“I’m not a chef, I’m Italian”- David Rocco


Friday, September 28, 2012

Vegetable Lasagna


Ciao a tutti! I would like to remind you that I am a semi-finalist in Eggland’s Best “Your Best Recipe” Contest!! My recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Espresso Cookies was selected. You can please vote until Sept. 30th 12PM. You can take a look at http://www.egglandsbest.com/yourbestrecipe and on the Eggland's Best "Your Best Recipe" Contest tab on the Eggland's Best Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/egglandsbesteggs/app_251842034899170 - you have to “like” Egglands Best. You will see my recipe under the Dessert Category under Caroline B. I would very much appreciate it. Thank you all!

Squash, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, purple peppers and  my cute little pumpkin!!
This afternoon I went to my local farmers market. They have a beautiful selection of baked goods, eggs, jams and jellies and of course fresh fruits and vegetables. The produce is some of the loveliest and prettiest I have ever seen. I’m not kidding. I know it seems strange to call vegetables pretty, but they really are. I couldn’t resist. The vegetables were calling my name. Sometimes I go the farmers market with a list since I already know what I want to prepare, but the vegetables gave me a wonderful idea. And that idea was Vegetable Lasagna.

When you think of lasagna, you probably think of classic lasagna with Bolognese sauce, cheese and noodles and that’s fantastic. But this “lasagna” has no noodles. That’s right, NO NOODLES. The vegetables are used in place of the noodles. For anyone doing a gluten free, low carb or paleo diet, this is the perfect meal for you. This lasagna is also a wonderful vegetarian entrĂ©e and it’s a great way to get your kids to eat some veggies. As soon as your kids see this beautiful, bubbling lasagna fresh out of the oven, they’ll forget that it’s actually good for you! It combines fresh grilled vegetables, cheese and raw tomato sauce. What else do you need?

I used eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. I find that these vegetable are the best to use when making“lasagna” since you can cut them in nice long strips that replicate noodles. I also like using eggplant because it has a more “meaty” texture then other vegetables, so if you’re a carnivore at heart, this should make you happy! This recipe does have a lot of steps, but I promise you it is worth it. It is just so, so delicious. As always, I LOVE to hear from you, so please comment and let me know what you think!!

Fresh Vegetable Lasagna


The vegetable part:
2 large eggplants
3 zucchini
3 yellow squash

The Marinade:
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Red Pepper
Dry basil

The cheese part:
20 ounces of ricotta
Salt
Pepper
Italian parsley- chopped
Red pepper
1 cup of parmigiana cheese

The tomato part:

2 fresh tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic
Salt
Pepper
2 tbsp. pesto- (If you don’t have pesto, add some chopped basil, 1 tbsp. parmigiana and 2 tbsp. olive oil to a food processor and there ya go!)

First step- Start by rinsing your vegetables lightly, you want them to be nice and clean. Begin with the eggplant since that takes the longest to grill. Cut length wise, about ¼ inch thick. Prepare a flat top griddle with lots of olive oil over medium heat. You can play it by ear with exactly how much oil you use.

Start making your marinade. Combine olive oil, (again, exactly how much you want to use is up to you, I would suggest starting with around 4 tablespoons and adding as you go along if you need to) salt, pepper, red pepper and dry basil. All of this is quanto basta- to taste!

Brush one side of the eggplant lightly with the marinade and put on the griddle (marinated side down) and then brush more of the marinade on the other side. As the eggplants are finished cooking, either put them on a tray, plate or a wire rack, so any excess oil drips off.

The grilled vegetables!!

Cut your zucchini and yellow squash, length wise. Again, cut a ¼ inch thick. Wait for all of the eggplants to finish cooking. Since you are using two large eggplants, this could take up to an hour. Each side usually takes around 15-25 minutes depending on your stove. Once all the eggplant is done, do the same with the yellow squash. Brush one side with the marinade, put on the griddle (marinated side down) and brush your marinade on the other side. All of the yellow squash will take around 45 minutes to cook (10-20 minutes each side). Put the finished squash on your tray.

Now repeat the same steps with the zucchini. Brush one side with the marinade, put on the griddle (marinated side down), and brush more marinade on the other side. The zucchini should take around 40 minutes to cook (10-20 minutes each side.) Move the cooked zucchini to your tray with all of the other grilled vegetables.

Second Step- Let the vegetables cool for a few minutes and start preparing your cheese mixture. Combine ricotta, salt, pepper, chopped Italian parsley and red pepper. Mix until combined. We will be using the parmigiana as is, so just have it ready!!

The ricotta mixture 

Third Step- Clean your tomatoes and do a rough chop. I like the pieces kind of chunky, but you do it however you like! Put your chopped tomatoes in a bowl. When you chop tomatoes, a lot of the juice seeps out, but don’t throw it away!! Add it to the bowl. Chop your garlic and add with the tomatoes. Add salt, pepper and pesto. Mix.

The raw tomato sauce

Fourth Step- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a large casserole pan with lots of olive oil. You don’t want your bottom layer of vegetables sticking to the pan. Now is the fun part, arranging it!! The way I like to do it is by having each layer a specific vegetable, as opposed to mixing them. That way, in each bite, you get a little of everything!! Start with a layer of eggplant. You can make each layer as thin or thick as you like. Once the eggplant is done, spread a generous amount of ricotta on top. Now do a layer of zucchini. Spread more ricotta. Now do a layer of squash. Now..you guessed it, more ricotta!! 

Continue doing these steps until you have no more ricotta or vegetables left. Cover the top layer with the raw tomato sauce and sprinkle the parmigiana cheese all over the top!! Put in the oven and cook for an hour and half. Take it out of the oven and let it sit for at least 20 minutes before serving. Cut a nice big slice for yourself and enjoy with a glass of red wine!! Buon Appetito!!