Food is always better enjoyed with friends

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 26, 2011

Our good friends from North Carolina came and spent several days with us here in Louisiana and Mississippi. We picked them up at the airport in New Orleans and on Friday tried to have lunch at Galatoire’s – well never try having lunch on Friday because all the locals have their big day there. You need to get in line early. Some people pay to have someone wait in line for them. Well, what do you do in New Orleans? Go to another “good” restaurant. We ate in the courtyard at Bayona’s, starting with sazaracs, of course, and having sweetbreads for our main course.

Upon returning to our home in Mississippi, we had the wonderful surprise of a new calf. Our Mildred had produced while we were gone overnight, and we had a wonderful little bull that we named Duncan (after the builder of our house). Now I know a calf is really no big deal, but I had been waiting for her to have this calf forever, it seemed. Our city friends were impressed that we could produce such excitement for them.

Since I had been gone, I had to have my Friday night meal pretty much prepared in advance. I chose a sausage, chard and lemon lasagna. (Recipe given below). I used the kumquat salad given in last week’s article, and for dessert I did chocolate cakes that had been done ahead and only needed to be cooked at the last minute. It was all wonderful, if I do say so myself.

Saturday night I cooked Indian. I have used some of these recipes in articles in the past, but my main course was spicy kafta (meatballs) over rice, along with spinach with paneer, cabbage Kerala style and carrots Gujarati style. I made my own Indian bread, naan, which I just think makes the meal. These were all done ahead except the bread which is best just out of the oven.

Sunday was church, and then we took the ferry over the Mississippi for lunch at a restaurant in New Roads, La., where we had really good fried oysters on the deck overlooking False River. A snake sunning himself in the bushes below provided some entertainment. Sunday night we had a picnic on the back porch. We were eating near dark and decided not to go down to the lake.

Monday, we took our friends back to New Orleans where we had lunch at the Palace Café on Canal Street (We all think that they have the best sazaracs.), and then dinner was in the courtyard of our place in the French Quarter. We ordered food that night from Mona’s (Lebanese food). We were exhausted but had several days of food and fun.

These recipes are taken from Martha Stewart Living, March 2011.

Sausage, Chard and Lemon Lasagna

Serves 4

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

3 cups whole milk

1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 ounces)

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

5 cups coarsely chopped Swiss chard (about 1 bunch)

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

1 lemon, very thinly sliced

6 no-boil lasagna noodles, preferable Barilla

Melt butter in a saucepan over high heat. Stir in flour; cook for two minutes. Whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat. Simmer for one minute. Remove from heat. Whisk in ¾ cup cheese, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Stir in chard.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook sausage in a skillet over high heat, breaking up pieces, until no longer pink, for about four minutes.

Cover lemon slices with cold water by 3-inches in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for seven minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate using a slotted spoon.

Spread ¼ cup sauce in an 8-inch square non-reactive baking pan. Top with two noodles, half the sausage, and 1 cup sauce. Repeat. Top with a layer of lemons, two noodles, then remaining sauce and lemons. Bake, covered with parchment-lined foil, for 27 minutes.

Remove from oven. Heat broiler, uncover lasagna and top with remaining ¼ cup cheese. Broil until bubbling, for two to three minutes.

Sink a fork into these cakes to find a pudding-like filling.

Chocolate Cake

Serves 6

1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for ramekins

½ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for ramekins

5 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate (70 percent cocao), chopped (1 ¼ cups)

5 large eggs, room temperature

¾ cups sugar

Pinch of salt

Butter and flour six 6-ounce (2-inch-deep) ramekins.

Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl, set over a pan of simmering water. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs and sugar until pale and thick, for about four minutes. Sift flour and salt into another bowl.

Fold egg mixture into chocolate mixture. Immediately fold in flour mixture. Divide batter evenly among ramekins, filling each three-quarters full. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake until just set, for 14-16 minutes. Let cool for three minutes. Turn out cakes onto plates.

For making ahead: Filled ramekins can be refrigerated for up to two days before baking.