Ronnie Paul: New Year’s dishes | TheUnion.com

Ronnie Paul: New Year’s dishes

Ronnie Paul
Columnist

I shun most electrical kitchen gadgets, so I was dazzled by the array of mixers, juicers, and waffle makers in the vacation home we rented. The real eye-poppers however, since I'm accustomed to a tarnished French press, were the six shiny uber-tech coffee makers.

The first morning, as I inspected the espresso gadgets and drip machines, my husband Jeff, glommed onto the Nespresso maker. Each neon-colored, dome-shaped coffee capsule promised a memorable morning cuppa: a Columbian blend with a hint of cardamom guaranteed serenity; the robust sage-scented Italian offered a heady bouquet plus renewed energy; and the earthy Kenyan presented the rooted steadiness of the forest.

Operating the Nespresso machine required two people. While Jeff manned the capsules, I interpreted the 12 page instruction manual.

Following directions is one of my strong points, so we were mystified that the coffee repeatedly came out gray and watery.

We finally noticed the capsules' perforated holes and loose coffee grounds. It turned out Jeff was recycling the recycle bag, which assured us in four languages that the grounds and aluminum would be sent to China for reprocessing.

Later in the morning, after we found the new, unused capsules, Jeff delightedly sipped his daily caffeinated quota from the high-tech machine.

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I must say that the electric milk frother thrilled me, and I thank Santa for leaving me one under the Christmas tree.

However you brew your coffee, please try these recipes.

New Year's Day Lasagna

Serves 8 revelers

Hosting guests? This makes the perfect casserole.

1 pound cubed Butternut squash

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound leeks

3 tablespoons butter

1 pound sliced mushrooms

1/2 cup chopped parsley

2 cups grated mozzarella

9 no-boil lasagna noodles

Béchamel sauce:

2 tablespoons butter

5 tablespoons flour

5 cups heated milk

Salt and pepper

Nutmeg

Toss the squash with the oil, spread on a baking sheet, and roast for 30 minutes at 375 degrees until tender, tossing once during roasting.

While the squash bakes, split the leeks lengthwise and wash thoroughly. Discard the outer leaves and tough greens. Slice thinly and sauté in butter for 10 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and sauté 10 minutes more.

Combine all the vegetables, the parsley, and only 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella.

Melt the butter, slowly stir in the flour, and blend until smooth. Over a medium-low flame, add the heated milk a little at a time, stirring frequently for 15 minutes, until it thickens. Turn off the flame and add the salt, pepper, and a few nutmeg gratings.

To assemble, spread one-half cup of sauce on the bottom of a 13×9-inch glass pan. Layer on one-third of the noodles, one-half the veggie mix, and three-fourths cup of sauce. Repeat.

Top with the remaining three noodles, remaining sauce, and remaining half cup mozzarella. Bake covered for 30 minutes at 375 degrees until the sauce bubbles.

Cauliflower Puree

Serves 4

Hooray for comfort food!

1 medium cauliflower, separated into florets, and steamed until tender

1 tablespoon milk

1 pressed garlic clove

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon chopped scallions

Puree everything together, but stir in the scallions by hand.

Ronnie Paul is a Nevada County freelance writer.

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