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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hotdish: A Dish Served Best with other Hotdishes

Are we sitting in the trust tree my friends? Have we all gathered here in a judgment-free zone? Should I feel safe being open and honest??? SHOULD I?!?! (oh lord - I've gone and done it again. Sorry - I swore 2010 was going to be a 'Year Sans Melt-Downs' and now I've gone and blown that resolution to heck. That's just great Andrea, just great.)

I ask you these questions before beginning this blog because I must fess up... I have fallen behind on my blogging.

When I began this blog I was pretty confident in my plan to make one hotdish a week. Cute, right? As it turns out, I seem to possess a little bit of that lethal combo of Overpromiser/Underdeliverer.  If I may attempt to argue on my own behalf though, I would say that this particular blog entry has taken so terribly long because quite frankly, I have found it daunting. This is no ordinary entry. This is an entry chockablock full of photos, hotdishes and friends. That's a lot to cram into an entry, and this could get lengthy. Lengthy, bis of course the word I choose to use in lieu of 'rambly.'

About a year ago I joined forces with four of the funniest ladies I know—Danielle Olson, Stephanie Watson, Elizabeth Saloka and Beth Kauffman to become our own little improv/comedy quintet. While we had—and still have may I add, all the best intentions of doing great funny things, it seems that all of our shared interests in eating, drinking, chatting and laughing at each other is our Achille's heel. We make a heck of a Ladies' Social Club. We're still working on the 'organized comedic activity part.'

I invite you to get to know each of us more deeply by checking out this wacky little videos we made last summer. They were a bit thrown together and also the by-product of a few bottles of wine. Enjoy. http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=thisisladybusiness&search_type=&aq=f
(Oh, and don't feel like you have to watch these videos now, you can wait and watch them at the end of the entry, so as not to disturb the flow of the blog, kind of like I just did right now.)

Recently, I had the pleasure of hosting the ladies over at the hallway for some hotdish. It's been a goal of mine to get some guests up in the halldizzle for some hotdish and right away I thought of these gals. They can cook. Like, really, really well. This evening, proved no exception.

Everyone was charged with bringing a hotdish. Except for Stephanie who was at her company holiday party beforehand—and let's face it, nothing says "I'm not really here to get tipsy and make bad choices" like showing up to a holiday party with a foil-covered Le Creuset pan. In lieu of a hotdish, Stephanie wowed us all with homemade chocolate pistachio bark. Turns out that gifting chocolate pistachio bark turns Stephanie into a bit of a photo vixen. Little did we know. This melt-in-your-mouth treat was divine and came in a cute little tin, which was handy later in the holiday season when I had to bring my own homemade candy to the Klaassen family Christmas. Score! and thank you Stephanie.

Without any prior coordination we wound up with an excellent array of hotdishes covering all gamuts from vegetarian to down-home deliciousness. I told you invited these ladies over for a reason. The collection of cuisine and cooks included:

Beth Kauffman with a savory wild rice, prosciutto, brussel sprout bake:

Elizabeth Saloka showed off some comfort-food cookin' skills with a chicken, cheesy, almond, tangy, veggie macaroni hotdish: (p.s. This hotdish is awesome as a leftover. I would know, I ate it for the next seven consecutive meals after our gathering.)

Danielle Olson added her gourmand touch to hotdish with a Swiss chard, gruyere (? I hope I wrote that down right - correct me if I'm wrong Olson) Yukon gold and cranberry offering:

My contribution to this foodfest was a hotdish that as of now, is my favorite of the ones I've made, to date. I'm calling it 'Ricey Lasagna Hotdish.' Its technical name is 'Pizza Hotdish' - a name with which I take issue. With the exception of marinara sauce, there is nothing pizza-esque about this dish. What I do not take issue with, is the cookbook from which I got (well, and then edited) the recipe; More With Less. 

This is an exceptional cookbook. Along with its sister publication, Simply In Season, these two books could be my entire cookbook collection and I would be happy.  'More With Less' was way ahead of its time, featuring recipes that champion good, healthy, delicious food produced in a manner where we aren't be gluttonous bad world citizens. Sounds intense, I know, but it is teeming with wonderful recipes. I don't often get on my soap box about things of this nature, but this is just an A+ cookbook that everyone should own. BOTH cookbooks actually. Plus, I've noticed that they've now both become staples of any eco-friendly store or co-op so you can buy them and look trendy at the same time.

Now that I've wrapped up that tangent, I'll tell you more about 'Ricey Lasagna.' I won't bother giving you the original recipe since my revised version is better. Here's the recipe:
2 cups cooked rice (I used white, but I'm sure brown is good as well)
3/4 lb. Italian Sausagae
1 onion, chopped
2 cups marinara sauce
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp. Italian seasonings
2 cups Ricotta cheese

Combine ricotta and rice, set aside. Brown the Italian sausage and sauté the onion. Add sauce and seasonings to meat & onion mixture.  Put 1/2 the rice/ricotta mixture in a greased 2 Quart dish. (just layer it in there - this is your base layer) Top with a layer of meat sauce & repeat ricotta/rice, then meat sauce. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes, or until bubbly. Feel free to get fancy and melt some mozzarella on the top. (I would think this dish would only be made all the better with the addition of any of the following: olives, mushrooms or peppers - so maybe throw those in there if you like...)

I do apologize that I don't have the recipes for the other ladies' hotdishes, but you'll just have to deal with that. I had no desire to spend the evening writing down recipes as I was far too busy eating and wearing the cute apron Nicole made me for my birthday. If however you wake up tomorrow and still feel cheated about the whole thing, then I suggest you contact them yourself and bribe/purchase the recipes from them accordingly. From what I know of these ladies, you could probably snag the recipes pretty easily with the offer of a glass of wine. (unless you're Beth Kaufman, then you're a sucker for cow tongue.)

Once the first course had wrapped up it was time to PAR-TAY. And when we party we party HARD. With made-from-scratch rosemary lemon cupcakes with personalized flags in them!!! These tasty little confections came from the kitchen of Danielle Olson, and also from her skilled culinary hands. And seriously, personalized flags?!?! She's good. Also, here's your opportunity for audience participation - we struggled to come up with a cool word that our initials could spell. If you've got anything better, feel free to let me know and I'll give you a shout-out or something in my next blog. It's like Word Twist in a blog! Ooh!!!

There may be a lot of things you're wondering. I'll keep it simple and skip the questions about life, love and eternity and get to the query at hand - "Why did you have cupcakes at this occasion?" Clearly, the answer is that cupcakes mean celebration, and though I haven't mentioned it yet, this evening also doubled as a bit of a celebration. The day before our gathering I had turned the big 2-7, a few days later Danielle would turn Twenty-Great and in less exciting news, we were sharing a 'last supper' if you will with Elizabeth who is now, as I blog this, a Brooklyn resident. Sigh.

So, to wrap it up, have a hotdish party. It's fun and you will be amazed at how your friends rise to the occasion. Also, Elizabeth - move back, we miss you. Ok, thanks great.