Monday, May 2, 2011
I admit my mouth is watering thinking of fresh asparagus, crunchy snap peas and tender field greens. I tried a California grown head of romaine last week and was disappointed by the dried out, rubbery, rusty leaves. (It’s not about being from California. It’s about how far that poor head of lettuce had to travel. Anyone of us would have been rung out and dry after such a trip!) So, I am back to waiting…and loading up on the mesclun mix that comes out of the hot house at our CSA farm - Springdell Farms in Littleton, MA.
Spring is also a time of transition. The winter CSA at our farm ended at the beginning of April and the summer CSA won’t begin again until mid-June, so I am using up the last of the things I’ve put by.
I have three more little jars of jam…one blueberry and two blackberry for my morning toast. I used the last of the late season sweet corn I cut off the cob and froze last August in chili last night along with ground beef leftover from our winter share. We’ve been enjoying the sweet pickle relish made from crisp summer cucumbers on hot dogs now that baseball season has started. And, with the evenings still chilly and damp, pumpkin chutney on whole grain crackers with creamy goat cheese is still a nice pairing with a glass of red wine.
The salsas and sauces went by quickly this year, so I was delighted to see baskets of hoop house tomatoes when I pulled up to the farm stand on Saturday. I filled a bag with them and decided to make a sauce for spinach lasagna (hot house spinach has been available for about a month now from Verrill Farm). Again, with the weather still cold and damp, a sauce bubbling in the pot warms the house and soothes the soul.
Here is my recipe for Spinach Lasagna…enjoy!
(A word of warning about my recipes…I cook with my five senses, so my measurements are my best estimations. I think the best food is cooked not only with your hands, but with your heart so hopefully you will follow yours when trying this recipe.)
Spinach Lasagne (Serves six)
12 medium sized tomatoes (I used a variety of types including cherry tomatoes)
1 large sweet onion
4 to 6 cloves of garlic (to taste)
Sweet pepper (I used a jar of sweet red peppers packed in oil)
Crimini mushrooms (a handful is good)
Bunch of fresh basil
Dry white wine
Pound of hot Italian sausage
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse tomatoes and then arrange in a baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and roast until the skins burst. (About 20 minutes) I do this instead of boiling tomatoes to remove skins, but you can use the other method if you prefer. Let tomatoes cool.
While you are waiting for the tomatoes to cool you can dice the onion, mince the garlic, slice the mushrooms and chop the peppers. Put tomatoes through a food strainer. Discard the solids. Set aside tomato juice.
Gently warm olive oil in pan. Add onion and garlic and cook on medium heat until fragrant and onion is translucent. Add mushrooms and while they are cooking add a splash or two of dry white wine. Finally add the peppers. (If you choose to use a fresh pepper instead of a preserved pepper, add the pepper with the garlic and onion as it needs more time to cook.) Let ingredients simmer for a moment after adding the white wine and then add the tomato juice.
Allow the ingredients to come to a slow boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Add Italian sausage. I removed the casings and added little ball sized pieces of sausage one at a time to the mixture so that they cooked up like little meatballs. Feel free to simply crumble sausage into the mixture or slice up the sausage with the casing.
Gently simmer sauce for several hours until it reaches desired thickness.
I started my sauce at around 10 am after dropping my son at the bus, eating breakfast and cleaning up the kitchen and turned the sauce off around 2:30 so it could cool and I could put it in a safe place (we have a dog that likes to steal) before I walked up to the bus stop.
Once I got back from the bus and gave the kids (I provide afterschool care), I made the filling and built the lasagna. It was ready to eat by the time my husband returned home and my neighbors had come to collect their kids for the evening.
1 15 oz container of ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano cheese
Freshly ground pepper
6 handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
Blanche spinach leaves in steamer and then squeeze out moisture using a paper towel or a clean kitchen towel. Chop spinach and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg, Pecorino Romano cheese and chopped spinach.
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Ricotta and spinach mixture
9 no boil lasagna noodles
Preheat over to 375 degrees. On the bottom of a 9 x 9 baking dish, spread a thin layer of sauce and then lay three no boil lasagna noodles down on top. On top of this first layer of noodles, spread a thin layer of sauce followed by dollops of the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle one third of the Romano cheese over the ricotta and one third of the mozzarella. Repeat this for two more layers. Since I had left the Italian sausage in chunks, I spaced one sausage chunk per piece of lasagna on each layer. I also had some leftover to serve on the side. Feel free to follow your intuition and do what best suites your family’s taste.
Cover lasagna with foil and bake in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove foil and bake until the dish is bubbly…about another 20 to 25 minutes. Cool cooked lasagna for about 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
Enjoy...and if you have a chance to try this recipe, let me know how it turned out...or what you did to change it.