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    Vegetable Lasagna

    When I think about comfort food one of the dishes that comes to mind almost immediately is a good lasagna. I’ve developed several adaptations that seem to get rave reviews. I didn’t classify this one as vegetarian due to the fact that carnivores will enjoy it as well as those of you who prefer not to eat meat. It does however contain cheese so that might limit your desire to give it a try.

    The preparation time might seem onerous to some but I think you’ll prepare this dish more than once. After all good things are well worth the wait.

    You will need:

    Lasagna Noodles – one pound, you can use no boil or dried pasta the difference will be shown in the preparation below.
    Eggplant – the quantity is determined by the type you use the difference will be shown in the preparation below.
    Zucchini – approximately one pound
    Yellow Squash – one pound
    Button Mushrooms – one pound
    Bechamel Sauce – I’ve included an easy recipe in the preparation below. Or look for one on the drill down menu from Rouxbe after the recipe.
    Ricota Cheese – one pound
    Parmesan Cheese – 6 oz.
    Italian Tomatoes – two 32 oz cans either crushed or whole
    Fresh Basil Leaves – 6 oz.
    Fresh Oregano Leaves – 6 oz.
    Salt/Pepper – you will need both table (¼ cup) and sea salt to taste. It sounds like a lot of table salt but you will see why in the preparation below.
    Flour &#150 enough to dust the eggplant.

    Prepare Bechamel Sauce, here is an easy recipe to use. If you are going to use dried lasagna noodles in a container large enough to hold the noodles, length wise, add warm salted water. Add the noodles, one at a time, and let sit until the noodles are just soft. If you are going to use the no cook variety eliminate this step.

    If you are going to use the standard variety of eggplant cut them into slices ⅜ inch thick. If you are going to use another variety such as Japanese, cut them into the same thickness but on the diagonal. Put a layer of paper towels on a cookie sheet or sheet pan, liberally salt one side of the slices, place salt side down on the paper then liberally salt the other side and cover with more paper towels. Place a second cookie sheet or sheet pan on top and weight down with a can of tomatoes. Do the same thing with the zucchini. “Why am I doing this?” you query. By salting these vegetables you take some of the bitterness and extra liquid out of them so that your final product will not be too runny. After about 15 minutes check the vegetables. If the paper towels are thoroughly soaked, enough moisture has been removed.

    In the interim place ricotta cheese in a bowl stir well to loosen, chiffonade the basil and mix ½ into the cheese, set aside. Once the Bechamel is cooked, let cool and mix the other ½ into the sauce. Do the same with the fresh oregano leaves. Slice the mushrooms into ¼” thick pieces, set aside. This next step can be skipped however it does add a little extra flavor to the dish. Heat a little olive oil in a sauté pan large enough to hold the eggplant in a single layer. Lightly dust each slice with flour and sear well on both sides, you might need to do this in batches.

    Now that all the prep work is done it’s time to assemble the dish.

    Lightly oil a lasagna pan, put one cup of crushed tomato including the juice on the bottom. Place a layer of noodles on top of the tomatoes. Put another cup of tomatoes on top then a layer of eggplant then bechamel then mushrooms on top then a layer of noodles. Put another cup of tomatoes on top, then add zucchini slices then ricotta cheese then more tomatoes. Reserve two cups of tomatoes. Continue layering in the same rotation until all of the ingredients are gone finishing with the reserved tomato. Sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese. Cover tightly with aluminum foil making sure that it’s sealed completely so as not to let any steam escape. Bake in a preheated 350° F oven for approximately 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

    Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes, this will allow the cheeses to reset and become easier to slice and serve. You can get 12 servings out by dividing the pan into four sections length wise and three sections width wise. This lasagna freezes well just let it cool completely then wrap each portion in plastic wrap and place into a freezer bag. This way you can determine how many portions to that for the next meal.

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