Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Vegetable Lasagna | America's Test Kitchen

Warning:This post may not be suitable for all readers, it's just food related things that I have been thinking about a lot lately, and I hope that the post doesn't offend anyone, but will hopefully open up a conversation between me and you (the reader) to help me with some issues that I've been having lately.

My problem is that I've been thinking a lot about food, the environmental ramifications of the mass production of food for human consumption, and especially the ramifications associated with the mass production and slaughter of animals for human consumption. Now I've never really been a meat eater, I've most definitely never ordered red meat or pork when out to eat, and I can't remember a time other than when I was very little when I've eaten a hamburger. The issues of red meat, cattle, pork where never my issue, because I didn't eat that. But lately I've been doing a lot of reading about the environmental consequences of other food related issues that I am thoroughly ingratiated in, more specifically, poultry, eggs, and milk products. I've never wanted to think about how many dairy cows it must take to create all the milk that ultimately gets turned not just into milk, but into yogurt, cheese, butter, etc etc. I've never thought about the sheer volume of product that it must take to feed all those cows, and ultimately how much environmental waste all those cows must produce everyday. I've also begun to think about how many chickens, (each taking approximately 34 hours each to produce one egg), it must take to make the dozens of eggs that line the dairy case shelves of all the supermarkets, and not to mention the conditions in which these chicken live. I realize this is a total buzz kill, and I'm sorry, but this blog is about my adventures in food, and this is most definitely one of the adventures that I have faced while writing this blog. I ask that if you have ever faced any food questions, or questioned what you could comfortably eat or not eat, that you please leave me a comment. I would really love to hear any of your thoughts on this subject, and I do realize that this subject is a very personal thing to talk about, so I thank you for reading this post past the warning, and commenting if you chose to do so.

Moving right along, while thinking about this food issue, I decided to look at what vegetarian recipes I had in my cookbook arsenal. I found this recipe in my copy of America's Test Kitchen: The Best Light Recipes. This is not a vegetarian recipe, but you can easily substitute the chicken broth with vegetable broth. It was a bit of a production to put together, but ultimately worth it, and it makes approximately four shit tons worth of food, so I hope you like it, cuz you're gonna be eatin' it for a week if you make it.

Vegetable Lasagna America's Test Kitchen (Light Recipes)
2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 medium onion minced
1 tsp olive oil
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
2 tbs tomato paste
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 c low sodium chicken broth (or use vegetable stock)
2 bay leaves
1/2 c minced fresh basil leaves
ground black pepper

1 pound cremini or white mushrooms wiped clean and sliced thin
2 tsp olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
2 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 pound fat free ricotta cheese
12 oz reduced fat mozzarella cheese shredded (about 3 cups)
1 oz Parmesan cheese grated (about 1/2 C)
1/2 C minced fresh basil leaves
1 large egg lightly beaten
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
vegetable oil spray
12 no-boil lasagna noodles from one 8-ounce package
1 (10-ounce) package frozen broccoli florets, thawed to room temperature, pressed dry with paper towels, and chopped coarse.

1. FOR THE SAUCE: Process one can of tomatoes with their juices in a food processor until almost smooth, about 5 seconds. Combine the onion, oil, and 1/2 tsp salt in a 12-inch non stick skillet. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and pepper flakes and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2. Stir in the broth, pureed tomatoes, remaining can of diced tomatoes with their juices, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors are blended and the sauce is thickened, about 45 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and stir in the basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. FOR THE FILLING: Combine the mushrooms, 1 tsp of the oil, and 1/4 tsp salt in a 12-inch skillet. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the mushrooms have released their liquid, about 8 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to cook until the liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl; set aside.

4. Add the remaining tsp oil to the skillet and return to high heat until just smoking. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring often until well browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a separate bowl; set aside.

5. Mix the ricotta, 2 cups of the mozzarella , Parmesan, basil, egg, pepper, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. (You should have about 3 cups of filling).

6. TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE: Adjust an over rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Spread 1 1/2 cups of the sauce evenly over the bottom of the baking dish.

7. Lay 3 lasagna noodles on top of the sauce, spaced evenly apart. Place 1/3 cup of the filling on top of each noodle and spread it out evenly over the entire noodle using a rubber spatula. Scatter the mushrooms evenly over the filling then spread q1 cup of the sauce evenly over the mushrooms. Repeat this layering twice more, substituting the broccoli and zucchini for the mushrooms (each vegetable has his own layer).

8. Lay the remaining 3 noodles over the top. Spread the remaining 1 1/ cups sauce evenly over the noodles, making sure to cover the edges. Spray a large piece of foil with vegetable oil spray and cover the lasagna tightly.

9. Place the lasagna on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle the lasagna evenly with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Continue to bake, uncovered, until the cheese is bubbling and slightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

PER SERVING: Cal 310; Fat 9g: Sat fat 3.5g; Chol 45mg; Carb 36g; Protein 22g; Fiber 3g; Sodium 150mg

Rating = Damn Good


Anelise said...

Julie, if you haven't already, you must read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. It is all about this very topic and I found it to be incredibly educating.

I also must admit that as a food lover who can not see giving up meat, fish or dairy entirely, I appreciated her giving me information that made me feel better about my choice--She is definitely all on favor of more ethical choices being made, and there are lots of ways to do this--but she makes a great case for people continuing to be omnivores. She addresses the specific issues that you raise and really shows how it is not a simple issue--it's far more complex than I ever imagined.

I am trying really hard to eat as locally as possible--she even inspired me to start freezing local produce now as much as possible to get through the winter. But it is hard--I rely on bananas as runner's fuel and there are no locally grown bananas. I like to think that I balance that choice by buying 99% local fruits and veggies all summer and really trying to support farmer's markers as long as they are open. I'm trying to shift my meat buying to be as ethical as possible and I'm getting there but it's definitely requiring some changes in the way I budget my grocery shopping.

Anyway, check out the book--I just returned it to the library but I know I will buy it once it's in paperback because it was just so informative and had some great recipes that I have alrady made!

JB said...

Anelise - thank you for posting, and I will try and get to the library tomorrow to see if the book is available. I to have started the try and eat more locally, and I must admit, it's more expensive, but I think the food is better. CB and I have been mapping out certain farms, and doing research on them before we visit them. Emily has also been a big help in this department and given me the names and websites of a few farms that she and Derrick shop at. Thanks Again.

stonefox said...

I wrote a comment about this yesterday. DId you not get it?

JB said...

Hals - this is the only comment I got. It seems your other one is somewhere in cyberworld. Can you try to resend it?

xonkman said...

ATK has updated this recipe to make it even less trouble to make. I noted you were concerned about the chicken broth in your current recipe, but this one requires no broth at all! Woot! Even better, you don't have to cook the sauces before assembly!

Here's a reprint from someone else s site. http://www.recipething.com/recipes/show/36078-vegetable-lasagna

I'm going to try this very soon!