a little Big Lasagna

In May 2020 when most of us were under some form of lockdown, Samin Nosrat posted a lasagna challenge using her recipe she called Big Lasagna. It’s a detailed recipe, in stages nonetheless, of how to make lasagna from scratch, starting with the pasta then on through the bechamel sauce, the tomato sauce, and finally Assembling the Lasagna. It is a day-long endeavor, and it is well worth it. I halved the recipe because it’s just the two of us at home now, but it’s so delicious it entered my menu rotation. I’ve managed to make this lasagna recipe once a month ever since.

The last slice of the Little Big Lasagna

But as any cook worth her salt and pepper will tell you, she will tweak any recipe according to her own and her family’s taste. I do use store-bought pasta because I simply do not have the counter space to make it. Nonetheless, I have made my own recipe adjustments. I make my own ricotta cheese because it’s cheaper–and better tasting–and I use Cook Country’s Fresh Tomato Sauce because I prefer the taste of fresh tomatoes to canned. Moreover, my husband is an unreformed meat lover so I’ve added meat I grind myself to the tomato sauce. The basic recipe is vegetarian so here it is:

The Little Big Lasagna

Three Days Before Baking the Lasagna

Make the Fresh Tomato Sauce

Makes 2 1/2 cups

3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

8 cloves garlic, minced

1 kg ripe roma tomatoes (about 8-10 medium tomatoes)


1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil

First blanch the tomatoes. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Cut a shallow cross in the end of each tomato opposite the stem end. When the water is boiling, slip 8 tomatoes into the water. Boil tomatoes until the skins split, 2-3 minutes. Remove tomatoes with a spider or slotted spoon and dunk in cool water. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them. Halve, quarter then halve each quarter. Set aside in a bowl. Repeat process with the remainder of the tomatoes.

Heat a large pan or wok over medium heat. Add the oil. When hot, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add all the tomatoes and any liquid in the pan, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook down until softened, chunky, and the sauce has thickened, 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally, scraping down the sides.

Remove from heat and stir in the basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use.

Cook’s Note: If the tomatoes are firm, they will be sour. Add sugar to taste. To make the sauce dark red, add tomato paste until you achieve the desired colour. If tomato paste isn’t available (damn you, corona), use ketchup.

Optional Add-ins:

  1. To tomato sauce, add 300g cooked ground meat seasoned with Italian sausage seasoning: 1 teaspoon dried parsley, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 tablespoon minced dried garlic, 1/2 tablespoon minced dried shallots.
  2. Or, add 1/2 cup chopped pancetta or lightly browned chopped bacon to the tomato sauce.

Two Days Before Baking Day

Make the Ricotta (adapted from Ina Garten). Of course, you can buy it but the taste of homemade ricotta is incomparable. It is rich and creamy. You will only need 300g for this recipe. Save the leftover 200g for spreading on toast, English muffins, or bagels.

Yield: 500 g

4 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy whipping cream (36% milkfat)

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

3 tablespoons white vinegar

Set a large sieve lined with damp doubled cheesecloth over a large bowl. Make sure the bottom of the sieve is not resting on the bottom of the bowl so that the ricotta can drain properly. I put an upside down ramekin in the bottom of the bowl so that the sieve rests on it. Set aside.

Put milk, cream, and salt in a large aluminum pot. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for at least one minute to separate into curds and whey. You will notice a gray-green liquid in the pot; this is whey. If it is milky, add a little bit more vinegar to make more curds.

Pour the entire contents of the pot in the sieve lined with cheesecloth and let it drain, 20-25 minutes. The bowl will collect the whey. The longer you let it drain, the thicker the ricotta will become. Discard the whey or keep it in the refrigerator to make bread, substituting whey for the water in the recipe. Spoon the ricotta into a wide-mouth glass jar with an airtight lid. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

One Day Before Baking Day

Make the Ricotta-Spinach Filling

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

150g fresh spinach, ends trimmed, and chopped

300g/1 1/4 cups ricotta

85g/1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

42g/1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

10 large fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

salt and pepper

Heat large skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and cook the spinach until it turns a bright green, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a wire mesh sieve to cool. Squeeze out the water. Chop spinach and set aside.

While spinach is cooling, combine ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, and basil in a large bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add cooled chopped spinach. Mix thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Baking Day!

Make the Béchamel Sauce. (It tastes better on Baking Day)

113g/1/2 cup unsalted butter

64g/1/2 cup flour

4 cups whole milk

Salt and pepper


Set a large heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add butter. Once butter has melted, whisk in flour. Reduce heat to very low and cook 15 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent browning. After the mixture foams, slowly pour in the milk, whisking vigorously all the time. Increase heat to medium and whisk until the mixture thickens, 2 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper. Add a pinch of nutmeg. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking, whisking frequently, 10-15 minutes, or until the sauce is thick and smooth.

Assemble the lasagna

I use no-boil lasagna noodles. Softening them in boiling water before using them increases their absorption of flavours.

18-21 sheets of no-boil lasagna noodles, as needed

42g/1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

85g/1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1 9-inch glass dish or baking pan

Heat oven to 400˚F/200˚C. Position the oven rack in the upper third of the oven.

Bring tomato sauce, béchamel, and ricotta filling to room temperature, or warm them, as needed.

Set a large pot of water over high heat. Cover and bring to a boil. Adding salt to the water is optional. Set a large baking dish with water near the stove. Cook pasta sheets 3 at a time, about 2-3 minutes, or just long enough to soften. Use a pair of tongs to remove the pasta from the cooking water to the baking dish of water. Rinse until cool enough to handle. Squeeze down excess water from each pasta sheet before putting in place. You will be making 6 layers for the lasagna.

Cook’s Note: Only do 3 pasta sheets at a time to avoid making more than you can use. Lay pasta sheets in a single layer in the pan, about 1/4-inch from the edges and each other to make room for expansion. Trim to fit if necessary with kitchen shears.

Layer #1: In the bottom of the dish, spoon about 3/4 cup of béchamel sauce. Use a silicone spatula to generously coat the bottom and sides of the pan with the sauce to create a non-stick coating. Cover sauce with pasta sheets.

Layer #2: Spoon ricotta-spinach mixture evenly over the pasta layer, just enough to cover, about 1-inch thickness. Cover with pasta.

Layer #3: Spread tomato sauce over pasta, about 1-inch thick. Spoon 200g/3/4 cup béchamel sauce over the tomato sauce then sprinkle generously with Parmesan. Cover with pasta.

Layer #4: Ricotta-spinach; pasta

Layer #5: Tomato sauce, béchamel, and Parmesan; last layer of pasta.

Layer #6: For the top, spoon béchamel generously over the pasta, getting it in the corners and covering the pasta layer completely. Lightly cover lasagna with a sheet of parchment and wrap dish tightly with foil. Place dish on a baking sheet to catch any spill-over. You might line the sheet with foil for easier clean up.

Bake on prepared rack 40 minutes. Take lasagna and baking sheet from oven. Remove foil and parchment; discard. Sprinkle top of lasagna with grated mozzarella and Parmesan. Return to oven to melt and brown cheese topping, about 20 minutes.

Cool 15 minutes before slicing and serving to give the lasagna time to firm up. But if you can’t wait, dig in.

salmon and potato strata


Salmon and Potato Strata
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30-35 minutes

4 medium potatoes, whole, peeled or unpeeled, cut into thin rounds
2 salmon steaks, cut up into small cubes, skinned and boned
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery (can substitute green peas)
4 eggs beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup broth (chicken or beef)
seasoning salt to taste
1 tablespoon herbs (parsley, thyme, basil, rosemary, etc. or a mixture)

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F/180˚C. Put potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cook for 7-10 minutes then drain and rinse under cool running water until cool to the touch.

2. In a large bowl, add salmon, onion, celery or peas, eggs, milk, broth, 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt, and herbs. Mix well together.

3. Put 1/2 potatoes in the bottom of a 3-4 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle potato layer with a little seasoning salt. Cover potatoes with 1/3 of the salmon mixture. Repeat and end with the salmon mixture. Sprinkle seasoning salt on top.

4. Bake uncovered 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden and crusty, and the egg is set. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

vegetarian lasagna with thai spinach and chinese chives

Well, this is the reason why I made my own ricotta cheese.

I adapted this recipe from Misty’s vegetarian lasagna recipe adding the zucchini and bell pepper and using fresh Thai vegetables instead of the frozen Western spinach. By fortunate happenstance, Tops supermarket had fresh lasagna sheets. I split the recipe into two 9-inch square dishes, otherwise use one 9×13 inch dish.

Lasagna with Thai Spinach and Chinese Chives

Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 35 minutes

2 large eggs
2 cups home-made ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon pesto Genovese
2 small zucchini, peeled and sliced into quarter inch rounds
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 small yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper
2 cups skim milk
1 bunch fresh spinach or Pak Khom (about 6 cups), coarsely chopped, tender leaves & stems
1 bunch Chinese chives (no flowers), leaves only, chopped into 1-inch lengths
1 medium carrot, grated
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt to taste
8 fresh lasagna noodle sheets, trimmed to fit
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used Edam)
1 cup marinara sauce (I used diced tomatoes processed fine and seasoned with 1 teaspoon pesto)

Heat oven to 350˚F or 175˚C.

Beat the eggs lightly in a medium bowl. Fold in ricotta cheese and pesto.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, pepper, onion, and garlic. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and pepper. Add the milk. Cook until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in the spinach, carrot,  chives, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, and salt.

Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish or two 9 inch baking dishes. Layer the zucchini rounds on the bottom. Slice some to fit.

Make layers in this way: spinach mixture; noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, and cheddar cheeses; noodles. End with noodles.

Spread the marinara sauce on top to cover the noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.



breakfast casserole

I love baking with the confidence that cakes will turn out consistently. Weighing ingredients is such a simple solution to baking problems, and now that I have a scale, it’s easy to do. I do admit I’m a bit anal about getting the grams exact! Here’s a picture of my practically perfect cake:


I love baking, and breakfast casseroles are as easy as cake! For our friends escaping the Wisconsin winter, I made this breakfast casserole out of caramelized onions and bacon from a recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens.

Makes: 6 servings
Preparation: 30 mins
Chilling: 2 hrs to 24 hrs
Baking: 325°F/180˚C;  40 mins
Standing:  10 mins

6 strips bacon
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
5 eggs
1 1/3 cup nonfat milk
1 teaspoon of one or a mixture of: dried basil, rosemary, tarragon, oregano, thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
4 cups crusty French bread, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
4 oz white Cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (or use any cheese you like)

Sriracha sauce for serving, optional

In the microwave, cook bacon until crisp. Remove and reserve 2 tablespoons drippings. When it is cool, crumble bacon; set aside. Heat skillet and add the bacon drippings. Add onion to skillet; cover and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook over medium heat until caramelized, about 5 minutes. The onion will wilt and turn brown all over. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Heat a small pan of water. When it boils, add about a teaspoon salt. Cook broccoli in the lightly salted water for 3 minutes; drain and rinse until the broccoli is cool to the touch. Rinsing stops the cooking process and preserves the bright green color that makes this casserole so attractive.

In a large bowl combine eggs, milk, herbs, salt and pepper. Stir in bread cubes, cooled broccoli, caramelized onion, cheese, and crumbled bacon. Mix well to combine. Spray inside a 2-quart covered baking dish with cooking spray.  Scrape egg mixture into prepared dish. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 325˚F/180˚C. Bake casserole, covered, for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 20 to 30 minutes more or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. I simply looked at it and saw that the top had turned golden brown after 20 minutes, so I took the casserole out of the oven. Let it stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve with Sriracha sauce, if desired.


turkey, leek, and winter melon shepherd’s pie with mashed cauliflower


You could say I actually started cooking this dish the day after Christmas when I put the turkey carcass in the pressure cooker to make a broth. This recipe uses 2 cups of the broth and it is based on an Eating Well recipe. Since a shepherd’s pie is basically meat and vegetables,  you can use just about any meat and vegetable you have on hand. I used turkey and ham, fresh corn, frozen peas, a large fat carrot, and half of a winter melon. Instead of the traditional mashed potato topping for a shepherd’s pie, I used mashed cauliflower which is lower in carbs. And I added umami to flavor the pie. I made my own umami in New York from dried porcini mushrooms which I ground up in the food processor. Umami is sometimes called the fifth taste which simply means savory.

Turkey Leek and Winter Melon Shepherd’s Pie with Mashed Cauliflower (adapted from Eating Well)

Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 25 minutes

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, well washed and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced carrots
1 cup corn kernels (1 ear, fresh)
1 1/2 cups winter melon, peeled, seeded, and chopped
4 large cloves garlic,minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 tablespoon ground porcini mushrooms (umami)
2 cups reduced-sodium turkey broth
1 1/2 cups diced cooked turkey
1 cup diced cooked ham
1 cup frozen peas
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Mashed Cauliflower
1 large head cauliflower, florets only
1/2-3/4 tablespoon nonfat milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 425°F/220˚C.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks, carrots, corn, and winter melon and cook, stirring, until the leeks soften, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds more.

Pour in wine and stir until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add flour, thyme, and umami, and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour starts to turn light brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens and the carrots are barely tender, about 5 minutes.

Add turkey, ham, and peas and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a deep 10-inch pie pan or other 2-quart baking dish and set aside.

To mash cauliflower and bake pie: Place florets in a large saucepan and add cold salted water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, uncovered, until the florets are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and process in a food processor until smooth. Add milk if the florets are too dry. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread the cauliflower on top of the turkey mixture. With the back of a spoon, smooth the top. Set the dish on a baking sheet and bake until the cauliflower and filling are heated through and the top is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.


roasted asian vegetable mac & cheese with chorizo and garlic-panko topping

This is a multicultural mac and cheese! I love it. The great thing about mac and cheese is that it is adaptable and open to creative permutations. I adapted this recipe from howsweeteats.com, and though it took nearly two hours to make, it was well worth the wait. I made the following substitutions: I  used winter melon instead of zucchini, pumpkin instead of summer squash, red wine vinegar instead of balsamic, and chorizo instead of ham. As it is very difficult to get havarti cheese in Bangkok, I used ordinary white supermarket cheese.

Roasted Asian Vegetable Mac and Cheese with Chorizo and Garlic-Panko Topping

Prep time: 40 minutes (includes roasting vegetables)
Bake time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6-8

For Roasting Vegetables
4 cups fresh corn kernels (4 ears)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups winter melon, peeled, seeded, chopped (1/2 small winter melon)
2 cups pumpkin, peeled, seeded, chopped (1/2 small pumpkin)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon palm sugar dissolved in water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

For mac and cheese
2 cups chorizo sliced into 1/8 inch thick rounds
1 pound penne or small shell pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups milk (2% or whole)
8 oz Havarti cheese
8 oz cheddar cheese
2 oz Parmesan cheese
6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
pinch of salt
avocado slices for serving, optional
Maldon’s sea salt, optional

Preheat the oven to 400˚F/225˚C. Spray a 9×13 inch glass baking dish with cooking oil. Set aside. Cover a baking tray with foil. Set aside.

Remove the corn kernels from the cob and put in a large bowl with the pepper, onion, winter melon, and pumpkin. In a medium bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, palm sugar solution, and salt and pepper. Spread the corn mixture evenly on the baking tray. Bake 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 350˚F/180˚C. Don’t wash out the bowl. Add the chorizo slices to the bowl, and when the vegetables are roasted add them to the sausage too.

Cook’s Note: I used the palm sugar solution to add a little sweetness to the dressing. And I also wanted it to caramelize the vegetables.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta. One to two minutes before the pasta is cooked, remove from heat. Drain and rinse the pasta. Add the undercooked pasta to the bowl with the chorizo and vegetables. In a small bowl, put the breadcrumbs and mix with the minced/pressed garlic and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium high heat. When it bubbles, add the flour and whisk continuously for 2 minutes until the mixture thickens and browns. This is called roux. Slowly pour the milk into the roux, stirring constantly. Heat until the milk thickens slightly. Add all except 1/2 cup of the grated Havarti/cheddar cheeses and all of the Parmesan. Taste and add salt and pepper.

Add the cheese sauce to the bowl with the sausage, vegetables, and pasta. Toss to coat thoroughly. Pour the mixture in the prepared baking dish. Smooth the top. Sprinkle  remaining cheese on top, then the garlic-panko breadcrumb mixture. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Let the mac and cheese rest 10 minutes before serving. If desired, top with a slice of avocado sprinkled with a little sea salt. My husband prefers red pepper flakes on his mac and cheese.

sweet corn and okra purloo with lemongrass, thyme and chinese chives


I found this recipe on Food 52, and fell in love with its simplicity. A purloo is a traditional southern (US, that is) vegetable stew with smoked meat. Southern cooking is based on the trinity: onions, sweet green peppers, and celery. I did a variation on it, using Thai spur chilies  and Chinese celery. In fact, I took other liberties with this recipe and added lemongrass to it and Chinese chives. Spur chilies are not very hot, instead they add flavor rather than heat to the dish. Chinese celery has very skinny stalks and big leaves. Use the stalks only, as the leaves are very very strong tasting. In Thailand, the leaves are used as a garnish, often combined with scallions and cilantro. Chinese chives resemble scallion but have flat leaves and instead of an onion-y taste, taste faintly of garlic, hence its other name garlic chives. This dish is a mash-up of cuisines, using a mix of local Thai ingredients and Western. It tastes lemon-y, garlicky, and is a hearty meal for two–with leftovers.

Okra and Sweet Corn Purloo with Lemongrass, Thyme, and Chinese Chives (adapted from Food 52)

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 55 minutes
Servings: 4 as a main meal, 6 as a side dish

1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
3 Thai spur chilies sliced on the bias (if desired, seed and devein the chilies for less heat)
1/4 cup Chinese celery stems only, small dice (save the leaves for garnish)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups okra, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch rounds
1 1/2 cups smoked ham cut into 1 inch chunks (I used black pepper ham for flavor)
1/4 cup lemongrass, sliced fine
2 cups sweet corn, cut from the cob (approximately 2 corn on the cob)
1 cup organic short grain rice
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock (or 1 bouillon cube to 2 cups water)
1/2 cup Chinese chives (aka garlic chives), diced fine

Heat the oven to 400° F. Place an oven-proof 3-quart pot over medium heat on the stove top. Add enough oil to the pot to barely coat the bottom.

Cook’s note: I didn’t have an oven-proof pot, so I used a large skillet for this step.

Once the oil is hot add the onion, peppers, and Chinese celery. Season with a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft but not brown.

Add the thyme and garlic. Sauté until it becomes fragrant. Don’t let the garlic brown. Add the okra, ham, lemongrass, and corn. If the pan seems dry add a little more oil. Then add the rice and stir it around to coat the grains with the oil. Add the broth. Stir the ingredients. Bring the broth to a boil. Turn off the heat.

Cook’s note: I transferred the ingredients to a Corningware casserole dish with a lid for this next step.

Cover the dish and slide the whole thing into the oven. Immediately turn the heat down to 325° F.

Set a timer for 35 minutes. At the end of 35 minutes remove the dish from the oven, carefully. Using oven mitts, remove the lid and taste. If you can taste tough grains of rice, stir then cover the dish and put it back in the oven. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. Continue stirring and cooking in 10 minute increments until the rice is cooked. In my oven this took 55 minutes.

Taste and adjust any seasonings as necessary. If desired, lightly sauté the chopped chives in a little oil. Add the chopped chives and fresh celery leaves to the top of the purloo, and serve.

West Meets East: Krapow Gai Shepherd’s Pie

Thai-Style Chicken with Basil Shepherd’s Pie

Can’t eat white rice on this diet and the South Beach Diet Shepherd’s Pie was just daring to be spiced up. We can’t have it all but… maybe we can! I fused together two recipes to come up with this dish. Truly, very aroy!

4 cups (1 head) cauliflower
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons 0% Greek style plain yogurt
1 large egg yolk
salt and pepper
1/2 cup part skim mozzarella cheese, grated

Preheat oven 350˚F.

Make Topping. In a large saucepan, boil cauliflower and garlic cloves 8-10 minutes. Drain. In a food processor, purée cauliflower and garlic. You may need to do this in batches. In a large bowl, whip puréed cauliflower with yogurt and egg yolk. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Since the filling has to be stronger tasting than usual because it will not be served on a bed of rice, I have increased the amounts of ingredients.

2 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
6 green or red Thai chilies, stemmed and roughly chopped, plus extra for serving
2 tablespoons fish sauce, plus extra for serving
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon white vinegar, plus extra for serving
1 tablespoon sugar, plus extra for serving (I used a sugar substitute)
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast , cut into 2-inch pieces
4 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
red pepper flakes, for serving
cilantro and scallion, chopped, for serving

Make Seasoning. In the work bowl of a food processor, put 1 cup basil, garlic, and chilies. Pulse in one-second bursts 6 times. Put a tablespoon of the basil mixture in a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon fish sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar, and sugar or sugar substitute. Mix together and set aside. Put the remaining seasoning in a large skillet and set that aside. Don’t wash out the work bowl.

Grind the Chicken. In the unwashed work bowl, add the chicken chunks and pulse in one-second bursts 6 times or until the chicken is in  1/4 inch pieces. Blend in remaining tablespoon fish sauce. Put the ground chicken in a medium bowl and refrigerate.

Make the Sauce. To the seasoning in the large skillet, add the shallots and the oil. Cook over medium-low heat until the garlic and shallots turn golden brown, about 5-8 minutes. You may need to open a window! Frying chilies can make your eyes sting. Add the ground chicken and cut up the meat as it cooks with a silicone spatula or a potato masher. When the meat is a light pink, add the reserved seasoning and the remaining 1 1/2 cups of basil. Stir-fry until the basil is wilted.

Assemble and Bake. Scrape the filling into a 9-inch square baking dish. Spread it into the corners. Scrape the mashed cauliflower on top and smooth. Sprinkle with fet mot-fresh mozzarella cheese in Thaiand fresh ground black pepper. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the edges are brown. Remove from the oven and let the pie rest 10 minutes before serving.

Serve. Traditionally, krapow gai or Thai-Style Chicken with Basil is served with  a fried “egg hat.” Contrary to myth, eggs aren’t bad for you, and you can reduce the calorie load by frying it in cooking spray. Have a look at these nutrition myths if you don’t believe me! If you wish to spice it up further at table, provide small bowls of fish sauce, vinegar with chopped chilies, sugar, red pepper flakes, and chopped fresh scallion and cilantro for sprinkling.

Thai-Style Chicken with Basil Shepherd’s Pie with Fet Mot