Kale Zucchini Lasagna

It’s a fun take on an old favorite, even for those without dietary restrictions. While I usually find lasagna to be such a comfort food that it ends up relegated to snowy times, the slightly al dente zucchini slices give this version a freshness that makes it feel completely appropriate for summer. It’s also a great way to use up zucchini when your garden is overflowing and you can’t stand one more loaf of zucchini bread.  When we made it for the Downtown Farmers Market last Tuesday, we stacked our lasagna with sautéed kale, tomato sauce, and homemade ricotta, but you could use any combination of veggies that you have in abundance; one visitor to the market even suggested replacing the zucchini noodles with bright slices of bell peppers.

zuc strips
With a few minor adjustments, the assembly on this lasagna is pretty standard. After slicing the zucchini – a mandolin slicer would be useful, but isn’t essential – lay it out on paper-towel lined cookie sheets and sprinkle with salt; this helps to draw out excess water and keep your lasagna from getting soggy. To help distribute the kale evenly, we combined it with our ricotta mixture before layering, but you can adapt that depending on the other veggies you choose.

This recipe was adapted from the lovely Tri to Cook.

Kale Zucchini Lasagna

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 very large (or 2 regular) zucchini
  • 1 bunch kale, washed and destemmed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 24 oz jar tomato sauce (may not use all)
  • parmesan cheese
  • fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Cut the ends off of your zucchini, then slice lengthwise into 1/4 in “noodles.” Arrange slices on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Chop the kale into small pieces; add to the pan and saute for 5 min. Add garlic and cook until kale begins to wilt. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Mix together ricotta, egg, garlic powder, basil, and oregano in a large bowl. Stir in the cooled kale.
  5. Blot the zucchini with paper towels to remove moisture drawn out by the salt.
  6. Cover the bottom of a 9 in pan with a thin layer of sauce. Begin layering the lasagna, alternating zucchini slices, ricotta mixture, and tomato sauce.
  7. Bake, covered with foil, for 35 min. Remove foil, sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and cook for an additional 5-10 min, or until cheese is bubbly and begins to brown.
  8. Allow to cool for 5-10 min before cutting. Serve topped with fresh basil.

Tomato & Caramelized Onion Tart

After a green bean canning fiasco earlier this summer I said I was done with canning for the year. But then the cooler weather came, along with a great deal on bulk tomatoes, and it didn’t take long for me to change my mind. So this past weekend I not only canned a few dozen pounds of crushed tomatoes, but also slow roasted and dried some as well.

There are simpler ways to preserve tomatoes, though, such as freezing them whole and not having to go through the hassle of peeling and blanching. The same goes for peppers, too. Check out Radical Roots’ website for great tips on freezing. But until I get myself a chest freezer, that’s not the best option for me, as I can barely shut the freezer door as is.

But you could also just enjoy tomatoes now. It’s getting cold out, but a warm, flaky tart right out of the oven is a nice way to transition tomatoes into fall. If you have some heirloom tomatoes, they’ll make things especially attractive.

crust

You can use your favorite pie crust recipe or find a quality one from the store. If you’re making your own, all you need to remember is the ratio 3-2-1. A basic crust is made from 3 parts flour, 2 parts butter and 1 part water. Add a little salt and/or sugar for flavor.

Cover the dough with Dijon mustard (a nice idea from David Lebovitz), top with a layer of sweet caramelized onions, plenty of cheese, then tomatoes and chopped fresh herbs. A drizzle of honey and balsamic vinegar add a nice touch to top it off.

Caramelized onions make everything better, so make sure to cook them long enough to get some good color – at least 20 minutes, but up to 45 minutes to an hour.

Crumble over the cheese – I like a sharp aged cheddar, but use what you like – Parmesan or goat would work well.

tomato

Then the tomatoes, herbs, honey and balsamic. Just pop it in the oven at 425 for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is crispy, the tomatoes tender and cheese melted. Serve along with a green salad.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 onions
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces pie dough (your favorite recipe, or store bought)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 6 ounces cheddar cheese, sliced or chopped
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, basil or chives
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Slice the onions. Add to a medium pot with the olive oil set over medium-high heat. Cover and let cook about 25-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Onions should be golden and sweet.
  3. Line a half sheet pan (18×13”) with parchment paper. Roll the dough out over top to fit the pan.
  4. Spread the mustard over the dough, then spread over the caramelized onions, the cheese, then tomatoes. Sprinkle over the herbs, balsamic vinegar and honey, if using.
  5. Bake 25-30 minutes until the dough is cooked and tomatoes tender.

Drunken Beet Linguine

I like to cook with alcohol, but I hardly ever buy it specifically for that reason. When it comes to wine, in the bottom shelf of my fridge door you’ll find the remnants of bottles that were never quite finished. They’re tucked away there just for cooking purposes and that’s mostly de-glazing plans for sauces, stews and soups.
I don’t drink expensive wine, so naturally I’m not going to cook with it either. But most importantly, when cooking with wine – or any alcohol – you should only use something you like the flavor of and wouldn’t mind drinking.

beets

By boiling linguine in red wine and water, this pasta dish truly highlights its use by dying the linguine an attractive shade of purple. Cooking pasta in wine – “drunken” – is actually a common Tuscan technique. There are several methods out there regarding how much wine to use when doing so, and some suggest using wine as the only liquid. But the recipe below, since it is more heavily water based, offers a pretty mild wine flavor in the end, despite the vibrant result. You don’t have to be a wine lover to enjoy it and you don’t have to devote a whole bottle either. Unless you want to, of course.

Beets, with their similar shade of purple, felt like a logical addition to the pasta. Since I already happened to have some cooked in the fridge, I chopped those up and added them in, along with a mix of chard and beet greens.

If you don’t have a specific use in mind, I can’t suggest enough to precook vegetables like beets and winter squash when you have the chance. They will store in the fridge for the week and make for a quick addition to a dish like this.

beets1

You could, and probably should, adapt this recipe in a number of ways. It was my first time making it, but next time I might add in a tablespoon or so of tomato paste to the pan before adding in the reserved pasta water to thicken up the sauce. I also see it being just as great with Parmesan cheese instead of goat. And I might save some time by boiling the greens with the pasta instead of wilting them in the pan.

Drunken Beet Linguine

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4 – 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups red wine (about half a bottle)
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bunch beet greens, chard or kale, roughly chopped or torn
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 medium beets, cooked, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil or parsley, chopped

Instructions

  1. Add the wine to a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil, add the pasta and cook to al dente. Drain, reserving one cup of the cooking liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the onion and mince the garlic. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion, garlic and red pepper. Cook about 8 minutes before adding the greens, nutmeg and ground pepper, to taste. Let wilt, then add the reserved cooking liquid, the butter and the beets. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Simmer until the liquid has reduced slightly. Toss in the cooked pasta until all is combined. Taste, adjust seasoning as needed, then top with the walnuts, goat cheese and herbs.

Roasted Pumpkin Stuffed with Many Good Things

Stuffed Pumpkin

Roasted Pumpkin Stuffed with Many Good Things

Serves approximately 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish. Can double the recipe for a larger crowd!

Ingredients:

1 small pumpkin, about 3lbs

Salt and ground black pepper

1 ½ cups bulghur or brown rice, cooked

1 ½ cups chopped apples

¼ cup sharp cheddar

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small onion, diced

1 tsp each dried rosemary and parsley (or 1 T each of fresh, chopped)

pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

4 T shredded parmesan, divided into two parts

⅓ cup of vegetable stock or milk

Directions:

Center the rack in an oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a baking dish large enough to hold the pumpkin(s) with parchment paper. Keep in mind that you may need a bit more room to maneuver a spatula in case you want to serve the pumpkin on a different dish.

With a sharp and sturdy knife, carefully cut the top ¼ or ⅓ off from your pumpkin, like you are making a jack-o-lantern. Set aside the top. Scoop out the seeds and pulp, leaving a cavity that can be filled. Season the inside of the pumpkin with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss together the next 8 ingredients, setting aside 2 T of parmesan. Pour half of the measured liquid on the mixture and toss to coat. Add more liquid as needed so that the stuffing is moist, but not swimming.

Spoon the stuffing into the pumpkin until filled to the top. Any leftover stuffing can be baked separately in a dish. Set the pumpkin in the parchment lined dish and sprinkle the remaining parmesan on top of the stuffing. Put the pumpkin top on and bake until the pumpkin is tender, about 2 hours. About 20 to 30 minutes before it is done, remove the pumpkin top so the stuffing can brown.

You can serve the pumpkin straight from the baking dish or for a more elegant presentation, using a steady hand and a sturdy spatula, transfer the whole pumpkin to a serving dish. Cut into wedges and serve!

Notes: Pumpkin seeds can be cleaned and roasted with a little olive oil. All the vegetable bits, including the pumpkin pulp, can be added to a pot with water, brought to a simmer for several minutes and strained for a delicious vegetable stock.

Cooking Variations:

  • Almost any winter squash can be used in place of the pumpkin, with roasting times varying. Smaller or elongated squashes (like delicata or butternut), can be sliced in half and the cavities filled.
  • Think of this recipe as a guideline and try variations. For example, in place of the bulghur or rice, try pieces of whole grain stale bread. Or dried cranberries or apricots for the apples. Try pairing sage with chevre or mix in feta, mozzarella and swiss. This stuffing also pairs well with cooked sausage or bacon if you would like to add meat and nuts are delicious for additional protein and healthy fats.

Sauteed Brussel Sprouts

Sautéed Brussel Sprouts

Serves 4

2 cups Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh, chopped herbs

Over medium high heat, sauté the Brussels sprouts in the olive oil. Cook until just starting to brown, 3-4 minutes. Add ½ cup water to the pan with the lemon zest. Cook until the water has evaporated. Toss in the cheese and herbs.

Grilled Romaine

With the Fourth of July holiday weekend(s) kicking off in just a day, you’re probably dreaming of all the grilled foods you’ll soon be enjoying. And believe it or not, salad can be one of them. Briefly grilling halved Romaine heads adds a nice charred flavor that just tastes like summer. Red onion, soft blue cheese and crispy bacon bring a variety of flavors and textures – a quality you should strive for when assembling any salad. Then, a balsamic reduction drizzled over it all adds an amazing level of tangy sweetness. With a little imagination, you could even stretch this to fulfill your red, white and blue quota. Have a delicious Fourth!

GRILLED ROMAINE WITH BALSAMIC AND BLUE CHEESE

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 lb diced bacon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 heads romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
  1. Preheat the grill to high.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the onion and bacon and cook until the bacon is crispy. If not using bacon, go ahead and cook the onions until they start to become translucent.
  3. Remove the onion and bacon from the pan and add the balsamic vinegar and 1 tbsp olive oil. Reduce for 2 –3 minutes then remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Brush the Romaine with the remaining olive oil. Place on the grill cut side down until grill marks are visible, about 2 minutes.
  5. For each serving, place half a Romaine head grilled-side up on a plate and drizzle over the balsamic. Sprinkle with blue cheese, bacon and onions, and garnish with cracked black pepper.

Serves 6

Adapted from Food Network Magazine, June 2011

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