I couldn’t bear to do it, smash the cucumbers and green beans as called for in this recipe that is. This very easy and flavorful dish from the June issue of Bon Appetit uses a technique popular in many Asian countries. Smashing the cukes and beans with a cleaver or a rolling pin tenderizes them and makes lots of nooks and crannies for the dressing to permeate. But not with the first green beans and cucumbers from the garden this season. Maybe in a week or two but for now I will use a more traditional approach. This recipe is quite similar to pau huang gua, a Sichuan cucumber salad, typically served with rich spicy food.
Start the recipe by peeling the cucumber, I like to leave a small strip of skin for color contrast. Chop into bite sized pieces and toss with a little salt to draw out excess moisture. The beans were an interesting addition, the original recipe in Bon Appetit didn’t call for cooking them, I presume they thought dressing them would do the job of tenderizing them. I chose to blanch the beans for just a few minutes to make them crisp-tender and ready to absorb the dressing.
The dressing couldn’t be easier, the ginger, garlic and serrano pepper are all grated, a Microplane makes quick work of that. Combine these ingredients with white miso, rice vinegar, olive and sesame oil. Miso is a fermented soybean paste traditionally used in Japanese cooking. White miso will provide a more delicate flavor, switch in a red miso for a stronger and saltier flavor. You will find miso in the refrigerated section of Asian grocery and health food stores.
Place the well-drained cucumbers and green beans in a bowl and toss with some of the dressing, just enough to coat the vegetables. You will have more than enough, which is a good thing. Toss sautéed eggplant and zucchini with halved cherry tomatoes with the dressing for another version of this dish.
Green Beans and Cucumbers with Miso Dressing
3 Persian cucumbers or 1 English hothouse cucumber
1 lb green beans, stems trimmed
1 1½ piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 serrano or Fresno chile, finely grated
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1/3 c unseasoned rice vinegar
¼ c white miso
¼ c olive oil
½ t toasted sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds and scallions or thinly sliced shallots for serving
Peel cucumbers and chop into bite-sized pieces. Toss with a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Let sit to allow salt to penetrate.
Bring a medium sized pan of water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Add beans and cook until just tender, 3-4 minutes. Drain beans in a colander.
Whisk ginger, chile, garlic, vinegar, miso, olive and sesame oils in a medium bowl until smooth.
Transfer the beans to a bowl for serving and toss with the dressing. Drain cucumbers well and add to the bowl, toss again. Top beans and cucumbers with toasted sesame seeds and scallions.
This is a space to record Joe’s creative tomato salads throughout the summer. The pictures won’t always be the best since they are taken in the kitchen. Just a way to commemorate these wonderful salads.
July 10 salad – Sun Gold, Gold Nugget and Super Sweet tomatoes, raspberries, purple basil, mozzarella with peach vinegar and blood orange olive oil.
July 12 – Sun Gold tomatoes, ricotta and purple basil with peach vinegar and blood orange olive oil.
July 15 – Super Sweet 100’s, Sun Gold, Gold Nugget, Snow Cherry, Chocolate Cherry, Fourth of July, mozzarella, purple basil, raspberries, blueberries, Cascadian raspberry vinegar, Persian lime oil.
July 16 – Brandywine, Sun Gold, Super Sweet, Gold Nugget, Snow Cherry, Chocolate Cherry, purple basil, mozzarella, ricotta, Parmesan, purple basil, Cascadian raspberry vinegar, Persian lime oil.
July 17 – Fourth of July, Gold Nugget, Snow Cherry, Super Sweet, burrata, Persian cucumbers, purple basil, Cascadian raspberry vinegar, Persian lime oil.
Tuesday evening is Joe’s night to work late and although we don’t sit down for dinner when he comes home, I like to have a little snack ready. We sip a little wine, catch up on the days activities, maybe watch some television in the kitchen. This quesadilla was inspired by what I had in the fridge and the garden that summer evening. I have used spinach in a quesadilla in the past, why not some Swiss chard this time? A little sweet onion, sautéed until caramelized would be a good contrast to the earthy flavor of chard. All I needed now was a wrapper and some queso. I didn’t have tortillas on hand but I did have some sandwich wraps that could fill in. I always have several varieties of cheese in the fridge, the sharp flavor of cheddar worked well here.
We are still in the process of thinning the chard plants out. They are supposed to be 9-12 inches apart so it didn’t take long to pick what I needed. The chard is still relatively young so it wouldn’t need the long cooking that late summer chard does. I discuss basic chard preparation in this post. I also used some of the finely chopped stems for texture and their brilliant color.
I think a sweet onion works best with this flavor combination. I used a Vidalia, but whatever variety your market is featuring this week is fine. Sweet onions are low in pyruvic acid, the component that makes your eyes tear. I recently read that one of the best ways to store Vidalias is wrapped separately in a paper towel and stored in the refrigerator. I will be trying this method out.
If you are making a quesadilla you can’t forget the queso. If you prefer not to use cheddar, a Jack cheese would be a good choice too. I served the quesadillas plain, sour cream or a tomatillo salsa would be a good accompaniment. Next time I might add a few slivers of pickled jalapeno to the mix. Cooked black beans would be a good addition or some sautéed mushrooms. This recipe is just based on what I had on hand that evening. Golden crisp on the outside with healthy greens, a little sweetness from the onion with the creaminess of cheddar, this is a winning combination for a quick and delicious light meal or snack.
Swiss Chard Quesadillas
Makes two 8″ quesadillas
16-18 medium to small chard leaves
1 medium sweet onion
Extra virgin olive oil
Tortillas or wraps
½-1 cup shredded cheese, I used cheddar, mozzarella or jack works too
Wash chard leaves in several changes of water. Separate the chard leaves from the stems. Chop the leaves roughly. You should have 5 cups loosely packed leaves and ½-1 cup finely diced chard stems.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a 10 inch non stick skillet over medium high heat. Add stems and a sprinkle of salt and cook until softened, 3-4 minutes.
Add the chard leaves and the water that still clings to the leaves and cook until wilted. Add a tablespoon more of water if necessary to wilt the leaves. Move stems and leaves to a plate and keep warm.
Slice a medium onion very thinly, a mandolin or food processor is good for this. You should have 3 cups loosely packed thin slices.
Wipe out the pan, add another tablespoon of oil and heat over medium high heat, cook onion until softened and brown. Reduce heat to medium if necessary. This should make about 1 cup of caramelized onion.
Let the skillet cool off a bit and wipe out with a paper towel. Over medium high heat melt a teaspoon or so of butter and a little olive oil. When the butter is melted, add the first wrap or tortilla, spread out one half of the chard over this as evenly as possible.
Evenly spread the cooked onions over the chard and then sprinkle the cheese over. Place the second wrap over the cheese and press down with your hand or a spatula to melt the cheese and make it adhere.
Cook for 2-3 minutes on the first side, it’s okay to peek to make sure it isn’t browning too much. With the help of the spatula, flip and cook on the other side, about 2 minutes, adding a little more butter and oil if necessary.
Move the quesadilla to a platter and keep warm, repeat cooking process with the second quesadilla. Cut quesadillas into wedges 4 to 8 pieces as desired. Serve warm.
The hot days of July are upon us so it’s time to harvest the root crops planted in early spring. that are still in the ground. We said good-bye to the radishes several weeks ago after the first heat wave of the summer. Warm temperatures cause radishes to bolt and become woody in texture. They will be planted at the end of summer for a fall harvest. The first planting of Japanese turnips have been harvested and now it’s time to harvest the rest of the beets.The”life cycle” of our beet consumption began with very small thinnings we add raw to our salads. The second thinning produces slightly larger leaves the size of spinach that are sautéed in olive oil with a little garlic and red pepper flakes for a wonderful side dish. Baby beets are sliced as thinly as possible or julienned and added to green salads.The Chiogga beets look pretty in salads, a slice looks like a candy cane bulls-eye and the Golden beets bring a pop of bright yellow.
I love beets, especially pickled ones. I have canned pickled beets in past summers for long storage, this year I thought I would make refrigerator pickles. Quick pickled baby beets couldn’t be simpler to make. These refrigerator pickles require very little prep and they are ready to eat after a few hours in the brine. Divide your beets by colors or they will bleed into each other. The brine is a touch sweet with a little spice. These pickles will last for several months in the refrigerator.
Quick Pickled Baby Beets
Makes 2 pint jars
1 lb baby beets, separated into colors
1 c white wine vinegar
2 t kosher salt
½ c sugar
2 T honey
Fresh ginger slices
1 t coriander seed
1 t black peppercorns
Wash beets well, trim off the leaves and leave about an inch of stem on the beets. Separate beets into colors if you don’t want them to bleed into each other.
Bring a medium pan of water to a boil. You can put all the beets of one variety in the pan, start checking the smaller beets at the two minute mark. Beets should be easily pricked with the tip of a knife, larger beets will take a few more minutes.
Drain beets well in a colander. Place in a heat proof container like a canning jar, separating out the varieties.
Combine vinegar, salt, sugar, honey and spices and bring to a boil. Pour the hot canning liquid over the beets and set aside to cool. Once cool, store in the refrigerator.
Spring is an ideal time for planting root vegetables like turnips, beets and carrots. They especially love the cooler temperatures that we have been blessed with this spring. We try to be frugal with seeds, so the ones that aren’t planted are saved from season to season. I catalog them alphabetically like a card file in clamshell plastic containers that in a previous life held spinach or lettuce from a big box store. I use 3×5 cards to separate them into specific categories, beets, cucumbers, fennel etc. This year I even did a little clean up, getting rid of all packets before 2013.
Last year a friend gave Joe quite a few packets of carrot seeds he purchased on sale. Some were planted but most went into storage in the fridge over the winter. He wasn’t certain how many of them would germinate this season so he planted them very densely. As luck would have it, every carrot seed germinated. Now it was time for some serious thinning.
Thinning is a necessary step in vegetable gardening if you want to have mature healthy plants. This can be done in stages. Armed with my Cutco scissors, I did the first thinning when the plants were about four inches tall. Pulling out the unwanted seedlings can often pull out the ones you wanted to leave growing. I snipped the plants at the soil line. With a colander full of the lacy feathery tops I thought about how I could use them. I remembered that parsley and carrots are related so I tasted a few of them. They have an herbaceous flavor, that to me was reminiscent of parsley.
I have made pesto with basil and arugula, why not carrot tops? I used a basic formula that I have used to make other types of pesto, herbs or a green, in this case carrot tops, garlic, nuts, a hard cheese and olive oil. Baby carrot greens are more delicate in flavor and are a special reward for the gardener. Organically grown full-sized carrot greens can be used too, eliminating any thick stems. I used my pesto as a topping for roasted salmon. It would work with chicken breasts and of course, roasted carrots.
Carrot Top Pesto
Makes about a cup
3 cups lightly packed carrot tops
1 clove of garlic
3 T pine nuts
¼ c extra virgin olive oil, more if needed to make a paste
¼ c grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Place the carrot tops, garlic and pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor.
Pulse until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, slowly add olive oil until a paste forms. Add cheese and pulse several times to combine.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Use immediately or cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Suvir Saran’s first restaurant, Devi was awarded a coveted Michelin star for his critically acclaimed Indian cuisine. He closed Devi in 2012, and more recently opened Tapestry, in May of 2016. The cuisine at Tapestry had a more global focus interpreted with an Indian viewpoint. Unfortunately Tapestry closed in March of this year after being open for only ten months in spite of positive reviews. The problem according to Mr Saran was “high rents and low covers”. I never had the opportunity to visit the restaurant, but Food and Wine magazine provided a recipe from Tapestry for Avocado and Cabbage Slaw in their January issue.
What gives this slaw its unique flavor is the addition of chaat masala. It is a sand colored spice blend, predominately flavored with dried mango powder, also known as amchoor, black salt and asefetida. It is a traditional accompaniment to a fruit snack, often sold by street vendors, phal-ki-chaat, four or five fruit selections sprinkled with fresh lime juice and chaat masala.
The avocado and cabbage slaw is a reimagining of the traditional snack. This time, crunchy colorful cabbage, creamy avocados and juicy tomatoes take the place of the fruit. Chaat masala is part of the dressing that includes lime juice, honey, fresh ginger, fish sauce, spicy sriracha, cilantro and mint. You could make your own chaat masala, some of the ingredients, cumin and coriander seed are accessible in any supermarket, others, dried mango, asafoetida powder, would require an online trip to an Indian grocer. I purchased my chaat masala on Amazon. It has a very pleasant light spicy fragrance and includes thirteen spices.
We enjoyed the salad, the chaat masala made it unique but never having the original dish I think we were at a disadvantage. I will have to try the fruit salad to make a comparison.
Avocado and Cabbage Slaw
3 T fresh lime juice
2 T honey
1 T peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
2 t sriracha
2 t Asian fish sauce
1 t white wine vinegar
¾ t chaat masala
¼ t ground cumin
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb green and/or red cabbage, cored and finely shredded
6 scallion, light green and white parts only, thinly sliced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
½ c cilantro leaves, finely chopped
¼ c mint leaves finely chopped
2 Hass avocadoes-peeled, pitted, and diced, plus more for serving
1 c roasted, salted cashews, chopped, plus more for garnish
Microgreens for garnish
In a large bowl whisk the first eight ingredients until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the cabbage, scallions, tomatoes, chopped cilantro and mint, diced avocado and 1 cup of chopped cashews. Toss to coat. Garnish with avocado slices, chopped cashews and microgreens.
Is there really a need for another recipe for butternut squash soup when there are already three other butternut squash soup recipes on the blog? Well, when you have a metal locker in the basement still half full of last year’s harvest, (in excellent condition I will add) there’s always room for one more soup. This time the squash isn’t blended into a silky purée resulting in a soup that’s perfect as a starter for an elegant meal, here the squash pulls double duty. The fat bulbous end becomes part of a squash “stock” and the neck is cut into chunks that are simmered in the stock to make this hearty main dish soup.
Start with a medium-sized squash, 2 to 2 1/2 lb, use a sharp knife to cut off a half inch piece at both ends. You can either cut the squash in half (approximately) where the neck meets the bulb or leave it whole for peeling. The next part I find easiest to do using a vegetable peeler, the inexpensive Kuhn Rikon ones are my favorite. A well sharpened chef’s knife works well too. Place the squash on its side and run the peeler down the length. This part goes quicker with the neck, the curved bottom takes a little more time, but with practice the whole process shouldn’t take more than ten minutes. Be sure to remove the white flesh and green fibers that are right below the skin’s surface. The squash should be completely orange after peeling. Scoop out the seeds and the fibrous pulp from the bulb end. I save the seeds for roasting as a garnish for soups and salads.
The bulb halves are cut into four chunks and combined in a saucepan with stock, water, butter and soy sauce or tamari. The soy brings a savory umami note to the natural sweetness of the squash and the butter adds richness. Cook until the squash is very soft and mash in the pan until broken down.
While the stock is cooking, cut the neck end into 1/3 inch cubes. Sauté leeks and tomato paste in a Dutch oven. The mild sweet onion flavor of the leeks complements the squash and the tomato paste adds a little umami to the mix. Add the garlic and squash pieces and cook, stirring occasionally. Pour in the squash stock, bring to a simmer, partially cover and cook for ten minutes. Canned cannellini beans are the last addition and add a hearty creaminess and some substance to the soup. Simmer until the squash is tender. You can serve it now or if you have the time, make the soup, cool, refrigerate and reheat and serve the next day. As with many soups and stews, the flavors have time to meld together and it even tastes better.
Don’t skip making the pesto, it is a wonderful addition to the soup. Sage and parsley replace the typical basil in this recipe. I’m glad that sage is one of the first herbs to perk up in the garden, in spite of the cold temperatures of late. I truly despise paying several dollars for a handful of less than perfect leaves when I can pick them fresh.
Butternut Squash Soup with Sage Pesto
Ingredients for soup
1- 2½ lb butternut squash
4 c broth, chicken or vegetable
3 c water
4 T unsalted butter
1 T soy sauce or tamari
1 T vegetable oil
1 lb leeks, white and light green parts only, washed thoroughly, sliced thin
1 T tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced finely
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3-15 oz can cannellini beans
White wine vinegar to taste
Directions for soup
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin and the fibrous threads just below the skin, the squash should look completely orange, no white spots remaining.
Cut the squash in half where the neck and bulb meet. Cut the bulb section in half and remove the seeds and any strings. Save seeds for toasting if desired.
Cut each half into four sections. Place the squash sections, broth, water, butter and soy or tamari in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover and cook for about 25 minutes or until squash is very soft.
Using a potato masher, mash the squash, still in the broth until it is broken down. Cover pan to keep warm and set aside.
While the broth is cooking, cut the neck of the squash into 1/3 inch pieces. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chopped leeks and tomato paste and cook until the leeks are softened and the tomato paste darkens, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add squash pieces, some salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.
Add squash broth and bring to a simmer. Partially cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add beans and their liquid, partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender 15 to 20 minutes.
Ladle soup into individual bowl, add a splash of white wine vinegar and dollop of pesto and an additional sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
Sage Parsley Pesto
Ingredients for the Sage Parsley Pesto
½ c toasted walnuts
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 c fresh parsley leaves
½ c fresh sage leaves
¾ c extra virgin olive oil
½ c grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions for the Sage Parsley Pesto
Pulse walnuts and garlic in food processor until coarsely chopped, about 5-6 pulses.
Add parsley and sage to the bowl, with the processor running, slowly add oil and process until smooth, about 1 minute.
Transfer to a bowl, stir in Parmesan and add salt and pepper to taste.
The last two days have brought us very pleasant but unseasonable temperatures in the seventies. While opening a window to let some fresh air in I spotted two pansy “volunteers” that had sprung up close to the house but not in an area where we normally plant anything. On a walk down to the garden I spotted the first dandelion. An early spring? Looks like even though the temperatures are going back into the forties by this evening. A few days of warmth is not enough to show evidence of new life in the garden. There are some beet greens and radicchio under a cold frame and I will take it on Joe’s word that there is miners lettuce and some kale in the greenhouse. I did see a bit of green in the circle garden, the beginning of the rebirth of the Chinese chives. In a month or two we will be pulling them out by the bucketfuls but for now it’s nice to see that first poke of green, letting us know that spring isn’t that far off. Until then my produce is from the local supermarkets and club stores.
This Brussels sprouts salad is simple and delicious with a satisfying crunchy texture. The sprouts can be sliced in no time in the food processor, I used a 2 mm (thin) slicing disk or with a mandoline; trust me use the guard. If you want to work on your knife skills, slice them by hand. The dressing couldn’t be simpler, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and capers. If you always wondered what those little green things are, capers are the unopened flower buds of Capparis spinosa, a prickly perennial shrub like bush, native to the Mediterranean and some parts of Asia. The buds are harvested, dried in the sun and then pickled in vinegar, brine or salt. The size of a caper can be as small as a green peppercorn, and as large as a small olive. The largest ones are usually served as part of an antipasto platter, the small ones are referred to as non pareils (French for without equal), the size best suited for this recipe. Many recipes call for rinsing them first but I would say taste them and decide for yourself. Rough chop the capers and add them to the dressing. Shredded Asiago cheese compliments the salad with it’s creamy nutty flavor. Finish the salad off with toasted slivered almonds and garnish with thinly sliced scallions. Leftovers are even better the next day.
Brussels Sprouts Salad with Lemon Caper Dressing and Asiago Cheese
Shred the Brussels sprouts using the slicing disc of a food processor. You can also slice them by hand with a well sharpened knife or a mandoline slicer. Place shredded sprouts in a bowl large enough to toss them in.
In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, capers, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour about two thirds of the dressing over the sprouts and toss. Add the toasted almonds and Asiago cheese and toss again. Taste and add more salt if needed and additional dressing if needed. Garnish with chopped scallions and serve immediately.
Toasted cauliflower rice takes plain cauliflower rice to the next dimension. If you are already making cauliflower rice, there’s not much more to do to give this “stand-in” a more rice like texture along with the nutty quality we love in regular rice. Make cauliflower rice either by pulsing it or using the shredding disc of the food processor. You can also go low-tech and grate the cauliflower on a box grater with the medium sized holes. I think it’s even more important to press out the additional liquid when you are making toasted cauliflower rice, so your rice will toast, not steam.
Put the cauliflower granules in a large enough bowl to mix it around, toss with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, a sprinkle of kosher salt and a grind of pepper (white pepper if you are fussy). Spread the riced cauliflower evenly over a lined baking sheet, foil works best here for easy clean up. A full head of cauliflower will probably take two baking sheets. Bake at 375°F convection heat for about twenty to twenty five minutes. I flipped the baking sheet from front to back and top to bottom at the halfway point and gave it several good stirs during the cooking time. The end product is toasty with an amazing rice like texture. Bake more than what you think you might need, it will shrink (after all cauliflower is 92% water) during the cooking process and yes, it is that good. Feel free to add any spices or add-ins to this dish. I served it with pesto chicken breasts to absorb the sauce but the possibilities are endless.
Oven Toasted Cauliflower Rice
1 head cauliflower
1 T olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Preheat convection oven to 375°F. Cover two large, rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Break the cauliflower into florets, removing the stems. Place the florets in the food processor bowl and pulse until the cauliflower looks like rice. This takes about 10 to 15 one-second pulses. You may need to do this in two batches to avoid overcrowding.
Place the cauliflower rice in a large bowl, add olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss until the rice is coated with the oil. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast until tender, rotating the baking sheets halfway during the baking time. The rice is done when it starts to look golden in spots.
In this unique lasagna, perfect for the fall and winter months, a ricotta enriched butternut squash purée takes the place of a marinara sauce. A cheesy spinach filling complements the creamy squash for this satisfying and healthy vegetarian main dish.
You will need a medium size butternut squash, weighing two and a half to three pounds. Cut the stem end off the butternut squash then cut the squash in half where the bulb end meets the neck. Cut both pieces in half lengthwise. scoop the seeds and fiber out of the bulb end, save seeds for later use. I rinse the seeds off and dry them between layers of paper towels. Toss with a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake in a 375°F oven until they pop and become toasty brown. They are great for topping salads and for snacking.
Cover a large baking tray with parchment paper. Brush the squash pieces lightly with olive oil and place the four sections of squash cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake in a 375° oven for about 50 to 55 minutes, until the squash pierces easily with the tip of the knife. Let cool for 10 minutes, the skin should come off easily. Place the squash pieces in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. If necessary, add a little additional liquid, purée until smooth, you will have about 2½ cups. Add 1 cup of ricotta cheese and purée again, season to taste with salt and pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg.
Place the spinach in a large bowl. Lightly rinse the spinach and toss in the bowl. The moisture will help wilt the spinach quickly. I used a 1 pound container of organic triple washed spinach. Finely chop two garlic cloves. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat and add the olive oil and swirl it around. Saute the garlic for a few minutes then add the spinach by the handfuls, adding more each time as it wilts down. After squeezing out any additional liquid, the end result will be one generous cup of spinach.
You can make this version with regular lasagna noodles or if you are following a gluten-free diet, I would recommend brown rice pasta noodles from Tinkyada, easily found in large grocery stores. They are actually good and have a nutty brown rice flavor. Follow package instructions with regular noodles, I would suggest cooking brown rice noodles for about 10 minutes, no longer. Drain them in a colander, rinse with cold water and dry on parchment lined baking sheets. I haven’t tried this recipe with no bake noodles, my suggestion would be just be certain that the ingredients in your lasagna are moist enough to cook the noodles properly. There are 14 noodles in the package of brown rice noodles, I cook them all in case of breakage. You can always make a lasagna roll up with any leftover purée and cheese.
In a medium bowl mix the well-drained garlic spinach with one and a quarter cups of ricotta cheese and a cup of mozzarella cheese or a cheese blend that you prefer. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
To assemble the lasagna, spray the bottom of your baking tray with nonstick spray.I used a disposable pan with dimensions of 11 x 8 x 2 . Spread one-third of the butternut squash mixture over the bottom of the tray. Top with three lasagna noodles. Dollop one half of the spinach cheese mixture over the noodles. Continue to layer and finish with the remaining butternut squash, sprinkle with a generous amount of cheese, and a sprinkle of dried basil and oregano. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for a half hour. After the half hour take off the foil reattach any cheese that has attached to the foil and bake uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes.
Since lasagna is a time-consuming dish you could do this in stages, make the butternut squash puree one day, the spinach filling the next and assemble and cook on the third day. You could substitute frozen spinach rather than cooking down your own. Possible additions to the dish include sautéed onions, sage leaves, even toasted walnuts. Serve with a crisp salad of arugula, fennel and apples. As it is with all lasagna, it’s even better the next day.
Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna
Ingredients for butternut squash filling
1-3 lb butternut squash
1¼ c regular or low-fat ricotta cheese
½ t salt
¼ t freshly ground nutmeg
Ingredients for spinach layer
1 lb fresh spinach
1 t olive oil
2 t minced garlic
1 c regular or low-fat ricotta cheese
1¼ c mozzarella cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
To assemble the lasagna
1 lb lasagna noodles (regular or gluten-free)
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Shredded Parmesan cheese
Dried basil and oregano
Directions for making the squash puree
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray lightly with nonstick spray.
With a sharp knife cut the squash in half where the neck meets the bulbous end. Cut both of these pieces in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and reserve for toasting if desired.
Brush the cut sides lightly with olive oil and place the four squash pieces on a baking sheet cut side down. Bake in preheated oven 25 minutes, rotate and bake another 25 minutes. The squash should be easily pierced with the tip of a knife.
Cool the squash for about ten minutes, until it can be handled. Scoop out the flesh and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Puree squash until smooth. Add the ricotta cheese, nutmeg and salt and puree again. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add a little more ricotta if necessary, the puree should have the consistency of a thick marinara sauce. Set puree aside for the assembly. Leave oven on at 375° if you will be finishing the lasagna.
Directions for the spinach filling
Place the fresh spinach in a large colander that is set inside a large bowl. Sprinkle the spinach lightly with water and toss spinach lightly.
Heat olive oil in a 12″ saute pan. Add garlic and saute until light golden brown. Add the spinach by the handful, adding more as it wilts down. After draining the spinach of excess liquid, you will have a generous cup.
In a medium bowl combine spinach and garlic along with ricotta, mozzarella, salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Directions for assembling the lasagna
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add lasagna noodles and cook according to package directions. Stir noodles occasionally to prevent them from sticking. Drain well and rinse with cool water.
To assemble the lasagna, spray the bottom of the baking dish with nonstick spray. I used a disposable tray with dimensions of 8″ x 11″ x 2″.
Spread one-third of the butternut squash puree over the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle lightly with mozzarella cheese. Top with three lasagna noodles. Dollop one half of the spinach cheese mixture over the noodles, sprinkle lightly with mozzarella cheese. Top this layer with the second layer of noodles.
Spread your second layer of butternut squash over the noodles. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, then top with the third layer of lasagna noodles.
Top this with the remaining spinach cheese mixture and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
Top with the remaining butternut squash puree and spread evenly over the noodles. Sprinkle this layer generously with shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle lightly with dried basil and oregano.
Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the foil, reattach any cheese clinging to the foil and continue to bake uncover for another 10 to 15 minutes. You can turn the broiler on for a few minutes if you want to brown the cheese.