Monday, March 30, 2009

Molto Bene! Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

The Daring Bakers challenge has taken baking to a new a welcome change -- we're making pasta rather than sweets. The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge. The challenge recipe can be found on their blogs.

The central part of the challenge was to produce hand-made pasta. In this recipe, Kasper uses spinach pasta. She gives directions for both hand-rolling and using a hand-cranked machine to produce the dough. I've owned a hand-cranked machine for ions so I pulled it out for this recipe. The other requirement was to use a white (bechamel) sauce. The choice of ragu recipe was open and I chose to use a recipe for ragu alla Bolognese from chef Fabrizio Bazzani of Chianti il Ristorante in Saratoga Springs.

Bazzani offers cooking demonstration dinners at his restaurant and I attended one focusing on Emilia-Romanga earlier this month. For Bazzani, ragu alla Bolognese is about the meat. Here's how he makes it:

9.5 oz ground pork
9.5 oz ground beef
3 oz pancetta, chopped
3 oz prosciutto, chopped
6 oz sausage
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 rib of celery, finely chopped
1 full glass (or more) of red wine
9.5 oz ground peeled tomatos
Slat and Pepper
2 oz butter
2 oz extra virgin olive oil

Saute the pancetta, celery, carrot and onion with the butter and oil, season lightly with salt only. Add the ground meats, let it gain some color and pour in the wine. Let the wine evaporate then add the tomatos and a little broth (4 oz).

Lower the fire to a simmer and let it cook for three hours, adding broth if necessary. Toward the end, add the milk and let it finish cooking until it's been three hours. Season with salt and pepper at the end of the cooking time.

A word of caution -- the cooking ragu will smell wonderful -- given the aromatic vegetables, pancetta and proscuitto.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bumble my Blueberries – Making Substitutions

Last week I glanced at the recipe for this cake and thought how simple it looked and didn’t include any unfamiliar techniques. I made the classic cooking mistake and didn’t read through ingredient list carefully. Yesterday I started making the cake. As I worked along, I came to the final steps that included combining the dry ingredients with buttermilk. No buttermilk in the pantry! Two choices – make a quick trip to the market or look for a substitution. Dorie’s Baking has a whole list of substitutions in the back of the book. I used her recommendation for buttermilk substitute by combining 2/3 cup of plain yogurt and 1/3 cup milk. It worked fine.

The recipe for Blueberry Crumb Cake is available at Thanks to Sihan for selecting the recipe.

Blueberry Crumb Cake in the late afternoon sun.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

French Yogurt Cake with Lemon Glaze – TWD

What an easy recipe! Like so many of TWD members, I couldn’t find lemon marmalade so I used lemon curd. I thinned it with a little freshly squeezed lemon juice which produced a very lemony flavor. One of my tasters (who’s known to like a lot of extra butter and cream) suggested serving it with cream cheese.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Bess at the Dog Computer

Last year a work colleague introduced us all to the SF Shiba Inu puppies on Upstream TV. I happened to bring up the site at home and found that Bess not only responded to the sounds of the puppies but actually watched and seemed to get some genuine excitment from the experience. She always examines the laptop to figure out where those puppies are hiding and why she can't smell them and play with them. There's an idea for the next technology wave and maybe one a dog could actually operate!

Yesterday she was watching some very sleepy bloodhound puppies ...

and two lazy French bulldog babies.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

2009 Basel Fasnacht - die drey scheenschte Dääg

This Monday morning at 4 AM Central European Time, the Basel Fasnacht kicks off with the Morgestraich. The whole of the central part of the city goes dark, the cliques light their floats, the fifes start playing and the marching begins. I was there for the 2007 Fasnacht and the pictures in this post are from that year.

My friends and I found we needed a strategy for Morgestraich. Unlike the stereotype of the Swiss as being orderly, Morgestraich is anything but orderly. There are lots of people watching and lots of people in the cliques. We were in a crowd at the edge of Barfüsserplatz and had cliques coming at us from multiple directions. The head of the clique has a sort of a pike stick that is used to break through the crowd. We would dodge one and another would be coming at us from another direction! It was difficult to move around the center and finally we realized the best strategy was to march behind one of the cliques.

There’s lots of traditional food served – Basler Mehlsuppe (, kaisewaie, and zweiblewaie washed down with glasses of Warteck or Feldschlösschen beer. Lots of the beer.

The big parade goes off on Monday afternoon. The cliques have changed into costumes that match their theme and they mount their floats for the parade. The masks are works of art. Along the parade route, the cliques throw mimosas, oranges, candy, kisses and confetti. The rule is that you can’t throw anything on someone in a mask. There are smaller clique groups without floats. The biggest thing are the fife and drum corps and the brass bands (Guggemusik). Each of the large cliques have both musical groups. There must be terrific music schools and musicians in Basel given the number of corps and bands. I think the cliques offer music lessons. It is amazing how much effort is put into Fasnacht.

There are other parades on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday is the Kinder-Fasnacht parade. Tuesday evening is capped off by a Gugge-Musik concert in Barfüsserplatz. Not to be missed. All day long, every day, there are people out marching, playing fife and drum or band music. You can hear the shrill of the fife’s playing all night. The Gugge-Musik groups tour the bars and hotels and play for drinks! I don’t want to slight the Schnitzelbangg which are comic musical performances that highlight something that impacted Basel in the last year. They are all performed in Baseldytsch which I don’t understand.

I love Fasnacht but can’t be there every year. You can watch Fasnacht remotely through live web-cam broadcasts from cameras strategically placed around the city. Go to and click on the link for 2009 Fasnacht Live. Marktplatz/Rathaus or Barfüsserplatz would be the best choices. The best is in person and I’m looking forward to 2010.