Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fire Up Those Ovens

Speaking of lasagna, I made a pan of it on Saturday night!  Dammit, I love lasagna.  Do you remember Garfield and his lasagna-gobbling habits?  That’s how I feel about lasagna too.  The question is this: why do I not make this lovely stuff more often?  Also this: was I perhaps an overweight orange tabby cat in a previous life?  Maybe.  I do have orange hair.

It's Ready!

This lasagna recipe was one of several gifts that arrived recently by snail mail.  One of the great joys of my life is getting good stuff in my mailbox, especially the snail mailbox.  When I returned from Michigan last month, my box was stuffed with goodies, including a new issue of EatingWell and a fun mix CD from my blog friend Kate O.  A few days later the new issue of Vegetarian Times showed up, and I was in new magazine heaven.  There’s always something so fresh and inspiring about the January issues, filled with healthy ideas for a new year and cozy ways to eat your vegetables.  Citrus is a favorite feature this time of year, and if there’s a better way to get your vitamin C than eating those sweet little clementine oranges, let me know because clementines are the best.

On Saturday, I finally got my first crack at one of the new recipes, the Kale Lasagna Diavolo, this month’s cover recipe for Vegetarian Times.  It was such a good evening in the kitchen: I put Kate’s “Winter 2010 it’s like a mixtape” CD on the player, where I may or may not have proceeded to shake my booty to “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz six times in a row.  The lasagna came together easily: cook the kale briefly, make the sauce (just oil, garlic, pure tomato sauce, and red pepper flakes), mix the cheeses together, and then get to work assembling all the layers.  It sounds like a lot of steps, and there are multiple cooking vessels at work here.  But for me, who never makes lasagna or casseroles or anything similar, it was fun.  Lasagna is the ultimate family food.  It’s a cooking-for-a-crowd dish, except that this time, it wasn’t.  The recipe makes an 8x8-pan of lasagna, and it makes about six Rose-Anne-sized servings, which is to say, I’d guess it serves 4-6 (not 8 like VT says!  Their serving sizes are always so dinky.  I hate that.  I am not on a diet.)

After assemblage, you sprinkle some grated Parmesan on top, tuck it into a hot oven for about 40 minutes, and out emerges this gorgeous, browned, cheese-crusted thing of delicious beauty.  I let it sit for about ten minutes or so because it was piping hot.  It tastes as good as it looks: rich with tomato and cheese flavors, spicy-hot from the red pepper flakes, and soul-warmingly good to eat.  I ate it with some roasted carrots to piggy-back on some of that oven heat, though I would have really loved it with a crisp green salad, maybe something with pears and pecans.  The leftovers are pretty nice too, though they’ve lost that nice crusty topping—the Parmesan cheese softens once the lasagna has time to cool.  But the flavors are still there, and pasta makes a perfect lunchbox companion.

Happy cooking, friends!  It’s cold out there, even here in Texas, so fire up those ovens and keep yourselves warm.

Dinner with Candlelight

Hey, there’s the lasagna cover again on the left!

Kale Lasagna Diavolo

Adapted slightly from Vegetarian Times

Serves 4-6 hearty eaters as an entree accompanied by a salad or other vegetable side dish

This recipe calls for goat cheese, which I did not have.  I made do with an ounce or two of cream cheese, but I do think goat cheese would be terrific in this dish.  Next time, next time…

Cooking spray

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces of kale, tough stems removed

1 15-oz. carton of ricotta cheese (I used lowfat, which is my usual choice for ricotta.)

2-4 ounces cream cheese or soft goat cheese, at room temperature

1 tsp. olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, chopped

2 cups pure tomato sauce (the canned stuff)

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (use less if you want a milder lasagna.  1/2 tsp. gives you a nice spicy kick.)

6 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained, or 6 no-cook lasagna noodles

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1)  Spray an 8x8 pan with cooking spray.

2)  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook the kale for 2 minutes.  Here the recipe says, “Drain and rinse under cold water until cool enough to handle.”  I forgot to do this.  Oh well.  Press the extra moisture out of the kale (I used a wooden spoon to do this, with the kale sitting inside a strainer).  Chop the kale, then place in a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper.

3)  Mash the ricotta with the cream cheese or goat cheese.  Set aside.

4)  Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a saucepan or skillet.  Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until it’s nice and fragrant.  Add the tomato sauce and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a bubble, then simmer for about 5 minutes to thicken it slightly.

5)  Lasagna assembly time!  In your prepared 8x8 pan, spread 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce.  Place 2 lasagna noodles on top, then dollop half the ricotta mixture over the noodles, and top with half the kale and 1/3 cup of sauce.  Repeat layers: 2 noodles, the rest of the ricotta mixture, and the rest of the kale.  Top with last 2 noodles and the remaining sauce.  Sprinkle with the Parmesan and bake for 40 minutes until the cheese is browned and the noodles are cooked through (if you are using no-cook noodles).  A note here: my lasagna was quite browned at 40 minutes, so you might want to keep an eye on things toward the end to make sure it doesn’t burn.  I think deeply browned is okay, but I’d prefer not to burn my dinner.

6)  Remove lasagna from oven.  Let it rest for about 10 minutes, then serve hot.


Shannon said...

LOVE the addition of kale here! and yeah, a 1" piece of lasagna is not going to cut it ;)

Rosiecat said...

Ha! Yes, exactly!

I would never have thought to add kale. Spinach lasagna? Sure. But kale is an inspired twist :-)

Hope you are staying warm up there, Shannon! It's freezing here these days.