This column appeared in a recent edition of the Devils Lake Journal newspaper in my hometown of Devils Lake, North Dakota.
Since I started writing this column, I have written a lot about recipes and foods I enjoy that have been long standing traditions in my family and have ties to my North Dakota roots. Two recent columns talked about how two different HGTV cooking shows brought back memories of lutefisk and Lutheran church suppers and also green Jello salad. But what kinds of new recipes and dishes have I discovered and enjoy cooking as a grownup? My adult pallet has been affected by the traveling I have done for work, restaurants I’ve dined at and my circle of friends, which has changed over the years as I have moved around. I do enjoy cooking, but I’m not much of a baker. I’ve never had a family to cook for, so during the week I don’t make anything too fancy. When I do cook, I tend to favor dishes that can be frozen into individual meals.
I enjoy trying new recipes from cookbooks, magazines – I’m a longtime subscriber to “Bon Appétit” – and cooking shows and so still to this day I’ll find a recipe I like that I add to the mix of favorites. My most recent new favorite recipe is actually an old favorite restaurant dish. Some of you may remember the Lavosh at the old John Barleycorn restaurant in Grand Forks, which I think has been closed for awhile now. Some of you also are likely familiar with Trader Joes, which has a location in the Minneapolis area. About five Trader Joe’s have opened in the Denver area over the last year or so, and I finally visited one a couple of weeks ago when I spent a weekend in Denver getting a much needed city fix (and also to enjoy a couple of quiet nights as where I live is sandwiched between a semi truck speedway and a very busy train track). Prior to my Trader Joe’s visit, I asked friends on Facebook what were some of their fav items to buy there. Trader Joes is well loved and I immediately got at least 10 suggestions, including one from an old college and sorority pal who said it sold lavosh bread – just like what was served at John Barleycorn. And it was inexpensive – just a couple of bucks for a package with about 10 large sheets of lavosh bread.I’ve since made the lavosh John Barleycorn style a couple of times, using my college pal’s general tips for preparation, topping it with havarti cheese and caramelized onions, to which I added balsamic vinegar and a little brown sugar. It was delish and all it needed for perfection was one of John Barleycorn’s also infamous Long Island Iced Teas!
Other favorite dishes of mine include my own variation of spaghetti, spaghetti pie, and chili – mine doesn’t have kidney beans as I don’t like them. I also really dig grilling and some of my favorite recipes include different types of kabobs – veggie, pork and beef, and I have a killer recipe for grilled salmon that next to family dishes is the oldest recipe I own, having cut it out of a Glamour magazine back when I was in my 20s.
My hands down favorite recipe is Red Pepper Lasagna, which I found about 15 years ago in a copy of BetterHomes and Gardens. At one point I lost the recipe but thanks to Google I found a copy of it on the Internet. The author of the recipe actually makes his own lasagna noodles. That’s way too much work for me, and sometimes I use the jarred roasted red peppers rather than roasting them myself. The lasagna has layers of lasagna noodles, a béchamel sauce, parmesan cheese and a red pepper sauce. It truly is to die for! The recipe’s author was interviewed in the magazine and said “I could eat this every day.” I would have to agree!
The recipe follows:
Red Pepper Lasagna
One 28 oz can crushed tomatoes 1/3 cup flour
Four medium red peppers OR ½ t salt
28 oz jar roasted red peppers ½ t nutmeg
1 T olive oil 3 cup milk – preferably whole
½ cup parsley 1 ¼ cup parmesan cheese
4 cloves garlic minced ¾ t black pepper
1/3 cup butter 12 lasagna noodles
If using whole peppers make a red pepper sauce. Half peppers, remove insides. Place peppers cut side down on a foil lined sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until bubbly. Wrap peppers in foil. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Peel skin. Cut into thin strips. In large pan cook peppers (or strained jar peppers) in hot oil over medium heat for about one minute. Stir in undrained tomatoes, parsley, garlic and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes uncovered, stirring often. Set aside to cool.
For béchamel sauce, in medium pan melt butter. Stir in flour, salt and nutmeg until smooth. Add milk all at once. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for one minute. Set aside to cool.
Cook lasagna noodles. Immerse in cold water. Grease bottom of three quart rectangular dish. Cover bottom with ¼ of the pasta. Spread about one cup of red pepper sauce, followed by ¾ cup of béchamel sauce and 1/3 cup of parmesan. Repeat twice. Top with remaining pasta, béchamel and parmesan. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until bubbly and light brown. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Make ahead directions. Refrigerate up to 24 hours. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes covered with foil. Remove foil and bake another 15 to 25 minutes.