Lasagna in vegetarian form worth giving a try
Food for the Neighborhood
Monday, December 03, 2012 8:06 AM
Thanksgiving was a wonderful day spent with a troop of relatives numbering over 50 souls. The only disconcerting thing was realizing my husband and I were the oldest persons there.
I am the oldest female sibling in a family of seven children. Only one brother is older than me and he was in California, but one of his sons attended with his four children. My youngest brother Neal, who also lives in the Los Angeles area (actually Orange County), did attend.
Only when I viewed his son, Tom, by the giant spoon and cherry in the sculpture garden in Minneapolis, on Facebook did I realize they had come to Minnesota.
There was an odd collection of beards represented, including one on my oldest son, Doron, who is generally a clean-shaven guy. It seems that November is Men's Health Month and guys observe it by growing a mustache and for some, adding a beard to boot. My handsome youngest brother, who was born when I was in ninth grade, also had the hairy face look. He was the one who explained to me the men's health observance.
Apparently, at the end of the month he will shave off the beard part, then have a photo taken with coworkers, also sporting mustaches. By December, he will be clean-shaven once again.
I spent the afternoon having one enjoyable conversation after another with members of the family. My only regret was that I was not able to talk to everyone. Two more of my brothers and my sister also attended, along with assorted children and their children. I had trouble deciphering which baby belonged to whom.
My oldest nephew, Amos, born when I was a freshman in college, sat down with me to discuss writing a book. No, I didn't plan on publishing one soon, I said, but then got to thinking about the family Christmas cookbook I had written back in 1999. A while ago now - and many of those who are now attending with small children have never seen this collection of family recipes.
So perhaps it is time to finish my revising and adding other recipes I like making at Christmas time - in addition to those already in the book for our noon Christmas Eve meal. Many of those gathered for Thanksgiving will also come to my house for this meal.
Finding it a bit formidable to feed all those folks, my sister-in-law had gotten Omar to open his café in West Concord, just for us to eat our turkey dinner there. Later, back at her house, we had the pies made by my daughter-in-law, Molly, and myself, along with numerous other treats contributed by guests.
I'd spent all of Thanksgiving morning baking those pies, plus vegetable lasagna that would be heated up for supper. Forming the layers of the lasagna took me an hour, about twice as long as I had planned.
The recipe for apple-squash lasagna goes back to warmer months when I was staffing the welcome tent at the Eyota Farmers Market. I had made a point of giving away a variety of seasonal recipes using the ingredients our vendors were selling.
Sometimes the giver becomes a receiver, which was the case when Kathleen Erickson handed me the recipe for lasagna flavored by fresh herbs and having thinly sliced butternut squash as one of its ingredients. There was no tomato sauce in this lasagna.
Kathleen had admitted to me there were a couple of details making this a difficult recipe to create - one, peeling the squash, two, getting the squash sliced in thin even slices.
I like a challenge. It seemed to me the answer for getting the squash thinly sliced was purchasing a mandolin cutter. I had picked one up for Cory, my daughter's partner, as a Christmas gift a year ago, per his request. So I decided to purchase one for myself.
After pricing a variety of mandolins, and checking out their various cutting features, I bought the same one I'd gotten for Cory (Oneida brand).
As Kathleen had found, using a knife to pare a butternut squash was downright hazardous. So I tried using a vegetable parer with better success, but found I needed to pare a couple of layers to remove the thick outer skin.
I was fascinated with the selection of fresh herbs included in the recipe - rosemary, thyme, sage and marjoram. All four are growing under lights in my house, so finding them wasn't a problem for me. One could use dried herbs, using 1 teaspoon of each instead of a tablespoon. Be sure to finely chop the fresh herbs.
After trying the recipe twice I have altered a few aspects of the original cut by Kathleen from a newspaper. I found the fontina cheese called for in the original recipe somewhat difficult to find and expensive, so the second time I used packaged shredded mozzarella cheese instead. Otherwise, I pretty much followed Kathleen's original recipe.
You might like creating this for the vegetarians in your family. Two of my brothers said, "Where's the meat?" and refused to try it. Oh well, you can't please them all - they did enjoy eating my pumpkin, pecan and apple pies.
I will help you in preparing the recipe with listing the order for the layers, which I found hard to remember when I was creating mine.
Apple & Squash Lasagna
32-ounce tub part-skim (or regular) ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper (or less - I prefer 1/2 teaspoon)
1-1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled
3 Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup water
9 ounce package no-boil lasagna
3 cups baby spinach
1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese (may also use shredded fontina cheese)
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat 9 by 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl whisk together the ricotta cheese, rosemary, thyme, sage, marjoram, eggs, salt and pepper. Then set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Slice the butternut squash into very thin, even strips (about a quarter inch thick), preferably using a mandolin cutter. Add the squash to the boiling water in two batches, blanch for 2 minutes, then remove with a large slotted spoon. Drain in a colander, rinse with water and set out on plates or on a clean kitchen towel.
In a medium bowl mix the apples with the applesauce.
Pour the water into the prepared pan, add a third of the noodles then follow this pattern in creating even layers for your lasagna:
One-third of the ricotta mixture, spread evenly on noodles
1 cup of the spinach covering the ricotta
One third of the butternut squash slices
One half of the apple mixture
One third of the shredded mozzarella cheese
A layer of dry noodles
Repeat ricotta, spinach, squash, apple and cheese layers.
Lay down final layer of dry noodles.
In last layers: Spread remaining ricotta mixture, spinach, butternut and cheese. Do not use apples in the final layer.
Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the cheese on top is golden and bubbly. Allow the lasagna to cool and set up for at least 30 minutes before serving. Cut into squares. Serves 12.