PATH stands for People Assisting the Homeless, and once a month I organize a group of volunteers to cook and serve the residents and staff. There are three PATH locations: W. LA, Hollywood, and Silverlake. I’m at the Silverlake because it’s the headquarter, offering the most beds –99, and the most convenient.
I learned of the organization through Pacific Crossroads that supports the ministry Hope for LA in which individuals organize volunteers to serve their community. Since the church started a DTLA service, I thought it just made sense to start one at Silverlake PATH. We started in back of March and it’s only til now that I managed to take some photos of the amazing food we’ve been making. Dinner was lasagna from scratch, and when I mean scratch I’m talking about the lasagna sheets, Caesar salad (dressing from scratch), French garlic bread, and tiramisu mousse.
Pre-shopping days I’m researching for recipes, calculating the amount for 80 people (less people at the shelter on the weekend, still not an easy job and I hate math!). For the most part I’ll do the shopping the day of…but since there was a BBQ party the night before…I was hoping to buy most of the food beforehand. Had to beg my boss to let me go to Restaurant Depot to leave work early just to find out that they close at 5PM on the weekdays. Great. Nonetheless managed to drop two carts of items off at PATH the day before. The day of I’m usually running around like a chicken with its head cut off, driving all around town, shopping, hauling the food and my entire kitchen since it’s not fully stocked up with the gears.
I am so thankful for Selena and Ronnie for showing up an hour before the other volunteers arrive. I’ll admit there were a few moments where I thought I was crazy for making the lasagna sheets from scratch…I even bought no-boil dry sheets just in case, but luckily Ronnie was a chef and comfortable making pasta from scratch.
I found the pasta recipe from Smitten Kitchen adapted from Gourmet Magazine. I was expecting Ronnie to make the pasta sheet with the food processor but he was, “no, I just use my hands.” Ok…Mr. Professional! Phew!
For the rest of the lasagna, I used Giada De Laurentis’ Classic Italian Lasagna’s receipe from the Food Network. I know, I’m crazy, especially when we’re cooking for 80…but hey, I love food, and I can’t serve food that I won’t eat. I just have two main rules: 1) try to make everything from scratch with fresh ingredients and 2) stay away from high fructose corn syrup. I think the apricot jam for the apricot glazed ham (April’s menu –did an Easter theme) was the only thing that had h.f.c.s. Oh yeah, ketchup when we made meat loaf in May…
While Ronnie worked on the pasta sheets, Selena’s duty was the pasta sauce, which was another concern since the receipe said the sauce needed to cook for an hour…we had 3.5 hours to cook before we serve.
May showed up and gave her the responsibility to make the becamel sauce. We were concerned that the sauce wasn’t thickening in the one pot so we split it into two pots to speed up the boil time.
Note to everyone, don’t use the thin metal pot when making the sauce. It didn't heat the sauce fast enough yet at the same time burned the bottom. We had to toss one batch, because you take the metal burn. Yuck. The nutmeg was a nice touch to the sauce.
Emme and her sister Lisa, who was also in the restaurant biz showed up. They made the ricotta/spinach part. I used fresh spinach instead since there were a few comments on excess water from the frozen spinach, and plus, it’s better to use fresh!
They also made the Caesar salad (with no croutons since we’re already having French garlic bread). The dressing was taken from Smitten Kitchen as well. Can you tell I love Smitten Kitchen? My friend Sharon turned me on to that site. I used shaved Asiago cheese. I remembered the first time we made the Caesar salad a few residents were in awe of the cheese. Nothing better than sharing your love of food with others!
Natalie’s responsibility was the meat. I love that Silverlake PATH has a griddle! The W. LA location has a much smaller kitchen with only one oven, no griddle but then again they house 1/3 of Silverlake’s. A number of people have complained that Giada’s lasagna was bland so I added Italian sausage, garlic, and onion to the meat. It was delicious.
Alas all the ingredients were done and on to the assemble part! Here’s Ronnie getting silly, tossing the dough up like he’s making pizza…think I missed the dough in air in the shot…
We were going to start the pan with the sheet but then Lisa added common sense into the mix and made us realized it’ll be burned…so I think the layer went like this: tomato sauce, sheet, becamel sauce, sheet, tomato sauce, meat, sheet, ricotta/spinach, sheet, and mozzarella, garnished with chives and parmesan. Gorgeous!
We made about five pans of meat lasagana, and a smaller pan with no meat –we just replaced the meat with spinach. It was effing good! Granted dinner was served a half an hour later but the wait is worth it.
But we’re not done here…while everyone was making the lasagna, my cousin was working on the tiramisu mousse—receipe taken from Bon Appetit by Kriss Harvey. A volunteer wanted to make tiramisu but for fear that we wouldn’ t have enough time to chill –I made tiramisu before and it was still soupy after being in the fridge for 4 hours but then again I’m much better at eating than cooking/baking. Plus, I didn’t think we had enough spring-foam pans and didn’t really want to do the math on the amount of food since the pans might have been in different sizes. Note to self, no round desserts unless they are served in cups.
Natalie joined in when she finished the lasagna meat. They did an amazing job!
Last but not least the French garlic bread. Since Matt came late (he was coming from Malibu!) I gave him the hardest task. The receipe is from 101 cookbooks, “My Dad’s Garlic Bread.”
A few volunteers thought we went crazy with the garlic, so we were forced to remove some of the garlic. It gets pretty messy in the kitchen..
Matt almost burned the place down…since both ovens were being used for the lasagna, we took the bread to the lower level where used the family’s stove. The pan was too big to fit in the conventional stove so we thought it was smart to put it on the rack. He dropped the heavily oiled & buttered bread..and smoke just started coming out…oops. Luckily one of the staff was there….
Dinner was served at 630. Once we finished serving the residents and staff we join in on the meal and converse. Everyone was not going to miss this meal! Making the impossible possible! Amazing! Thank God!
If you’re interested in cooking and serving at PATH, feel free to email me at email@example.com.