Vegetable Lasagna

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Well, my friends, we made it to 2014.  Last month was full of a lot of holiday cheer, gift giving, butter, and sugar.  But we made it to the other side.  So now it’s time for lots of gym memberships, work outs, and healthy living.  I definitely indulged a lot this holiday season, but everything in moderation right?  I balanced out my bowl of frosting with an apple, so it all evens out.

While New Year’s isn’t particularly my favorite holiday (I spent New Year’s Eve night contently at home after picking up subs, watched my dad light a few bottle rockets at midnight, and went to be shortly after), I do like the idea of a fresh start.  I don’t make formal new year’s resolutions, but here are some of my goals for this year:

1. Read 60 books for pleasure

2. Present my second year project and get my masters

3. Be more flexible

While my eating is pretty much good most of the time, I do sometimes make the choice to indulge.  And now I am happy to make the choice to bring back some more veggies.  This vegetable lasagna hit the spot- a little decadence of pasta and cheese mixed with some delicious veggies.  Perfect for a meatless meal and a good way to start this new year off.

VEGETABLE LASAGNA
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

INGREDIENTS

For the Tomato Sauce:
28 ounces tomato sauce
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 bay leaf

For the Cream Sauce:
2 cups cottage cheese
3/4 cup half and half
3 ounces grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

For the Lasagna:
Salt and pepper
3 globe eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Olive oil, for sauteing
3 summer squashes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
6 portobello mushrooms, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
12 lasagna noodles

DIRECTIONS

For the Tomato Sauce:

Combine tomato sauce, sugar, oregano, parsley, basil, and bay leaf in a saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until thickened, about 20-30 minutes. Cool slightly.

For the Cream Sauce:

In a bowl combine cream cheese, half and half, Parmesan, cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

For the Lasagna:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.

Toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon of salt. Line a plate with paper towel. Place eggplant on top. Microwave for 10 minutes, until soft and shriveled, rotating halfway through. In a large bowl mix eggplant, summer squash, and mushrooms together.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, about half of the garlic, and half of the vegetable mixture. Cook until vegetables are browned, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to bowl and repeat with the remaining vegetable mixture. Set aside. Mix olives in with vegetable mixture.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles 2 minutes less than al dente. Drain and set aside.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the prepared 9×13 pan. Place 4 noodles in an even layer on top. Spread half of the vegetable mixture on top. Then spread half of the cream sauce on top. Repeat the process (4 noodles, 1 cup tomato sauce, remaining vegetables, remaining cream sauce). Complete the final layer by placing 4 lasagna noodles on top, the remaining tomato sauce, and the mozzarella cheese. Bake until warm and bubbly, about 35 minutes. Cool on wire wrack for 20-30 minutes. Cut and serve

Serves 4-9.

Fried Squash Blossoms

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So today we are talking about deep fried flowers.

When I was in Houston for a mini-summer break, my mom and I hit up one of the Farmer’s market.  We saw lots of great produce (anyone ever heard of dragon beans- very tasty even when raw!), but I knew when I saw these squash blossoms that I had to buy them, fry them, and devour them.

I made these on Memorial day as a pre-dinner appetizer to tide us over as we smoked ribs and a turkey.  Then we filled our plates with smoked meat, some more squash blossoms, and corn spoonbread.  It was a very good day.

While flowers are known for their beauty, their looks seem to go to the wayside when they are stuffed with ricotta, dipped in a tempura batter, and deep fried.  Or perhaps we should say they become beautiful in a new way because you know from that golden crisp interior that your mouth is in for a big treat. The cheesy interior balances the subtle squash taste, and the crunchy tempura batter is out of this world.

Whoever thought to take a flower and deep fry it is a genius.

FRIED SQUASH BLOSSOMS
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
12-14 squash blossoms
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup cold soda water
Vegetable oil, for frying
Salt, for seasoning

DIRECTIONS

In a bowl combine ricotta, lemon juice, lemon zest, and Parmesan cheese.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Carefully stuff squash blossoms with ricotta filling.  Set aside.

Heat oil to 375-400°F. In a large bowl combine flour, cornstarch, and kosher salt.  When oil is ready for frying, stir in cold soda water.  Work in batches, dip the squash blossoms in batter, cover completely, and let excess drip off.  Fry until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.  Drain on paper towels.  Season with salt if desired.  Repeat with remaining squash blossoms.

Serves 2-3 as an appetizer.