don't like really spicy food, only put in the peppers and NO sauce.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch non-stick pan for 2 minutes over medium heat.

Throw in the onions...cook 5 minutes, but don't brown...throw in the garlic and the chipotle and salt and cumin...cook 2 minutes...pour out into a LARGE BOWL.

Into this large bowl add your beans, shredded yam, two beaten eggs, both versions of bread crumbs, lots and lots of fresh pepper, a bit of Kosher salt and lightly mix with a rubber spatula so until JUST combined (get those bread crumbs off of the side and the bottom).

Now, turn your broiler on.

Take out your broiler pan and line it with aluminum foil.


Shape the patties into six shapes and put them onto the foil-lined plate.

Broil them for 10-15 minutes on one side...flip, broil for 10 minutes more...

While they broil, make the SOUR CREAM.


* 2/3 cup of fat-free sour cream
* 2 chopped chipotle peppers, + 1 teaspoon sauce, if desired
* 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
* 1/2 scant teaspoon lime juice

Mix all of these up and set aside.

I serve these with a nice side salad of crouton and balsamic vinegar...with a dollop of the FAB sour cream.


Mikey Bryan
YOUR Concise Food Therapist

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Quick Mexican Feast even Charo would like!

Charo is an odd duck, isn't she? On the one hand, watching her perform is a bit jarring. She can play guitar and she can sing, but the whole 'cuchi-cuchi' act is tired, fake and exhausting. She must be AARP now.

Gay men watch her because they want to dress like her; straight men want to see her tits and women loathe her. She's like a trashy Dolly Parton from the wrong side of town. Too much of everything, but a heart of gold.

Why am I bringing up Charo? Because I made a Mexican meal last night and it came out pretty damn good. My hubby has been annoyed lately with all of the fuss I make in the kitchen (it's all for my cooking show, I swear!), so I tried to be 'fuss-free'. I cooked as fast as I could, didn't get picky and perfect and to my surprise, it came out pretty damn good. And healthy.

Of course, it helped I had my usual 3 glass of wine! I swear, Julia Childs and I are sisters of the soul when it comes to drinking while cooking.

Today is busy, so I only have a second to get this posted tonight before trudging along for another day tomorrow.

Let's call this:


Let's cook!

What goes in it:
  • 1 white onion, chopped medium
  • 1/2 red bell, chopped medium
  • 1/2 yellow bell, chopped medium
  • 3 heaping tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 medium burrito wrap
  • 1 8 ounce can no-salt tomato sauce
  • 1 14/5 ounce can no-salt chicken broth
  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts roasted (can be made a day or two before)
  • 1 tablespoon ground pepper
  • 4 tablespoons rinsed and chopped pickled jalapenos
  • 1 cup reconstituted pinto beans
  • 1 cup reconstituted white hominy
  • 2 cups Italian blend low-fat/low-calorie cheese
  • Sliced summer radishes
  • Diced Romaine lettuce
  • Low-fat sour cream
Let's cook!

What I did was this - on Monday, I cooked up four large bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. Now, stop freaking out when you read 'bone-in' or 'skin-on'. The reason people bake these breasts is the marrow in the bones keeps the meat tender even when you over cook it AND you always remove the skin anyway, so chill.

Also, on Sunday night, I took one bag of dried PINTO BEANS and one bag of DRY WHITE HOMINY (Mexican corn), covered them separately in bowls of water over night, then the next day cooked them in boiling water for 1 hour. Presto! Instead beans which taste like beans with NO SODIUM or FAT or chemicals in them.

I also rinsed them many times, thus removing any chance of farting. You rinse out real beans and corn and you rinse out the gas which causes you to fart and threaten your marriage.

I put them into separate containers and in the fridge on Monday.

For the chicken which I cooked Monday: Heat up an oven to 375 degrees. Wash and pat dry the chicken. Sprinkle liberally with pepper, a bit of salt and a one tablespoon of oil for four large breasts. That's it!

Cook until the juices run clear, about 35 minutes.

Take them out, let them cool, shred with two fork or with your hands and store in Tupperware (make triple sure all bones are out).

For the night you cook the actual burritos: do the following...

* Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

* Cut up a large, white onion (white is milder than yellow, soaks up flavors better, great for Mexican).

* Cut up half of your red pepper, half of your yellow pepper. Put them aside, SEPARATE from the onion.

* Open your can or tomato sauce (is it no salt? It better be!) and chicken broth (is it no salt?) and put aside.

* Get out your chili powder. On chili powder - there are lots and lots of them on the market and most are full of salt and cocoa, which I find distracting from the pure, deep taste of true chili powder. As I've written before, I use Penzey's awesome hot chili powder (I buy at Grand Central; you can get it online). No salt, not additives, no chemicals to make it 'free flowing' (what the hell does that mean?), just chili's, Mexican oregano, cumin and other NATURAL ingredients which don't add salt or calories. What a spice SHOULD do.

* Pour out three heaping teaspoons of the powder. Don't worry, all of the tasty goodies in these will suck of the spice and it won't be overwhelming. Trust me (he said as he came in your mouth).

* Get out your pinto beans and hominy - measure out 1 cup each; 2 cups total of both. Put aside.

*Drain and thoroughly rinse 5-10 pickled jalapenos. Dice up. Rinse to get all of that bad salt out of there.

* Get out the tortillas (the worst part of the meal - 220 calories PER tortilla and way too much sodium but I am so not making tortillas on a Tuesday night, thank you very much) and the cheese. I use low-fat Mexican from Kraft. Very tasty and sorta low-cal.

Just to show you how lazy I was last night, I didn't want to chop garlic, so I said fuck it and made this w/out garlic and it still rocked.

* Get out a Pyrex dish which will hold 8 burritos tightly.

* In a 10 inch NON-STICK skillet, heat up one tablespoon of vegetable oil for a minute.

* Throw in the white onion with a tiny bit of salt.

* Cook for 2 minutes.

*Throw in the chili powder. Toast with the onion for 1 minute.

* Cough and cough and cough.

* Throw in the peppers. Cook 3 minutes to soften.

* Throw in the chicken and cook for 1 minute so you get a good bit of the chili powder on them.

* Dump in the tomato sauce. Cook 2 minutes.

* Dump in the chicken broth. Cook 2 minutes. Let it reduce a tad.

* Throw in that lovely hominy and those plump little pinto beans. Let this all cook for a good 3 minutes.

* Now is the time you want to taste. See what you think. Don't over salt, but do add some pepper.

* Add your pickled jalapenos.

TASTE, TASTE, TASTE. The key to all good cooking is constantly tasting!

* As it reduces down to a nice, thick mixture, spray your Pyrex baking dish with Pam spray so it's nice and wet. The tortillas will stick if you don't and it adds very little calories (if at all).

* Now, remove the skillet from the stove when the mixture is nice and thick. Pour 1/8 of the mixture down each of the tortillas, add a small handful of cheese, fold over and do this until you have 8 in the pan, nice and snug.

* When you have them all nice and snug in the pan, take out a sheet of aluminum foil, spray liberally with Pam and place over the cheese on top. Bake 20 minutes, remove the foil, cook 25 more minutes and dinner is on!

*As they bake, dice up some radishes and romaine lettuce. Serve on the side. Radishes right now are unreal. They are so mild and perfect with Mexican.

These also freeze very well! Up to 3 months in the freeze. When you want to eat them, it's best to defrost in the fridge overnight and heat up in a 350 degree oven (aluminum foil removed, of course) for 35 minutes.

Off I must dash!


Mikey Bryan
Your Food Therapist

Monday, May 25, 2009

Marc Almond and Homemade Pretzels

Here is what one of my favorite performers (Marc Almond, in all of his glamor above) and my sublime No Fat-Ass Pretzels have in common...

They are twisted...

They always 'rise' to the occasion...

They are indulgent, sweet, and best enjoyed slowly...

Imitations of both exists in the world, but there is no substitution for the real thing...

I could eat them both all day long...

When I made Homemade Low-Fat/Low-Calorie Pretzels at home Saturday, I was listening to Marc Almond. My dear friend in Boston, the ultra-fabulous and irresistibly talented Michael Abbott, introduced me to the world of Mr. Almond and I have never, ever turned back. He is dramatic, theatrical, emotional and very, very queer.

He and I have a lot in common.

His music inspires me and sends me to the heavens. I knew how to make pretzels at home, but I refused. Everyone said they were fattening and ridiculous. I had to agree.

Take Auntie Annie's Pretzels, easily the most popular in New York and on Long Island (home of my husband and the birth of his pretzel obsession). The lowest calorie and fat pretzel at AA clocks in @ 300 calories, 3 grams of fat and a whopping 1,000mg of sodium. The highest one comes in at 2,415 calories (yes, I typed that right), 72 grams of fat and heart-stopping 2,460mg of sodium.

Is their a doctor in the house?!

My pretzels? Each BUTTERY pretzel (tastes just like the ones you get at the stand) clocks in @ 160 calories, 300mg sodium (if you go heavy salt, which I don't) and 3.8g of fat.

Homemade food, once again, kicks restaurant ASS.

They are also fun to make, quick, and a kick to do with other people. So grab a glass of wine, call your friends, pop on a CD (Marc Almond, please!) and make these when you have a need for a tasty, buttery and chewy pretzel but no need for a BIG ASS.



Let's cook!


For the dough:
(this makes 4 large, family-size pretzels)
  • 1 1/8 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/8 teaspoon INSTANT yeast (who needs to bother with proofing anymore?!)
What to put on top:
  • 1/2 cup tepid water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Course salt (big chunks, if you can find it)
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter, UNSALTED

First thing is first. Let's make the dough!

This one is so easy, it's unreal. Combine all of the dough ingredients in a bowl. With you hands (did you wash them?), mix it all together until it's kinda sticky. Take it out of the bowl, put it on a clean cutting board and, using the hell of one or two hands, mix the dough to get the gluten started within.

After five minutes, you should have a sticky dough. Not so it hangs on your hand, but so that it's sorta sticky and SMOOTH. Don't be afraid to add a tablespoon of warm water or flour when you are kneeding if it's not quite right.

After five minutes, this is what you shall have, kittens:

Working with dough is so great. It's fun, like Playdough, easy to work with and you look like such a pro when you are working with it.

Put it in a GLAD PLASTIC BAG (toss in a small handful of flour to prevent sticking), close it up and let it sit on the kitchen counter for 30 minutes.

Ta-da! You made pizza dough!

Heat up the oven to 500 degrees. Very important. You need a very hot oven for this. They cook very fast.

After 30 minutes, it will have risen slightly.

This is what it looks like...

Now take it and cut it up into four little wedges (I used a Pyrex, lightly buttered pie plate) and let it sit, uncovered, on the counter until puffs up slightly for 30 minutes...

Now, this comes the fun part. It’s not hard, trust me, but look at the photos below to see how it’s done...

And then...Before you start to make the actual pretzels, put the warm water and the sugar in a pie plate next to your work area. Then, get a jelly roll pan and LINE IT WITH PARCHMENT PAPER. Do not use Pam spray, or oil or butter. Use parchment or the bottom of the pretzels WILL BURN.

Pam is the best for anything, but on this, it’s a big old no-no.

Roll out each little triangle into 26 inch long pieces (just use you hands). Now, make the pretzels by looping one end over (see above)...

And fold over (see above)...

Gently dip them into the warm water/sugar mixture, LIGHTLY sprinkle with salt and gently place them on the baking sheet for a final rise of 15 minutes...

How pretty, mama!


Now, place them into the oven, and cook for 8 minutes, turn the baking sheet around and cook for 5-7 minutes more (you rotate baking sheets because the rear of the oven is always hotter than the front).

When they are nicely brown, take them out of the oven and brush them with the 1 TABLESPOON OF MELTED BUTTER. Many recipes called for 3 tablespoons and more, but personally, they get much too greasy. Let the pretzels soak up the butter as they rest on the baking sheet.

And there you are! Homemade pretzels!

Dip them into mustard, eat them as a snack.

As Marc Almond would say, a life without beauty, pretzels and glamour is a life wasted…


Your food therapist…

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Face of God in Berlin (or, the wonders of KaDaWe)

I saw the true face of God in Berlin.

No, it wasn’t the emotional remnants of the Berlin Wall, nor was it the heartbreaking Holocaust Museum (which must be experienced to be believed), nor was it the fabulous Berlin-based drag queen, Tatjana (in all of her amazing glory above)...

It was the top floor of the infamous Berlin super store, KaDaWe.

The day was brisk and I was hungry. Andy and I stepped off of the tram which took us to the front of KaDaWe. The store was a sprawling, gleaming fortress of commerce. The newest designs from Prada and Dolce and Gabbana lined the front windows, draped over the German models like colored leaves in fall.

I was unimpressed. Being from New York, I see famous designers in windows all the time. Unfortunately, fashion for the rich is dull, since most of us cannot afford it. It’s pretty, but unavailable.

We opened the front doors of the mammoth, block wide store. A rush of artificial air hit floated over us as we walked through the brightly lit foyer and entered the cavernous main hall. To our right were walls upon walls of Gucci, Prada, and Versace; to our left a long white hall devoted exclusively to the wrapping of anything bought at KaDaWe. The walls shimmered, covered in gold and white lace. Music from above fell out of the speakers and covered us in a warm hush.

We yawned. How very New York. Just like Macy’s or Saks.

Oh, well.

Up the first floor we traveled on the massive escalators, flanked on all sides by crowds of people. Languages rolled and tumbled in the air: French, German, Italian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, fractured English, a bit of Spanish. Up and up we traveled, mirrored escalator after mirrored escalator.

Second floor. Women’s cosmetics (look! They charge a fortune for Vaseline!).


Third floor. Men’s clothes (look! Levi’s are $200 a pair!).

Funny, but boring.

Fourth floor. Home accessories (Macy’s, with better lighting).


What's that smell?

Fifth floor. Kids, kids, kids (fun to watch German kids talk in German).

What IS that smell?

Sixth floor. Party planners. Yawn.

Seventh floor. Something about German commerce.

Dear God. The smell, it's overwhelming, what is…

The escalator stopped at the seventh floor and I froze. People fell over me, children screamed, KaDaWe employees begged me to move, but couldn't.

I had arrived in heaven. I was Bruce Willis. I had died, I just didn't know it.

In front of me, as far as the eye could see was food, food and food. In a daze, I walked ahead, my mouth opening and closing like a fish on the deck of a New England ship, gasping for air.

All around me where giant, sprawling tiny villages of food. Ahead of me was a station of cheeses from around the world. Spanish cheese, German cheeses, wheel upon wheel of French cheeses (dear God, I may pass out), soft cheeses, hard cheeses (I think I’m hard), bubbling vats of melted cheese, bread cubes beside the cheese, forks to dip the bread INTO the cheese (my GOD)…

To my left another small village of perfect vegetables. Impossibly large shallots, round, perfect onions, the most beautiful white asparagus I’ve ever seen (I’m going to grab it and eat it, I can’t contain myself), tomatoes the size of my fist, carrots meant for God, cucumbers bigger than Popeye’s forearm (where are these grown? Mars?), colors I can’t take in, brilliant orange, shimmering blue, throbbing deep purple (purple potatoes!)...

A new island – breads for every corner of every part of the word in shapes I never knew possible. Salt covers one loaf, cheese another, four different sliced olives cover that one (maybe if I distract the worker I can take a quick bite while they aren’t looking), small bread, tall bread, tiny, tiny bread with edible flowers (this can’t be real; I am Bruce Willis), all calling my name, like the tiny mouth-buds on the plant in Little Shop Of Horrors, mouths are in the food, opening and closing, calling me to taste, to feel, to experience…

What is that? Is that…no, that can’t be…

Is that a live butcher in the middle of the store? And what is that behind him?

Is that…no…a…a…sushi bar?!

Behind the sushi bar is a wine bar, a tasting station for cured meet, cooked meats, more cheeses, one for tasting olives, for mustard, for…for…for…


It’s a tasting station for chocolate.

I’m going to pass out and wake up in a German ER room with a mean looking nurse named Helga (wart on her nose, a small, crinkly wisp of black hair rising out of the tip) will slap me across the face with flank steak (the one I stole before I passed out).

If you go to Berlin and you are reading this blog and you are a person who loves food, listen to me. You must, must, must visit the top floor of KaDaWe and taste until you drop.

And on the top floor, above the food floor, is a full service, sit-down restaurant with views of all of Berlin.

Germans know about FOOD.

We tried Gruke cheese, one of the most popular cheeses in Germany and loved it. The Germans though we were crazy (apparently, this is like saying we like Velveeta), but we put it on everything.

We had what they call a ‘California Chicken Sandwich” which was Hahnchenbrust, Salat, Mandarine, Erdnusse and Honigsenf scharf. Amazing.

And in case you are low on bread? Do you need to stock up until, oh, I don’t know, 2020?

I love this German bread.

Salty and amazing, called OSTERBROT.

Oh, sorry. Forget there was also THIS bin of delectable bread…

In the main KaDaWe hall, there was a small station run by a very severe German woman (don’t get me wrong, I really do dig Germans, but they could use a good joke now and then), who served cheese and only cheese all day long. But not any cheese.

This was the most amazing melted cheese I had in my entire Food Tour of Eastern and Central Europe. This was the place inside of KaDaWe:

For barely 2 euros, we got four slices of fresh baguette on a place. Over the bread was poured the strong smelling and mildly tasting cheese (reminded me of the smell of Stilton, but alas, I didn't get the name of this German cheese, so sorry). Served on the side was a hearty serving of pickled vegetables. Needless to say, the combination of the strong smelling cheese, the mild taste of the cheese and the sting of the pickled vegetables combined with the bread was intoxicating.

A feast for the soul and senses.

Germans love their pickled vegetables, and this was no exception. I bought two jars of pickled veggies before we left. This weekend, I’ll show you how to pickle food. It’s very simple, tasty, adds very little calories to food and pairs well.

Needless to say, I’ll also discuss the Food/Mood connection with pickled food as well (can anyone say vinegar?!).

After eating the savory plate of cheese and bread, I was so woozy with the smells and the tastes I got lost until I saw this sign:


Meats are huge in Germany. Meat, meat, meat. I am a fan of meat, but not quite as much as Germans. But as you can see their cuts are pretty spectacular (vegetarians may want to cover their eyes):

And these...
And these...(the meat keeps coming, folks)...

And yes! More meat!It was now time to head up to the main dining floor at the very top of the building. I had been warned I would be amazed and I was not disappointed. We took another escalator and ascended into food heaven once again, coming onto this:

Dear Lord – it was food heaven with a view OF heaven. The smells, the sounds, the clinking of silverware meeting plate, of glass lowered onto table…fantastical, mind-bending - a dream.

What is amazing about KaDaWe is you DON'T have to overeat. You taste, taste, taste and don't gorge. If only America would take their lesson, maybe 1/3 of our country wouldn't be obese.

Once you enter, you proceed left and find a small row of food awaiting you, cafeteria style. And by ‘small’, I mean small for European standards. Here is what awaits you…

Upstairs in the main dining room, they had a sublime selection of pastas and what the call a salad bar.

They call it this:

I have no idea what this says (well, I get the baguette part) but it was fantastic.

And this:

Amazing array of more pickled vegetables and fresh veggies, along with oysters on the half-shell.

And this:Potato cakes and fresh mozzarella with basil and olive oil and homemade pesto and anti-pasta salad...dear Lord...

And this...
There was a small section of cakes, but to my surprise, they were only okay. Here is a standard shelf of one type:

Germany doesn't seem, on the whole, too terribly interested in sweets...but in Vienna?

That's for an upcoming post...Vienna = Diabetic Coma.

When we finally had to leave, I let Andy pull me along, my fingers torn free of a baguette smothered in a lightly smoked French cheese, only made in the south of France. I couldn't ask for the name, as my mouth was filled with bread.

Not pretty.

Inside of the taxi, I turned my face towards the towering gastronomic glory of KaDaWe and this is the picture Andy took of me:

KaDaWe, you will always be my coy, intoxicating, secret Berlin lover.

Come back to me, KaDaWe. Come back to me...

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Tripped-Out Italian Cheese Bread (on a melancholy morning)

Good day, kittens...

Writing you a quick p.s. before I hobble to my day job. Woke up rather melancholy. Not sure if it's because I'm going to work for the first time in a week (with a terribly sore leg, on a cane, no less) or what...

Yet here I wrote endlessly yesterday about what we have to be grateful for. I have to remind myself of this. Not so easy on a Monday.

Ah, yes. The Bryan clan - we are a moody bunch! Onward into life...

Last night I tried an Italian Cheese Bread which came out pretty great. Very hearty, thick, with substantial taste. I made the All-day Bolognese Sauce I posted yesterday. I had a small amount of pasta with mine, but Andy had only a slice of this bread with his. He loves bread with Bolognese and feels pasta is overkill.

I also served this with Roasted Garlic Broccoli - trimmed 4 heads of garlic, florets only, (sorry, Jacques Pepin, I didn't trim the damn stems), tossed with a bit of Pam Organic Olive Oil spray, salt, pepper and five smashed garlic cloves. Roasted in a 425 degree oven for 22 minutes.

This is a fast yeast bread. It takes two risings and can easily be done in the afternoon on the weekend. It was a chilly day yesterday, so it was only when I turned on the oven to pre-heat for the baking of the bread it finally rose properly.

Bread is as up and down as my emotions! No wonder I love/hate it...


  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup relatively cold water
  • 1 cup 1% milk (whole milk makes it too rich)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour (again, try to use King Arthur)
  • 1 cup grated Italian Cheese blend (from a bag works just fine)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter (barely lukewarm)
If it's a brisk day outside, turn on your oven to 350 degrees. Bread loves to rise around a warm oven, so if it's chilly, heat the oven and let this bread rise nearby (but never on top, darlings).

You will need a loaf pan. I have an 9 1/2 by 5 1/2 commercial loaf pan I love I use often. You can use an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 if you want - doesn't matter.

The great thing about this loaf is you simply mix all of the above ingredients above, let it rise twice and bake it. And it's done!


What to do:

Mix all of the ingredients above in a large bowl you can really get your hands into. You want this beginning dough to hold together, but not be sticky. It should be a tad dry. If you think it's too sticky, add a tablespoon of flour (or cold water, if too dry). Again, bread has it's own rules, so see how if feels and you feel.

God, if I made bread now it would be flat, I'll tell you that much! Ha...ah, I find life exhausting.

Okay! Onward!

Once the dough is together, cover with a clean dishcloth and let it rise for one hour. It won't get double in size, but you want it to look a tad puffy. Yesterday it was cool outside, so it nearly took 1 1/2 hours for mine to rise.

Get out a large cutting board. Grease it up (I know, how gross, right?) lightly with butter. Take out your dough and roll it into a nice, thick 8 inch (no comments, please) rope and place into your loaf pan - make sure you also lightly butter the loaf pan. Very important.

Cover the dough inside of the loaf pan and cover with the clean dishcloth. Put it near the warmed up oven. After an hour or so, the dough should rise just above the lip of the loaf pan. When it does, you know you are ready to bake.

Put it into the oven for 30 minutes. After 20 minutes or so, take a gander and see if it's browning too quickly. If it is, cover with a little layer of foil.

Take it out after no more than 35 minutes, turn upside, take it out and let it cool on the counter (or wire rack, whatever is nearby).

You have to let this sit before you cut into it. Wait at least 20 minutes.

Then cut away! We had some strawberry jam from Berlin we put on the warm bread - sublime. We also tried orange marmalade, which was also very fun.

Serve this with any kind of Italian meat sauce, this could also be used to make fantastic Italian Panini's (hm, reminds me...I'll post my Panini recipe tomorrow). It's also just friggin' wonderful cut up when it's stale, roasted, and makes fantastic croutons.

Enjoy this delightful bread. Since I feel rather down today, and we all know the benefits of eating a bit of bread when down, I think I'll heat up a slice now before I go to work. Put on a bit of jam and drink my coffee in silence and realize the day ahead is something to look forward to, not to wearily trod towards.

Have a day full of love, beauty and glamour, kittens.

Je t'aime, kittens!


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Two lasagna recipes, the secret to homemade Crusty Italian-American Bread, silky Béchamel Sauce and the truth behind a full life.

“Old paint on canvas, as it ages, sometimes becomes transparent. And when that happens it is possible in some instances to see the original lines. A tree will show through a woman’s dress; a child makes way for a dog; a boat is no longer on an open sea. That is called pentimento, because the painter repented, changed his mind.”

…the movie ‘Julia’, written by Alvin Sargent (starring Jane Fonda).

For over a week I’ve been laid up with a torn muscle in my calf. I’ve had two MRI’s, over 18 hours of visits with doctors and now need the use of a cane. Many days, I’ve been in a good amount of pain. It’s been nearly impossible for me to walk. It’s only been in the past 24 hours I sense my body healing and the light at the end of the tunnel.

The other day, as I hobbled to the doctor, I spied a small bird at the base of a doorway on the main street in my town. I would never have noticed her/him had I not been forced to use a cane. The bird shook with fear as I bent down. Its wing was broken. Blood pooled at its feet. I told someone who walked past and they said they’d take care of the hurt bird. I wonder if they did.

Cooking has been difficult for me. I cannot go to the grocery store. So I have been forced to use only what I have on hand, which, to my shock, is plenty. I’ve used old stock in the freezer, as well as forgotten canned goods. I’ve defrosted meats and soaked dry beans. I’ve made large, fulfilling and healthy meals only with items from my freezer and pantry. I made due with what I had and it forced me to be creative. Would it have been easier to run to the store? Of course. But then I wouldn’t have realized all I need is right in front of me.

The opening quote of today’s entry is from the 1977 movie “Julia”. It was adapted from Lillian Hellman’s autobiography, “Pentimento”. If you haven’t seen the movie, you must. It’s extraordinary. I’ve always been fascinated by the friendships of women. There is a texture and depth to women I find lacking in male friendships. Women have an instinctual ability to feel and experience life on a very deep and fluid level, both sexually and emotionally. I realize most men will find this insulting and say I’m taking liberties, but they know I’m right.

The other day, I saw a decent documentary on composer Philip Glass. It was curiously vapid, except for one section where Glass said Alan Ginsberg once told him, ‘first intentions are the correct intentions.’ Ginsberg was right. Original impulses are the ones we’re least likely to trust but need to but the most faith in.

Such is the case with the following Sunday Night Recipes – Two Homemade Sausage and Meat Lasagna recipes, either served with made-from-scratch Italian Bread.

In this entry, I’m going to show you how to make either my relatively Fast 45-minute Lasagna OR my All-day Bolognese Simmered Sauce Lasagna. Both are very good recipes, but, of course, the all-day simmering sauce recipe will result in a much more complex sauce.

My injury has reinforced my feeling cooking for myself and my husband is the basis for the rest of my life. Cooking makes me feel alive. My senses are alive, my tastes are alive, and my creativity is alive. I take chances, I take risks. I realize petty concerns are just that – petty concerns. People are having a worse time than me. I am lucky to have the life I have.

Slow down, enjoy the moment. You are lucky to be alive.

But before we make our bread, let’s talk about this whole gluten scare, shall we?

At one time, bread making in America was huge. It wasn’t unusual to bake a loaf a week. In my home, I make bread every Sunday afternoon. We eat off of it for the week and freeze the remains (‘remains’ – I hate that word).

Bread freezes amazingly well, up to six months in most cases. It’s a shame the baking of cookies, cakes and pastries have taken over bread. Bread takes more time to plan, but much less time to cook. Why has bread fallen out of favor? We know the answer.

Two words: Atkins and hysteria.

Hysteria now comes in the form of gluten allergies. Here’s a startling fact: American’s are spending a reported $2 billion a year on gluten-free products. What is gluten? It is a composite of two plant proteins and starch that is found in abundance in wheat and is also present in smaller amounts in grassy grains such as rye and barley.

Gluten’s bad new reputation is based on the fact between 0.5 and 1 percent of the population experiences an inappropriate immune response to the protein that causes diarrhea and other gastrointestinal complaints. Up to 1 percent yet we spend over $2 billion a year on gluten free products.

One of the reasons for this is something called Celiac Disease. Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. It is genetic. People who have Celiac Disease cannot tolerate gluten.

The consensus amongst nutritionist and physicians is there are rising beliefs many people who do not have Celiac disease have a milder condition known as gluten intolerance, or gluten sensitivity. Why? No one knows.

A lot of people are afraid to say what they feel is the truth – that this is the natural health community running ahead and ignoring mainstream medicine. One blog showed a PubMed search of the term “gluten intolerance” loaded research on Celiac disease. A search on the term “gluten-sensitivity enteropathy” yields scores of studies, but a closer look revealed this term is used synonymously with Celiac disease within the mainstream medical establishment.

If gluten intolerance as a slight version of Celiac disease does exist, then, the mainstream medical establishment not only does not recognize it but is not even able to detect it.

The typical gluten-free dieter is someone who discovered a pattern of suffering from gastrointestinal issues after eating gluten-containing foods and found relief when they switched to a gluten-free diet.Not long ago, one blog detailed how a recent Newsweek article on the gluten-free diet trend talked to Peter Green, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, who is quoted as saying, “All this gluten intolerance, and using the diet to treat autism…there's no documented scientific reason for that at all. However, patients without Celiac disease often do notice an improvement in a whole spectrum of gastrointestinal or neurological symptoms when they start a gluten-free diet. But it's not defined by any medical diagnosis.”

With the curious current-day rise in food allergies, we have to question why this is happening and not jump on the media bandwagon for the next ‘gluten-free’ cure, unless we have scientific proof.

I’ve had many people tell me during the Swing Flu media frenzy, they would pass crowded emergency rooms where people were certain they were suffering from the Swing Flu, when in fact, after being tested, they were not suffering from it at all.

The real question is this: what emotional need is not being fulfilled within us which makes us turn legitimate yet small heath concerns into outright hysteria?

I don’t know the answer, but I think the question has to be raised. Gluten-free products are putting a larger dent into the feeling bread is ‘bad’ for you. It’s not. Bread is good for you emotionally AND physically.

Let me show you why…


The keys to making good bread at home are two: time and ingredients. You must buy the right flour and the right leveners. Instant yeast you can buy in any supermarket, but when it comes to flour, all are not created equal.

King Arthur Flour, a Vermont-based company, is a superb group of bakers and artists who create a superior product. Buying your flour products from them will complete 50% of the work.

This is a recipe for a yeast-bread. Yeast breads come in many forms. In the coming postings, I’ll show you how to make whole-wheat, dry and pumpernickel bread as well as many other variety of yeast breads.

But wait. I know what you’re thinking. Bread has carbs! It’s bad for you! And gluten!

Run for the hills!

Chill and read: part of the idea of this blog and my upcoming Food for Mood cookbook is to provide evidence of how eating certain foods affects our mood and vice-versa, hence the cookbook title “Food for Mood.”

I’m not talking simply lower or higher blood-sugar levels (we all know how that can make us ready to murder), but scientific evidence which shows the psychological changes which occur in the body when certain foods are eaten.

Most nutrition research nowadays is focused on how to prevent diseases or diabetes, but there is a silent, growing trend of mounting evidence that our daily mood states are influenced by the foods we eat.

We all know the studies which show how our emotional state influences our physical state, so why would we not study how what we eat affect our emotional health?!

Food = Mood, peeps. Food = Mood.

Researchers have shown dieters tend to become depressed about two weeks into a diet, which is directly linked to a drop in serotonin levels due to decreased carbohydrate intake. The key to dieting is to balance the total calories with regular exercise, rather than trying to exclude carbohydrates.

It’s staggering the evidence showing wholegrain foods can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers so, as a nation, we risk developing unhealthy long-term dieting habits if we cut out grain-based foods.

This isn’t brain surgery, people.

If science shows us certain foods, when eaten, because a biological response which makes us feel depressed, why would we continue to eat them? What emotional needs are we getting out of eating foods science has shown are harmful to our emotional health?

What is missing?

Brain chemicals (neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine) influence the way we think, feel and behave. They can be affected by what we've eaten. Wouldn’t you like to know how you can help foster more positive emotions by eating certain foods?

Common research has shown when we are stressed; we reach for sugary or sweet food. We do this partly because it’s comforting but also because it increases the amount of the chemical tryptophan entering the brain. This causes the release of the brain chemical serotonin, which improves mood and, in turn, reduces the desire for more sugar-containing food.

High carbohydrate foods affect the ability to positively influence mood and help control appetite. These calming effects help improve the likelihood of sticking with a weight management program.

Even I can follow that logic and I loathe logic.

Bread causes the release of serotonin into our bodies. And this homemade bread recipe has only water, all-natural hard wheat, yeast and a tiny bit of salt. That’s it! So you are eating at the source, resulting in the most pure form of ultimate serotonin entering your system, resulting in a stronger feeling of well-being.

Now there are limits. You get a fat ass when you gorge on the shit. Two to four slices a day and you won’t get fat, okay? More than that and that is where you get a fat ass.

I gained 25 pounds after my mom died two years ago from simple overeating. There is no trick here. Limiting your portion is the kicker. Stop overeating, understand why you eat the foods you eat, respect yourself and put down the shit food, eat foods which feed your body and soul, and get exercise.

In this meal, there are two different lean meats. Hot turkey sausage and 93% fat free organic ground sirloin. We all know tryptophan is one of the building blocks of protein, and it is very important in depression.

By including a source of protein with each of your meals your brain will be continuously supplied with tryptophan and this can help to improve symptoms of low mood. This is why at meals try to eat a portion of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, soy, or other alternative to make sure you’re getting enough.

Depression is at an all time high in our culture. Eating food rich in protein, resulting in tryptophan and also serotonin into our systems, helps to boots the reactions in our bodies and hence, our emotional state.

I am the perfect person to write about food science. I hate numbers and facts. Also, certain left brain people are insufferable because they think they’re always right. They wave their little pieces of paper in your face, citing facts and figures, looking smug. Trust me – if I’m writing about it, it will be readable, usable and fun.

There’s another line in “Julia” you need to remember. Julia (Vanessa Redgrave) is fearless and Lillian (Jane Fonda), is naturally fearful. The pivotal point in the movie is when Julia asked Lillian to smuggle money across the Berlin border in 1939 Germany. Julia says to Lillian, “You are afraid of being afraid. Don’t let this stop you. And don’t let it force you to make foolish choices.”

Remember this as we make bread...



  • 1 cup cold water, approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 2 cups Sir-Lancelot High-Gluten, hard wheat flour (King Arthur)
  • ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
  • ½ cup cold water, approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 2 ½ cups Sir-Lancelot High-Gluten, hard wheat flour (King Arthur)
  • 2 teaspoons instant wheat
  • 1 ½ - 2 teaspoons low-sodium salt
For the finishing:
  • 1 egg white lightly beaten
  • Sesame seeds, optional
Let’s cook!

Bread is a very unpredictable animal. The temperature of your kitchen, the humidity, the amount of yeast in the air – all of this affects bread. You can do everything right, and it may not be what you were expecting, and that’s okay.

A few things you can control…bread loves crisp, bright days. It is a bit funny when it’s humid. So if you live in a humid environment or are cooking in the summer, make sure you allow your bread to rise in a cool, relatively draft-free environment and try to keep the room relatively cool.

If you are new to bread-making, you’ll wonder what the hell a ‘biga’ is. A ‘biga’ is a starter. All breads need a starter, which is a method to help jump-start the rising of the bread. Starters are the pre-fermentation for the actual fermentation of the bread, which is the key to all super-duper breads. A starter is a combination of water, yeast and flour made prior to the main body of dough.

We are using a ‘biga’ starter here (the Italian name for starter) which is an overnight starter. The longer a combination of flour, water and yeast sits and rises, the more complex the flavor of the bread will be. The longest sitting starters (up to 4 days), result in sourdough.

There are over a dozen different types and styles of starters, but for now, concentrate on this only. I don’t want to overwhelm you. A ‘biga’ uses domestic yeast and is similar to what is called a ‘poolish’. A ‘poolish’ is a wet starter, very thick, like batter for waffles, whereas a ‘biga’ can be wet or dry.

Since we are making an Italian loaf, we will use the Italian starter (duh). Like a ‘poolish’ starter, it is flour, water and a touch of yeast. The key is to let it sit and do it’s work and ferment.

Fermenting is the process of yeast, water and flour meeting and making little yeast babies. In this process, flour, yeast and water make out for a very long time…you can let this sit for up to four days! The longer it sits the more sour it will become, so we only want to do this for 12-16 hours.

Make the ‘biga’, baby!

In a large bowl, mix the 1 cup of cold water, the 2 cups Sir-Lancelot High-Gluten, hard wheat flour (you can use all-purpose, unbleached) and the ¼ teaspoon of instant yeast. Mix until just incorporated, cover with a very clean kitchen towel or Saran Wrap and let sit for 12-16 hours.

I started this @ 11PM on a Saturday night so I could have the final loaf ready by 6PM for Sunday dinner.

You know it’s ready when it’s bubbly with big craters throughout the dough. It will smell like yeast…very nice. Don’t rush this. Just keep looking every hour or so until its right. This is the key to your bread, so don’t rush it.

Ew. Biga is like totally gross.

Make the dough, baby!

Add your ½ cup cold water to the biga. Mix it in until smooth; it will be slimy and gross looking. No need to ultra mix, just get it all together in one slimy mix.

Slowly add the flour, yeast and the salt (don’t scrimp on the salt; it will be very plain if you do) and now comes the fun part; kneading.

James Beard wrote in his sublime book “Beard on Bread” one should use the palm of one hand to kneed bread. Personally, I love getting into kneading dough, so I use both palms, but the principal is the same. Lift the edge of the dough nearest you, fold it OVER the remaining, press down, turn one quarter to the left and do again and again on a well-floured wooden cutting board.

If you do by hand (why wouldn’t you?), kneed for 5 minutes; 3 minutes by mixer (fitted with a dough hook). Don’t over kneed, as the gluten will rise when it sits. Put the dough in lightly buttered bowl and cover for 1 ½ hours. To really make this dough work, ever 30 minutes gently punch down on the dough and ‘deflate’ it, then fold it over itself, leaving it alone in the bowl to rise. So 3 times in 1 ½ hours.

After it’s risen for 1 ½ hours, turn your oven on to 425 degrees. Make sure the oven rack is in the middle of the oven.

Flour a large wooden cutting board. Take out one third of the dough and gently roll it out into a 20 inch roll. Very important you must go to 20 inches. Do this for the other two parts of the dough until you have three separate 20 inch strands.

Now comes the really cool part. Intertwine the dough so it’s all one big braid. How cool, right?! I mean, come on! You’re making braided bread! Give me a break. Lightly oil a clean, jelly rolled baking sheet with one tablespoon vegetable oil then place the braided bread on the wrack.

Cover and let it sit on the baking sheet until it gets puffy and kinda Alien looking, 1 to 1 ½ hours. Again, all depends on how fast it rises. Mine only took 60 minutes.

After it’s risen, brush with egg white (break egg into a small bowl; mix; brush on with a small pastry brush you can buy at any grocery store) and top with sesame seeds if desired (Andy hates sesame seeds, so we don’t use them).

Bake for 25-35minutes. If you want to be uber-anal retentive, stop baking when it reaches 190 degrees in the center (use an instant read gauge), or, use the old-fashioned method of tapping the bottom to see if it feels hollow. This loaf is pretty resilient, so you can do the tap method and be good to go.

Take it out of the oven. Look at this! I mean, LOOK at this.

We just made a loaf of authentic American-Italian bread. How hot are you?! Now, let’s make killer lasagna.

We have two recipes to choose from, kittens.


Let’s cook!


FAST lasagna:

‘Faux’ Bolognese sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onion, minced
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ pounds meat – ¾ pound hot turkey sausage; ¾ pound ground chuck (or sirloin; no less than 7% fat)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 28-ounce can tomato puree
  • 1 14.5 ounce can tomato puree
  • 1 28-ounce no-salt diced tomatoes, drained
Lasagna layers:
  • 1 ¾ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (if you buy pre-grated cheese, I’ll personally come over and kick you till your dead), plus ¼ cup for the topping
  • I large bunch of fresh basil, leaves torn and cut into tiny strips
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 12 no-boil Barilla lasagna noodles from the regular 9 ounce package
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
SLOW AND EASY lasagna:

Authentic Bolognese sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped fine (approximately 1 cup)
  • 2 medium stalks celery, chopped fine (approximately 1 cup)
  • ¾ pound ground beef chuck
  • 1 cup whole milk, plus 4 tablespoons
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, from whole nutmeg
  • 1 cup dry white wine, from bottle, not cooking wine
  • 1 14.5 ounce can imported, whole Italian plum tomatoes, cut into small pieces in their own juices
Authentic Béchamel Sauce (salsa balsamella)

Béchamel sauce doesn’t seem to be in favor much anymore, which is a shame. It’s easy to make and a very useful, fast sauce for all Italian cooks. I love this sauce. It does the job of all the ricotta and cheese used in the fast version. This is the binder for the lasagna and for many other traditional Italian meals.

I learned this from Marcella Hazan. If you follow her three rules when making this you will never go wrong:

1. Never allow the flour to become colored when cooked with the butter (it will taste burnt).
2. Add the milk to the flour off of the heat and always add it SLOWLY to avoid lumps – this is a good rule of thumb with all recipes calling for liquid added to flour, but particularly so here.
3. Never, ever stop stirring this until you are sure it’s done.

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted, good-quality butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose, unbleached flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Lasagna layers:
  • 12 no-boil Barilla lasagna noodles from the regular 9 ounce package
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 1 large bunch of fresh basil leaves torn and cut into tiny strips
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan for the topping
In a previous posting, I detailed a faster version of Bolognese. This version is much more traditional and complex. It takes all day to cook, but results in a meat unparalled in tenderness and taste, yet with fewer ingredients.

Everyone wants to make lasagna in a hurry. This isn’t a good thing. Making lasagna is a wonderfully relaxing artful way of cooking. You melt into the cooking and preparation of it…how can that not be good?

The 45 minute lasagna is a very good recipe and will stand the test of time. It is a great consistency and taste. But, for truly authentic and out-of-this-world taste, you cannot beat an all-day Bolognese sauce (which is the foundation of the all-day sauce). Try both and decide for yourself.

No-boil lasagna noodles are the real streamlining trick up here. I remember boiling noodles, waiting, letting them dry, cooking them in the sauce to make sure they weren’t over done…so annoying. I was skeptical about using no-boil noodles but I’ll be dammed if the Barilla brand isn’t fucking brilliant. You can make noodles from scratch, but that’s taking it one step farther even for me. Most do not have the patience to make pasta (which makes no sense – pasta is so easy!).


Let’s cook!

In a large, Dutch oven, heat your 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat until it shimmers, about 4 minutes. Add 2 chopped onions and a dash of salt (extracts the water from the onions); cook until soft, 4 minutes or so.

Add garlic; cook a few minutes until you get a nice garlic smell going; add the meats, breaking up with a wooden spoon until the red, raw color is gone, anywhere from 5-8 minutes.

Now pour in the cream and mix it all up. Let it cook at a nice simmer until the meat absorbs the tasty cream, about 5 minutes or so.

Add the two cans of tomato puree and the diced tomato and mix it all up very well, until the flavors combine, about 10 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper, careful not to over salt.

Using tomato puree in meat and red sauces is a quick way to give sauce a nice thickness without adding any calories. I like the taste better than tomato paste. Plus, most puree’s on the market have very little sodium, which is a real plus, and give red sauces a true, tomato flavor.

As the sauce is simmering, make the sauce for the layers.

In a large bowl, mix your ricotta, grated Parmesan, basil and eggs. Put in the salt and pepper. Don’t over mix, but keep it nice and fluffy.

Make sure you’re shredded mozzarella is nearby.

Turn your oven onto 375 degrees.

Now, get out a glass Pyrex lasagna pan (13 by 9 does nicely) and here comes the fun part. Put a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the glass pan and swirl it around the bottom of the pan. Put down three noodles.

I really need to stop taking pictures after 3 glasses of wine. They are all looking very Monet like...and my TV show producer is not happy.

Add one heaping tablespoon down the center of each noodle so you have three tablespoons on EACH noodle. Ladle a bit over a cup of the sauce over the noodles (do the best to cover the noodles) and then pour ½ cup of the shredded mozzarella over this.

I mean, PLEASE. How good will THIS be?!

Oh, dear. Another wine-induced Monet-kinda photo.


Do this twice more, following the same little system. On the last (and fourth) layer, lay the noodles, put the rest of the ricotta over the noodles, cover with the remaining sauce, pour the last ½ cup of mozzarella over the top, and then top with the remaining Parmesan.

Cover with a sheet of aluminum foil – make sure to spray the underside with Pam olive oil spray so it doesn’t stick to the cheese. Put into the oven, cook 15 minutes, remove the foil, bake 25-30 minutes, take out and sit on the counter.

You must let it sit for 15 minutes so it settles. Lasagna will not be rushed.

Cut out a slice; serve with our fabulous Italian bread and a side salad of fresh greens, shaved Parmesan, croutons, thinly sliced red onion and balsamic vinegar.


First thing is first…in the morning before you are serving dinner, start your Bolognese sauce.
Let’s cook!

Place the oil, the butter and the chopped onion in the pot (with a dash of salt). Cook over medium heat. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to heat the oil before cooking. Throwing them in together is the traditional method and results in a much more moist onion.

After 3 minutes (onions should now be translucent), throw in the carrots and celery, stirring so all is coated well with the butter and oil. Cook for 4 minutes, no more. Medium heat.

Nice and easy does it.

Now add the ground beef with a nice bit of pepper and a hearty bit of salt…cook, breaking up the meat so it looses it’s raw, red color.

Now you add the milk and let it gently simmer until it is completely absorbed by the meat. Be patient. This may take up to 20 minutes. Grate the nutmeg into the sauce. Be careful – a tiny bit of nutmeg goes a long, long way.

Add the wine and bring it to a gentle simmer until it is all absorbed. Once it has been fully absorbed, add the tomatoes and bring to a bubble. Once it has come to a bubble, you want to turn down the flame so the sauce cook at the slowest of bubble possible. A bit of a bubble burst here and there…that’s it.

Cook the sauce, uncovered, for at least 3 hours. It will dry out, so feel free to add up to ½ cup of water at a time, but in the end, absolutely no liquid must exist.

I have read many times where if you can’t be home for the amount of time it takes to make this sauce, you can start it and then leave, cover it up, and resume when you return, as long as you finish it the same day.

The sauce also freezes very, very well. Up to 3 months in the freezer. Simply defrost in the fridge overnight, adding a bit of water to it if you reheat in the microwave.

As the Bolognese sauce is being made, you want to work on your Béchamel Sauce.

This sauce isn’t hard, but you must take time and concentrate.

Put your milk into a small but wide saucepan. Heat on medium low. Easy does it. You want to get the milk to the point where it’s just about to boil, where you get those divine little bubbles around the edge.

As the milk is heating, in large, very heavy bottomed 6 quart saucepan, put your butter in the center and turn on low. When the butter has melted and has just stopped bubbling, slowly add the flour, stirring it into the butter with a wooden spoon.


Do not let the butter/flour mixture become colored.

Remover the butter/flour pan from the heat and put aside. Now, add the warm milk from the other pan, but do this only 2 tablespoons at a time, very carefully mixing it in. Relax into this process. Only 2 tablespoons at a time so you don’t get lumps and can let it all mix together and relax. Ahhhhh…

When you have mixed in ½ cup, you can now add the remaining milk, ½ cup at a time, stirring until it’s all mixed together.

When it’s smooth as silk and mixed, put it back on the burner over medium heat and heat, adding the salt, until it becomes a thick cream. If you want it thicker, cook a few minutes more. Thin, a bit less. If you find a lump, attack that sucker with a whisk. No lumps!

You did it! You made Béchamel Sauce!

You can now assemble the lasagna just as with the faster version, but in this version this is what you do:

Layer a tiny bit of the Béchamel sauce on the bottom of the Pyrex lasagna pan.

Layer your three no-boil noodles and add 1/3 of the chopped basil, ¼ of the Bolognese and ¼ of the Béchamel sauce.

Continue this process until you get to the top, where on the last, 4th layer of noodles, you add the remaining Bolognese, spreading it along the noodles as you do (it’s a very thick meat sauce, so you may need to make sure it covers all noodles), cover with the remaining Béchamel sauce, the last of the mozzarella and then the ¼ cup Parmesan.

Cook the same as with the fast version.

Oh! There's a knock at the door! I wonder who could be interrupting my Italian Feast Making?

Excuse me, please.Oh my God! Alec Baldwin! What? You smelled my lasagna all the way in Manhattan? And you had to come to my house in Queens for a taste?

Alec! I'm flattered but you really must go. I'm married. But thank you so much for the compliment. And for goodness sake, put on a shirt!

The nerve of some Italian men. Geeze!

There you have it. Two sublime version of lasagna and a kick-ass and fool-proof Italian bread recipe.

Cook and remember our original intentions. We cook to feed our soul, to feed those we love, to find beauty in life.

Find your own version of fabulous glamour. You know what it is. Pursue what you want with courage and fearless abandon. Listen to your heart, cook and love.

Je t’aime, kittens...