A foodie's quest to turn up the heat through strength and conditioning with whole food and a hungry mind.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

No Noodle Lasagna

Does the concept of a noodle-less lasagna seem perplexing to you? To a die-hard traditionalist, probably so. As I frequently mention, you need to have fun and be creative in the kitchen to help keep you in there and refrain from eating out. Although the dictionary defines “lasagna” as large, flat, rectangular strips of pasta, most of us know is a certain dish consisting of multiple layers.

Thinking of lasagna as just a multi-layered dish, you can really expand from just the average noodle and use other ingredients in its place. A common variation is the Mexican lasagna with ground meat or black beans and tomatoes (or salsa) mixed with Mexican herbs and spices for a filling; corn or flour tortillas are used as layers instead of wide, rectangular pasta. The biggest change in the recipe is what you use for a layer; fillings may remain the same if desired.

Working with a limited selection from my usual foods to cook with this weekend, I decided to take a stab at a non-traditional lasagna using zucchini. The result? Both Kelley and I were happy with the outcome on taste and texture! I am always concerned on how Kelley likes the meals I cook for us; she is my wife after all, whom I swore to provide for and protect forever. Working with the zucchini, I collected the ingredients below for my inspired meal.

Zucchini Lasagna: 3 – 4 servings

- 2 medium zucchini; washed and cut into thin layers
- 1 (15oz) can low sodium diced tomatoes
- 1 (20oz) can white kidney (cannellini) beans; rinsed and drained
- 12 (oz) frozen chopped spinach
- 1 large carrot; peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth or stock
- 3 or 4 cloves of garlic; crushed and minced
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1 tablespoon Italian mixed herbs
- 4oz + 2oz soft goat cheese
- salt and pepper to taste

To slice the zucchini, I cut them in half, stood one side up on the flat part and cut down with a knife as evenly as possible. There are better ways to do this, but I chose this route with a 90% success rate; at least I still have all fingers! After slicing I steamed the slice in the microwave for 2 – 4 minutes. While fighting with the zucchini, I added all but the extra 2oz of goat cheese to a sauce pan and let everything simmer for 20 – 30 minutes. I then started with a layer of steamed zucchini sprinkled with salt and pepper, then spread the filling on top followed by another zucchini layer. Repeat this until you are out of filling and zucchini; use the saved goat cheese to crumble on top of the lasagna for presentation and extra flavor. Goat cheese is the key to Kelley’s heart, so I like to use it when able.

As you can see in the pictures, other layers can be used as well. I chose to add a nice layer of portabella mushrooms to my meal while Kelley had a toasted corn tortilla in hers. The corn tortilla gave this a nice Mexican touch and texture. I prepared each meal in our own leftover containers, but if you wanted, you could assemble the layers in a glass baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 10 - 20 minutes for a nice brown on top.
So, forget about noodles for a change and find something else to use in a lasagna dish. The options are plentiful; anything that can be sliced into layers will work. Eggplant is used fairly often, but why not sweet potato, carrots, winter squash, asparagus (just lay the whole stick down), or even bell peppers. Be creative, try something new, work with friends and family, and let me know what you create!

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