Italian Sausage Lasagna

italiansausagelasagna01

Ingredients:

Generous glugs of olive oil
3 garlic cloves
4 Italian sausages cut and rolled into small balls
1 large can of diced tomatoes (or two regular ones)
1 tsp sugar
Salt, pepper, dried basil and oregano
1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
300 g ricotta cheese
1 egg
Lasagna sheets to make two layers (I used the express ones)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

1. Heat the oil in a pan. Fry the garlic cloves. Remove them. Fry the sausage balls. When golden, add the diced tomatoes, the Tbsp of tomato sauce, the sugar, salt, pepper, dried herbs. Bring to boil, cook on medium heat  until the tomato sauce reaches a consistency that is not too runny yet not too dry.

2. In a bowl, whisk the egg, add the ricotta and Parmesan cheese and mix well.

3. To layer your lasagna dish, start with a scant layer of the sauce (try to take out the sausage balls), then lay lasagna sheets to cover the bottom. Then spread a layer of the sauce (half of it) and the ricotta cheese mix on top. Top that with a layer of lasagna sheet, a layer of sauce (the other half), and cover everything with the grated mozzarella.

4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Then, remove the foil and broil it until the cheese is golden.

Yum, yum, yum!

Lebanese Moudardra

Growing up, moudardra was always my mother’s savior. Every time she wanted to cook something fast for us after school, something she was sure we’d like, she’d put together this simple yet unique Lebanese rice dish. And of course, served with its most compatible companion: cold yogurt with dried mint.

For this recipe you need 3 ingredients: rice, lentils, and onion.  I also added dried chili to make it hot, because I like everything hot!

lebanese moudardra

 

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

1 onion, sliced thinly
Olive oil, generous glugs
1 cup rice, I used short grain rice
3/4 cup lentils, green or brown
Salt and dried chili

Method:

If you have a rice cooker, this would be even easier. I used a rice cooker this time. If you’re using a regular pot, make sure of the measurements of rice to water.

- In a small frying pan, fry the sliced onion in the olive oil. Fry them until slightly brown.

- In a pot, boil the lentils in water until almost cooked.

- Whether you’re using a rice cooker or a regular pot, put the fried onion, the lentils (with the water they’re in), the rice, and salt and dried chili and adjust the water level. Cook until the rice is cooked. When you open the lid, you will see your dish like in the photo above.

- Give everything a good mix. Serve it with cold yogurt with mint on the side. The yogurt with mint is just plain white yogurt with salt and dried mint.

 

Tam Tam of Montreal

Tam Tam is a free ‘festival’ that takes place every Sunday in Montreal around the Georges-Etienne Cartier monument in Parc Mont Royal. It is a drum and dance activity that is almost like a tradition for locals and a popular hit for tourists.

Tam Tam starts at around noon and continues until sunset. Hundreds of people gather there to picnic, walk on ropes, sword fight, play Frisbee, throw balls around, smoke, take in the sun, or just people watch. It truly is one of the most entertaining things to do on a non-rainy Sunday.

The photos (taken on June 1st) will give you a better idea. It truly is a wonderfully spirited event that makes sure you’re not bored on Sunday!

TamTamMontreal00

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Versatile Blogger Award

I remembering reading about the Versatile Blogger Award last year, but looks like this year I am a participant! Thanks to Ester from Work, Love, and Have Fun my blog is now being considered for the award! Thank you Ester for nominating me!

20140509-123358.jpg

The rules of this award are:

1. Put the Versatile picture in your post
2. Link to the blogger who nominated you
3. Give 7 facts about yourself
4. Nominate 15 people

The 7 facts that I can share with the world are:
– I have lived in 3 different cities and they were all by the sea. This is the first time that I live in a city that doesn’t have a coast.
– I am afraid of dogs, but I love them. I have a small dream of hugging a bulldog.
– I can write mirror image as fast as I can write the regular way.
– I have had LASIK. It was successful and scaringly fast.
– I cannot live without music.
– Nothing makes me feel as free as when I am on my bicycle.
– My real name is Layal.

My 15 nominations are:

Cartoline Blog
Fragole E Farfalle
Somewhere In Canada
Nostalgic Vibes
Heart Swell
Chew Outloud
Rosewater and Orange Blossom
Blog para anotar la vida
Thrifty Amos
Afternoons and Coffeespoons
Delicious Shots
Detras del tocador
How to Make Home
Amasakapaka
Girl Meets Rye

Thank you again Ester for nominating me! Good luck with your studies :)

Pagaille!

As you know, I am a huge coffee enthusiast, not just for coffee as a drink but cafes as places. On my way to work in the morning, I stop by a cafe to enjoy 30 minutes of good morning music, morning smiles, and a warm cup of caffeine. Sunday afternoons, I find a good couch at one of my neighborhood’s cafes and I just unwind there with my book or magazine listening to music and enjoying the vibe of the people around me.

Today morning’s pick was Pagaille on Villeneuve right on the northwest corner of St. Urbain. The cafe offers a nice list of coffees and a variety of sandwiches and pastries. I loved the interior deco of the cafe and definitely the little patio outside. I had a cup of latte and the surprise is that the prices include the taxes! I think the owners are non-Canadians :)

How about you? Do you have any rituals that you are attached to?

20140508-232747.jpg

20140508-232755.jpg

20140508-232800.jpg

Spice Blends

Photo from NY Times Magazine online

Photo from NY Times Magazine online

Do you make your own spice blends or do you use store-bought blends?

Honestly, I make my own blends most of the time. I made a fresh blend of ras el hanout spices for this dutch oven chicken recipe. Ras el hanout spice blend is from North Africa, commonly used in Moroccan recipes. If you can’t find it at a supermarket, try getting the spices apart and make your own blend.  It is one of my favorite spice blends. I’ve also used a similar blend to make the vegetable and veal tagine.

Here are 10 spice blends that you might find very useful for several kinds of dishes, including a recipe for ras el hanout.

Mixed Vegetable and Veal Tagine

mixedtagine00

 

I wanted to cook with vegetables yet not my mom’s vegetable stew. I wanted something witih spices, a lot of flavor, and broth. I remembered my friend’s different tagines that she makes, so I put together this recipe from whatever my sensory memory recollected of previous flavors.

I used two handfuls of all the vegetables mentioned, roughly chopped too. Here’s the recipe:

This will serve 4 people.

- 350 g of meat cubes (I used veal)
– Olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot you’re using
– 1 medium onion cut into long strips
– 3 garlic cloves, crushed
– 1 jalapeno, roughly chopped
– 500 ml beef stock
– 1 heaped tsp tomato paste dissolved in 1/4 cup of water
– 1 tsp ginger powder
– 1 tsp paprika
– 1/2 tsp cumin
– 1/2 tsp dried coriander
– 1/2 tsp 7 spices (or allspice)
– Salt

- Two handfuls of potatoes, zucchini, and carrots (all cut into big chunks)

- 1 preserved lemon cut into thin strips

- 1 cup of kalamata olives

Method:

- Heat the oil in a deep pan or slow cooker. Cook the meat cubes until golden. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno, and spices. Cook for a few minutes. Add the stock and dissolved tomato paste, bring to boil. Let it boil slowly for ten minutes.

- In the meantime, chop your vegetables into big chunks. Add them to your pot along with the olives and preserved lemon. Add salt to taste. Reduce heat, cover, and let it simmer for 30 minutes. The vegetables should be well cooked after 30 minutes.

I prepared couscous to eat with it. I thought couscous would taste the best with this mix of spices.

There you go! Easy, great-tasting, and done in an hour!

 

Rice With Merguez And Rosemary

 

Do you have a rice cooker? I have recently invested in one and I do not regret it one bit. I was always hesitant to buy one thinking that it pretty much does what a regular pot does. Well, it does, only that you don’t have to keep an eye on it, and that could be a very critical detail when you’re preparing several dishes at the same time.

I use my rice cooker not just to cook white rice, but also to make any mixed rice recipe like this one. I served this rice with a green salad on the side. The ingredients below will yield 3 generous servings.
rice-merguez-rosemary00Ingredients:

- 1.5 cups short grain rice (I used Italian rice), washed
– 1.5 cups water
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 3 Merguez sausages
– 1 onion, finely chopped
– A sprig of rosemary, the little leaves taken apart from the stem
– 2 Tbsp olive oil

Method:

1. Cut the Merguez sausages into small discs. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the Merguez on medium heat. When the sausages are cooked on the outside, add the chopped onion and cook everything until the onion turns translucent and the sausages are further cooked.

2. Add the washed rice, salt and rosemary and give everything a good stir.

3. Pour what you have in the pan into your rice cooker. Add the water. Turn on your cooker and let the rice slowly cook.

If you’re not using a rice cooker, add the water into the pan (you might need more water), lower heat, cover, and cook until the rice has absorbed all the water and is well cooked.

It is a really easy and aromatic recipe. With a side salad, it makes a great dinner on a working day.

 

 

Peruvian Tallarines Verdes with Steak

This is a famous Peruvian recipe that was on my list of Peruvian dishes to make. The sauce for the fettucine is a revisited Italian pesto recipe. The steak that goes on top is marinated with cumin, mustard, and some wine vinegar. It was a truly fulfilling lunch with very evident flavors: the basil and the marinated meat.

tallarinasverdes

This recipe will serve two.

For the pesto sauce:

- 1 cup evaporated milk
– 1/4 cup fresh cheese
– 1/8 cup olive oil
– 2 Tbsp grated fresh Parmesan cheese
– 2 bunches of fresh basil
– 2 handfuls of spinach leaves
– Salt, pepper

Blend everything is a blender. Add cold water if you need to thin it out.

For the steak marinade:

- 2 Tbsp olive oil
– 1/2 tsp cumin
– 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
– 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
– Salt, pepper

I marinated the meat for 30 minutes before grilling them in a hot skillet.

To prepare the fettucine, cook the pasta according to packet instructions. Drain when it’s cooked and mix it the pesto sauce.

To serve, placed the grilled steak on top of the pasta (just like in the photo) and you’ll have yourself a delicious nutritious meal.

 

 

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt Milkshake

Spring has been officially announced, the signs are everywhere, you just can’t miss it. The clear streets, the numbers of people with kids and dogs on the streets, music coming out cars, bars with terraces ..  you name it.

Just like everybody else, I celebrate the arrival of spring my own way: I have set my bicycle free from the confinement of the attic, I keep the door to my apartment open in the morning while I have breakfast, I go out for longer walks, I smile more often, and I make frozen yogurt milkshakes!

This spring’s inaugural milkshake is a strawberry one, very refreshing, not too thick, not too sweet, just the perfect mix of flavors.

strawberry-frozen-yogurt-milkshake

To make 3 glasses of milkshake, you need 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of vanilla frozen yogurt, 1 cup of strawberries (I used frozen), and 1 Tbsp of sugar. And a blender of course. It’s easy to remember: 1 of each ingredient.

 

Cafe Hopping

I was reminded today of why I like Montreal, why I feel good here, why I feel welcomed, and most importantly, why I feel I belong.

While cafe hopping over several consecutive weekends, I stumbled upon this cute scene. imageI was browsing the world on my tablet, sipping my latte, when three girls come into the cafe, sit on the floor, form a triangle, and start playing Bananagrams. They were not having any coffee or tea. What happened next was even more charming; the lady of the cafe offered them free loukoum.

Bon weekend tout le monde!

Linguine alla Bolognese

allabolognese

Spaghetti, linguine, penne… it really doesn’t matter as long as you got the sauce right. I used linguine because for some reason I prefer how it wraps around the sauce,  but feel free to use spaghtetti.

Linguine alla bolognese (for 4)

- 1 packet of linguine pasta, cooked in salted water according to instructions
– 300 g minced beef
- 1 onion, finely chopped
– 1 carrot, finely chopped
– 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
– Olive oil
– Salt, pepper
– 650 ml tomato sauce in a bottle (passata di pomodoro)
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 1 Tbsp of soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp of grated parmesan cheese

Method

1. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a deep sauce pan. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until they are soft. Add the minced beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook until well done.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients except the cheese. Bring to boil. Lower heat to medium/low and let it cook until the sauce reaches the consistency you want: neither too thick nor too watery. Just before turning off the heat, add the cheese and give it a good stir.
3. Pour the sauce into the pot of the cooked drained pasta, give everything a good mix, make sure the sauce envelopes everything, and serve with extra grated parmesan cheese.