I am not particularly a stop-and-smell-the-roses type of girl. I do in fact love roses, but it’s a constant challenge to live in the moment. And while being a consummate planner and list-maker have their upsides, being stubbornly future-oriented has a way, more often than not, of leaving me searching for the next thing. The next goal. The next achievement to cross off the list. One of the only areas in which I truly and honestly appreciate the process along the way is cooking. I can spend hours in the kitchen and cook without a recipe or measurements, by feel and by taste, and trust that the end result will end up okay. I can’t say that about most other areas of my life.
Many of the recipes that I write about here are based in family tradition. Others spring up from glorious finds at the farmer’s market, and many more have been inspired by the regional fruits and vegetables I’ve only discovered since moving to the South. That process that I love – of starting with raw ingredients or a story or a memory and carefully and instinctively creating something incredible – is a process that I want to share more of with you. A process where sometimes it all starts with a basket of beautifully-bright, variegated baby eggplant picked up on a whim from the farm stand down the road.
You may have noticed that the last post was considerably longer than previous entries, with many more photographs and a stronger emphasis on the ingredients and methodology going into the recipe. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the direction that I want to take Fork Knife Swoon in; what I want this site to be and how I want to get there.
Ultimately, I know that I want this space to be more personal and expressive than it’s been lately, and to invite you as readers to experience more of our life here in the countryside of North Carolina. Going forward, I’ll be aiming to present a more complete and emotive view of each recipe – the raw ingredients or history that inspires it, the methods and steps through the cooking process, and of course the culmination in the finished dish. I’m hoping you’ll appreciate this change and enjoy the new glimpses into our kitchen and the people and places around us.
Now to the important business at hand: this hearty, Summer vegetable-packed lasagne. This version of one of my favorite recipes includes lovely layers of zucchini, eggplant, spinach and quick-caramelized onions, but you can really experiment with whichever combination of veggies you have on hand. Oh, and please be assured, this is not some light-weight, frou-frou vegetarian lasagne. It may be bursting with a bushel-full of fresh vegetables, but still makes for an incredibly savory and flavorful dish, that even my very carnivorous Honey requests regularly.
- 9-12 lasagne noodles (depending on the dimensions of your pan, and to allow for breakage)
- 1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for the pasta
- 1 large sweet onion, roughly-chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
- 4 cups (packed) fresh spinach leaves
- 1 medium zucchini
- 1 baby/small-sized eggplant
- 15oz skim-milk ricotta cheese
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme, removed from stem and roughly-chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh basil, minced
- 1-1/2 to 2 cups tomato sauce
- 2 cups skim-milk mozzarella cheese, grated
- 1 cup Swiss gruyere cheese, grated
- kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the lasagne al dente according to package directions. Drain and toss the noodles with just enough olive oil to lightly coat and avoid sticking. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-heat until just shimmering. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions begin to soften and become translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the spinach leaves and cook until the spinach begins to wilt, stirring regularly, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Meanwhile, using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, carefully slice the zucchini and eggplant into rounds, as thin as possible. Set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, half of the Parmesan, the thyme and basil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the egg and stir again.
- Spoon a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish, just enough to coat the bottom with a thin layer. Layer a third of the lasagne noodles along the bottom of the pan, and top with a generous layer of sauce. Layer the zucchini and eggplant slices in rows on top of the sauce, overlapping slightly.
- Divide the ricotta mixture in half, and using your fingers, gently create little clumps in a layer atop the vegetables. Sprinkle a third of the mozzarella and half of the gruyere cheese on top.
- Add a second layer of lasagne noodles, layer with sauce, and top with the spinach and onions, followed by the remaining ricotta, another third of the mozzarella and the gruyere.
- Add the last layer of lasagne noodles, top with a layer of sauce and the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 40-50 minutes until the cheese is fully melted and the lasagne is cooked through. Turn the oven up to 400 degrees, carefully remove the foil, and cook uncovered for an additional 5-10 minutes until the cheese begins to bubble and turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm.
- Can be stored, covered for up to a week in the fridge and also freezes well.