Archive for August, 2008

Day 238: Grilled Vegetable Lasagna

Grilling vegetables isn’t hard. Slicing them evenly lengthwise sometimes can be though, and brushing them with oil and flipping them on the grill, jockeying for position over the hot and cool spots, can be tedious. The resulting lasagna was fantastic, but I think next time I’ll chop all the veg up and roast them in the oven. The slices did make for pretty layers though.

I can’t say vegetable lasagna without thinking of Seinfeld. I’ve been calling Mike vegetable lasagna all night. It sounds like a band name: “I play bass in Vegetable Lasagna.” You know how when you say a word over and over and over it starts to sound weird? Vegetable lasagna.

I don’t use a recipe to make lasagna, so I’ll walk you through it:

1) Spread some sauce on the bottom of the pan. It doesn’t have to be a traditionally shaped pan – I often make lasagna for 2 (now 3) in an 8″x4″ loaf pan. Just break the noodles to fit. Whatever pan you use, make sure you have lots of sauce. Top with 3 noodles. (Oops, I forgot a picture of the noodles! You know what noodles look like. Use the no-cook ones because it is a royal pain to boil lasagna noodles. Hint: even the ones that aren’t labeled “no-cook” work without cooking them.)

2) Slice some eggplant (1 medium), zucchini (I used 1 green, 1 yellow) and a red pepper (quartered), brush with oil and grill until softish and grill-marked. Set them aside and slice the grilled chunks of pepper into strips. Lay half of them on the noodles. Their moisture will help the noodles cook through.

3) Drop some part-skim ricotta in spoonfuls over the veg. (I used almost a whole 500 mL container altogether.) I have decided to skip the traditional stir-with-an-egg step, which seems to me like a waste of a bowl and an egg; after all, there isn’t much reason for the cheese to be bound together, is there? Sprinkle with some grated Parmesan, if you want.
4) Repeat layers of noodles, veg, ricotta, noodles, then sauce, and mozzarella cheese (part-skim).

5) Bake at 350F for about an hour, until bubbly and golden and a fork poked through tells you that the noodles are tender. Cover with foil if you need to if it’s darkening too quickly. (In fact, you could start out with it covered for half an hour – this also helps keep the moisture in so that the noodles cook through. Uncover for the second half though, to allow it to turn golden.) Let it sit for about 15 minutes before you cut into it. 

W has started asking me to take pictures of his food, and tonight he took the camera and wanted to take a photo of his own dinner. Since I was slow to get the lasagna in the oven, it was still baking at 6:30 and so I made him some whole wheat rotini with tomato sauce instead, and he asked to take it under the table to eat with the dog. At least he used a fork.

(This is one of his photos.)

August 25 2008 | one dish and pasta and vegetarian | 16 Comments »

Day 237: Seafood and Spinach Risotto (and Roasted Tomato Sauce for later)

I’m starting to feel guilty now when I repeat myself in the kitchen. But on Friday, when I made a vat of ceviche for the party, the thrifty part of me threw the halibut bones and shrimp shells into a pot of water and made stock. Which wouldn’t fit in the fridge, so today I had to come up with some use for it. I wasn’t in the mood for seafood chowder, and one of the best uses of great quantities of stock is risotto. (My parents are under the impression that risotto is made with plenty of cream, which is understandable considering it’s so creamy, but this creaminess comes from the starch in the rice coming out to meet the stock, and of course the Parmesan cheese you stir in at the end. You could also add a dab of butter at this point, but I generally don’t bother.)

This batch was better than the last time I made it – I cut back the lemon to just a small squeeze from a bottle, since I really don’t like too much lemon with my seafood (weird, I know, but I think it tends to overpower it), and when I rummaged through my freezer to find some shrimp, I found a bag of small scallops as well, so threw a handful of them in too. Had anyone told me that risotto would become a regular in my kitchen a year ago, I would have said they were crazy. But really, it’s as easy as making oatmeal.

I even winged it this time (recipes, I think, can be far too rigid; unless you’re baking, there generally isn’t a need to adhere to strict ingredient measurements): a small onion, finely chopped and sauteed in a bit of oil and butter until soft; a handful of short-grain arborio rice (about a cup?) and between 3 and 4 cups of stock; then a handful of grated Parmesan, the aforementioned squirt of lemon juice, and about 8 shrimp and 10 scallops. (But who’s counting?) If you want a recipe, follow the one for lemon-Parmesan risotto and at the end, stir in as many raw shrimp and/or scallops as you like, which will cook in about 3 minutes, and then tear in a couple handfuls of fresh spinach or chard. As soon as it wilts, serve it in shallow bowls to eat on the couch with extra Parm to sprinkle on top.

I went to the farmers’ market (Crossroads) late this afternoon, late enough that the vendors started slashing produce prices to avoid trucking it back home, and bought a bunch of slightly bruised but beautifully red tomatoes for 49 cents a pound (!!). Earlier, I was at my parents’ house helping them pack for their move, and left with a giant can of crushed tomatoes – so big you could use it as a bench – to do something with. I froze a bunch in ziploc bags, and the rest went into my largest pot with an onion sauteed in olive oil. I hacked the tomatoes in halves or quarters and put them on a rimmed baking sheet with a head of garlic, separated into cloves, and drizzled the lot with olive oil, then roasted them at 400F until they were soft and slightly charred on the edges. That got scraped into the pot, particularly the caramel goo stuck to the pan (add a little water or stock to loosen it if need be), and whizzed it with my hand-held immersion blender with a bit of salt and Italian seasoning. (Add some stock and you have a great roasted tomato soup.)

So now I have a good stash of tomato sauce to take me into fall. Fall! How could this be?

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August 24 2008 | grains and one dish and seafood and vegetarian | 5 Comments »

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