My father had a standard response to a certain type of question, and that response was “only the best.” That’s a tall order, and of course the idea of what’s best is very subjective. The statement taught me not to settle for mediocrity. At work I meet with families and often tell them to manage their expectations when it comes to their mentors, not because of the quality of the volunteers, but because I don’t want anyone disappointed. Still even as I utter those words, I know I am not being true to myself or my father’s words.
When my father first arrived in NYC, he worked as a tailor for Davidow Suits. a women’s suit company whose ads I remember seeing in Vogue Magazine when I was a teen. After coming home from a long day he would have dinner and head to night school to learn English. Years later he decided to follow his passion and become a Stock Broker, not an easy thing for a man in his 40s who had to pass the grueling exam in English, by then his fourth language. He studied night after night and when he passed away I found all the exams, almost perfect scores on each one. It didn’t surprise me.
Shavuot is holiday about relationships. It is also the one holiday where dairy reigns. One of my favorite cooking shows is called “The Best Thing I Ever Made.” The program features various chefs who talk about that one dish that they make at home for their loved ones and closest friends, the people who you want to serve your best. Last week a female Mexican chef featured a lasagna that she makes with a Mexican twist. The best of two great culinary worlds come together in perfect harmony.
May your relationships, your holiday, and your food come from the desire for it to be the best, even if it isn’t always achievable. Chag Saneach.
Corn and Poblano Lasagna adapted from Marcela Valladolid
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 2 ears)
2 cups heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Poblano chiles, charred, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch strips
2 large zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
Twelve no-boil lasagna sheets
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add two cloves of minced garlic and the corn and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool, and purée until smooth.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic clove along with the Poblano and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread about one-quarter of the corn mixture over the bottom of an 9 x 12 inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Spread 1/4 of the vegetable mixture and 1/4 of the cheese over the pasta. Repeat the layering three more times. Cover with foil.
Bake covered for about 50 minutes. Remove the foil and turn up the oven temperature to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Serves 6-8