Om Nom Nom – The Universal Language Edition

My roommate invited me to cook/eat dinner with a few of her friends the other day and I think I went a bit overboard. In a rush of pathetic eagerness, I went out to the grocery store and planned out a dish to end all dishes — Vegetarian Lasagna. What can I say, I like having people to share food with (especially when it is something that I could not, in good conscience, cook for 1 person).

The lasagna was a big hit and there was barely any left at the end. Before starting, I poked around on the internet looking for a good recipe and I found them all to be excessively specific, complicated, or unappetizing. The truth about lasagna is that it is just a layered dish (similar to parfait and ogres) that can really contain just about anything! Here’s how I did it.

VEGETARIAN OGRE:

Ingredients:

– Fresh lasagna pasta (you could make this yourself using a pasta maker or just buy sheets at the store as I did)

– 3-4 large tomatoes & 1 can of diced tomatoes

– 2 medium globe eggplants

– 1 bell pepper

– lots of mushrooms (I recommend portabellos because I love the flavour with any Italian inspired dish, but I used criminis & white mushrooms)

– 2 large balls of fresh mozzarella

– cottage cheese or ricotta (maybe 1.5-2 cups, I recommend using ricotta but all they had at the local store was cottage cheese and it tasted great anyways)

– extra virgin olive oil

– fresh herbs: basil & oregano are a must!

– salt & pepper

Prep: “sweat” the eggplant by cutting it into 1/2 inch thick slices and salting all open sides. Leave these salted slices for 30 minutes and pat off any excess water. (I don’t know why and I don’t know how but this is 100% necessary to getting tasty, non-bitter eggplant). You can, of course, just swap the eggplant in this recipe for zucchini and avoid this step all-together.

Then: oven roast the post-sweat eggplant until tender (10-12 mins at 350C should do the trick but monitor it carefully so that you don’t over-cook).

(note: it is your choice on whether to remove the skin or not, I don’t because the color is divine and seeing is 1/2 of enjoying when it comes to food)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 175C (350F)

2. In a medium sauce pan, heat the diced canned & fresh tomatoes with pepper, salt, and fresh herbs.

3. In a large wok, heat EVOO. Toss in sliced bell pepper, sliced mushrooms, eggplant, salt, and pepper. Cook for 1-3 minutes MAX and remove from heat.

4. Slice mozzarella thinly.

5. Layer to your heat’s delight. There is no method to the madness but this is what I did: pasta, tomato, cottage cheese, mozarella, pasta, tomato, vegies, mozarella, pasta, tomato, cottage cheese.I then topped the whole thing with a layer of grated mozzarella (bought it pre-grated).

6. Cover the tray with a layer of tin-foil. If you don’t have tin foil, I can attest to the fact that parchment paper (NOT to be confused with wax paper) works just fine. Put it in the oven for 25-30 minutes and then remove the covering, crank the heat to 190-200C (400F) and cook until the top is brown, bubbling, and your whole kitchen fills with amazing lasagna smell.

SERVE AND ENJOY!

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