Thursday, January 22, 2009

Layered Roasted Goodness

It's not a good week when you come home too tired to drink. It's depressing when you're so damned important that by Thursday, you've already suffered through three late lunches with the boss, and skipped the fourth. Job security in tough times, sure, but if I really must work, then the whole enterprise is a lot more bearable when I have my daily allotted hour to hole up in my office and eat the food I cook as I dejectedly denote my inconsequence.

So all week, my fabulous leftovers--roasted vegetable lasagna--have been gathering mold in the nasty, crowded corporate fridge while I scarf free sandwiches on the fly. The original recipe below comes from my wife's chef, as a rough outline. It's one of those where the exact quantities are sort of flexible, at least as far as satisfaction goes, but we're still working out some of the ratios to get the flavors and textures we like best.

Roasted vegetables are one of those food items that are just great, so use a lot of them. Almost anything becomes distinctive and delicious when roasted, even things most people tend to hate. Roasted Brussels sprouts rule, as do roasted turnips. My Dad grew up with a special loathing for parsnips until Wifey and I roasted them for him. If you start out with something that everyone already loves, onions say, then you roast them then the result is heavenly. For the recipe, I go with most carrots, onions, and mushrooms, fewer parsnips, turnips, maybe a little Brussels sprouts or fennel or green beans or sweet potatoes if they're kicking around. I recommend avoiding red peppers, or none at all--at least if you want taste anything else--and zucchini works, but it's not my favorite. Generally, I roast them at 350o for an hour or so, but if you're cooking something else, you can do in whatever oven. Here, it doesn't really matter if they're crispy.

As for eggplant, I'm not, as a rule, a fan, but when you process it enough it enough to abolish the spongy mouthfeel and infuse it something like taste, then, hey, it's fine. My favorite eggplant preparations roast it to goo and then flood it with savory goodness. Someday (soon, if I keep finding nothing to say), I'll post a recipe for Indian "eggplant mush," which is where the idea of grilling whole eggplant comes from. Just poke a few holes in the skin so it doesn't explode, and then cook the whole squash over low heat on your covered Charmglow. (If it's January, you can do it in the oven with veggies, but there won't be that slight smoky taste.) It'll get soft inside and a little burnt on the outside, and that's when it can be most convinced to be delicious.

This lasagna recipe has no tomatoes, by the way, and a good amount of pasta, and it doesn't ever come out like soup. It's not as starchy as it sounds, and it tastes wonderful. Here's a recipe for approximately one large and one smaller lasagna.

Roated Vegetable Lasagna:
- about 4 cookie sheets worth of vegetables (carrots, onions, mushrooms mostly, and whatever else you like), cut up into ~3/4' chunks and spread in a single layer
- 3 good-sized eggplants
- 2 lb. marscapone cheese
- 3 lb. fresh mozzerella, sliced or grated as best you can (I get the soft packaged logs usually, but real fresh mozz is surely better. Whatever you do, don't buy the bagged shredded crap, not for this.)
- about 1 cup fresh grated paremsan cheese
- stale bread or dry breadcrumbs
- lasagna noodles (you know, "enough" noodles. Two boxes, maybe, I forget.)
- olive oil, salt, fresh pepper

Toss the vegetables in oil, salt and pepper, and spread them on their pans. Prick the eggplant. Roast the vegetables and grill (or roast) the eggplant, as discussed above--the veggies are done when they're a little black and crispy on the outside (and you can't stop putting them in your moth); they'll shrink a lot. About halfway through, turn or toss them (they'll stick to the sheets a little, which is fine), turn the eggplant every once in a while too. The eggplant are done when they're soft. Do this in advance and let the eggplant cool. Set out the marscapone too and let it come to room temperature, so it's spreadable.

Peel the eggplant and dump the pulp in a food processor. Add the parmesan and some bread/breadcrumbs. Process, adding bread until the mixture is firm but spreads easily.

Cook the noodles until almost done. (Usually, I leave them in the water and let it cool a little, pulling them out with tongs as I nee them: a venial sin probably.)

To assemble the lasagna, drizzle a little olive oil on the bottom, then place a full layer of noodles. (I leave a little extra noodle going up the sides, for the first layer anyway.) On top of this, I spread some marscapone, layer some mozzarella, then more noodles, then the eggplant spread, then the vegetables, then noodles, etc. I try to get two whole rotations. The top is a layer of noodles, and on that, I distribute more mozzarella over it all, maybe add a couple twists of pepper.

[You can prep this on Sunday, by the way, and leave it in the refrigerator to cook during the week. I freeze the second lasagna, and then thaw and cook it during a less enthusiastic food week.]

Bake the assembled lasagna at 325 o for an hour. The top will get a little crispy, but since there's relatively little liquid, you don't need to let it rest very long before you serve it. Dig in.


twif said...

why are you dead set on making me hungry?

particularly as i cannot bring my leftover onion soup to work, as i cannot stick it under a broiler. as good as the soup itself is, without that layer of bubbly, melted, golden brown and almost cripsy gruyere, well, there's no point.


Keifus said...

Um, it's all part of my insidious plan, yeah, that's it.

K (no lie, my word verification is "terse.")

catnapping said...

omg. my mouth is watering.

i love roasted eggplant. i can't bake anymore, but i bet i could talk my daughter into trying this recipe.

when i was still at the UM, every wednesday they used to serve a vegetable lasagna with a cheese base that was parmesan, ricotta, and cream cheese. the veggies were broccoli, carrot, and zucchini. i always had two servings. always. i didn't think i could ever look forward to a cafeteria food. (though i really did like the apple crisp they served at the mess hall in fort gordon's signal tower).

the marscapone and mozarella sound like they'd be delicious with eggplant. if i can't talk my girl into the recipe...maybe i can get away with roasting some eggplant and spreading some marscapone on at the end to melt.