By now, you've all made your Roasted Tomato Sauce, right? Good. Get that gooey jar out.
Before the recipe, I want to say that I'm ending this week with a lot of gratitude. A couple days ago, I was extremely anxious about work--the kind of anxiety that causes one to forget about lunch (unheard of around here!), tense up everywhere, and take an inventory of everything I don't know and can't do. I am much better now, thanks to some stern self-talk, coaching from my mentor, and a bouquet of flowers from my husband. I've had lots of learning this week, but here's a big one: Asking for help is a good idea. Vulnerability, though we hate it, turns out to be the only real path to success and connection sometimes.
And a little lasagne never hurt, either. I love the meat-laden 9x13 as much as the next person. But if you want something different and less artery-clogging, this is it. This was a true leftoverist meal--sauce from a couple days ago, mushrooms and squash from the produce stand, a fennel bulb knocking around underneath the wrinkling peppers in the crisper. On my way home from the library, trying to remember what was in my fridge, I stopped at the store for lasagne noodles and créme fraiche. Everything else was here. Something else to be grateful for--this crazy, stuffed fridge of mine, doling out plenty in a time of want.
Roasted Vegetable Lasagne
I'm a big fan of the no-boil lasagne noodles. They're EASY, and so much more tender than the curly, tough kind. You can cut right through these with a fork. The key is to make sure they're totally covered in sauce (doesn't have to be a thick layer, but make sure there are no dry noodles hanging around) and to loosely tent your casserole with foil while baking--a little steam helps the noodles soften up, too. And this exact combo of veggies isn't necessary. I wouldn't sub out the mushrooms, as they bring a needed meatiness and texture. But you could do more mushrooms and less squash, leave out the fennel, sub eggplant for squash. The layers in this version might be a bit more scant than other lasagnes you've made--I think that makes it better.
4 cups roasted tomato sauce (or fresh tomato sauce or marinara)
1 pkg.(9 oz.) no-boil lasagne noodles
1.5 lb crimini or portobello mushrooms, coarsely chopped (i.e. halved if crimini are medium-size)
2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise then sliced into 1/2" half-moons
8 whole garlic cloves
1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
red pepper flakes
1/4 c. olive oil
3/4 c. créme fraiche or sour cream
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 lb. whole milk mozarella, grated
1 c. grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 425.
Toss mushrooms, zucchini, fennel, and garlic cloves with olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Toss with your hands till everything is evenly coated. Spread on a baking sheet and bake until mixture is softening and charred in places, about 35 minutes. You don't want it so everything is non-distinct. Remove from oven and let cool and turn the oven down to 375.
Mix grated mozarella and parmesan in a small bowl and set aside.
In another small bowl, combine creme fraiche with lemon juice and set aside.
To assemble lasagne, pour 1 c. of the sauce into the bottom of a 9x13. Lay 4 of the lasagne sheets horizontally on the bottom, just slightly overlapping one another. Then layer 1/3 of roasted veggies, 1 c. of cheese mixture, drizzle of creme fraiche mixture, and one more cup of sauce. Repeat this twice more, using up all of the veggies and creme fraiche, but saving about 1 c. sauce and some cheese. Over the last (fourth) layer, put one more layer of lasagne noodles, the remaining sauce, and the remaining cheese over that.
Loosely tent with foil and bake until noodles are soft and the whole thing is bubbly, about 45-50 minutes. Take the foil off for the last 10 minutes. Let rest at least 10 minutes before cutting it.
This week has turned out drastically different than I planned. Yancey fought a huge fire on Tuesday night, which meant I had to cancel three meetings on Wednesday. Aimee's daughter fell and broke her elbow. I'm in limbo with work that may or may not be coming down the pipeline. And my dear friend Jordan's in town! I've wrangled being able to see her three times already, which has been an unexpected blessing. I reminded a friend this week that "Life is lived in the in-between times." I'm reminding myself, too. When things don't follow the nice little linear route we've laid out, we can either freak out or be present. I hope I'm getting closer to a 50/50 ratio.
Though they're more common than they used to be, raw beets are another unexpected tidbit. I love them roasted as much as the next person, but Seattle is experiencing a rare 95 degree weekend. No roasting around here. I also happen to have a mandoline, which shaves things paper-thin. I got it at a thrift store years ago, and it seems indispensable in the summer. Jenn and I were at the farmer's market last week and we both bought bunches of chioggia beets. They are stunningly gorgeous. Whenever I find them, it's impossible to resist their sprirograph trance. I advised Jenn to try them raw. She emailed me late at night, asking if there were any ailments that resulted from consuming too many beets. They are that good.
Shaved Beet and Fennel Salad
Serves two as a side dish. Wash two chioggia beets and peel them with a vegetable peeler. Wash one large or two small fennel bulbs. Using a mandolin, a very sharp knife, or a (thin!) slicing blade on a food processor, slice the beets and fennel bulb as thinly as you can. Put them in a medium bowl. Very finely chop a Thai chile or serrano chile and add it to the bowl. Sprinkle a generous amount of coarse salt over salad, squeeze half a lemon, and pour a glug of good olive oil. Gently mix with your hands. Using a vegetable peeler, shave some parmesan over the top.