Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Super Easy Week's End Lasagna

It’s been an odd week. First, last weekend’s beautifully sunny, nearly 70 degree weather. Then, Monday’s thunderstorms. And, Friday’s 32 degree temps. Ice on puddles? You bet.

So, it’s no wonder that the weather has my body and appetite utterly confused. Last week, it wanted filling braised lamb shanks, pappardelle with hearty mushroom ragu, and tomato soup. More recently, it’s craving lighter foods, like spring greens, cold chicken salads, and vegetable-based dishes.

But Friday, wires got crossed. I was craving something warm and cheesy, yet something fresh, flavorful, and wouldn’t weigh me down. Some comfort at the end of a long week, and to celebrate the week's end. I was reading my Easter issue of Martha Stewart Living, and was excited to see my wishes were answered: “Zucchini-Ribbon Lasagna.”

I found the inspiring recipe in their “Fit to Eat” article on gluten-free recipes. Though I do not follow a strict gluten-free diet, I try to stay away from corn and refined carbohydrates, like some pastas, in favor of heartier, whole-grain alternatives. This recipe suggests zucchini ribbons as a tasty alternative! 

As I’m in a “temporary” home, as I am moving between houses and apartments, where the pot and pan selection doesn’t quite meet my (high?!) standards, I am taking all kinds of shortcuts in cooking meals, if I cook a meal at all. The pots are not in the sizes I am used to (I need a sautepan!), and I had to get creative in slicing vegetables without a mandoline. Thus, I took this recipe as a launching point, slightly altering it for my (and my dinner guest’s) tastes. The outcome? Utterly amazing. Complete with the drink of your choice, and a hearty loaf of a whole-grain bread (I wish I knew where the one we had came from – SO good!), we were happily satiated, and no food coma.

My Garden-Fresh Vegetable “Lasagna”

3 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
salt to taste
1 jar tomato basil sauce, preferably made with San Marzano tomatoes (flavorful!)
12 oz ground lamb
3 small zucchini, thinly sliced (I used a cheese hand grater)
bunch of basil, rough chiffonade
1 small container whole or part-skim ricotta
1 bag part-skim grated mozzarella

Preheat oven to 375 (you can use convection for the first 23 minutes, if you’d like). In a small saucepan, heat 1.5 tbsp oil. Add onion and a pinch of salt and sauté until translucent. Add tomato sauce and 1/2 of the basil. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a mere simmer to infuse flavor. Meanwhile, heat the rest of the oil in a sautepan. When hot, crumble the ground lamb in the pan and season it with salt. Cook til nicely browned. Set aside. Using a hand grater (or a mandoline if you’re lucky!), thinly and carefully slice zucchini into 1/8” thick ribbons.

Place 7-8 slices of zucchini, overlapping the sides, along the bottom of a 9” square baking pan. Top with a cup of sauce. Sprinkle 1/2 of the ground lamb on top, and dot with 5 tbsp ricotta. Repeat again with zucchini, but this time alternating the direction, sauce, lamb, and this time add a good layer of mozzarella. Repeat once more, with zucchini, sauce. Spread a thin layer of ricotta on top and add a solid topping again with mozzarella.

Place the lasagna on a cookie sheet (to catch drips) and bake, covered with foil (careful – the foil might stick to the cheese – I didn’t grease the foil top, maybe that would have helped?) for 23 minutes, or until the lasagna begins to bubble. Remove the foil lid and bake for about another 23 minutes, or until the lasagna is bubbly and top nicely golden. Let side for 10 minutes, and serve warm with crusty bread.

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