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Essex 11/6

My vegetable garden is pretty well done for the season, with just a couple of rows of spinach left to overwinter under a row cover tent. I planted garlic last week, picked the last of the cilantro to make a salsa, and put the rain gauge away.

I do most of the cooking at our house, and lately I've been on a lasagna kick. I make my own pasta with a hand-cranked stainless steel pasta machine. The key to good pasta is in the eggs. You want the freshest and tastiest eggs you can find, and luckily such eggs are readily available from any number of farmers. I get mine from a self-serve farm stand in Willsboro where the hens are free to stroll around the yard. The only other ingredient in my pasta is good quality flour.

You make a dough, knead it for at least five minutes, and run it through the machine, with the rollers set very close together. Cut the sheets of pasta to fit your pan, and then turn your attention to the filling. Most recipes have you boil the pasta before assembly, but I don't bother with that. Classical lasagna usually has a white sauce and ricotta as components, but in my opinion, these make the dish heavy and dull. My favorite recipe has you sprinkle lemon zest over the bottom of the pan, and then add many thin layers of pasta spread with a simple tomato and cream sauce. Top it off with a last layer of pasta and a good sprinkling of parmesan. I've tried American parmesans, but they are inferior to the real thing, and if you're going to this much effort, don't skimp on the cheese.

Now that the lawn has stopped growing (finally) and the leaves are gone, I'm taking a road trip to see my children and mother. The kids are in Austin and my mother lives on Mobile Bay in Alabama. Although neither place is known for its lasagna, Texas barbeque and Gulf shrimp more than make up for that deficit. I'll report back on any culinary delights encountered along the way.

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