Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Through Wegmans, Local-ly. Ish.

The potato soup lasted less than 36 hours and so last night I needed to make another big batch o'something. I've had an intense craving for lasagna for several weeks but have been putting off making one because I just haven't had the time, spare gallon of raw milk, or proper enzymes to make mozzarella. I don't know if it's possible to buy locally produced semolina to make the noodles, but everything else -- ricotta and mozzarella, tomato sauce I made and canned last summer, eggs, basil -- could be made from locally procured ingredients.

And by locally procured, I don't mean purchased at Wegman's -- I had to explain the difference to my mom last night, who was hanging out with me while I put the lasagna together. I was lamenting its near utter lack of local provenance -- that I'd purchased the ingredients to assemble into a semblance of lasagna, instead of making them myself from scratch. She said, completely straight, "But Wegman's is less than 10 miles away, surely that counts as buying locally." (Though now that I think about it, she was probably joking; I get a tad overfocused when I'm cooking and humor is often wasted on me at such times).

Yesterday, utterly overloaded by Big Life Stuff and feeling pretty desperate lasagna lust, I decided to just go for it, go to the store and buy the noodles and cheeses and just make a fricking lasagna already. While I was at it, I satisfied another craving -- this time, for out-of-season vegetables -- and roasted some eggplant and zucchini (thank you, Mexico!) to use as part of the filling.

Aside from the eggs (mixed into the ricotta as binder) not one ingredient was Baltimore-based. I could have made it sorta half-assed local by using homemade marinara but decided to go whole-ass grocery store ingredients -- why squander a precious quart from my dwindling supply of home-canned organic heirloom tomato sauce on factory cheese? The Classico Tomato-Basil sauce was probably the best tasting ingredient I bought, actually.

I didn't work from a recipe, though maybe I should have. The lasagna smelled great but ultmately tasted only so-so; the flavor lacked oomph -- I should have thrown garlic in while roasting the vegetables -- and I used no-bake lasagna noodles, which turned out to seriously suck.

When standing there in the pasta aisle I thought, hey, Barilla is making them, the no-bake thing must really work!, but they cooked up all weird and pasty. Easy, yes, but boiling noodles out of a box isn't all that much harder, and now I know they taste much better. The no-bake ones, they just taste like you used the box.

I'm not sure what lesson to take from the experience. Many people consider making lasagna from scatch to be exactly what I did last night: buy each premade ingredient, put 'em together in a pan, and bake. I don't think of this as cooking, however, so much as assembly. I've made lasagna truly from scratch -- rolling out the pasta myself, making the mozz and ricotta, using homemade marinara, basil from the garden -- so I know what really great homemade lasagna tastes like, and this wasn't it.

I only wish that my fall from the locavore wagon had yielded tastier results. I mean, we'll still eat the rest of this lasagna, probably tonight, but unfortunately fantastic flavor won't be drowning out the slight residual taste of regret. Though maybe some butter-drenched garlic bread will help...

1 comment:

Chuck Donofrio said...

Wow, we had the green play doh for dinner last night, delicious!