Sunday, January 16, 2005

Sleepy Sunday

It is a normal, rather gray, sleepy Sunday morning. I woke up during the night and couldn't seem to help myself but think about my two friends who have cancer. I am visiting Linda today at her home, and taking lasagna to her family, and also taking a lasagna to Dave, my other friend who has lung cancer. Dave is doing much better than Linda, who is confined to her bed. I'm trying to find the "up" side, but it is hard. The only thing I can do is keep cooking, and visiting, and Dave and I are going out to lunch tomorrow to a Korean/Japanese restaurant that we like very much and haven't visited in several years. We were always too busy, but not anymore. Linda has two young daughters in their early twenties, and I am taking them two scarves that I knit. Maybe having a little hand-made furry, warm scarf around their necks will be comforting. I bought Linda a cube of boxes of different colored tictacs. I know that sounds silly, but she is so ill, that I am not sure what to give her. Her room is small and I didn't want to buy something that would be in the way.

The "up" side, is that both of these people seem to want the attention, neither of them seems depressed and that Dave, who is somewhat of a loner, is coming to me with invitations, and also asking for rides to the hospital etc. He is not one to ask for much. When I asked how he was yesterday on the phone, he said, "rather stir-crazy." The chemo is working in his case, but he shaved his hair off last week. It looks rather distinquished actually and I told him so.

I think we all go into a kind of shock when someone we know has cancer. It is so invasive and just twists everything around. The things that were important don't seem very important anymore, and people have to muster themselves to fight the battle, even when they feel sick, scared and worried. It is the fight of their lives and we all have to join forces.

So, I went to the kitchen with George yesterday and we made lasagnas to share. The recipe is a good one, no shortcuts, and the lasagnas will be baked after church and taken to these folks this afternoon. And next week I will do the same thing with another recipe. If cooking is what I can do to help, then I am happy to do it.

Lasagna my way:

Brown one pound of mild Italian sausage and one pound of lean hamburger. Drain. Saute one onion, four cloves of mashed garlic and add to the cooked meat. Add one large can of tomato puree, one large can of diced tomatoes, one small can of tomato paste and 2 T. of oregano or Italian seasoning and cook over low heat until bubbly and fragrant. Add 1 T. of sugar and 2 T. of butter and salt and pepper to taste. I also add a dash or two of red pepper flakes for zing. The sugar and the butter cuts the acidity of the tomatoes and makes the sauce smooth and rich.

In a separate bowl, stir together 32 oz. of ricotta cheeseaz (you can used skim ricotta, but I use the whole milk one), 3 cups of shredded mozarella, 2 beaten eggs, 2 T. of oregano and a dash of salt and pepper.

In a separate large cooking pot, boil water with salt, add 1 1/2 packages of lasagna noodles, one thired at a time. (They make lasagna noodles that you do not have to cook first, but I prefer these because it is more fun.) I cook the noodles in three batches, rather than have the pan too full so the noodles don't stick together. Cook them for 7 minutes or until they are almost cooked, but not soft or limp. Drain them on a paper towel that has been placed on a cookie rack over a cookie sheet.

Assembly: In a 9x12 pan (or smaller 9x9 ones), place 1/2 cup of the tomatoes as the "base" layer, then top with a layer of noodles, cut with a kitchen shears to fit the pan, then more sauce, dollops of cheese mixture, noodles. That is the drill: sauce, cheese, noodles--keep layering until you get to the top of the pan, and end with sauce and cheese. Sprinkle extra grated mozarella and grated parmesan on top.

That's it. It is the assembly of the lasagna that we like, and George and I have fun making it together. The kitchen is full of bubbling pots of sauce and steaming noodle water, and we just have fun putting them together: sauce, cheese, noodles/sauce,cheese, noodles.

Have a very nice Sunday and keep the Faith. Go Pats.