Eating at Home

Being in Santa Barbara, eating with my parents and family friends is an event…. It starts with their bright apple-green kitchen (newly-remodeled and totally pimp) and ends with many laughs and extravagant meals at the long wooden table. Their pantry and freezer is out of line—very well stocked, indeed – pine nuts? Capers? Fresh vegetables from the garden? Loose-leaf tea? Whatever foods you desire, rest assured the ingredients are there. And the talent to whip anything into something glorious is possessed by my father, my mother acting as sous chef/socially-gifted hostess and charmer. My Dad can cook for you, my Mom can make you feel warm and fuzzy and you can eat as much as your tummy can manage. That’s pretty much the drill when I arrive in Santa Barbara – who’s walking the dog and what are we making for dinner?

(there is this funny sign by my parents' bbq.)

(the lasange as it came out of the oven...)

So when my Dad offered to make the Sunday supper, while D, my mother-in-law and I gallivanted downtown, I knew to stop eating by noon to prep my belly for the onslaught of holy gastronomy. It started innocently enough, “I think I’ll make fresh pasta with vegetables (like make the pasta dough, roll it out, etc. – that is considered a simple supper around here).” Then I got a phone call a few hours later, “How about a lasagna? Sure!” And I arrived home to sheets of lasagna noodles airing out and Dad stirring a Béchamel sauce, 3 varieties of bell pepper roasting in the oven. I knew it was going to be an insane dinner, right then and there. And the finished product did not disappoint! It was divine, so luxurious, so fine, so rich – I was transported not to Rome or Naples or a fancy restaurant, but to my own pink chair at my parents’ table, in their little pink house by the sea, because that’s the kind of meal I’ve come to enjoy when eating at home.

(the dinner guests as we sit down to eat)

Next came a whole other story – dessert: Tarred and Feathered Grilled Peaches. This was a new sweet experience for my palate and I. Peaches doused in a mixture of reduced balsamic vinegar, coarse ground pepper and molasses – then coconut liberally applied to the tarred peach body. Served with vanilla ice cream or yogurt, for maximum effect. These grilled peaches played with my senses – is it sweet or is it a savory? Why, it’s both, to be sure. This dance of caramelized sugars, moist peach and the lingering peppercorn was wild in my mouth. And I liked it.

(the molasses "tar" is made)

(Pops and his peaches)

The Recipes

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

yield: Makes 4 servings
active time: 1 hour
total time: 2 1/2 hours
Roasted vegetables and Italian Fontina lend this lush-tasting lasagna a more intense flavor than than you'd get with the usual spinach and ricotta filling.

1 large eggplant (1 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 red bell peppers, quartered lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
3 ounces Italian Fontina, coarsely grated (1 cup)
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
5 (6 3/4- by 3 1/2-inch) or 10 (7- by 6 3/4-inch) no-boil lasagne noodles

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.

Cut 3 (1/3-inch-thick) lengthwise slices from center of eggplant and reserve remainder for another use. Brush 2 large shallow baking pans with 1 tablespoon oil total, then arrange eggplant, zucchini, and bell peppers in 1 layer in pans. Brush vegetables with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with pepper and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. Roast, switching position of pans halfway through roasting, until eggplant and zucchini are browned and tender, 15 to 20 minutes total, then transfer eggplant and zucchini to a plate. Turn peppers over and continue to roast until tender, about 10 minutes more.

While vegetables roast, cook garlic in butter in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, whisking frequently, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, 2 minutes. Add milk in a slow stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking frequently, 8 minutes (sauce will thicken slightly when it first comes to a boil). Remove from heat and cool béchamel sauce, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Stir in cheeses, basil, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Soak noodles in hot water just until pliable, 8 to 10 minutes.

Spread 2/3 cup sauce in an 8-inch square baking dish. Drain 1 large noodle or 2 small noodles on a clean kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and put over sauce in dish. Top with half of zucchini in 1 layer, 1/2 cup sauce, and another noodle (or 2). Make another layer with all of eggplant, 1/2 cup sauce, and another noodle (or 2), and another with all of bell peppers, 1/2 cup sauce, and another noodle (or 2). Top with remaining zucchini, 1/2 cup sauce, and another noodle (or 2). Cover completely with remaining sauce.
Bake until golden and bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes. Let stand in pan on a rack 20 minutes.

Tarred and Feathered Peaches

2 or 3 peaches, cut in half and pitted
1 cup balsamic vinegar reduced to 1/2 (1/2 hour stirring occasionally)
1/4 cup molasses
2 Tablespoons coarse ground pepper.

Glaze peaches, BBQ, Turn, Yummmm


  1. Leela! I want to eat this NOW! Love love love your blog and, most importantly, you! - Natalie

  2. I think we're on peach kick my lady. Isn't grilled fruit just to die for?

  3. tell cissy not to look so overjoyed in that one shot! (giggles) <3

  4. Homemade pasta is so hard to beat! I can eat raw homemade pasta without problems (ok I might be weird..)

  5. Those peaches look divine! With the reduction and coconut and ice cream--my senses are on overload just thinking about it--but in a good way of course! :)