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Lasagna – Part One: The Filling September 29, 2009

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Cooking Series, Food, Garden.
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Who doesn’t love a good lasagna?  Peeps assures me that Stouffer’s makes an acceptable version – I wouldn’t know.  I honestly don’t think I’ve ever knowingly eaten frozen lasagna.

I know, right?  I’ve led a sheltered life.

The problem with lasagna, as I see it, is that it’s work.  Not hard work, mind you, but time-consuming.  Definitely a labor of love.

So much so, in fact, that no sane person would ever try to sit down and write about the whole process all at once!  This little project took us, literally, all day, though, in the end, it was well worth it.

PhotobucketSince the summer is winding down, and virtually every vegetable you could desire is easily available (except maybe fresh peas), it only makes sense to take advantage of that bounty, doesn’t it?

Yes, they’re homely carrots, but they had a nice personality.

I wanted a mix of vegetables, and, given the choice of roasting or grilling, I opted to roast them.  Most of them – we did grill some red peppers.

PhotobucketWe started by chunking a variety of vegetables – several onions (2 or 3), a few zucchini (3 or 4 – I think they were three for $1 at the market, and I had one left over from a previous trip) and a few carrots pulled right out of our very own garden.

We tossed them in a bowl with a little bit of olive oil – just enough to lightly coat the vegetables – and some kosher salt (not too much – we’ll be adding seasoning at pretty much every stage).

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We spread the vegetables on a foil-lined sheet pan and put the pan on the bottom shelf of a 450 or 475 degree oven – fairly hot, anyway.

Even though we’ve oiled the vegetables, we still lined the sheet pan with foil.  Once those veggies start roasting, and the liquids start evaporating, it has a disturbing way of sticking!

In other words, you’ll thank me later.

PhotobucketIn the meantime, we gave the same treatment to about half a pound of sliced mushrooms, a couple of jalapeño, and several cloves of garlic.

These will not take as long in the oven, so we roast them on a separate pan on the top shelf.

And here’s the thing.  Neither Peeps nor I is a fan of mushrooms – for the most part, it’s a textural thing.  They just feel . . . slimy and squishy and nasty.  And that’s apart from the fact that I know how they’re grown.  But mostly, it’s the texture thing.

So I’m going to make a confession here.  We roasted those mushrooms, along with a few cloves of garlic, and when they came out of the oven, I tasted one and, well, I didn’t hate it.  Actually,it was freakin’ delicious!  Who knew?  This may just change the way I look at fungus.

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While our veggies were roasting in the oven, Peeps took some red peppers and scorched them a bit on the grill.  You can certainly do that on the gas stove (you just hold one pepper over the flame until it scorches), but we had 4 or 5 peppers to roast – the grill makes short work of that!  Once they’re slightly blackened, we stuck them – still hot – into a zip-top freezer bag for about 15 minutes.  The steam will loosen the skins so I can peel and chop the peppers.  Voila – roasted red peppers!  (Plus, the extras freeze well, so why not do a bunch of them?)

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So anyway, once it was browned sufficiently, we dumped the mushroom mixture in the food processor and let it go until it was, well, finely ground.  I’m not going to jeopardize this new-found non-loathing for mushrooms by big chunks of possibly rehydrated sliminess.

Besides, no one wants to bite into a big chunk of hot pepper or garlic in their lasagna!

PhotobucketThe remainder of the vegetables then went into the food processor and got chopped fairly coarsely.  I don’t mind chunks of zucchini!

Once properly chopped, all the vegetables – the mushrooms, jalapeños, garlic, zucchini, carrots, onions and red peppers, got dumped into a bowl.

PhotobucketWe stirred them up, then added two 15-ounce tubs of part-skim ricotta (you could probably use one 32-ounce tub, but the smaller ones happened to be on sale), a bit of salt and some black and red pepper.

Once that’s stirred in, we added a bit of shredded cheese that was knocking around in the fridge, shredded a bit of romano cheese and gave the mixture another good stir, checking, of course, for seasoning.

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We set the filling aside and turned our attention to the sauce, which Peeps will tell you about tomorrow.

Haven’t you had enough for one day?

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Comments

1. sjbraun - September 29, 2009

I just have one question: Can I come over for dinner?
Susan

Sure! There’s TONS of this stuff! And I had plenty of filling left over, too – I put some on my pizza last Friday, and then I dumped the rest in omelettes Sunday morning – yum!

Just let me know what time to expect you . . . 😉


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