Saturday, October 24, 2009

Giving Back

I am making my way through those bags  of knitting, but today is about giving something back to the blog-o-sphere.

First I must say that I get the inspiration for 60% of my suppers from bloggers.  During my lunch break at super-corp I log in and let the pictures do the talking.  If it were not for 101 Cookbooks, Joy the Baker, Vegandad, The Wednesday Chef, Orangette and countless others we would eat beans and rice almost every other night.
The other 40% comes from the cookbooks I read and having grown up cooking and eating with my mom.  My mom is truly one of the best cooks ever, period.  I can count on one hand the number of times I ate over at a friend's house.  Part of that stems from my parents wanting to see all of us at the table each and every night (this was not always a fun time for all, but now that I am older I love that they were there every night, good times and hard) and part of it is because the few times I ate my friend's mom's cooking I was disappointed.  I grew up in northern, rural New York which is a serious meat and potatoes place; my mom hailed from a strictly British family in Montreal.  She took her serious butter, sugar, flour roots and mixed them up with urban flair so our suppers were unlike anything served at my friend's homes.
On Sundays we did not tie ourselves to our home by spending the day cooking a roast; instead we went to the beach or out exploring and came home to make your own Italians (Maine style) or my mom's famous hot wings.  We had chicken cacciatore, fantastic soups, calico beans and always a salad; sometimes we only had a salad.  Each meal had at least two vegetables, no more than four ounces of meat (if any) and I cannot remember eating potatoes.  We did not have tons of excess cash but my mom bought (and still buys) food in season, from roadside tables while chatting with the farmers.  We picked strawberries, blueberries and apples and ate corn our in July and August.
You may not know this but the best peaches in the world come from the Ottawa valley in Canada (sorry Georgia but I have tried them all and it is true).  We always scheduled a trip to my grandparents during the height of peach season; my mom comes up to Massachusetts every October to pick apples and brings me a huge bag of South Carolina sweet potatoes from "her guy" packed in her suitcase (I am sure she is on a TSA list) and to her mind there are few things better for breakfast than a Saratoga Hand Melon (these are not sold in stores and I think that makes them all the more tasty).
I love when my mom comes for a visit because I get to cook for her.  I spend weeks planning out the menu; she likes simple, fresh meals with a bit of cream, butter or cheese (she is British).  This past apple picking visit I wanted to make a lasagna because she loves a good pasta dish and because I could make it ahead of time and we would just have to heat it up after a day of exploring.
 Many years ago I came across a recipe for spinach, artichoke lasagna that had no ricotta cheese just a great stew of spinach and artichokes, tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella between the pasta layers.  It was a great hit and we still make it for friends and parties. I wanted something just like that but with fall vegetables.  I looked around the web and at all of my cookbooks and could not find exactly what I wanted, so I bought some fresh whole wheat lasagna sheets, inspected my pantry and fridge and just had at it.  What came out of the oven was the best lasagna I have ever made.
I just wish I had taken some pictures...  You'll just have to trust me, it looked like lasagna.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Lasagna
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and rough chopped
  • 2 onions (I prefer red) sliced
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic minced
  • olive oil
  • sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary or 2t of each dried
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 pound of fresh mozzarella thin sliced or 2-3 C of shredded 
  • 3/4 pounds of lasagna noodles
  • 60 ounces favorite red sauce
Preparing Filling:
  1. Preheat oven and sheet pan to 350 degrees
  2. In a large bowl toss squash, onions, garlic and, if using, the dried thyme and rosemary with a glug or two of olive oil
  3. Season with salt and pepper
  4. Transfer to pre-heated sheet pan and arrange in a single layer set oily bowl aside
  5. Shred or slice kale into bit sized pieces, removing hard stem and toss them into the oily bowl to lightly coat with olive oil, set aside
  6. If using fresh herbs tuck them in amongst the squash slices
  7. Roast squash for 30-40 minutes turning once until squash become soft
  8. Toss kale onto squash and roast 10 minutes more
  9. Remove the herb sprigs and increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees

Preparing Lasagna:
I never precook my lasagna noodles - it takes up too much room and time.  I have used no cook, regular and fresh pasta noodles in my lasagna and find that they all work well.  I like fresh the best but if I did not live so close to Dave's Fresh Pasta I would choose regular over no cook noodles because latter seems gummier to me.  The way to get around the precooking is to add extra sauce and cook a bit longer in the oven.  The noodles cook in the sauce and absorb the excess moisture which makes for a mighty tasty noodle.  If you are more comfortable cooking your noodles do that while the squash is roasting.

I chose a salty puttanesca style sauce with black olives, red pepper and capers to offset the sweetness of the veg but I think any good quality sauce would go well.
  1. Oil a lasagna or 13x9 inch pan
  2. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom
  3. Place a layer of noodles
  4. Spread with 1/3 of the vegetables
  5. Top  with 1/4 of the cheese
  6. Cover with 1/4 of the  sauce
  7. Repeat with two more layers
  8. Top with the remaining sauce and cheese
  9. Cover with oiled aluminium foil and bake 35-45 minutes, until bubbly
  10. Remove foil and bake 10 minutes more
  11. Let rest 10 minute before serving

To make ahead you could either stop before baking and refrigerate for 2-3 days or bake, wrap in foil and freeze for up to 3 months

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