Stir Crazy: Put in the work and reap the dinner benefits

News-DemocratMarch 24, 2014 

Since I'm on the theme of cooking during Lent, I couldn't help but include two recipes that offer a family meal that can be enjoyed without a lot of fuss once the initial work is done.

This recipe is from a websites, cookstr.com, that gathers together a wide array of food experts, from writers to professional cooks to cookbook authors to restaurant owners to offer recipes and advice. Food writer/cookbook author Andrew Schloss provided this recipe. He said that salmon holds up very well when steamed in this manner.

Salmon Slow-Cooked with Herbs

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 pound small Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into thin slices

1 medium onion, halved and cut into thin slices

2 celery ribs, cut into thin slices

2 pounds farm-raised salmon fillet, pin bones removed

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup hot water

2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, dill, basil, and/or tarragon

2 tablespoons butter

Drizzle the bottom of a 5- to 6-quart oval slow cooker with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Layer the potatoes, onion and celery over the bottom.

Place a 2-foot length of 12-inch-wide heavy-duty aluminum foil lengthwise across the cooker and press down so that it covers the vegetables and the sides of the crock; the ends of the foil should extend over the rim at each end of the crock.

Season the flesh side of the salmon with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large heavy skillet over high heat. Brown the flesh side of the salmon in the oil, about 2 minutes.

Place the salmon, skin side down, on top of the foil.

Add the wine to the skillet and heat to boiling. Stir in the water, then pour over the salmon. Set the skillet aside for later use.

Cover the cooker and cook on low for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until the salmon flakes when pressed gently. You can keep the salmon on warm for several hours.

To serve, use the foil to lift the salmon from the cooker and transfer to a large platter. Lift the vegetables from the cooker with a slotted spoon and arrange around the fish. Pour the liquid from the cooker into the skillet and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until reduced to about 1/3 cup of liquid. Add the herbs and boil for 1 minute; remove from the heat and swirl in the butter. Adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper and pour the sauce over the fish and vegetables. Serve immediately.

Serves 6, each with 474 calories, 33 grams protein, 2 grams sugar, 93 mg cholesterol, 29 grams fat, 2 grams fiber, 16 grams carbohydrates, 246 mg sodium.

Tips: It is important to use farm-raised, rather than wild salmon in a slow cooker. Wild fish do not develop as much fat as their more sedentary farm-raised cousins, and they tend to dry during cooking. They are fine for grilling or baking, but are not an option for the slow cooker.

For a change, try thin slices of carrot and bell pepper in place of the potatoes and celery.

This is a Betty Crocker recipe that can be done on a Saturday or Sunday and popped into the freezer or oven, with leftovers for another meal. Feel free to play with the ingredients a bit, using less or eliminating the meat (for Lent, foregoing the spinach and using homemade sauce.

Make-Ahead Meat-Lovers' Lasagna Roll-Ups

Roll-Ups :

16 uncooked lasagna noodles

1 pound lean ground beef

1/2 pound bulk Italian pork sausage

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 1/2 cups tomato pasta sauce

2 containers (15 ounces each) ricotta cheese

1 box (9-ounce) frozen spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry

2 teaspoons dried basil leaves or Italian seasoning

1 egg

For baking:

3 cups tomato pasta sauce

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 ounces)

1. Line 15-by-10-by-1-inch pan with foil. Cook lasagna noodles as directed on package. Drain; rinse with hot water. Drain well.

2. Meanwhile, in 12-inch skillet, cook beef, sausage and onion over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until meat is no longer pink; drain.

Stir in 1 1/2 cups pasta sauce. Reduce heat to low; simmer uncovered 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

3. In small bowl, mix ricotta cheese, spinach, basil and egg. Spread about 3 tablespoons ricotta mixture over each cooked lasagna noodle to within 1 inch of one short end.

Spoon about 1/4 cup meat mixture over ricotta mixture on each.

Roll up firmly toward unfilled end. If freezing, place roll-ups, seam side down, on pan; cover loosely with foil. Freeze about 30 minutes, or until firm and easy to handle.

4. Place frozen rolls in airtight freezer container; label. Freeze up to 3 months.

5, To bake 8 lasagna roll-ups, spray a 13-by-9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dishes with cooking spray. Remove roll-ups from freezer bag; place in baking dish. Cover with foil; thaw in refrigerator at least 8 hours but no longer than 24 hours.

6. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pour 1 1/2 cups pasta sauce over and around roll-ups in baking dish. Cover tightly with foil; bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese; bake uncovered 3 to 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Tips: You can actually bake any number of these tasty lasagna roll-ups that you need, using about 3 tablespoons of your favorite pasta sauce and about 2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella cheese for each roll-up you are baking.

Since you won't use a whole jar of pasta sauce when preparing the roll-ups for the freezer, place remaining sauce in a freezer container; label and freeze. Thaw along with the roll-ups.

Here's how to reach me: Phone, 239-2664; e-mail, sboyle@bnd.com; or write, Suzanne Boyle, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.

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