Saturday, July 30, 2011

First Farm Box Meal: Summer Squash Lasagna and Grapefruit Avocado Salad

Getting a farm box is good motivation to cook, and usually to cook healthily. I was starting to feel a lazy yesterday afternoon and didn't feel like cooking a big meal, but I knew I had all these vegetables that I needed to use up before they went bad. At the end of the meal, I was happy that I did cook and we had a tasty and relatively healthy summer dinner with a lot of fresh vegetables. The summer squash "lasagna" was a particular hit as you could really taste the natural sweetness and different flavors contributed by all the various vegetables: summer squash, red peppers, carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes. I tried to make it a little healthier than the usual lasagna and didn't use as much cheese as usual, half a pound of Gioia smoked mozzarella and a few sprinkles of parmesan, only five rectangles of lasagna, and a lot less meat than usual: two links of mild Italian chicken sausage and a 1/5 lb of pancetta. We could have gone totally meatless but I was in the mood for just a touch of savory richness with the meat. It wasn't as heavy as our usual lasagna, where we also have a white layer with ricotta and eggs. It was really good and we polished off almost the entire pan. The grapefruit avocado salad was good as usual; usually we add a little chicken but I didn't miss it in this vegetarian version. We also had a decent bottle of Calera Rose of Pinot Gris from Santa Barbara which nicely completed our summer meal.
Summer Squash Lasagna Recipe:
  • To prep, fine dice 1 medium onion, 1 red pepper, 3 small peeled carrots, 2 medium stalks of celery and mince 3 cloves of garlic. Slice 1.5 lbs of assorted summer squash about 1/4 inch thick. Grate 1/2 lb of smoked mozzarella and 1/4 cup of parmesan. Cube about 1/5 of a lb of pancetta and remove two links of sausage from casing.
  • Heat up a large pan over medium heat and saute the pancetta until crispy, about 5 minutes, and then add the chicken sausage breaking up with a spoon until cooked through, about 5-10 minutes. Remove the meat onto a paper towel lined plate and leave about 1 TB of the fat in the pan
  • Saute the onions until soft, about 7 minutes, then add the garlic for one minute, then the red pepper, carrots and celery. Saute until soft, about 8 minutes and season with salt and pepper
  • Add back the meat to the pan and squeeze a little tomato paste onto the meat, tossing everything together
  • Deglaze the pan with a little wine, about 1/4-1/2 cup. I just used the rose since we were drinking it, scraping up all the brown bits and let it simmer for a minute or two
  • Add a 28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes, first adding the whole peeled tomatoes, breaking them apart by hand, then the sauce
  • Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes covered. Add a little red chili flakes, parmesan, dried oregano, a bay leaf and some fresh herbs. All I had was tarragon which added an interesting licorice flavor. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  • Remove the bay leaf and then assemble the dish. Grease the dish a little (I forgot to do this). Then: very thin layer of sauce at the bottom, followed by 3 sheets of lasagna, another layer of sauce with a little sprinkle of parmesan, a layer of the sliced summer squash, a layer of the smoked mozzarella, 2 sheets of lasagna, the remainder of the sauce, a layer of sliced summer squash, and the remainder of the smoked mozzarella and a sprinkle of parmesan. Bake for about 30 minutes until nice and bubbly.

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