A Lasagna Kind of Weekend

The Famous Lasagne

The Lasagne

   

You know sometimes when everything sort of clicks? When it seems like the days have been ordered and  implemented by powers that appear to know what they’re doing? Enya’s lyricist Roma Ryan described and then caught that feeling in a composition called Afer Ventus, the perfect– and my favorite– Enya release.   

This past weekend was a big, loud CLICK.   

Saturday I slept REALLY late, unusual for me these days because my sleeping habits have begun aping those of the elderly. When you think about it, sleep is such a waste of time (if you ignore the whole restorative thing).  Think of all the things you could be doing instead of sleeping! And I don’t mean getting on Facebook at 3 AM. (I mean, really. ) You could be writing, watching the same 25 classic movies on your DVD player, making pot holders  … things like that. I can’t even begin to imagine the sorts of things I could have accomplished Saturday morning instead of sleeping so late.   

When I finally got out of bed, I decided to make ricotta after seeing the recipe in Ready Made magazine. That’s a magazine for hipsters who want to learn how to make clever, inexpensive furniture from milk crates, or toilet paper holders from discarded high tension wire. But there was the recipe, and it looked simple, so… why not?   

You take a gallon of whole milk, a quart of buttermilk, some cheesecloth, a colander, and a large bowl. Don’t go to Jo Ann Fabrics for the cheesecloth– they will think you’re a visitor from the 50’s, or you’ll get a whole song and dance about how they normally DO carry it, but they’ve sold so MUCH of it that now they’re OUT. Hello, purchasing department?!?!   

I found my cheesecloth in Publix when I was shopping for the ingredients.   

Here we go. So you take a large pot and pour in all that milk. Turn the burner to Number 5, which is medium heat. Stir it occasionally, making sure that you scrape the bottom with your wooden straight-edged spoon. When the milk is getting hot to touch (use your pinky), that means that curds will begin forming… and they do, like magic! As soon as you see those first curds, remove the cooking pot to a cold burner. Curds will begin forming, so begin removing them with a slotted spoon. (I like the big round spoon that looks like a large bathtub thingy that catches hairs before they go down the drain.) You’ll be placing those curds into a strainer that has been lined with five layers of cheesecloth, which has been set over your large bowl. You’ll get lots of curds– the whey stays behind in the cooking pot. (I hear you can drink it, somewhat sour as it is.) The curds will continue dripping some whey through the cheesecloth and the strainer and into the bowl, and what you have left is pure, white ricotta. Amazing! It tastes GREAT. You can add a bit of salt– I didn’t– and after gathering the cheesecloth and squeezing out more whey, you can transfer the ricotta into a small bowl; add some whey if it’s too dry. You do want it somewhat creamy so that it will spread easily…   

Sunday morning I accompanied our good friend Jon to a Nichiren Buddhist service here in town, because I was curious about the practice that has brought him great peace and clarity. Lots of chanting, as you would expect, but it was FAST  and soon I was caught up in its rhythm; loud as it was, I found myself falling into a very relaxing, almost somnolent state. I heard what sounded like many people humming a long, sustained, vibratory note, but that wasn’t the case at all as was explained to me afterwards but the extremely involved participants. That was amazing!   

That feeling lasted all the rest of the day as I decided to use all that ricotta in a lasagna that I decided to make. I didn’t have the hours needed to make the wide noodles or the sauce, which I’d prefer, so Mssrs. Ronzoni and Bertolli helped. And what a creation!   

Layers of noodles, garlic-sausage sauce, shredded mozzarella, and ricotta, all baked at 375 degrees until the top layer was almost firm, the edges crispy. And wine. And dessert. Quite a load to drag off to six o’clock Mass, right? Doesn’t sound very Lenten, though we’re actually not supposed to fast or abstain on the Sundays during Lent because those days are considered “Little Easters,” with any bounty enjoyed and shared with friends and family.   

Finally, a stop at my friend Carol’ s website to catch up on her latest watercolors. You should go see them !   

Afer ventus.

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8 responses

  1. Little Easter’s always meant smoking those cigarettes my mother and I gave up every year for Lent!
    I LOVED your friend Carol’s blog…but, more her watercolors…my little Easter’s this Lent will be coveting her artwork. xo b.

  2. Now I want lasagna. I still have some in the freezer from Thanksgiving. Remember? I spent 7 days cooking lasagna and mommy said, “Oh you don’t have to serve lasagna, we have ENOUGH food for Thanksgiving. ” Jeesh!!!!!

  3. I like the big round spoon that looks like a large bathtub thingy that catches hairs before they go down the drain. clever… if you continue to write about food, i think you’re going to have to start bringing in samples!

  4. OMG!!!! I would KILL for that lasagna! It looks delicious. Please make it when I come to visit.

    On another note, I must disagree with you about sleep. It is NEVER a waste of time. I LOVE sleeping. 🙂 If you’re anxious to accomplish more stuff, please come over to my place!

    I want to know more about that Buddhist service. I need peace and clarity. Or maybe I just need to stop riding the subway.

    And THANK YOU for the shout out. You’re the best!

    xoxo

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