Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mamma Mia

No.  Not the show featuring ABBA music.  This is about my dinner.

We have a friend who is undergoing chemotherapy and several of his friends, and people from his church have set up volunteers to bring him and his husband dinner on Friday nights.  The guy getting chemo is the person who set up a dinner tree for us after David died.  I have always wanted to do something especially nice for him, and this seems to be my opportunity.

I wanted to do something that nobody else was likely to do, but was totally without inspiration.  I've been looking at recipes all week, but nothing hit my fancy until I was at my mother's and pulled out the Cousins Day cookbook I put together for the four of us a couple of years ago.  The last recipe in that book was for Pesto Lasagna.  Yes, yes, the very thing.

I first had pesto lasagna in Portofino when we were traveling in France and Italy.  (I just love saying that!)  We were sitting at an outdoor cafe overlooking water and very expensive yachts and very rich people walking by in dress-up clothes looking like they were going to some sort of social event on one of the very expensive yachts.

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We all ordered pesto lasagna because it sounded interesting.   What came didn't look all that special, but stands out in my mind as the best meal I had on that trip.

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When we got home, I looked for a recipe on the internet and found one which tastes pretty authentic.  It's so easy.  You make pesto with basil, garlic, 2 kinds of cheeses, olive oil, pine nuts and a bit of water from boiling the pasta noodles.  (note--these are not curly-edged lasagne noodles, but rather wide sheets of pasta that are perfectly flat.  Barilla makes them.)  You make about 4 layers, sprinkling each one with additional cheese, bake and there you have it.  I was fairly certain nobody would be making this dish to bring to the guys for dinner.

I went shopping this afternoon and picked up all the ingredients, including french bread for garlic bread, salad makings, and for dessert, gelato and biscotti.  I bought everything in duplicate so we could have the same dinner.  I made the give-away dinner first.  You boil the noodles for 8 minutes and then lay them out on towels, which I did  while I was making the pesto.  Then you layer the noodles and pesto, which I did.  Then I put on a cover and stuck it in the fridge so I could start on ours.

I should mention here that we have a very sensitive smoke detector.  It drives me nuts because every night I set it off doing something like browning chicken.  But when it went off today, I was furious.  All I was doing was boiling water, for Pete's sake!  I went to get something to turn the alarm off and noticed that there was smoke in the living room and I actually smelled smoke.  I checked the kitchen and by god, the top of the stove was on fire.  

See, when I started boiling the water in the pot, I forgot to remove the towels that the noodle for the first lasagna had been drying on!   Fortunately it was a small fire and I quickly got it under water and the fire out.   It is the very first time that I have been grateful we have such a sensitive fire detector!

I finished making our lasagna, got the salad made to go and packed everything up in this cute little collapsible basket I have.  I couldn't find a red checkered towel to cover it all with, but did find some red checkered napkins and used those to give it a little character.
We drove over there and had a brief visit, but I didn't want to stay to tire the patient, so I just left cooking instructions for the dinner and then came home
When it came time to fix our own dinner, I popped the lasagna into the oven, adding the bread the last 15 minutes.  While they were cooking, I put together the salad.  The dressing I'd made to deliver was equal parts olive oil and lemon juice, a bit of honey, salt and pepper.  Very clean.  Very simple.   Well, I didn't know how much olive oil I had left, since the bottle was nearly empty.  I had cut up some cherry tomatoes into the salad.  They had come in a little tray with a plastic top on it.  The top was sitting, upside down, on the counter.  In one of my more brilliant moves, I decided to use it to mix the salad dressing and poured all the olive oil into it, not realizing until I saw it all leaking out onto the counter that the plastic top was perforated to get air to the tomatoes.

Sigh.  I'm such a klutz.

But I recovered, and the salad turned out fine.  And, in fact, if I do say so myself (and I don't often), it was a stellar dinner.  I grew up with Italian food, despite my Irish heritage.  My father's favorite ethnic food was Italian so we ate a lot of it and when we went out to dinner, it was almost always to an Italian place, especially since we lived on the fringes of North Beach, the Italian section of San Francisco.  So I never think of Italian as "fancy," but this was not only fancy, but delicious...and best of all, we have enough for leftovers tomorrow night.


Mary Z said...

Sounds delicious! I'll look it up.

Kwizgiver said...

Wow, that sounds like a delicious meal. What a wonderful change of pace from the other meals they're probably getting.