Daniel Manrique
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Recipe by Daniel Manrique, executive chef, the Red Door

To tell you the truth, my mother wasn’t a good cook. I started to cook for my little sister by the time I was nine or ten. I’d make sandwiches or nachos when we came home from school. Or if we didn’t like the dinner my mom made, I’d go to the fridge and throw something together.

When I was 21, I decided to turn my passion into a career and I went to culinary school at the California Culinary Academy. I started my career at Parallel 33 (now closed) and then came to the Red Door as a sous chef and worked my way up under former executive chef Brian Johnson. I wanted to work under someone with experience and skill and he taught me so much.

I don’t want to label myself yet as a chef because I don’t want to lose my open mind. I’m young and I am still trying to find my niche. There are so many great things out there and I don’t want to limit myself. What’s exciting for me now is that at the Red Door, I am using vegetables that we grow ourselves in our half-acre garden on Mount Helix. Every day in the summer, we featured a dish from the garden — like a vegetable pot pie or garden lasagna — and we’re going to keep that up this fall as well.

My grandmother was an amazing cook, and she inspired me. I’m Filipino, but I hardly ever cook Filipino food because I can’t make it as well as my grandmother could. It’s frustrating for me. When I am home, I love to cook fish and seafood. I’m excited to use anything that is fresh and in season. I try to experiment at home and, often, these experiments make their way into the restaurant. Food to me is like a playground. That’s how I learn.

INGREDIENTS

Spicy Marinara

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 medium-size onion (chopped)
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 2 (28 oz.) cans plum tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons red chili flakes
  • 6 leaves fresh basil (chopped)

Cheese and Pasta

  • 1 box of lasagna or substitute homemade
  • ¾ cup ricotta cheese
  • ¾ cup shredded fresh mozzarella (can be substituted with shredded or packaged)
  • ¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Veggie Mix

  • 6 T olive oil (divided use)
  • 2 medium-size Mediterranean eggplants, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 oz. shiitake mushrooms sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • 2 small yellow zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 2 small green zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 2 red bell peppers julienned

HOW TO DO IT

To make the marinara sauce, heat the olive oil over low to medium heat in a large sauce pan and sauté garlic and onion until the onion is soft and transparent. Deglaze with red wine and reduce by half, then add the plum tomatoes. Cook for 45 minutes on low simmer. Add chili flakes and basil.

While the sauce is simmering, cook lasagna noodles according to package directions or make homemade pasta. Set noodles aside. Next, mix the cheeses in a bowl.

Heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the sliced eggplant on medium heat until browned. Cook in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Set aside. Heat up remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan and add the mushrooms until about halfway cooked. Then add garlic, dried oregano, and other veggies. Cook the veggies to half-doneness, set aside and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a 9"x11" casserole dish, add a thin layer of the marinara sauce, then add the cooked pasta sheets, a layer of the veggie mix, sprinkle a layer of the cheese mixture, and a layer of the sauce and another layer of pasta. Repeat the layering process by topping a pasta layer with a layer of marinara and top with the cheese mixture. Cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 20–25 minutes.

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