Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Baby Lasagne

If you are my friend and you’ve had a baby any time over the past 20 years or so, you’ve probably been the recipient of what Howard has dubbed “The Baby Lasagne”. It’s a spinach lasagne that I’ve actually been making for more than 20 years. I started making it when I was in college.

Now, it’s a team effort. Usually, Howard and I make a mini-assembly line, and we make two: one for us and one for friends.

The Baby Lasagne always seems to be a hit. Of course, one reason it’s always popular is the convenience of having a prepared dinner available when you are indisposed. It also tastes really good. To me, lasagne is comfort food. I like to make it, I like to eat it, and I like to give it away to friends that need a meal waiting in the fridge or the freezer. I deliver it cooked, so it can be eaten right away or frozen for later.

Our friends Lauren and John just adopted a baby girl from Ethiopia. Naturally, we made them a baby lasagne. They say they remember the one we brought over 15 years ago when their son was born. (Note that the lasagne is also an excuse to be able to meet the baby soon after her arrival!) We wish them much joy with the newest addition to their family.

A few things about this lasagne. These might seem sacrilegious, but it’s the truth:

For the sauce, use whatever you like. It can be homemade or not. I hate to admit it, but I am a big fan of Trader Joe’s Tuscano Marinara Sauce. It comes in a 28 ounce can, not even a jar. It is sort of chunky and has a fresh tomato taste. I can’t figure out why I even tried it to begin with, but I’m hooked. I even like to eat it from a spoon right out of the can. That’s what I usually use in this dish.

As for the noodles, I used to cook the lasagne noodles. Then, my friend Sue told me that her Italian (living in Italy, not Italian-American) mother-in-law used uncooked noodles, not even the no-boil kind, but the kind you usually cook. I suspended disbelief and tried it. It worked! Making lasagne has never been the same. I especially like how you can press down on the dried noodles to make the layers even.

Spinach Lasagne
Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
Serves 6 – 8

4½ – 5 cups tomato sauce (your favorite; homemade or otherwise)
1 box lasagne noodles, uncooked

Spinach Filling:

  • 1 lb ricotta cheese
  • 8 – 10 oz fresh spinach, cleaned, stemmed, and chopped fine in the food processor
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 2 Tbsp wheat germ
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste

8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Preheat the oven to 375F.

In a 13×9-inch baking dish, layer the ingredients as follows, spreading each ingredient to cover the entire layer:

  • Cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of tomato sauce
  • Make a layer of dried lasagne noodles
  • Half of the spinach filling
  • One-third of the remaining tomato sauce
  • Half of the shredded lasagne
  • Another layer of dried lasagna noodles
  • Remaining spinach filling
  • Another third of the tomato sauce
  • The rest of the shredded mozzarella
  • Another layer of dried lasagne noodles
  • The rest of the tomato sauce
  • The Parmesan/Romano cheese

Cover with foil, and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes. Let it rest at least 10 minutes before serving.

Happy Patriot’s Day

Today is Patriot’s Day. I suspect this is a little known holiday outside of Massachusetts (and Maine, which used to be part of Massachusetts), though it actually has national significance. In the Boston area, many people think of the holiday as “Boston Marathon” Day.

Patriot’s Day actually commemorates the start of the American Revolution, back on April 17, 1775. Remember the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere? Living in Lexington, Massachusetts, we have a lot going on in town for this holiday. My favorite events include: The night before, there is the late night arrival of Paul Revere on horseback at the Hancock-Clarke House to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British Regulars were on their way. Then, there is the early morning re-enactment of the battle of Lexington on the Green. There are fund-raising pancake breakfasts. There’s a road race that goes right by our house. And, there’s the good old-fashioned parade through the center of town.

I made the mistake of not taking off the day from work today. Sometimes, Howard and I both take the day off and get started cleaning up the garden. This year, we had a head start. I planted my pansies and cleaned out the herb garden a couple of weeks ago. I ended up scheduling some meetings for today so I couldn’t even spontaneously take the day off.

After a damp, raw weekend, today turned out to be a beautiful day, crisp and sunny. Unfortunately, I spent the day inside, at my desk. I would have loved to enjoy the parade instead.

I couldn’t really think of anything to cook that went with the Patriot’s Day theme. What I came up with was a batch of scones, as a tribute to the country’s British heritage. Of course, the point of the American Revolution was to separate from the mother country, but we always have to remember where we came from.

Apricot and Golden Raisin Cream Scones
Adapted from Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado
Makes 1 dozen

½ cup heavy cream
1 egg
1 tsp lemon extract
3 Tbsp sugar
2 cups + 2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp wheat germ
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
6 Tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
3/8 cup diced dried apricots
3/8 cup golden raisins
More cream and turbinado sugar, for tops of scones

Preheat the oven to 400F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, wheat germ, salt and baking powder. With your fingers, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is the texture of cornmeal. Toss the apricots and raisins in the flour mixture to distribute and coat.

In another bowl, combine the cream, egg, lemon extract, and sugar. Using a fork, mix the cream mixture into the flour mixture until just combined into a dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for about 30 seconds.

Divide the dough in half. Pat each half into a circle about 1 inch high and 6 inches across. Cut each circle into 6 wedges. Transfer the scones to a baking sheet. Brush each wedge with some cream, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake scones for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm with butter, jam, or just plain.