Buongiorno from Milan! I am currently traveling back from a fantastic and fashionable anniversary weekend. Both Jonathan and I love to travel and over the past two years of living abroad, we have taken advantage of the opportunity to do so quite frequently all throughout Europe. It is always fascinating to see the dramatic uniqueness of each place in juxtaposition with the many similarities both nearby and otherwise. This trip, like our tour through southern Germany this summer, was a good mix of city and smaller towns and villages with a boating excursion on the stunning Lake Como and stops in Como and Bellagio. We had full days of sightseeing, shopping, and savory Italian cuisine. From ogling handmade leather goods in La Galleria (me) to enjoying traditional lasagna (Jon) we loved it all.
Milan is definitely a departure from Rome or many of the other cities we have visited; much of the city’s landmarks have been restored or even entirely rebuilt due to the devastation of World War II bombings. Also, interesting was the unremarkable architecture with streets lined with relatively simple exteriors. But when you caught a glimpse of inside – AHH MAGNIFICO! The front gates/doors to the buildings appear to be standard thresholds along the sidewalks, but if you catch a glimpse as one is opened, you can often see a stunningly beautiful, albeit completely hidden garden. We visited San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore – which on the outside is nothing special or noteworthy, but as soon as you step inside, the opulence and ornateness of the frescos, the metal work and guilding is absolutely breathtaking. I know we were all taught that appearances can be deceiving and not to judge a book by its cover, but this was one of the best depictions of the adage I have experienced.
I was also struck by this concept as I reflect on what was most by far the most memorable or meaningful to me on this trip – quality time with Jon. I did love seeing the elaborate Duomo and of course I will never forget being treated to my very first Prada, from the flagship store no less. Cruising on Lake Como amidst the gorgeous fall leaves and expansive villas and seeing masterpieces like Michaelango’s Last Pietro and Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper filled me with intense appreciation and admiration which I hope will never fade. But the best of all were the hours spent at dinner with my husband in deep conversation. Being able to slow down and soak up as much time as we wanted to talk about things that actually matter rather than what we have to do next intensified my gratitude for him and our relationship. It was a much needed reminder of the fact that I do not want to spend so much time doing things and checking things off the list in my day-to-day life that I actually let the most important or best parts slip by. The experience further enlightened me to the importance of continually reassessing my priorities and focusing on the things which truly matter.
The places we go and things we do can, and indeed do, often contribute to a richer and more meaningful life, but in the end the relationships that we forge with others is usually the best investment that we can make towards such ends. I am thankful for the opportunity to celebrate our anniversary in a way that immeasurably impacted my feelings of gratitude for Jon and yet again raised my level of awareness of what actually matters, which may not always be accompanied by the dazzling exterior of a fabulous vacation or the accumulation of things or even experiences. Milan was spectacular and so is he. As we go back to the daily grind of work and routine, I hope to continue to be inspired by the experience, aided by my very own paleo and Whole30 version of an Italian classic – lasagna!
- Raw Cashews 1 cup (150 g)
- Water 3 TBSP
- Dried Parsley 1 TSP
- Dried Basil .5 TSP
- Onion Powder .25 TSP
- Sea Salt .25 TSP
- Apple Cider Vinegar .5 TSP
- Egg 1 Each
- Ground/Minced Beef 1 lb (400 g)
- Tinned Chopped Tomatoes 13.5 oz (400 ml)
- Garlic Cloves, Minced 2 each
- Small Yellow Onion, Chopped 1 each
- Olive Oil .5 TBSP
- Dried Basil .5 TSP
- Dried Parsley .5 TSP
- Dried Oregano .5 TSP
- Start with the cashew cream sauce by soaking the raw cashews in a small bowl with just enough water to cover for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. The longer you allow them to soak, the creamier the result will be.
- Then drain and rinse the cashews well and add them to a blender with all the other cashew cream sauce ingredients, except the egg, and blend until well combined, creamy and smooth.
- Then add the egg and pulse a few times to combine and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F / 190 C and lightly grease an 8x8 glass or metal baking dish.
- Then slice the zucchini/courgette into about .25 inch thin slices lengthwise. I used a mandolin, but you can definitely use a peeler or knife, just make sure the slices are as uniformly sliced as possible. Then set the slices out on a paper towel and sprinkle a pinch of salt over the top to help reduce the moisture.
- Heat the olive oil in saucepan over medium-high heat and sautée the onions for about 5 minutes or until soften and slightly translucent.
- Add the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Then add the ground/minced beef to the pan to brown, stirring to combine.
- Once browned, add the chopped tomatoes and the remaining spices to the pan and remove from heat.
- Next build your lasagna starting with a layer of zucchini/courgette in the bottom of the pan, followed by ⅓ of the meat sauce, spreading evenly. Next add ⅓ of the cashew cream sauce, spreading evenly.
- Repeat the zucchini, meat sauce, and cashew cream sauce twice, spreading the ingredients evenly across each layer and ending with the cashew cream on top.
- Bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes and then slice and enjoy!