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Food & Drink

Recipe of the week: Liberating lasagna with homemade pasta, Portland’s culinary golden age is now, and Inexpensive wines that mimic superstars

Liberating lasagna with homemade pasta

There are two kinds of lasagna, said Russ Parsons in the Los Angeles Times—traditional and free-form, in which “the sheets are left wide and not sliced into little ribbons.” Free-form lasagna, using homemade squares, shows off seasonal vegetables to perfection. The result is lasagna that “actually seems elegant.” Store-bought pasta is fine for the Italian-American version most of us are familiar with: The delicate flavor of fresh pasta “just gets lost” in the delicious mix of ragù, ricotta, and mozzarella. Making free-form lasagna from scratch isn’t nearly as time-consuming as it might appear, however, and the dish tastes so good you may never want to put your pasta maker “back into a cabinet again.”

Make fresh pasta dough by pulsing flour and 4 tsp olive oil in food processor. Add egg; pulse until dough forms ball that rides on top of blade. Remove dough from food processor; knead until smooth and shiny, about a minute. Wrap in plastic wrap, refrigerate at least one hour. Roll pasta dough out very thin, a 6 setting on most machines, flouring as necessary. Sheets should be at least 4 inches wide. Cut pasta sheets into squares, dust lightly with flour, and set aside. Cook four or five pasta sheets at a time in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water. Pasta will be done when sheets float to surface, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from boiling water; drain on tea towel if using immediately, or transfer to large bowl of water to store. Repeat, using all of pasta.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place tomato slices on rack, drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil, and season with 1/4 tsp salt and couple grinds black pepper. Roast tomatoes for 40 minutes, until surface is lightly caramelized and tomatoes are softened. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. While tomatoes are cooking, beat together ricotta, 1/4 tsp salt, minced garlic, and parsley in small bowl until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.

To make pesto, drop garlic cloves through feed tube of running food processor or blender; mince until fine. Turn machine off; add basil leaves. With machine running again, slowly pour remaining 1/4 cup olive oil through food tube. Add pine nuts and Pecorino Romano; pulse to combine; season to taste with salt.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place 1 square of cooked pasta on heat-proof plate; brush on enough pesto to thinly coat sheet. Spoon 1/4 cup ricotta in low mound in center. Arrange about 3 slices of roasted tomatoes on top of ricotta. Brush 1 more pasta square with pesto; place on top of tomatoes. Repeat with 3 more plates. Place plates on cookie sheet and put in oven to heat through, about 8 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Recipe of the week

Free-Form Lasagna With Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Pesto

¾ cup flour, plus more for dusting ½ cup plus 4 tsp olive oil, divided 1 egg 1 pound ripe tomatoes, each peeled and cut into 8 lengthwise slices Salt Freshly ground black pepper 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese 2 cloves garlic, plus 1/2 tsp minced garlic, divided 1 tbsp minced parsley 2 cups basil leaves 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Portland’s culinary golden age is now

Portland, Ore., is enjoying a golden age of eating and drinking, said Eric Asimov in The New York Times. Young chefs are flocking to the city as never before, attracted by inexpensive real estate. Farmers grow “environmentally responsible” produce. Local fisheries and small, independent producers of beef, lamb, and pork abound. Just 15 years ago, this city was “about as cutting edge as a tomato in January.” Now every funky neighborhood seems to be bursting with restaurants. Two especially worth seeking out are:

Paley’s Place Bistro & Bar “One of the top restaurants in the Northwest, if not the country.” The inviting dining room occupies the ground floor of a Victorian house. Co-owners Vitaly and Kimberly Paley, refugees from New York, are known for “applying French techniques to the Northwestern palette of ingredients.” 1204 NW 21st Ave., (503) 243-2403

Le Pigeon A “new-wave” bistro housed in a former storefront, whose nonconformist menu changes seasonally. Recent dishes have included braised pork belly with creamed corn and butter-poached prawns, and sweetbreads with pickled watermelon. The signature dish is apricot cornbread with bacon, topped with maple ice cream. 738 E. Burnside St., (503) 546-8796

Inexpensive wines that mimic superstars

It’s possible to buy inexpensive wines that share characteristics of a great vintage, said Ray Isle in Food & Wine. Here are three “supersteals,” selling for less than $20, that have the same qualities of “superstars” that cost triple or even quadruple the price.

2004 Altesino Rosso di Altesino ($16) This medium-bodied Sangiovese blend “won’t develop complexity over time.” But right now its earthy flavor offers delicious competition to the 2004 Sassicaia, perhaps “the greatest” of all super-Tuscans.

2005 Domaine Paul Autard Côtesdu- Rhône ($15) This winemaker uses no pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The result here is a “polished” wine that goes head to head with the 2004 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape selling for $99.

2005 Domaine Hubert Chavy Bourgogne Blanc Les Femelottes ($18) An earthy Chardonnay with “a hint of French oak.” This vineyard is just down the slope from Puligny-Montrachet.

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