Monday, January 25, 2010

Comfort me with Casseroles





As you may have already figured out, I love to bake. When I think of baking, I typically think of breads and sweets coming out of the oven. On the contrary, when I think of cooking, I think of savory flavors, prepared stove-top. Perhaps that's why I love a good casserole so much-- because it's cooking, but it requires the oven to make it the comfort food it is. Perhaps what I find so enjoyable about making and eating a casserole is that it merges "cooking" and "baking". I'm not sure what draws me to the casserole. What I do know, is it represents the perfect comfort food for me.
Tonight I prepared two pans of vegetable lasagna, prepared with home-roasted red peppers, eggplant, and zucchini. The noodle layers were whole wheat, and I think this factor made the lasagna a bit sturdier, in a good way. The sauce is super simple to make at home (only three ingredients), and as simple as it is, it is delicately delicious.
Try for yourself--the recipe is pretty easy. It takes about 1-2 hours from start to finish. Also, this recipe is for two 9x9 or 1 9x13 dishes. I made two 9x9 casseroles so I have one for this week, and one to freeze for later, in a few weeks, when I'm too tired to cook but still want something yummy.

Vegetable Lasagna
1 1/2 lb (about 3 small) eggplant, diced
1 lb zucchini, diced
3 red peppers, roasted and chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
3 T olive oil

1 box (about 16 sheets) whole wheat lasagna noodles

olive oil
2 28-oz cans plum tomatoes, crushed with an immersion blender
6 cloves garlic, minced
basil, to taste

1 c ricotta cheese
1 lb mozzarella cheese, grated

Toss veggies with olive oil, crushed garlic, salt, and pepper. Roast at 375 for 30 minutes. Set aside.
Cook lasagna noodles according to package instructions for al dente (about 7 min). Remove from pot and set, in a single layer, on two baking sheets (this way, they won't stick together). Let cool.
In medium saucepan, head olive oil. Add garlic and saute. Add tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, over relatively high heat, for about 15 min. Add basil and stir.
In the bottom of each pan, spoon a thin layer of tomato sauce. Layer three noodles in each pan (you may have to use a knife to trim them to fit). Dot each noodle with ricotta cheese, then vegetables, then mozzarella, then sauce. Layer three more noodles on top, and repeat this layering pattern. At your fourth noodle layer, pour on remaining sauce and sprinkle remaining mozzarella. Bake at 375 for 30 min, covered in well-oiled (spray works best) foil. Uncover after 30 min, and bake another 15 min.

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