Friday, July 23, 2010

Not So Neighborly

As you can see, this is clearly NOT bread salad. Why not you ask? Well this is a tale of shopping gone wrong, when good neighbors go bad.

Failure 1: Our local bakery sold us a stale baguette. What do you even do about that? Can you return it with a chunk missing and explain you nearly lost a molar trying to gnaw on it? That you are not a beaver equipped with tree tearing teeth?

I tried to make the best of it. When you get lemons, make lemonade. When you get stale bread, make bread salad. A beautiful, fresh, Greek Bread Salad.

Failure 2: There was no feta in the fridge. Not behind the pickles, not stacked under the leftovers. Nowhere. Ryan was forced to run out for some. Turns out not only were we out of feta, but also out of cash. The store would not let him use a credit card. "Minimum credit card purchase $10," they said. Very neighborly. Also, illegal. Ryan abandoned the feta. I abandoned all hope of a well made greek bread salad.

The silver lining: I'd planned a whole greek meal, so there was pastitsio in the oven, and it was delicious. It's like a greek lasagna, with layers of sauce and noodles, the cinnamon making a subtle but tasty difference from italian fare.


For the meat sauce:
2 T butter
1.5 C chopped yellow onion (this was 3/4 of a large onion for me)
1 clove garlic minced
1 lb ground turkey (or beef, or lamb)
1 t salt (plus more to taste)
pepper (to taste)
1 t oregano
1/2 t cinnamon
2 C canned tomatoes (use crushed, or crush whole ones yourself)
1 bay leaf
2 T tomato paste

For the bechamel/crema/whatever you want to call it
3 T butter
1/2 C flour
2 C milk
3 beaten eggs

Also you need:
3/4 pound ziti, penne or elbow macaroni cooked according to the package directions and drained.
2 C grated parmigiano reggiano or romano cheese
1/4 C bread crumbs

In a Dutch Oven (or other pot/pan with lots of surface area and high sides), melt 2 T of butter on low heat. Add the onions and cook for 3 minutes until the onions are translucent and softer. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the ground meat and increase the heat to medium. Add your salt, pepper, oregano and cinnamon. Use a spoon to break down the meat and brown it. When there is no more pink, stir in the canned tomatoes and tomato paste and add the bay leaf. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 35 minutes covered.

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Cook the pasta according to the box, drain and set aside. Begin on the cream sauce. Melt the butter in a pot, then whisk in the flour to form a roux. Cook for 2-3 minutes on low heat. Stream in the milk, whisking constantly (this works best with warm milk, but I'm often too lazy to heat it separately). Make sure your heat is very low, and add the eggs, one at a time, whisking thoroughly between each. If the heat is two high you will have scrambled eggs. Once they are incorporated, you can increase the heat and keep whisking until it starts to thicken. Ideally, you'll time it so that this is ready when it's ready to be layered on, and not before, but because everything's baked together, it's okay if you mess it up a little.

Build your pastitsio in a large pan (9 x 11). Grease the bottom. Then lay down the breadcrumbs to coat. Add half the pasta, making sure it covers completely. Next comes the meat sauce, all of it. Smooth it down so that it covers the pasta, make sure to get the edges too. Then you add half of your crema/bechamel/cream sauce thing. Pour it over the meat sauce so the whole layer is covered. Top with half of the cheese (about a cup). Next comes another layer of pasta (the rest of the pasta). On top of the pasta, use the rest of your bechamel, then the rest of your cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350F. Let rest before cutting into it.


mom said...

Now I remember loving this. The picture and your writing made my mouth water. I want some. Not in the cards til the heat wave is over!

mom said...

BYW, I never knew that was illegal!!! Dad and I both learned something- besides our need to eat at your house.


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