Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.
If you haven't drunk the Cook's Illustrated (CI) Kool-Aid yet, you should. I've been a faithful reader of the the magazine since its very beginnings and have rarely been disappointed in a recipe. When in doubt, I turn to CI and its associated American's Test Kitchen (ATK).
If you've just discovered ATK, you'll be happy to know they've published a cookbook that includes, as the subtitle says, 2,000 Recipes from 20 Years of American's Most Trusted Food Magazine. No matter your skill level, The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook will soon become a staple in your kitchen, and here's why.
Every recipe has been tested, retested, tweaked, tested again, undergone blind taste testings, and refined as need. And all this cooking is done using regular appliances and pots and pans found in normal well-stocked home kitchens. If a special pan is called for, that's because other pans didn't produce great results. If a recipe calls for an ingredient at room temperature, that's because the dish was less successful when the ingredient was cold (or hot). The cooks at ATK have tried all the variations, so you can trust their advice.
So if you're a new cook or an unsure cook, you can use this cookbook with confidence. If you are a seasoned cook, you'll love the sections called "Why This Recipe Works," which explain the details, such as why a particular cutting method is best or why you need low-starch potatoes for a specific recipe. In addition there are 154 tips and hints and at least as many illustrations showing specific cooking and baking methods.
Cooks who wish they were better at making substitutions will appreciate the many recipes in The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook that come with variations. For example, you'll see how easy it is to turn Sauteed Pork Cutlets with Mustard-Cider Sauce into Sauteed Pork Cutlets with Lemon-Caper Sauce, and you'll find four easy variations for the Classic Couscous recipe. Once you feel comfortable with tested variations, you'll soon be making up your own.
Vegetarian/Vegan Alert: This general cookbook comes in at a hefty 900 pages, and I know there are plenty of recipes for vegetarians. But vegetarians should be aware that poultry, meat, and fish take up about 200 pages, and that doesn't count the meat that would be found in the salad, soup, and pasta chapters. I think you'll find a lot of great recipes, but I suggest you look before you buy. I don't think vegans would find many recipes to suit their tastes.
One of the many winning recipes in The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook is Simple Lasagna with Hearty Tomato-Meat Sauce. Vegetarians could leave out the meat, substitute a soy product, or substitute veggies (those are my suggestions, not ATK; there are, in fact, about a dozen vegetarian lasagna recipes in the book).
Simple Lasagna with Hearty Tomato-Meat Sauce
Serves 8 to 10 (see note at end)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound meatloaf mix (see note)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 (28-ounce) can tomato puree
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained (see note)
- 14 ounces (1-3/4 cups) ricotta cheese
- 2-1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese grated (1-1/4 cups)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 16 ounce whole-milk mozzarella, shredded (4 cups)
- 12 no-boil lasagna noodles (see note)
For the Cheese Filling: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375F. Combine ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan, basil, egg, salt, and pepper in bowl.
To Assemble: Spread 1/4 cup of meat sauce evenly over bottom of 13 by 9-inch baking dish (avoiding large chunks of meat). Arrange 3 noodles in a single layer on top of sauce. Spread each noodle evenly with 3 tablespoons of ricotta mixture and sprinkle entire layer with 1 cup mozzarella. Spoon 1-1/2 cups meat sauce over top. Repeat layers of noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, and sauce 2 more times. For final layer, arrange remaining 3 noodles on top and cover completely with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella, then sprinkle with remaining 1/4 Parmesan.
To Bake: Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil that has been sprayed with vegetable spray. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove foil and continue to bake until cheese is spotty brown and edges are just bubbling, about 25 minutes loner. Cook lasagna for 15 minutes before serving.
Beth Fish's notes: This makes a huge amount. I make the entire pan. We eat it for two nights and I freeze the rest in batches so I have easy meals later on. This freezes beautifully. I use ground lamb because that's what we always have. I have forgotten to drain the tomatoes and found no ill effect. My lasagna pan is larger than 9 by 13 inches and the only no-boil noodles I can find in local stores are small. It takes me 1-1/2 boxes of short noodles to make my lasagna; all other ingredients work fine in the larger pan.