After a gorgeous summer and an extended, lovely fall, winter is upon us. By now folks have harvested their gardens and “put up” their bounty in cans, root cellars, or freezers. The snow is accumulating, we’re getting our winter gear together, our tummies are craving hearty dishes. Winter is here.
To celebrate the shift of seasons, my friends MB and Mari teamed up and created this delicious zucchini lasagna. MB used long strips of zucchini as the “noodles,” then Mari’s homegrown garden tomato sauce was layered throughout along with cheese and fresh basil. The result was divine – an achievement of recipe research, cooking techniques, and patience. The leftovers are long gone, but here’s how to recreate their delicious, healthy dish.
The sauce: Growing tomatoes in Zone 4 is a feat, and Mari’s tomato patch is impressive–check out all the varieties in her most recent pick. For her garden tomato sauce, she blanches about 4 pounds of tomatoes right from the vine to remove their skins, and sets them aside. When she’s got the better part of a day, she sautés onions until they’re almost caramelized, adds garlic, herbs and tomatoes – and lets them simmer for five hours. “It marries and reduces on the stove forever. I throw in some red wine to deepen the flavor.” Right on, girl: simple ingredients, nice and slow.
The zucchini “noodles”: MB was super focused on making sure that the zucchini “noodles” didn’t create a lasagna swamp, so she did her research and found this recipe. A mandolin helped slice the zucchini evenly, then she laid them out, salted them, waited 30 minutes for them to “sweat,” “drained” the water from each slice between her fingers, then dried them with a tea towel. Last, she roasted them for ten minutes. The combination of salting, sweating, draining and roasting did the trick – the “noodles” left behind were perfectly salted and held up beautifully between the cheese mixture and Mari’s tomato sauce.
The cheese layers: MB included ricotta (pronounced with a rolling r: “rrrrrrrih-GOH-tuh” according to the Irish contingent from New Jersey), Parmesan, and mozzarella or “the muhtz” (according to my husband, who’s also from New Jersey). For a less cheesy, more lactose-friendly version, use goat cheeses like these: Almathia organic chevre, “Rumi”, an Egyptian style hard goat cheddar, and goat mozzarella. When I did this, I found the cheeses were saltier than cow cheeses, so go easy on the salt on the zucchinis.
An extra layer in the middle: MB and Mari did not do this, but I’d suggest adding some protein and nutrients to the zucchini lasagna with another layer of meat (beef, bison or turkey) or mushrooms along with spinach, chard or kale. Suggestion: work with a friend to slice, sweat and dry the zucchini and assemble this lasagna – it all happened easily when treated as a two-person project! The photo on the left is the cow cheese creation; photo on the right is the goat cheese version. They were both delicious.