Every weekend for the past few weeks, I’ve been making some variation of lasagna using either zucchini or eggplant. Here’s a recipe of sorts that I followed this past weekend.
1 large can organic whole tomatoes
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
3/4 bulb garlic
2 cups sliced eggplant
2 extremely large zucchini
1 yellow onion
3/4 of 1 large container ricotta cheese
1 large chunk pecorino romano cheese
1/2 lb. mozzarella cheese
I made the sauce from scratch by dicing the onion and mixing in the leftover eggplant from last week’s dish, and throwing both in a deep pot with some olive oil to brown a bit. I’m doing a lot more tasting as I go along, under the notion that what I’m cooking should taste good. As the sauce developed, in went some thin-sliced garlic, some parsley, oregano, salt – and cayenne pepper because I like heat.
Once this was done, I turned it down to a simmer and pulled out the OXO mandoline. I like this thing a lot, but I see a kitchen accident involving me, the mandoline, and an unused food holder in the future. Anyway, the zucchini were thin-sliced in this thing, making a huge pile of the stuff, and set aside so we could make the cheese filling.
In a large mixing bowl I threw about 3/4 of a large container of whole milk ricotta as my daughter used a box grater to grate the block of real pecorino romano cheese and mozzarella cheese we bought. I was making this with my daughter and our goal was to make a cheese filling that was so good that we could eat it all by itself. So we mixed in the romano and mozzarella and added parsley, some oregano, thyme, and garlic powder little by little, tasting along the way, until my daughter gave it the thumbs’ up.
By now we had a nice veggie pasta simmering, though it was a bit…what – bitter? Acidic? I know the flavor from when my Mom would make sauce. It is an aftertaste that she always adjusted with a little sugar. I wasn’t going there, so I used sun-dried tomatoes – maybe a quarter cup chopped, to adjust the flavor – which worked perfectly.
With our ingredients ready, my daughter and I did the assembly. First, a very thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the empty baking pan. Why? Because my Mom did it. Maybe it prevents sticking, which I can imagine with real noodles, but is doubtful with zucchini. Next, 2 layers of the zucchini. When the layer was in place, it was sprayed with olive oil using my Misto olive oil sprayer (which I love) then lightly salted. Then a layer of cheese, using about half the cheese mixture we created. Then a layer of sauce – the major layer of sauce, then our second layer of zucchini, sprayed and salted, then the last of the cheese covered in the last of the sauce. My daughter didn’t like the cheese as the last layer – she said it was burned – so she wanted to put some sauce on the top to keep moist.
Now it went into a 350 degree oven for about an hour? I set the time for an hour and ran an errand – when I came home, it was out of the oven, and the kid was murky on the details as to how long it was in for.
One obstacle to overcome with this lasagna over a noodle lasagna is that the zucchini sheds a lot of water during cooking. You could deal with this before cooking by letting the piece dry, but I found an effective way to deal with it after cooking.
I take a rolled up dish towel and place it under one end of the pan so the thing is tilted at maybe a 20 degree angle. I then take a turkey baster and suck out the excess liquid – it helps to cut a little hole in the lasagna at the lower end to insert the baster. Let it sit for a few minutes, and you can suck out a cup of liquid easily – which is quite tasty in and of itself – don’t throw it away.
This leaves the lasagna moist but not watery – in fact, one time I apparently sucked too much out and my dish was criticized for being too dry. I think this was the eggplant version.
Anyway, this dish has been the staple of 3 or 4 father/daughter Saturday afternoons – done without being in a rush, just taking our time, talking and tasting. Cooking with my daughter brings an extra dimension to it – and the lasagna is a damn good result. Pretty low carb, too, though perhaps a bit much in the carb department for induction.