Cooking With Honey – Green Lasagna Bolognese

green lasagna bolognese

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.

Albert

Albert

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!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese

16 ounces Spinach Lasagna Noodles

Bechamel Sauce:

3 cups milk

6 tablespoons butter

4 1/2 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Bolognese Sauce:

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

nutmeg

1 c. dry white wine

1 large can San Marzano-style Italian plum tomatoes, cut up with their juices

2 tablespoons honey

Directions:

Bolognese Sauce:

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.

Bechamel Sauce:

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).

Assembly:

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.

Cooking With Honey – Sausage And Potato Gratin

sausage and potato gratin

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

Ingredients:

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.)

Directions:

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!

Easy Cassoulet With Honey

cassoulet

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!

Serves 6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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.

Spring Grove Cemetery – The Victorian Way Of Death

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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 Cemetery Circa 1858

Spring Grove Cemetery Circa 1858

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.

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Spring Grove encourages visitors.  It holds frequent events to attract and engage the public. Tours, Races, Parades and Seminars. Even Maple Syrup tapping!

Tree Identification

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.

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Interestingly, Spring Grove has kept beehives since its beginning.

Spring grove beehives 2

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.

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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.

Spring Grove 3

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