Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Cooking Streak: Spinach and Zucchini Lasagna

Momentum seemed to be building as my cooking streak hit 3 days last night, but if I was going to make it 4 straight, I was gonna need help. With my kitchen in shambles from the nonstop bombardment of pumpkin cheesecake muffins, veggie stroganoff, and my Indian extravaganza, I required a new workspace (maybe I should just move whenever the pots and pans pile up). Naturally, I decided to take over the kitchen of Kevin, the man who I used to take advantage of count on to keep my kitchen clean. But the great cooking streak bandwagon wasn't done yet. We also got a hand from new friend to the blog, Michaela, who is as renowned for her skill of stealing her sister's mandolin as she is for her gluten-allergy.

Could the three of us work together to create the perfect noodle-free lasagna, or would Kevin's shiny new kitchen be reduced to a pile of rubble?

Spinach and Zucchini Lasagna
Adapted from Primavera Kitchen
Servings 8-10
Time: 90 minutes
Is there anything Kevin can't do?

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes w/ juice
4 baby carrots, shredded
Red Chili flakes to taste
Oregano to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tbsp chopped fennel
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
3 cups spinach
15 oz. ricotta
1 large egg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 medium zucchini sliced 1/8" thick
16 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

If your'e lazy, just dip garlic bread repeatedly in this sauce.
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  2. Saute the onions and mushroom in olive oil over medium heat until soft and translucent (6-8 minutes).
  3. Add the garlic and saute for an additional 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, shredded carrots, oregano, red chili flakes, salt and pepper.
  5. Cover and bring to a low simmer for 20 minutes. Then add the fennel and let cook for an additional 5 minutes. 
  6. Remove from heat and add basil and spinach, incorporating well.
  7. Mix the ricotta, Parmesan and egg together in a medium bowl.
  8. Coat the bottom of a 9x12 casserole dish with the sauce.
  9. Layer 5-6 zucchini slices to cover.
  10. Make another layer of the ricotta cheese mix and mozzarella.
  11. Repeat until you run out of room.
  12. Top with sauce and mozzarella.
  13. Bake 50 minutes covered (turning once) and 10 minutes uncovered. You want a delicate balance between the noodles being malleable but not mushy and the cheese not being burnt. 
  14. Let cool for 10 minutes before eating.
Sadly, the foil took away a large chunk of cheese in the middle. This cheese still somehow managed to make its way into my stomach.
A lot of work may have gone into this lasagna, but it was absolutely worth it. The sauce was spot on with the perfect blend of Italian spices, that heat from the chili flakes, and the wonderful substance provided by the spinach and mushrooms. Zucchini was a superb noodle substitute (plus the term "zoodle" is pretty fun to say), but the real star (as it should be) was all of the glorious cheese. The ricotta/Parmesan combo was as satisfying as anything you'll find this side of manicotti, and the mozzarella provided all the gooey, stretchy cheese fun your clogged heart desires. This dish may not have gone a long way toward my goal of turning 30 in the best shape of my life, but it at least made sure I'll be a lot more satisfied when I do.

And now the stages of lasagna making!

1) The layering stage- a time of so much hope and promise.
2) The assembled stage- when you realize you still have over an hour before you eat and get sad.
3) The longing stage- note: be careful not to burn yourself on the oven.
4) The fall apart stage- because screw you, Pinterest, that's why!

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