I often hear amateur home cooks gripe that recipes require too much preparation and that the shopping for good ingredients is a tiresome, expensive chore. The ease and convenience of eating out trump the banes of self chefhood and the results are far better. I think the cost of reliance in hunger begets waste.
When I was a little boy, I’d stir the tomato sauce on the stove, standing on the hand-me-down chair in our small powder blue kitchen. We never had fresh garlic growing up and we never had extra virgin olive oil. My parents used to pour leftover grease in a jar and keep it in the fridge. It separated and coagulated in a white lipid layer at the top. I dared my friend Chris once to take a spoonful and he did. He spread it on a slice of Wonder Bread and put pepperoni and cheese on it and a dab of peanut butter. After he folded it in half, it became his favorite sandwich. Chris was my best friend and he would do anything for me and he never lied.
Growing up in a world of pot roast, baked chicken, meatloaf, spaghetti, tuna noodle casserole, chipped beef, stuffed peppers, chili, tacos, and all the cheap eats you ever dream, I stomped a foundation of the basics. Chicago and every hot dog joint on every corner sharpened my culinary bliss, giving me Gyros and Beef and Hot dogs and pizza puffs. My pals and I could eat good grub at three A.M. Anywhere.
One time in college, a girl went on a date with me. I took her to the Minneapolis Institute of Art. We had a swell time and I took her back to the house I lived in with four other guys. I made a can of Chunky Chicken Soup and a box of Stove Top stuffing.
- 36 thawed wanton wrappers. 3X3 inch. Available in most supermarkets in 30-80 count packages. If you live in a city you will retain significant discount on monetary funds if you buy at a local Asian food store. $1.50 – $3.00 per 12 – 16 oz package
- 1 lb frozen spinach. Chopped, whole, even washed fresh will do. Cost, .79 –1.99 per 16 oz.
- 3 roma tomatoes, sliced thin. Firm semi ripe tomatoes work well, but Roma have less seed and juice. Cost, < $1.00
- 1 small yellow onion. Red or white or (preferably) shallots work. .69 - .99 per lb. Cost, .30
- four medium cloves garlic, minced. Cost, $1.00
- 4 oz Mozzarella Cheese $1.00
- 2-4 oz Feta cheese. $.75
- 3 oz cottage cheese. $1.00
- Mixture of provolone, Romano and parmesan. $2.00
- pinch of oregano.
- 25-35 leaves of basil. $2.00
- extra virgin olive oil. Spanish, Italian and Greek varieties are available for about six bucks for a 17 oz bottle.
- Red pepper (any and all). Peppers at local markets are typically half the price of major supermarkets.
- salt and black pepper to taste.
Fifteen bucks with leftovers. Spend ten on a bottle of wine you would have paid thirty for, light some candles and… one… two… we don’t need three.
Put one centimeter of water in a small pan. Put over high heat and add a pinch of salt. When water is boiling vigorously, add one pound of frozen spinach. Hold the block and melt the corners into the water, then place the brick into the pan. When the water begins to boil again, turn the block over and cover at medium heat. After five minutes, uncover and turn over with fork, separating the frozen center. Continue to cook uncovered until the spinach is completely thawed and hot. Drain. Remember, chopped spinach retains water. After it cools, you may need to squeeze excess water out of the spinach before adding it to the dish. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 374 degrees F.
Take a ten inch square Corning Ware or a round nine inch glass Pyrex dish and rub with olive oil. Cover the bottom (overlapping) with wonton skins (9). Sprinkle bits of spinach, feta, garlic, and onion over the layer, cover with slices of tomato. One slice per wonton (9) is good. Drizzle with olive oil and crack some pepper on your art. Cover with another layer of wonton skins working from the adjacent side (across). Repeat, and drop some cottage cheese in a middle layer and start with the Thai Basil. Pepper and salt along the way. Oregano too.
Layer. Olive oil, again.
The last layer of wontons should be covered with olive oil, tomatoes, and onion. Perhaps a spread of butter or some wet red pepper slices. Top with some mozzarella cheese.
Bake at 375 degrees F for thirty minutes. Let cool for ten minutes, slice and serve.
Alternate varieties may include a tomato based sauce.
Or a sesame ginger lime ahi tuna deal.
Wonton Lasagne, I know I’m spellin’ it some wrong European way. But I’m some sorta wanna-be Euro snob from the other side of the track affluent neighborhood.
Necessity corrupts want. Genuine proceeds farce.
Wontons aren’t much different than a regular egg noodle: Flour, egg and water. This makes them an excellent substitute for the overly expensive prescribed noodle for a layered bake.
An old man once asked me what I saw when I opened the pantry door.
”Cans and dust.” I replied.
”Do you have a can opener?” he asked.