March 16, 2006
Yesterday afternoon I made lasagne for the first time since moving to France. I had a few challenges. Mainly because I use an American lasagne recipe, which involves cups and ounces and pounds. Not to mention Fahrenheit, but that's easily resolved with the little chart of common oven temperatures and their conversions that I have posted on our fridge. Like 350 F = about 180 C.
So before shopping, I used Google's cool conversion feature to figure out what I needed to buy in European units. That would have been more helpful if it weren't for the fact that I needed
- 283g (10oz) of frozen chopped spinach, but the smallest bag they sell here is 1000g (1Kg). Fortunately, they are kind enough to freeze it in little chips of about 5g each, so my daughter and I counted by fives up to 285 to sort that out. I guess I'll use the rest for something else, even though my son was totally grossed out by the little green frozen pellets.
- 2 cups of shredded mozzarella: how does one convert that? It's a volume, not a weight, and they don't sell mozzarella shredded here, only in blocks of 400g (and I don't have a food processor at the moment). So I eyeballed that one, and chopped it into pieces and used my cup measures at home. I didn't need the second block.
- 453g of ricotta (1lb) and it comes in containers of 250g. So I used two containers, and it ended up being too much and nearly overflowing the baking dish. Yes, I should have left some out. About 47g, whaddaya think?
- 1 egg: well, that wasn't too hard; they use the same units here for those.
I also threw in ground beef, oregano, mushrooms, carrots and of course tomato sauce and the noodles, and by this time the 9x13" pan was so full, there was scarcely room for the secret ingredient of this no-precooking-the-noodles lasagne: 1 cup of boiling water, poured around the edges. It JUST fit. I had the pan on a big cookie sheet with borders, in case of boiling over, which sometimes happens. I opened the mouth of the oven and started sliding the heavy load in when I remembered with frustration that this oven is too small to fit my veteran cookie sheets that I've been using without a hitch for thirteen years (a wedding present). The sheet tipped to the left and the liquid starting pouring out of the dish onto the sheet. Yikes! Back onto the stovetop with it, and I moved the rack out of the way, and slid the sheet right onto the bottom of the oven (where it just fits, with no rack). Did I clean off the spilled liquid? No, for some reason I didn't think of that. I will remember that all day today as I scour and scrub at the poor, blackened cookie sheet that's been soaking all night. Yet, the lasagne was very tasty in the end.
I also baked a pumpkin pie for my first European time yesterday (just before the lasagne). Given that they don't sell canned pumpkin or American-style brown sugar here, this is a real precious commodity. We had brought some of both back with us on our last trip, so I was set in that domain. I used a prepared refrigerated pie-crust from the store here. They turn out to be bigger than the ones in the U.S., and they also come with parchment paper that goes right in the oven with the pie, making extraction of the pie from the dish much easier. Kind of cool. But I didn't cut off the extra crust around the edges of the pie plate, so they totally burned (until I removed them mid-baking). But the filling of the pie came out very well.
All my culinary accommodation struggles reminded me of Mary DeMuth's funny post on getting used to French laundry procedures. And while cleaning up the dinner dishes, inspired by Amanda's children, David read to me from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, since it was, after all, the Ides of March. I should have "been ware" (beworn? bewared? been beware? been aware? been wary?) in my cooking.
Then Amanda mentioned a book (Byzantium) that happens to have been waiting on my bedside, so I picked it up and read 18 pages before dropping off to sleep, well-fed and feeling accomplished despite the minor mishaps.
March 16, 2006 | Permalink
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