Tuesday, April 19, 2011

grilled eggplant "lasagna" with pesto-ricotta cheese filling

I preemptively apologize for this picture.  I know it isn't pretty or evenly layered, but it's really hard to get a picture of lasagna....

Grilled eggplant "lasagna" with pesto-ricotta filling

But you know what I don't apologize for?  This next photo.  Jamie sent me this on Sunday night.  Thank the Lord for iPhone MMS. 

I don't know why she has it - but it's hilarious.  This is probably my favorite picture of the three of us because it's completely typical, and it shows that nothing has changed in the last sixteen years except we're not as cute as we used to be.  I have short hair in this picture, which puts me in third grade.  (The Great Haircut of 1994 was the single most traumatic experience of elementary school - even worse than wearing headgear to school in second grade, and the episode in third grade when a boy called me an alcoholic because I answered Mrs. Marshall's question with "Sam Adams" instead of "John Adams".)

In this photo, I'm on the left.  I think most people would agree that I am a pretty prototypical "eldest child."  I'm maternal and protective, but bossy, impatient, and expect a lot from others.  While Bollie and Jamie are cheesing hard for the camera, I am very serious, literal, and practical.  Of course, the other, more likely reason I'm not smiling in this picture is because I had a realllly messed-up grill (see above re: headgear) and my mom wouldn't let me "smile with my teeth" when we were trying to take our Christmas card.  This problem was rectified with a full set of braces in fourth grade.

In the middle, we have Bollie.  She was always hammin' it up and putting on a show for everyone.  Most middle children fight for attention, but for Bollie, that was not the case.  She liked being in the limelight, of course, but she never actually had to fight for it because she was just so absurd.  Our home videos contain footage of her singing and dancing, and if the camera was ever on someone else, she quickly and effortlessly diverted the attention back to her hysterical ways.  Today, she's still the life of the party, just three feet taller and with a bit more maturity.  The baby blonde, Jamie, was a chatty kid that could talk to a brick wall.  She was a constant laugh-fest, except for when she would cry.  See how amused she is in this picture?  She was typically very happy, easygoing, and everything made her smile.  But with the flip of a switch, she'd get upset about something.  And I mean really upset.  She'd cry and wail and until one of us felt bad enough to give her what she wanted.  This usually happened when Bollie and I used to tease her (sometimes we'd tell her she was adopted - the perfect taunt for a kid with blonde hair, fair skin, and green eyes among a family of brunettes) or if her "I feel pretty" sweatshirt was dirty or missing.  She's tougher now, but she still talks a mile a minute. 

When Jamie sent me the picture message, I had a delicious grilled eggplant "lasagna" in the oven that was actually inspired by my baby sister herself.  Funny timing!  I make a dish for Bollie a few weeks ago, but this one has Jamie's  name written all over it.  Jamie's favorite color is purple and her favorite vegetable is eggplant.  Coincidence, I think not.  Jamie also loves cheese - so much that she gave it up for Lent this year.  Even though she won't be able to make this dish at least until next week, I know she's going to love it.  It's oozing with three cheeses and features a smoky grilled eggplant in place of lasagna noodles.  We have a slight obsession with eggplant in my family.  Stuffed eggplant.  Spicy eggplant.  Japanese eggplant.  Baba Ganoush.  But mostly we just eat it grilled.  The noodle-less aspect is also relative and appropriate, as my family is slightly pasta-adverse.  It's not that we have anything against pasta, per se, but we are really more rice, couscous, and quinoa people.  (Note:  Bollie may be the exception to this, as she's obsessed with tutto Italiano.)  So, since you can't put quinoa in lasagna, I used a nice fat eggplant in place of the noodle. 

A few notes about this recipe - I had a lot of leftovers from pizza night so I just tried to use those.  I used mozzarella on the top layer, but I wouldn't actually use that again on the top (maybe in the middle, though).  I think the top would be better just with grated Italian cheese.  I also love putting zucchini and spinach in vegetable lasagnas, but I didn't have any and didn't feel like going to the store.

Grilled eggplant "lasagna"
Serves 5-6
1 large eggplant or 2 medium, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices
2 1/2 cups homemade tomato sauce (or your favorite jarred tomato sauce)
1 red bell pepper or jarred roasted red pepper
4 ounces portobello mushroom caps
15 ounce can artichoke hearts
12 ounces ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated Italian cheese (I used a mix of parmesan, asiago, and fontina), divided
one large ball of mozarella, sliced (maybe 3 ounces?)
1 egg white
3 tablespoons pesto sauce

1.  Preheat oven to 400F.
2.  Chop artichoke hearts and mushrooms into bite-sized pieces.  Season with salt and pepper and toss with olive oil.  Roast in oven 15 minutes.
3.  Remove from oven and cut heat down to 350F.
4.  Drizzle olive oil on eggplant and zucchini.  Season with salt and pepper and grill on stovetop grill pan, George Foreman, or outdoor grill (if you're that lucky). 
5.  Make ricotta cheese mixture by combining ricotta cheese, egg white, pesto, and 1/4 cup of grated Italian cheese.
6.  Assemble the lasagna in your baking dish.  My layers went something like this:  1 cup tomato sauce - 4 slices eggplant - 1/2 cup ricotta cheese mixture - sliced roasted red pepper - mushroom & artichoke mixture - 1/2 cup ricotta cheese - 1 cup tomato sauce - 3 slices eggplant - 1/2 cup ricotta cheese - 1/2 cup tomato sauce - mozzarella & 1/2 cup grated parmesan
7.  Cover with alumnium foil and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove foil and let cook open for the last 10.

What do you like to put in lasagna?

P.S.  I have just fixed the recipe for my thai peanut sauce.  Randi tried making it last night and I think the proportions were messed up.  The recipe did not call for as much water as was necessary.  I still recommend adding it little by little, though.

1 comment:

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