I’ve shoveled out of the snow and ice and I’m thinking Spring! This is inspiring me today…
It’s unspeakably cold outside. My tiny dog Albert refuses to go outside, and I’m reduced to following him around with a paper towel and a bottle of Nature’s Miracle. It seems as if Spring will never come.
The only thing I want right now is a big dish of Green Lasagna Bolognese a la Marcella Hazan. This is her recipe with a few tweaks of my own. Try and find DeCecco Spinach Lasagna. It’s worth the hunt!
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
16 ounces Spinach Lasagna Noodles
3 cups milk
6 tablespoons butter
4 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tb. oil
3 Tb. butter
1/2 c. chopped onion
2/3 c. chopped celery
2/3 c. chopped carrot
3/4 lb. ground beef chuck (not too lean)
1 c. whole milk
1 c. dry white wine
1 large can San Marzano-style Italian plum tomatoes, cut up with their juices
2 tablespoons honey
Put oil, butter and onion in pot and turn heat to medium. Cook until onion is translucent, then add celery and carrot. Cook for 2 min.
Add the ground beef, a large pinch of salt, & a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork and cook until beef has lost its raw, red color.
Add the milk and let simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add about 1/8 tsp. nutmeg and stir.
Add the wine, let simmer until evaporated, then add the tomatoes and honey. When tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down and cook uncovered at the merest simmer for a long, long time (no less than 3 hours!). Stir from time to time. If it starts to stick, add 1/2 c. water whenever necessary.
Put milk in a saucepan, turn heat to medium, and bring to the verge of a boil.
While heating milk, put butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and turn heat to low. When melted, add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook, while stirring constantly, for about 2 min. Do not allow flour to color. Remove from heat.
Add the hot milk to the flour/butter mixture, no more than 2 Tb. at a time. Stir steadily and thoroughly. Once the first 2 Tb. have been incorporated, repeat this process 2 Tb. at a time until 1/2 c. has been incorporated. Then, you can begin adding milk 1/2 c. at a time until all incorporated.
Place the pan over low heat, add salt, and cook, stirring constantly until sauce is like thickened (like the consistency of sour cream).
Preheat oven to 400.
Cook pasta until barely al dente. Place immediately into cold water to stop cooking. Dry noodles before placing into pan.
Spread the bottom of a 9″x12″ lasagna pan with 1 Tb. of bechamel. Line the bottom of pan with one layer of noodles.
Combine the bolognese and bechamel sauces and spread a coating on the pasta. Sprinkle some grated Parmesan, then add another layer of noodles. Repeat the procedure of spreading sauce and Parmesan and noodles. There should be about six layers. Leave enough sauce to spread a thin layer on top at the end. Sprinkle with Parmesan and dot with butter. (This can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated.)
Bake on top rack until golden crust forms on top, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to settle for 10 min. before serving.
It’s so cold and snowy in Cincinnati! I want something rich and soothing like this Sausage and Potato Gratin. This is an adaptation of one of Julia Child’s recipes. Make sure to slice the potatoes and sausage extra thin. I use a mandoline!
Serves: 4-6 people
2/3 cup minced yellow onions
2 tablespoons butter
1 lb. Russet potatoes, sliced very thin
2-3 uncooked mild Italian sausages, cut into thin slices (put them into the freezer for 10 minutes or so before slicing.)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese (you may substitute Swiss cheese.)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter an 8×8 baking dish.
In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until tender but not browned.
In the prepared baking dish, spread half of the sliced potatoes on the bottom. Spread half of the cooked onions over the potatoes. Place all of the uncooked sausage slices over the onions. Top the sausages with the rest of the onions, and then the rest of the potatoes.
Crack the three eggs into a medium bowl, and beat with a whisk just to break them up, about 5 seconds. While still whisking the eggs, pour in the cream. Add the 1 teaspoon honey, the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the 1/8 teaspoon of pepper, and whisk to combine. Pour the egg and cream mixture into the filled baking dish, and shake to distribute the liquid, if necessary.
Sprinkle the Gruyère over the casserole. Bake for 55 minutes in the upper third of the preheated oven until the top is nicely browned. Enjoy!
It’s snowing in Cincinnati and getting colder by the minute. When the weather’s like this, all I want is some hearty cassoulet! If I can’t wait until tomorrow to have it, this is the recipe I use. It’s SO good!
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 parsnips, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 tomato, chopped, or one 8-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
3 15-ounce cans of great Northern, cannellini, or navy beans, drained and rinsed
5 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
In a Dutch oven (a heavy pot, usually made of cast iron, that you can use on the stovetop and in the oven), heat the oil over medium heat. Cook the sausage until well browned, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Remove and drain on paper towels; set aside.
Pour out the excess oil from the Dutch oven. Add the chicken broth, vegetables, beans, thyme, honey, salt, pepper, a third of the garlic, and the sausage and return to heat. Mix well, scraping up any brown bits that have stuck to the bottom of the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour, until thickened and the vegetables are tender.
Heat oven to 400° F. In a bowl, combine the bread-crumbs, parsley, butter, and remaining garlic. Sprinkle evenly over the cassoulet and place in the oven. Bake, uncovered, until the crust is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.
Built in 1844 and comprising 733 perfectly landscaped acres, Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum in Cincinnati is one of the largest and most beautiful cemeteries in the world. Listed on the National Register of Historic places, it’s as much a lush Victorian botanical garden as it is a burial ground.
Spring Grove exemplifies an attitude toward death and mourning which is uniquely Victorian. Its park-like setting and fascinating statuary attract people to come and spend time there, including sightseers, runners, picnickers and nature lovers.
Spring Grove encourages visitors. It holds frequent events to attract and engage the public. Tours, Races, Parades and Seminars. Even Maple Syrup tapping!
In contrast, there isn’t much to make one want to visit the typical modern cemetery. They’re usually austere, utilitarian and uninviting. More parking lot than park.
Interestingly, Spring Grove has kept beehives since its beginning.
Why are Spring Grove and other Victorian era cemeteries different? The simple answer is there were more people dying then.
Urban overcrowding and poor sanitation resulted in epidemics of consumption, scarlet fever, typhoid, smallpox and cholera. Medical treatment was medieval, and most people who became ill never recovered. Children were especially at risk. Hundreds of thousands of people died of diseases which are today practically nonexistent.
As a way of coping with tragedy, Victorians romanticized death, developing a preoccupation with the rituals and paraphernalia of mourning which today seems morbid if not perverse. People spent huge sums of money on elaborate funerals. They gathered around pianos and sang songs like “The Vacant Chair” and “Cradle’s Empty, Baby’s Gone.” Foods were served with names like “funeral biscuits and “dead bone cookies.” Parents commissioned portraits of their children in which deceased offspring were included. Post-mortem photography was extremely popular.
One of the practical problems of more dead people was finding a place to bury them. Up to that time people had been buried primarily in church graveyards, but graveyards simply ran out of space. New cemeteries had to be built. Given the Victorians’ attitude towards death, the new cemeteries tended to be elaborate and costly.
The history of Spring Grove is typical. The creation of a new cemetery was made necessary by a particularly bad cholera outbreak in the 1830s. The polluted Ohio river and Erie canal made disease a way of life in Cincinnati at this time, and local churchyards were overflowing. Modeling it in part after Pere la Chaise in Paris, the Cincinnati Horticultural Society established Spring Grove as a non-profit nondenominational corporation. Salmon P. Chase, later Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, lobbied for the charter, which was granted by special act of the Ohio legislature on January 21, 1845. The first burial took place on September 1 of that same year.
The idyllic setting of the cemetery and careful attention paid to its upkeep made it a popular place to visit–more a park than a graveyard. The artistic “lawn plan” landscaping has been studied and imitated for more than a century. The arboretum contains numerous prizewinning trees, some more than a hundred years old. This is all aside from the aesthetics of the various memorials, many of which are quite unique. And the cemetery provides an animal sanctuary for birds, squirrels, and groundhogs. And, of course, bees.
I made this salad on Christmas Eve and will make it again on New Year’s Eve. It’s best if you make the dressing well in advance so the flavors have time to blend. My family tells me that the leftovers are even good the next day!
Yield: 4 – 6 servings
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
6 ounces blue cheese, preferably Maytag, crumbled fine
6 cups hearts of Romaine lettuce (about three heads) You may substitute iceberg lettuce
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts (For how to toast, see below) You may substitute pine nuts
6 ounces crispy bacon
3 Roma tomatoes, finely diced
2 scallions, chopped
Whisk together the first 10 ingredients except for the blue cheese. Once mixed, stir in 4 ounces of the crumbled blue cheese; cover and refrigerate until service. Overnight is even better. Taste for and adjust seasoning with salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Tear or slice the lettuce into chunks. In a mixing bowl, toss the lettuce with as much dressing as desired as well as half the bacon, tomatoes and toasted nuts.
Place the salad mixture into individual bowls or on plates, pour on dressing as desired, and sprinkle with remaining blue cheese, bacon, tomatoes and nuts. Garnish with chopped scallions. Enjoy!
How to toast Hazelnuts:
Preheat oven to 350° F.
In a baking pan toast hazelnuts in one layer in middle of oven 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly colored and skins are blistered. Wrap nuts in a kitchen towel and let steam 1 minute. Rub nuts in towel to remove loose skins (don’t worry about skins that don’t come off) and cool completely.
I love this recipe for this time of year! Nothing out of season and intensely fulfilling, both in taste and texture. Perfect to have on hand for lunches or late night snacking. Enjoy!
Yield: 6 servings
Good olive oil
3/4 pound dried lasagna noodles
4 cups whole milk
12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon honey
1 1/2 pounds portobello mushrooms
1 cup freshly ground Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon salt and a splash of oil. Add the lasagna noodles and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside.
For the white sauce, bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan. Set aside. Melt 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture all at once. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, the pepper, and nutmeg, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring first with the wooden spoon and then with a whisk, for 3 to 5 minutes, until thick. Add honey and set aside off heat
Separate the mushroom stems from the caps and discard the stems. Slice the caps 1/4-inch thick. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan. When the butter melts, add half the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and they release some of their juices. If they become too dry, add a little more oil. Toss occasionally to make sure the mushrooms cook evenly. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms and set all the mushrooms aside.
To assemble the lasagna, spread some of the sauce in the bottom of an 8 by 12 by 2-inch baking dish. Arrange a layer of noodles on top, then more sauce, then 1/3 of the mushrooms, and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Repeat 2 more times, layering noodles, sauce, mushrooms, and Parmesan. Top with a final layer of noodles and sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
Bake the lasagna for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned the sauce is bubbly and hot. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes and serve hot.