Metropolitan Museum of Art, I have a bone to pick with you. You are one of the greatest institutions in the City, to say nothing of the world, but sometimes you go a little too far. Last week I braved the crowds to see the new Islamic galleries. Overall, they are a marvel, full of exquisite works ranging from carpets to armor to miniature paintings. The galleries are so huge, it’s impossible to see all the works in one go so I wandered around letting my eyes rest on whatever items caught them and then moving on. Rounding a corner, I came upon the above with a label that read ” Squinch.” That’s it. Just squinch, Honestly folks, I defy anyone who isn’t an art historian or Middle East expert to know what a squinch is (Grinch yes, squinch no.) Might the museum have added a few lines explaining that a squinch is an architectural form that fills the upper angles of a square room to form a base on which to place an octagonal or spherical dome? Not explaining this is like tossing out a specialized culinary term, i.e., “first use a larding needle” to someone whose idea of cooking is confined to making coffee.
Since I’m ranting (with apologies since this is my first post of 2012), here’s my issue with oenophiles who talk about wine in terms of “hints of butterscotch” or “back notes of currant.” I’ve been to wine tastings where the air of pretension overshadowed the wines themselves. In-speak is fine when talking to peers but please spare the rest of us who are simply looking at a museum display or tasting Malbecs from Argentina.
Enough peevishness. I’m grateful that visiting the Met is relatively easy since it’s wonderful to have this resource in my neighborhood, allowing me to drop in when I can. Enjoy the fantastic floral arrangements in the Great Hall and stop in at the new
galleries to check out this wonderful incense burner shaped like a lion with spaces through which the incense was diffused.
Also check out the incredible carpets. My dining room has a very old Tabriz rug, not in a league with the rugs in the Met but loveable anyway, especially as the design masks all the stains from food that has hit the floor over years of dinner parties and kids.
Most recently, it survived a meal of spinach and mushroom lasagna which was accompanied very simply by a green salad, cheese and bread.
Here’s the recipe with no insistence on purchasing ingredients that can only be obtained on Malta or on using only noodles hand-rolled by a particular Italian housewife in an obscure village in the Marches.
Spinach and Mushroom Lasagne
10 oz frozen, chopped spinach
15 oz ricotta cheese
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 lb mozzarella cheese chopped fine or grated
1-2 cloves garlic put through garlic press
1/2 lb mushrooms, washed and sliced (freeze stems for another use)
2 c milk
1/4 c butter plus a little more to cook mushrooms in and to grease pan
1/4 c flour
scant 1/4 c chicken broth
Salt and pepper
(Full disclosure: you can substitute a jar of Alfredo sauce with perfectly fine results.)
Make sauce: in saucepan over medium heat, put in butter and melt it. Add the flour and a dash of salt, stir to combine well. Add milk a little at a time stirring constantly to it gets added in. Add chicken broth bit by bit. Sauce consistency should be medium thick.
Cook mushrooms in about 1 t butter. Microwave spinach 4 minutes. Drain well squezing out as much water as possible. Mix spinach with ricotta, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Grease a lasagna pan with butter. Boil lasagne noodles according to package directions.
Put a layer of sauce on bottom of greased pan. Cover with a layer of noodles. Add spinach/ricotta mixture on top in glops that you smooth out with a wooden spoon.
Cover with a layer of mushrooms. Sprinkle with some mozzarella and then some Parmesan.
Repeat all the layers twice if you have enough ingredients, ending with a layer of mozzarella and Parmesan.
Bake in 350 oven for about forty minutes. If made ahead and frozen, allow about 12 hours to defrost before covering top with foil and reheating until it bubbles.
No squinch, no larding needle, just a nice meal to enjoy in the cold weather.