Monday, March 26, 2012

Veggie Fever

It's official - the weather is GORGEOUS here! Cool all morning, up to 80 or so after noon and beautiful evenings. I want to live outside. This will change soon...

Thursday, we went to the zoo. Not our usual visit. We had much more quiet time:

We even caused a feeding frenzy:

After petting giant goldfish for a loooooong time (yep - you heard me! The big ones move slow and their eyes are set so far apart that they can't see you coming in until it's too late :-P), we went home and opened up the house. The dog days of summer approacheth, but for now, it's too lovely to miss out on.

Friday, my outdoor lust continued as Fertile Garden Supply delivered 3.5 cubic yards of Light Garden Mix. In case you're wondering, here's what $122 (+ a giant delivery fee :-/) of dirt looks like:

Over the weekend, we finished assembling the beds and added the soil (and other good stuff). The air wafting over my desk smells of promise and hard work to come...

This gardening madness and an overdose of fresh air has left me with a sharp, almost painful yearning to cook with fresh foods. To that end, I am revisiting my Warm Weather Lasagne! This go-round, it is yellow and green - just like spring!

Today's Warm Weather Lasagne
fills one 9" X 13" baking dish
*most measurements are approximated - just go for it!*
olive oil
1/2 head of garlic - coarsely chopped
1 pkg fresh ricotta (mine was approx 14 oz)
1 bunch fresh basil - thinly sliced
3 links Italian sausage - casings removed (I used mild today)
1/2 Lb crimini mushrooms - sliced
1 bunch Swiss chard - coarsely chopped
1 pkg Lasagne noodles
6 fresh mozzarella 'knots'
1/2 Lb broccoli - chopped
1 med. zucchini - chopped
1 med yellow squash - chopped
1 pkg yellow tomatoes - quartered
1 pkg Panela cheese
Parmesan cheese

Combine the olive oil and the garlic (you want LOTS of both) - set aside and let them mingle. I left mine alone for 2 hours before starting to cook. You can also chop all of the other stuff now, or you can scramble around like a headless chicken and try to do it all while stuff cooks - guess which method I usually employ...

Combine the ricotta and the basil. Add a little of the garlic (leave the oil in the dish).

In a large skillet, cook the sausage then set it aside to drain. Drain the grease, then use the same skillet to saute the mushrooms - use a teaspoon (or more) of the garlic and olive oil. When the mushrooms are almost done, add the chard, turn off the heat, and cover. Once the chard is wilted, you're ready to start layering!

Slick up the bottom of your baking dish with some of the garlic-y oil. Cover the bottom of the pan with noodles - I don't boil them first, and I use the flat kind. Carefully (so as not to move the noodles, evenly distribute the sausage and mushrooms. Sprinkle the chopped mozzarella on, then cover the whole layer with the chard:

Add another layer of noodles. Using the same skillet (or a different one if you feel like washing more dishes...), lightly cook the zucchini and squash with some more of the garlic- I also added a tiny bit of water, so mine was actually braised if you wanna be all specific. When the squash are just barely cooked, add the broccoli and cover & cook until it turns bright green. Layer it in:

Cover that layer with the ricotta mixture. Cover that with the tomatoes and any garlic and olive oil that you might have left over:

Add another layer of noodles, and top the whole thing with the Panela cheese. I used Panela because it has a different texture and slightly saltier taste than mozzarella - you could use mozzarella. Cover the pan with foil.

Bake at 400 for 45 minutes to 1 hour - when it's hot all of the way through, it's done. Uncover and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Eat as soon as it's cool enough. This was so good that it was surreal. You should make it now.

NOTE: The noodles need moisture in order to cook, so add in all of the liquids that you encounter in the cooking process - whey from the ricotta, water in the skillet from sauteing and braising, innards from the tomatoes, etc. I also threw in the liquid from the container of fresh mozzarella (approx 1 cup). If it doesn't seem moist enough to you, add in some water or broth. You can also add liquid as it cooks if it seems too dry. If there isn't any condensation on the inside of the foil as it bakes, it's toooooo dang dry!

Happy eating, friends!

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