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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Summer's Bounty Veggie Lasagna

I have a love-hate relationship with recipes.

First of all, let me say that I am a cookbook junkie. If I see an intriguing cookbook, I feel compelled to buy it. And then I usually cook out of it exclusively for a good long while (or until I get my next cookbook and start the cycle all over again). I am a great recipe cook, probably because I am a good student and I good teacher. I understand the importance of reading directions, and can follow them well. Generally, after I've tried a dish one time following the directions precisely, I start to adapt the recipe and make it more my own. Lately, I've been a bit more brave and have done this experimentation on my "rough draft" recipe experiences as well, probably because I have started to feel like I actually know how to cook, and how to make a dish tastier, healthier, and more...me.

But I must admit, especially since I have been sharing recipes, first on Facebook and now on my blog,  that I feel like a fraud posting recipes that aren't mine, even those that I have modified slightly. It's like I'm committing cooking plagiarism, calling someone else's cooking genius my culinary success.

But tonight, I bring you my very own creation. It's not unique, really, but I just couldn't find what I really wanted out there. So, I cobbled together some ideas I found from several recipes (none of which I felt totally fit what I was looking for) and came up with my very own Summer's Bounty Veggie Lasagna.

There have been other nameless creations (nameless because they found themselves in the garbage can or in the disposal before a name could be affixed; otherwise, names like "stewed crud," "bottom-feeder sludge, or "tongue-scraping acid wash" would have been most fitting) that both my husband and I fail to recollect. But it's always a crap-shoot when you do something on your own.

Luckily for my family, this experimentation was a success. We put a sizable dent in our zucchini and squash harvest from the garden, and have enough left-overs to feed us most of the week. And while the recipe isn't completely "healthy" (who can make a lasagna without some ricotta and mozzarella?), it is much healthier than the traditional alternative and is packed with nutritious veggies. Time wise, the dish was comparable to making a traditional lasagna. Oh, and did I mention that the entire meal was organic?

The layers of zucchini did a great job substituting for the pasta noodles, and I would bet that a combination of veggies (like mushrooms or eggplant) could be used in the place of or in addition to the yellow squash and the sweet Italian red peppers, depending on your preferences. And while my dish was meat-free, the veggies and cheese were filling and satisfying in their own right. Both my daughter and I did everything but lick the plate clean. I will definitely be making this one again.

Summer's Bounty Veggie Lasagna

3-4 cups spaghetti sauce (I used Muir Organic Fire-Roasted Tomato)
3 heaping tbsp almond meal/flour
16 oz oricotta cheese
1 package frozen chopped spinach
1 organic, pastured egg
1-2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 sweet Italian red peppers, diced
2 crooked neck squash, diced
6-7 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/8" thick planks
10-12 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Squeeze out extra moisture from the chopped spinach. Combine in small bowl with ricotta cheese and egg. Set aside.

3. Boil zucchini planks in large stockpot for 5 min. Drain and place on paper towels until ready to use.

4. Heat olive oil in nonstick pan over med-high heat. Add crushed garlic and cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add peppers and squash and saute until slightly tender.

5. Spread 1/2 cup of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 13x9" baking dish.

6. Sprinkle 1 heaping tbsp of almond meal on top of spaghetti sauce. Layer zucchini planks over the sauce. Spread 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over the zucchini, then top with 1/2 of the sauteed veggies. Sprinkle 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese over the veggies and finish with 1 cup spaghetti sauce.

7. Repeat the layering order (almond meal, zucchini, ricotta, veggies, mozzarella, sauce).

8. For the last layer, simply lay down the zucchini planks, cover with 1/2 cup of sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella.

9. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake uncovered for 5 additional minutes. Once baked, remove from oven and let rest for 10-20 minutes (the dish appears quite soupy when it first comes out of the oven, so no matter how good it smells, give it plenty of time to rest.

10. Cut, serve, and enjoy!

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