Sunday, April 10, 2011

Food for Spring

I had an amazing plate of lasagna the other day.  I brought some of our fresh eggs to my friend who lost her son this winter.  That was February, and people are still bringing them beautiful meals every night.  We looked through the  heaps of cards and letters together.  We sat on his bed.  We cried a lot, it felt really good.

Then we ate this beautiful lasagna with bechamel sauce.  It was delicious.  Everyone had two helpings.  I left feeling sort of wrung out in a good way:  very satiated and grateful.  What amazing people, to still be so gracious. And what a town, to still be so caring.

I was still thinking about lasagna the next day at the grocery store.  I wanted more.  But I also wanted asparagus, and I had some mozzarella and prosciutto in my fridge that needed using up.  Here's what I came up with:

Spring vegetable lasagna:

Fresh pasta sheets
2 lumps fresh mozzarella
fennel bulb
3 leeks
small zucchini
6 slices prosciutto

I sliced the vegetables thinly and sauteed them briefly in a little olive oil and some minced garlic.  After they were partially cooked I set up the first layer of lasagna as follows:  oil the lasagna pan, line with layer of fresh pasta, add about a half inch thick layer of vegetables, top with strips of prosciutto, slices of fresh mozzarella and a dusting of parmesan.  Then I make the sauce, pour some over, and repeat until I run out of ingredients.

For the sauce:  I  use the juices from sauteing the veggies as a base to make the bechamel.  I probably don't make bechamel correctly, as my concept of it is a creamy/salty/garlicky white sauce with the interesting twist of a a little nutmeg at the end.  Vaguely french,  not healthy, although you could use skim milk, olive oil, and stock instead of cream, butter and vermouth.

 Here's how I do it:

Add half a stick of butter to the pan,  as it melts, shake about 3 T of flour through a sieve and mix it smoothly into the melted butter.  Add a cup of milk or cream, thin to the desired consistency with stock, white wine, sherry, or dry vermouth  (vermouth is best).  Taste, add salt and a pinch or two of grated nutmeg. Keep the heat very low and stir pretty steadily or it will get too thick and lumpy.

Drizzle sauce over each layer of lasagna, top with more parm, and bake at 350 for about 30 or forty minutes until everything is bubbly.  serve with salad and a dry citrusy white wine, or maybe a very dry rose.

This one's easy to modify:  skip the prosciutto for the vegetarians, try with saffron and shrimp for would be good with a light chicken sausage....the possibilities are endless.

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