Just a few spring flowers….
Our week always gets off to an early start.
The trash collector comes by around 5:30 am.
In this quiet hamlet in the middle of nowhere we can hear him coming for about 3 kilometres. Yes, unbelievable as it may seem to some of you, a truck on the road in the wee hours is unusual enough to wake us out of a sound sleep.
It's quiet here.
The small town that I grew up in had a major rail line going through it (as all small towns on either side of the Mississippi do).
I don't know how many trains went through each day. I never heard them. No one did.
We were all so used to them that we would automatically stop talking as they approached; resume after they passed and not know that we did it.
Mon mari found this fascinating! And irritating. When we visited my parents he heard every train, all day and all night. I never heard one. All the dishes in the cabinets would rattle and we would pay no attention.
How I have changed.
I'm used to the quiet. I like the quiet.
But soon the quiet of our little hamlet will be broken, once again, for months. All summer long our early morning slumber is disturbed; the peace destroyed.
Road construction, you think? No. Lawn mowing? No. Farmers and tractors? No.
It's the birds.
It all starts about mid-March when the cuckoos come back (yes, they sound just like the clocks). They start to cuckoo, then the doves start to coo, and pretty soon the whole neighborhood is alive with birds chattering and singing and calling. Even the neighbors rooster likes to get in on the act.
It sounds like an avian symphony playing the opening strains of a Wagnerian opera…. Badly.
And it gets louder every morning, all spring, building up to a crescendo around the first of June. It will slowly taper off and we will once again be blessed with silence by October.
My mother, who is rather hard of hearing (polite, aren't I?) misses hearing the birds in the morning.
But what she misses is hearing A bird singing A pretty song. What we are subjected to is a gazillion birds all singing a bazillion different songs…off key, with the cuckoos doing percussion.
It's spring. Relax and enjoy the flowers.
As my parting shot to winter (much as I piss and moan about the birds, I'm ready to be shot of winter) I did one more lasagne for Presto Pasta Nights. Started by the lovely and busy Ruth, of Once Upon a Feast more than a year ago, we continue to get an amazingly delicious and varied collection of pasta each Friday.
I had some fresh spinach in the fridge – and in keeping with the idea of minimum pre-cooking, I used it raw. I loved how it worked. It didn't cook down much at all; stayed almost raw. It was delightful!
Sausage and Spinach Lasagne
8 – 9 sheets 'no-cook' lasagna noodles
8oz (250gr) sausages, any flavor (mine were pork with herbs)
1 tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic
15 oz (450 gr) whole tomatoes,
1 cup tomato sauce, 8oz (220 gr)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
6 – 8oz (200gr) fresh spinach
2 tbs butter
2 tbs flour
1 1/2 cups milk, 12 oz, (375ml)
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (4 oz, 120 gr)
Meat Sauce: Finely chop onion and garlic. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 10 minutes or until tender. Slice sausages as thinly as possible and add to skillet. Sauté until cooked through. Drain whole tomatoes and roughly chop. Add to skillet along with tomato sauce and herbs. Cover, reduce heat and let simmer until needed.
Béchamel sauce: In a medium saucepan heat the butter over low heat. Add flour and stir with a whisk for 1 minute. Add a little (1/4 cup) of the milk and whisk to combine. Turn heat up to medium and keep adding milk, a little at a time and whisking. You should have added all of the milk in a minute or 2. When all of the milk is in bring to a boil (should almost be there), whisking. Then remove from heat.
Spinach: Remove any tough stems from the spinach and wash. Drain well. Cut any huge leaves.
To assemble: in an square, 9 X 9 (22 X 22cm) or oblong baking dish, 8 X 10, (20 X 25cm) or so…make the following layers:
1/2 béchamel sauce
2 1/2 – 3 lasagne noodles, I have to break one up to get good coverage
1/2 meat sauce
2 1/2 – 3 lasagne noodles
1/2 béchamel sauce
all of the spinach
1/2 of the cheese
2 1/2 – 3 lasagne noodles
1/2 tomato sauce
1/2 cup shredded cheese
Cover and bake 400F (200C) for 20 minutes, or until noodles are done. Test in center with a sharp knife. Uncover and bake 5 minutes longer to brown cheese. Remove and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut into squares (or oblongs) and serve.
Now, let's have some spring!