Friday, April 10, 2009

Best laid plans

Days, nay, weeks can go by without my cell phone ringing and then comes a day when it seems as if everyone in my address book is trying to reach me at once. It was like that yesterday.

After spending some time hanging out with the horses and taking pictures of Jack, my Irish Setter, the plan was to go the the produce stand for salad material, bake pita or garlic bread to go with a pan of pastitsio and maybe fry up some zucchini fritters.

Took the photos, almost made it to the produce stand around noon and then the calls started coming. Around six o'clock the battery in my phone went dead in the middle of a call and I practically had to have the thing surgically removed from my ear. Then the land line started ringing. I didn't manage to make the pita bread or the fritters but the salad and pastitsio turned out pretty good.



8 oz ziti pasta

3 Tbs melted butter

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup milk

1 egg, beaten

1 lb ground chuck

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 14 ounce can tomato sauce

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp dried mint flakes

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp pepper

4 Tbs butter

4 Tbs all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups milk

1 egg, beaten

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese


Cook the ziti in rapidly boiling salted water for 9 minutes. Drain and return to pan.
Stir in the melted butter, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/3 cup milk, and the egg.
In a a skillet or large saucepan, cook ground beef and onion until meat loses its pinkness and onion is soft; drain excess fat.
Stir in tomato sauce, the 1/2 teaspoon salt, mint flakes, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper; set aside.
In a saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter, then mix in flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Slowly stir in the 2 cups milk, stirring well after each addition so that no lumps form.
Cook and stir on medium high until cream sauce starts to thicken; stir for one minute more, then remove from heat.
Beat egg in a small bowl, then pour into cream sauce, stirring briskly.
Blend in the 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese.
Layer half the pasta mixture in a 11" x 7" (or 2 quart) baking dish.
Spoon the meat mixture evenly on top, then the remaining pasta.
Pour cream sauce over top, to cover completely.
Bake, uncovered, at 350F for about 40 minutes, or until hot and lightly browned.
Let stand for 10 minutes.

Spring salad with roasted asparagus


1 small head of romaine lettuce, chopped

1 bunch of asparagus

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

olive oil, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, sugar


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Prepare the asparagus by cutting off the less tender end of the stems. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the stems are very tender and slightly crisped. Cut into thirds.

Chop the lettuce and halve the tomatoes and put them in a large salad bowl and top with the asparagus.

Make the salad dressing using a 2:1 ratio of olive oil to balsamic vinegar. Add garlic, salt, pepper, sugar and Italian seasoning to taste.

Just before serving the salad, emulsify the dressing with a hand blender or whisk. Emily suggests heating the dressing up for a couple of seconds in the microwave before pouring it on the salad to bring out the sweetness in the balsamic vinegar. Toss.

We loved the asparagus in this salad and the pastitsio was a big hit with Jack, too, who managed to snag the last few bites off my plate when I was looking for my napkin.

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