Amid my recent searches for recipes involving ground meat, I perhaps inevitably stumbled upon recipes for lasagna. In general, I have mixed feelings about lasagna. On the one hand, it seems like a sort of meal that’s ripe for variation, and in classic form, lasagna contains all the great flavors of Italian cuisine that beg for candlelight, checkered tablecloths and hearty red wine. On the other hand, lasagna can turn out very boring very easily. There aren’t a lot of good recipe variations to be found. It can also get dried out and rubbery, especially upon subsequent reheating (and, really, who eats an entire casserole in one sitting).

The last lasagna I remember truly loving was the creation of my friend Lisa Di, who made lasagna with paper-thin homemade noodles. The delicacy and freshness of the noodles made all the difference, as I recalled, though it had been many years since I’d eaten it. Having tried a successful noodle recipe a few weeks ago, and finding myself with a lazy Sunday, I felt ambitious enough to try out a recipe.


Lasagna1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 (8oz) cans of tomato sauce
1 (6oz) can of tomato paste
2-3 plum tomatoes, chopped
4 oz of beer
1/2 teaspoon salt
cayenne pepper, to taste
fresh basil and parsley, to taste
1 lb. ground meat
water, as needed
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
lasagna noodles, cooked and drained, or straight out of the pasta maker
1-2 cups shredded mozzerella

Saute the onions and garlic in the melted butter in a medium saucepan until onions are softened. Add tomato sauce, paste, chopped tomatoes, beer, salt, pepper and herbs. Cook until heated through; fresh herbs should be wilted in the sauce. Process with an immersion blender (this was my lazy step so that I wouldn’t have to chop the herbs, but it can be skipped by cutting them up ahead of time). Add the meat and continue to cook (I like to cut up the ground meat first so it’s easier to break up as it cooks).

Meanwhile, combine the ricotta, the egg, the parmesan and the sour cream in a separate bowl. When the meat is cooked in the sauce, and the lasagna noodles are ready (i.e. either cooked, or made fresh through the pasta maker), spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a 9 X 13 square glass baking pan.

Put down the first layer of lasagna noodles. Spread with a layer of ricotta mixture and then another layer of sauce. Repeat layering: noodles, cheese, sauce. Finish with a layer of noodles, sauce and mozzarella on top.

Bake at 350 for 45 to 60 minutes, until mozzarella is golden and crisp.

LasagnaIf you have extra mozzarella, that can be included as its own layer, but I had a limited amount that I wanted to save for the top, and I’m not a huge fan of having too much cheese stringiness amongst the lasagna slices.

If you’re tempted to make your own lasagna noodles, the the above referenced noddle recipe makes just the right amount at the thinnest setting (number 9 on my pasta maker), and I definitely recommend using the thinnest setting. I was afraid, at first, that the noodles might be too thin, that they might dissolve in the sauce, but they held up wonderfully and the entire recipe turned out swimmingly!

Cranberry Meatballs

My adventures in ground meat cookery continue with a foray into appetizer meatballs. The versatility of meatball recipes keeps me intrigued; recipes can so easily be tweaked with different sizes, meats or flavors to fit the occasion.

Last evening, I hosted a small birthday soiree for Sabrina and decided to take a meatball recipe I had tried as a meal a few weeks before and turn it into an hors d’oeuvre simply by rolling smaller meatballs and keeping a ready supply of toothpicks. I also made it Sabrina-friendly by using ground turkey instead of beef.


Cranberry Meatballs2 lbs of ground meat (turkey, beef, pork, etc.)
1 large egg
3/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/8 to 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup diced onions
1/8 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 (16oz) can cranberry sauce
1 (12oz) bottle of chili sauce (think Heinz, not sriracha)
2 teaspoons brown sugar

Combine all ingredients up to and including the garlic. They can simply be mixed with a spoon, or you can run them through a food processor for a finer texture of meat.

Roll smaller balls for appetizer or larger for a meal. Arrange on a non-stick baking sheet and bake at 375 for at least 20 minutes (longer for larger balls).

Meanwhile, combine the cranberry and chili sauces with the brown sugar in a large saucepan. You can add a bit of water and/or use an immersion blender or electric beaters to smooth out the sauce. Heat the sauce and add the meatballs after baking. Once heated through, they are ready to serve. Supply toothpicks for your appetizer meatballs or serve over rice for a meal.

Links to other items on the menu: hummus, seafood deviled eggs, mango curry deviled eggs and Swiss fondue.


Sesame Turkey Burgers and Blue Cheese Broccoli Casserole

Last Saturday we had a somewhat impromptu gathering at the home of Neilbert and Saundra (as my parents are known colloquially). I had planned to make dinner and watch Star Trek with my father, as is our weekly custom, before heading out to the Saturday Night Dance I host at the studio. We invited Sabrina and Ted in effort to tempt them into joining us for dancing (we failed).

I’m currently on a ground meat kick, culinar-ily, and so I decided to try a recipe for turkey burgers. Not that I have any serious objections to beef burgers (though, Sabrina and Ted do), but I have a certain affinity for turkey burgers. Beef burgers always present a conundrum for me, because I know they taste so much better rare, but that eating rare ground meat is like sending an engraved invitation to food poisoning. Turkey burgers, however, I can enjoy dilemma-free.

I looked around the internet for some highly-rated turkey burger recipes and came up with the following:


3 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced garlic
one bunch of green onions, sliced thin
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped or torn
fresh ground pepper, to taste
2 lbs. ground turkey
plain breadcrumbs, as needed

Combine oil and sesame seeds in a non-stick skillet. Heat over low fire until sesame seeds start to turn golden. Remove from heat.

Combine soy sauce, garlic, onions, cilantro, pepper and ground turkey in a medium bowl. Add sesame seeds and oil once they have cooled a bit. While combining the ingredients, dust on some breadcrumbs to absorb excess moisture. Add enough breadcrumbs that the mixture reaches a good consistency for shaping the burgers. Shape burgers into desired size and grill until heated through.

All in all, I would say that the burgers were pretty good. The soy and sesame flavors were the most pronounced. I was a little disappointed that the cilantro flavor didn’t not have a greater presence. Next time I make them, I might use more cilantro for a stronger cilantro presence.

On to the side dish…


2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 (8oz) package cream cheese
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 cup milk or half-n-half
fresh ground pepper
2 1bs. broccoli florets, steamed to taste
1 cup crumbled crackers
6 tablespoons melted butter

Melt butter in a saucepan. Mix in flour until you form a creamy paste. Add cheeses, milk and pepper. If cheese remains clumpy when melted, my trick is to use an immersion blender to smooth it out.

Combine the cheese sauce and broccoli. Meanwhile stir crackers together with melted butter until absorbed. Stir about a third of the crackers into the broccoli mixture, sprinkle the rest on top of the casserole. Bake covered at 350 for 15 minutes and then remove the cover for another 15 minutes.

It’s hard to go wrong with vegetables smothered in cheese. My only qualm with the way this recipe turned out is that the broccoli was a little too “al dente” for my taste (if such can be said of broccoli). I used two bags of frozen broccoli cuts, allowing them to defrost a bit but not steaming them beforehand. I prefer my broccoli a bit softer, so I added the direction of making sure to steam it thoroughly enough for whatever your taste is (if you like it crunchier, go ahead and skip the steam).

Kofta Curry

I’ve been in something of a recipe rut over this past winter. I couldn’t exactly say why, only that I’ve been uninspired to try new recipes, or even to root through my tried-and-true recipes to resurrect old favorites in the interest of keeping variety in my repertoire. But after a not-so-long, not-so-cold winter of culinary ennui, I have been struck by the urge to cook adventurously again.

And so, I plan to sift through old favorites to post on this blog, as well as to post new recipes as I slake my desire for uncharted culinary horizons. Overblown enough for you? I have a rough goal of trying/posting a new recipes every weekend, or so… though, life happens, so I’m not writing it in stone… only, I suppose, in HTML.

Bumping around recently on, I found myself–following a confluence of otherwise unrelated link click-age–intrigued by the concept of a Kofta, or Meatball, curry. Now, “kofta” needn’t mean a meat dish by necessity. I once much enjoyed a Malai Kofta at a Taste of India buffet, and in looking up recipes for such confirmed my memory that it was in fact a non-meat “meatball.” Being unfamiliar with most languages outside Eastern Europe, I could not begin to speculate on the finer nuances of the word “kofta,” but I gather it has a somewhat broader meaning than “meatball” does in American English.

Still and all, it would appear that an otherwise un-linguistically-modified “Kofta Curry” would imply meatballs in curry sauce. I hope to explore non-meat koftas at a later time, but in the meantime meatballs seem like an awesome nucleus for curry.

Why do meatballs seem so awesome? Well, I’m always looking for new, cheap and low-carb item to be the crux of curries. I find it often expensive and a bother to keep larger pieces of meat, i.e. chicken breasts, beef steaks, pork loins, etc., stocked regularly at my abode, but vegetables are easy, as are legumes of the ilk of garbanzo beans, and canned fish like salmon or tuna. While I don’t regularly keep ground meat at my apartment, I can’t deny the appeal of a meatball, as the meat is cheap to purchase and interesting things are bound to come of it (since ground meat alone is pretty boring).

On the other hand, I’ve never been especially intrigued by the family of “keema” or loose ground meat curries. But there’s just something about a meatball. Meatballs are one of the few Italian foods I gravitate toward, and so a curry-deserving version of the meatball concept was undeniably appealing.

Without belaboring the point further, I give you my first attempt at kofta curry, starting, of course, with the kofta.


1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teapsoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons diced onion
1 green chili, diced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
1 egg
1/8 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 lb. ground meat, i.e. beef, turkey, etc.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, except meat, until well combined. Add meat and process to desired fineness. It appears that kofta recipes tend to favor the more finely ground meats, so don’t be shy about pulverizing it.

Form the meat into roughly golf-sized balls and place in a lightly oiled ceramic or glass pan to bake for about 45 to 1 hour at 300. I would recommend baking until the outside of the meatball is browned and a little crispy.

Having baked the kofta, we need a curry sauce to complement it. I perused a number of kofta curry sauces and formulated a rough consensus of common and appealing ingredients:


vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon red pepper or paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoons ground almonds
1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes in liquid
2 curry leaves or bay leaves
2 tablespoons cream or yogurt
cilantro leaves

Combine everything up to and including the tomatoes in a saucepan or a food processor. If you have an immersion blender, you can saute the ingredients awhile in a saucepan, until the almonds soften, and then pureed them with the blender. Otherwise, combine the ingredients in a food processor first, and then heat in a saucepan. Once pureed, by either method, the curry or bay leaves can be added. Stew awhile longer and then add the cream shortly prior to serving. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

When all was said and done, I was pleased with my kofta, but unenthusiastic about the sauce. I found myself wishing for a sauce that tasted more like a tikka masala or “butter chicken” type sauce. As it was, it seemed to me like the tomatoes and the almonds sort of cancelled each other out, flavor-wise. I went back and reviewed further recipes for kofta curries, and the use both tomatoes and nuts seems pretty standard. Perhaps in the future, I will try using the nuts as a garnish, rather than mixing them in, korma-style, in effort to preserve the tangy-ness of the tomatoes. Then again, maybe I’ll just make tikka masala sauce, instead.