Posted by: zhak39 | August 20, 2006

No Need for Reservations

This time when the phone rings it is not a client or a student or a colleague but the anxious voice of my youngest, “but what does bacon look like when it’s done?” One of the great accomplishments this summer was getting the boys in the kitchen to rattle the pots and pans. Now that I am working later it’s very difficult to provide nourishing dishes every night from whole foods. Pre-processed foods provide convenience but at what cost? Nutritional deficits, empty calories, unnecessary chemicals. Besides, I don’t know how to use them. I wouldn’t know what to do with a lean cuisine.

Luckily the boys have stepped up to the platter and either start dinner or with some on the phone coaching complete whole meals. This has been a blessing. On Sunday, one of the boys will go shopping with me and suggest menus. Then when we get home, we put up the weekly ‘specials’–
As you can see, I don’t put specific days up. Although some meals are based on ingredients from other meals (for example following roast chicken with chicken salad plates and soup), I like for the boys to have some flexibility in what days they get to cook.

Today was very exciting. Last week Sam made a double batch of tomato sauce with sweet Italian sausage and meatballs which he served on thin spaghetti. Now this is one of his standards, nothing big about that. What made it exciting was that the leftovers were to go into his first attempt at lasagne. We decided to do it today since this didn’t seem like a good dish to coach over the phone. While lasagne isn’t difficult, it is intensive and he felt that he could use a back up right in the kitchen in case anything went wrong.

Now what you see here, besides my sweet handsome boy, are several bowls holding the prepared ingredients. The large stainless steel bowl has tomato sauce to which he added some chopped tomatoes to thin it a tad. Behind that is another bowl with the left over meatballs and sausage which he used a potato masher to squash. You can just see the food processer in the back which he used to shred mozarella cheese to which he added a handful of grated parmesan. There is also a bowl with ricotta cheese with shredded mozarella and one huge double yolk egg, well blended. Oh, and right in front that is not Irish Cream Liqueur. In order to discourage mice, I put all of our pastas, grains, rice, and cereal in metal containers. In it are (yes, it is premade) lasagne sheets because we didn’t have time to zip up some pasta this morning.

One of the reasons that Sam added chopped tomatoes to the sauce is that rather than parboiling the pasta, he used it from the box. This works as long as there is enough liguid in the dish. He put two ladlesful of sauce in the bottom of a rectangular casserole dish than fit in three sheets of pasta and 1/2 ladleful of sauce. He than alternately dabbed meat and the ricotta cheese mixtures and tamped them down lightly. Then, because it’s summer and its fresh, he put on a layer of spinach leaves. He repeated this then on the top layer put sauce and the mozzarella/parm cheese mixture. The whole thing was covered with aluminum foil to keep the moisture in then popped into a 350 oven for an hour. Sound good? Looks good, too.


  1. Wonderful story.

    I learned how to make sauce three different times as a kid: first from Aunt Sally on Ogden Street in Middletown, then from Tony at Cousin’s Pizza, and then from the first Godfather movie.

    They weren’t that different. I think the idea of blending onions, parsley, black pepper and garlic in Olive Oil first on “low” for an hour or so does add to the flavor and texture of the sauce, but then it takes me a day to complete it, which my wife has no patience for whatsoever.

    But you’re doing the right thing with these kids.

    And you can’t go wrong with those ingredients for lasagna. Especially if the sauce is home made.

    Bill from Chappaqua

  2. You had the great teachers! And I think it’s perfectly acceptable to get cooking tips from watching movies.

    While few of us have the time to watch onions simmer, the way Sam started was as my pot watcher. His job was to stir the sauce every time the clock chimed a quarter hour. He has been through the paces since.

    Thank you for stopping by. And feel free to leave any recipes; sounds like you have the cooking gene.

  3. Looks good, Sam. Hope you will make this dinner for us next time you visit New York.

  4. You’re a good teacher – I learned to make fresh tomato sauce from you! I still have your instructions written down on a slip of paper somewhere.

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