When Table 2 closed its doors unexpectedly last month, it also pulled out of Taste 2012, an important fundraiser for the Kidney Foundation of the Greater Chattanooga Area. But that didn't stop its chef, Eric Taslimi, from participating in the chef's cook-off last week. And he won.
The event was very well-attended, and many Tastegoers, who had been sampling tastes from more than 20 eateries, remained until the end to watch the chefs -- Matthew Davis (Public House), Sarah Love (On the List Catering), Roger Burrows (Marco's Italian Bistro) and Taslimi -- compete using the evening's secret ingredient, kale, provided by Fall Creek Farms. Their dishes were judged by Charlie Loomis (Greenlife Grocery), chef John Lopopolo (Mount Vernon Restaurant), Mike McJunkin (The Pulse) and me.
Though all dishes were excellent, the final tally of scores spotlighted Taslimi's accomplishment. His dish was an Asian-inspired entree using fresh halibut over a bed of sautéed kale with hoisin sauce, kumquats and other key ingredients provided by Greenlife.
This was the second year for Taste, which grew out of the Kidney Foundation's former Taste of Chattanooga.
It's hard to believe the first day of spring is less than a week away (Tuesday). Cold weather will be a distant memory before long, although most of the winter has been wonderfully warmish.
Now, bathing suit season is nipping at our hips, stomachs and thighs. Maybe you're feeling a little guilty about the comfort food that helped get you through the winter. That's a natural thing. But now it's time to put it in your past and take a look at your behind. Does that make you think about dieting? Sure does me.
Slimming down is a constant struggle for many of us. And since my youngest is getting married in October, I want to go down another dress size or two.
What's the best diet you've found? I've been thinking about enrolling at one of those centers that specializes in quick weight loss using shots of HCG and/or vitamin B. Do they really work? Let me know if you've lost weight that way.
One nice thing I've read lately was a news release from market research firm Packaged Facts saying that processed-food manufacturers will be introducing more products that reflect greater use of whole grains, leaner proteins, more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (including specialty oils) and more vegetables. At the same time, single-serve fresh fruit and vegetable options are expected to boost the nutritional value and drop the caloric content of restaurant meals, especially those at quick-serve restaurants targeting kids. With the continuing focus on childhood obesity, that's something we can all look forward to.
Enough diet talk. I've been meaning to share this recipe for quite some time. It's one that came to me in response to a column that ran late last year about a great lasagna recipe. Several readers wrote agreeing that they, too, found it to be the best they've had. But Bettie Chastain of Ooltewah said she has one that's even better and very authentic. Bettie's late brother was stationed with his family in Italy while in the Air Force, and their maid taught them how to make genuine Italian lasagna, she said. Here's the way they do it.
11/2 pounds of ground beef
1/2 cup oil
1 quart canned tomatoes
2 (7-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (17-ounce) can peas, including juice
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, grated
1 large clove garlic, diced fine
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons dried sweet basil
3 tablespoons dried oregano
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk
1 (8-ounce) can Parmesan cheese
1 (12-ounce) package lasagna noodles, boiled till al dente
8 ounces grated provolone cheese and 8 ounces grated mozzarella cheese, combined
For the meat sauce: Put the beef in a large, 4-quart pan and brown till there's no pink; drain. Add the remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil, stirring often so it doesn't stick. After it boils, decrease heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring often, till it is reduced and thick, 4 to 5 hours. (This is one of the secrets to this recipe. I usually cook mine one day and finish it the next day.) When the sauce is finished, set aside.
For the white sauce: Melt butter in pan, then add flour and salt. Cook until bubbly and smooth, about 1 minute. Add milk, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, about a minute. Mixture should be thick, but not too thick, and smooth. Sprinkle in enough of the can of Parmesan cheese to make the sauce really cheesy tasting.
Combine the red sauce with the white sauce (or you can layer the meat sauce and white sauce, as called for in the original recipe). Ladle a layer of sauce in a 9- by 13-inch deep pan, then sprinkle with a layer of cheese, then noodles, then sauce, then cheese again. End with a layer of sauce and cheese on top. Sprinkle with any remaining Parmesan cheese. At this point, the lasagna may be refrigerated or frozen. If you freeze it, let it thaw some before baking. Bake lasagna in preheated 350 F oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned.