Thursday, March 26, 2015

No-Pasta Lasagna

I put an eggplant seedling in Kale's spot from last year.  The one I tried to raise four years ago died for many reasons, most of them falling into the category of "I don't know how to grow vegetables".  I have since learned how to water correctly, plant with enough depth for roots, and feed them once in a while.

It's going to be a while before it produces any eggplants, so I bought one for this recipe.  Based largely on this one from the Food Network (but hopefully more clearly written), you use very thin eggplant (or zucchini) slices as the noodle.  I decided to make this one vegetarian, but there is no reason not to use a meat sauce.  It hardly qualifies as low-fat, low-salt, or low-calorie, but at least you get your veggies.  Anyone who thinks eating vegetarian is the same thing as eating healthy all the time has a lot to learn.

I used my V-slicer to make beautiful, thin cuts out of the eggplant so I would only use one instead of two.  Doing it by hand is difficult, but not impossible.  Don't be in a rush.  The eggplant was exactly the width of my slicer, or I would have cut it in half first.

1 large eggplant (or 2 zucchini)
2 medium carrots
1/2 lb crimini mushrooms (brown button are ok)
1/2 C diced onion
*1 clove garlic, minced
*1/2 C diced celery (1 or 2 ribs)
1 medium crown broccoli
1/2 C vegetable broth or water
Olive oil
*2 C marinara (pasta) sauce
1 15oz container ricotta cheese
1 egg
*1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
*1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
garlic, basil, oregano, or anything else you want to use to doctor up the sauce

1.  Preheat oven to 400º.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil for easier clean-up and brush lightly with olive oil.  Slice eggplant thinly lengthwise, no thicker than 1/2" slices.  Lay slices on baking sheet and brush tops with about 2 tablespoons of oil.  Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and bake until soft, about 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.  Remove from oven and set aside until ready to assemble.

2.  While the eggplant is cooking, cut the vegetables.  Carrots should be peeled, then cut bite-sized.  Mushrooms can be sliced or coarsely chopped.  Cut broccoli into bite-sized florets.
3.  Sauté onion and celery in 1 Tb olive oil until softened.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add carrots, broccoli, and mushrooms.  Add broth and simmer until vegetables are softened and cooked, about 10 minutes.  Add 1 C sauce and continue to simmer until ready to use.  Don't worry if it looks a little dry; the mushrooms will give up a lot of water as they continue to cook.  Now is the time to add your own special touch to the store-bought sauce.

4.  In a bowl, combine ricotta, Italian seasoning, and egg until smooth.

5.  Reset oven to 350º.  Brush bottom of an 8"x8" baking pan with a touch of olive oil.  Coat with 1/2 C pasta sauce.  Line bottom with half of the eggplant slices, overlapping slightly to ensure coverage.  Dot with half of the ricotta mixture and spread around for coverage.  Pour half of the vegetable sauce on top.  Repeat, starting with the eggplant slices.  If you have any eggplant left over, use it on top of last layer of sauce.  Spread remaining half-cup of pasta sauce on top.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  At this point, casserole can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.

6.  Bake at 350º for 30 minutes, until bubbly and top cheese is lightly browned.  Let rest at least 10 minutes, and preferably 15.  Slice and serve while still warm.  It's going to protest, and possibly fall apart.  The photo above is a total cheat that I took with a cold slice the next day.  Like with a pasta lasagna, it's easier to cut and serve cold and reheated.  Just to prove I'm not anti-gluten, I had garlic toast on the side.  With matzoh instead, this is a Passover-friendly dish (including kitnyot - check the sauce ingredients).

Difficulty rating  :)

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