Friday, August 26, 2016

Vegetable Lasagna from Love Your Leftovers

As I've slowly gotten back into cooking, following my long hiatus (can you call it a hiatus, when it was a break enforced by cancer and chemotherapy? hmmm...) I am experimenting with some new recipes. Some are from my cookbook collection here at home, and others are from cookbooks that I've borrowed from the library, my favorite resource for culinary experimentation.

Today's cookbook is Love Your Leftovers by Nick Evans, published by Lyons Press in 2014.

I came across mention of this cookbook while perusing recipes online, and was able to get hold of it quickly because of my terrific library system.

The premise behind this cookbook is a neat and practical one that I'm surprised I've never seen before. Author Evans offers 14 chapters in which he begins with a very basic food and then builds recipes off of it for the rest of the chapter. For instance, he gives you a good recipe for roast chicken and then proceeds to show you all the ways you can use leftover roast chicken in a variety of yummy ways.

The fourteen basics that he builds off include a nice variety for both carnivores and vegetarians (and everyone in between, including pesce-pollotarians like me -- look it up: I didn't invent the word!). The basics are:

  • Roast Chicken
  • Black Beans
  • Flank Steak
  • Potatoes
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Lentils
  • Bread
  • Pulled Pork
  • Grilled Tofu
  • Granola
  • Rice
  • Roast Salmon
  • Beef Stock
  • Ice Cream

There are 16 chapters in all, because he includes a "Kitchen and Pantry Basics" at the beginning, and a "Meal Planning 101" at the end. I haven't gotten to those yet; I dived immediately into the of the book, and started with the recipes.

I thought I would go first for a black bean recipe, as I recently made a huge pot of beans from dried and have been trying to use them up. That's actually how I found the cookbook, while hunting for recipes in which I could use black beans. I still want to try the Black Bean Burgers and the Crunchy Black Bean Tacos.

But once I had the book in hand, I found myself drawn to the tomato sauce chapter, perhaps because I've made that from scratch a couple of times recently too. I decided I wanted to try the Vegetable Lasagna, partly because I hadn't made a lasagna in a long time (two years?) and it sounded yummy.

It was, though I ended up tweaking the recipe a bit. Former veggie lasagnas I've made have featured things like spinach and carrots. This one is all squash, probably another reason I gravitated toward it, since I had yellow squash on hand and knew I could quickly pick up eggplant and zucchini, the other two types this calls for.

Basically, you slice all your squashes thinly on a horizontal, bake them with olive oil and salt for a few minutes, then layer them between cooked lasagna noodles, marinara sauce, and a cheese mixture.

Besides the baking the squash before you layered it (an interesting move that makes it drier and a little saltier than the veggies I usually layer) I found the cheese mixture most interesting. Most of my lasagna cheeses are your basic mix of ricotta and mozzarella with maybe some salt and pepper (and I think I once made one that called for egg). This is the same mix of cheeses but it includes a good deal of lemon -- interesting, yes? -- both juice and zest. I used less than the recipe called for because I realized that for my little family of three, filling up my 9 x 13 rectangular pan was going to be quite enough of a noodle bake, thank you very much, which meant that I only used about half the noodles he called for (and fewer veggies, and less cheese).

I cut the lemon he called for in half or even less, and I still think I could have cut it a bit further, though I did like the citrus note it added to the cheese. I think that's what really set this dish apart, along with the deliciousness of the summer squash and the fun of the three colors -- green, yellow, purple -- that the multiple squashes brought to the party.

Here's a similar veggie lasagna recipe from Macheesmo, Nick Evans' blog. Clever blog name, yes?  I notice it doesn't include the lemon, which I guess is a tweak he came up with later. I'm glad he added it.

We served this hot with a bit of a green salad on the side (mixed greens and some cucumber). It was a a hearty meal and left us plenty of leftover lasagna for another dinner. 

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