Sometimes when I start cooking, I have no clear idea what the dish will be. Last night I surprised myself. I took out of the refrigerator most of the items I bought this weekend at the farmer’s market, Whole Foods, and elsewhere, and I quickly focused on the items that would spoil in a day or two. The lead candidates were two bunches of Cavolo Nero and several paper bags of fresh, “wild” mushrooms.
I had such good success with the slow-cooked Cavolo Nero a few days ago that I started down that path first. Bringing a large pot of water to a boil, salting the water generously, and then blanching the kale for about three minutes, I was getting ready to duplicate the dish. I drained the greens and let them cool in a bowl.
Meanwhile, I went to work on the mushrooms. I had one lovely large Portobello, a stack of Oyster Mushrooms, and two sets of Shiitakes. I sliced them and began sautéing in about 4 Tbs. of olive oil from Puglia. I used my large sauteuse, but still needed to cook them in batches, so as not to overcrowd the pan.
At this point I was considering the options of how to use them. Would it be with pasta? Penne or spaghetti? What else in the sauce? I still had a large pot of salted water on the stove, so I went to my stash and decided to try a Wild Mushroom Lasagne, using rectangular sheets of dried pasta from Italy just for that purpose. The rest of the filling would be the Cavolo Nero, partially caramelized slices of onions, my favorite almond milk Ricotta and a little tomato sauce from a jar. Cooking two sheets at a time in the re-boiled water, I removed them after 2-3 minutes and lay them out on towels.
We have a small ceramic Italian lasagne baking dish, just the right size for dinner for one. Here are the steps:
- mix all the cooked mushrooms together
- chop the Cavolo Nero (I used the Cuisinart processor for that)
- mix a few tablespoons of olive oil into the ricotta to make it spreadable
- grate cheese for the topping (I used a P’tit Basque sheep’s milk from France)
- preheat the oven to 400 or 425º F.
- drizzle a little olive oil and spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in the pan
- cover the bottom with a pasta sheet
- spread the ricotta cheese on the pasta sheet thinly, add chopped kale, then the sliced, cooked mushrooms
- add some of the caramelized onions distributed across the layer
- lightly salt and pepper that layer
- repeat with one or two more layers
- cover your last layer with more pasta, mix tomato sauce with olive oil and spread thinly all over the top, then add the sheep’s milk cheese, and
- bake in oven until lightly browned and cooked through
Serve with a simple green salad and one or more of several good wines. I tried three different wines: first, the orange wine from Italy (Ciuri di lava) that I was drinking while cooking (it was just OK as a match). Next was the Sangiovese from two night previously. That wine picked up the meaty earthiness of the mushrooms, so I finished what was left). Last was the Rossese di Dolceacqua from Liguria, and it was my favorite. This delightful wine had a light and lovely touch, complementing and enhancing the flavors of the vegetables and cheeses perfectly.