Roasted vegetable lasagna

January 25, 2010

Here’s the recipe I was originally going to share:

Wretched January

  • 1 earthquake
  • 1 removal of limits on corporate campaign financing
  • 1 healthcare reform bill at risk of deflating like a botched soufflé
  • 1 f#@%ing roof leak
  1. Combine all ingredients.
  2. Season with endless hours of darkness.
  3. Serve cold.

But, I actually have a cheery addendum.  Mr. Onepot informed me earlier that a lasagna would make him feel better–this from a man who never makes food requests!  I mean, he’s equally happy regardless of whether he’s eating a decadent multi-course meal or some strange whole grain/mystery fungus experiment of mine.  So how was I to say no?

Roasted vegetable lasagna

  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 2 zucchini

(What’s that?  You’re about to tell me that those are not in season?   You know what’s in season in Chicago right now?  Icicles.  So let’s move on, shall we?)

  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 lb frozen spinach
  • 1 lb cottage cheese
  • 1 28oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 8oz cans tomato sauce
  • 1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
  • a fistful of shredded cheddar, a bit of parmesan, and some gorgonzola crumbles
  • capers
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. I seasoned the first 3 ingredients and roasted them at 400F for 25 minutes.
  2. Then I combined them with spinach, cottage cheese, and diced tomatoes.  Yup–all together just like that.
  3. Then it was time to layer, and there’s really nothing to tell.  I used 1 little can of tomato sauce under the bottom noodle layer and the other on the very top.  In between: a layer of vegetable+cottage cheese mixture, a sprinkling of other cheeses, a layer of noodles, and so on and so forth until I ran out of ingredients…
  4. …and heaved the overflowing dish, cursing a little, into the 380-degree oven.  It spent the first 45 minutes in there bashfully covered with aluminum foil, and the final 10 minutes naked, under a sprinkling of cheese and capers.

Ah, it was good.  And, as we patted our full bellies, we started to feel just a tad hopeful again.

For starters: the roofer comes tomorrow.


January 11, 2010

Thanks to Serious Eats, I was tempted to tackle a new vegetable.  Hello, chayote!

eyes and lipstick needed, no?

I held this puppy up for Mr. Onepot to inspect, and he assured me that it was “that fruit we once had.”  Silly boy.  A quick consultation with my baby Jesus revealed that I was actually holding a squash.   Really?  “Ok,” I figured, “I can work with that,” especially given this nice and simple recipe as a starting point.

  • 2 chayotes
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 lime
  • salt, pepper, oregano, parsley, red pepper flakes
  • balsamic vinegar
  1. While the onion was sauteing, I cut the chayote into long slices.  Pretty and all–but  again, squash?  It was looking decidedly like an unripe pear.
  2. I tossed this pear-like thing onto the onions, cringing a little.  Then I squeezed the lime on top of it all, added salt + pepper + red pepper flakes, and let it simmer for 5 minutes…
  3. …at which point it tasted like an unripe pear with lime and onions.  Unacceptable.
  4. That’s how the oregano, parsley, and balsamic vinegar became involved.  And the whole thing simmered for another 1o minutes.

And what do you know.  Somehow, the unripe pear became acceptable.  If chayote were a person, you’d have to worry about it joining a cult–it’s that susceptible.  But in a vegetable, I suppose, this is not necessarily bad.  It seems that you can influence it in any direction; it will simply need a lot of guidance.

Ugly-no-more pie

December 21, 2009

Remember my ugly but delicious pie?  The one that made my colleagues gasp in a not-so-good way when I pulled it out for lunch?

Well, it’s been bugging me ever since, and with a rapidly growing sense of urgency.  See, my Unbelievably Adorable Dad’s birthday is coming up soon and I very much want the pie’s flavor –but not its looks–at our party. Really, one should not have to celebrate getting within a year of Medicare eligibility with a breathtakingly unattractive dish.

And behold!  The problem has been solved.  Thanks, Serious Eaters, for your many good ideas.  It was actually Chef R0bert’s observation–that the following ingredients, mixed, were simply not going to produce an appetizing concoction–that made me slap my forehead and realize that I should simply layer them instead.

Baby portabella + butternut squash+kale pie

  • 1 pie crust (yours or Pilsbury’s; I’m not going to judge)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1lb baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 butternut squash, microwaved (like this) and disemboweled
  • 1 fistful of kale, ripped into bite-sized pieces and steamed for 5 minutes
  • 1 14oz can roasted, diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tablespoon chipotle pepper (or more, if you’re like me and like FIRE)
  • salt to taste
  • a toss of blue cheese

You will notice that kale and blue cheese are the only deviations from the original recipe.  The kale is there because I desperately needed something green all of a sudden, and the blue cheese joined the party simply because that’s what we had this time around.

  1. Sautee the onion, garlic, and mushrooms for a couple of minutes.
  2. Pour the mushroom mixture into the pie crust.  Top with layers of squash, tomatoes, kale, cheese.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350F.

Is this not SO much better?

Ugly pie

December 10, 2009

Reader, I made an ugly pie.  Tasty as all get-out, but indisputably ugly.  You know: the kind that causes your colleagues to exclaim “What’s that?” when you pull it out for lunch–and not in a good way?

Baby portabella + butternut squash pie

  • 1 pie crust (yours or Pilsbury’s; I’m not going to judge)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1lb baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 butternut squash, microwaved (like this) and disemboweled
  • 1 14oz can roasted, diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tablespoon chipotle pepper (or more, if you’re like me and like FIRE)
  • salt to taste
  • a toss of shredded cheese
  1. Sautee the onion, garlic, and mushrooms for a couple of minutes.
  2. Add the squash innards, tomatoes, salt, and chipotle pepper; stir well to combine.
  3. Pour the vegetable mixture into the pie crust, throw some cheese on top, and bake for 15-20 minutes at 350F.

So, there you have it: my delicious, homely pie.  But what’s missing?  Perhaps a sturdy leafy vegetable to add a pop of color?  Or maybe a coarsely chopped fennel bulb for some texture contrast?  Or should it all just go straight into the Bass-O-Matic?

We’re off to New Orleans later this week.  There shall be muffulettas, and mint juleps, and beignets, and a visit to Galatoire’s.  And there shall surely be heartbreak.  But, first things first: we must empty the fridge to get it ready for our absence, and for the holiday food orgy that will kick in shortly after our return.

So, what have we got?  For starters: a butternut squash, some onions, a few carrots, and a couple of sad pepper halves.  And speaking of sad! you should see the remnants of that kale bunch I raided last week.  Then there are also some potatoes, a single stem of broccoli (where did its siblings go?), and two striped eggplants for which I once had some fancy plans.

It’s a challenge, then: nothing will go to waste, and it will all be delicious.  So, let’s start with this cheesy butternut squash+kale casserole:

  • innards of 1 butternut squash
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1/2 bunch kale
  • 1 8oz can of tomato sauce (or 1/2 of a larger one)
  • 2 tbsp cottage cheese
  • a fistful of shredded cheese (smoked gouda in our case)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pinches of a couple of herbs (e.g., oregano, tarragon)
  1. Microwave the butternut squash; let it cool.  Scoop out its innards and place them into a shallow greased dish.  (You can add seasonings some at this point; just smoosh them in.)
  2. Saute the onion for ~5 minutes.  Add a splash of water, salt+pepper+seasonings, and kale leaves torn into bite-sized pieces.  Cover and let steam on low for ~3 minutes.
  3. Pile the kale and onion mixture on the butternut squash.  Cover with tomato sauce and cottage cheese.  Sprinkle the shredded cheese across the top.
  4. Bake for ~35 minutes on 375F.
  5. Eat with that buttermilk bread that you were originally going to take to your sister.


To put together a classic jury duty day you will need:

  • 1 jury summons, clutched in a sweaty palm as you make your way downtown at an obscenely early hour
  • 2 trips through the metal detector and 1 intimate session with the lady with the hand-held device
  • 1 riveting piece of cinematography titled “You, the Juror”
  • dangerously low levels of caffeine, lest you should need to pee while being questioned by the judge
  • 1 person with a juicy cough, seated right next to you
  • 6 hours of mind-numbing boredom, butt-numbing seats, and low-grade anxiety
  • 1 check for $17.20, at the end of it all

Oh wait–you’re here for that squash pasta sauce I promised in the title?  Right!  Let me start over.

Here’s how to assemble a luscious pasta dish with a touch of autumn:

  • 1/2 large onion
  • innards of 1 roasted  (or microwaved) acorn squash
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 box of whole wheat pasta (something chunky, like farfalle, will hold the sauce well)
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • dashes of turmeric, cinnamon, chipotle pepper, salt, oregano
  1. Saute the onion and squash for a couple of minutes.  Add the tomatoes and seasonings and let it all simmer, covered, while you prepare the pasta and kale. Look how happy you’re going to be every time you peek under the lid:IMG_4342
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Throw in the chopped kale and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add the pasta and cook for another 10 minutes.
  3. Drain.  Serve.  Eat.  Be glad you don’t have jury duty any time soon.


I originally bought these mini pumpkins just for their good looks.  But one evening late last week, when faced with a cauldron of polenta and a sudden urge to stuff something with it, I found myself eyeing the pumpkin arrangement.   Once I reached in, there was no turning back.

If you, too, are tempted to violate your pumpkin centerpiece, here’s what to do:

  1. Wash, de-stem, and de-seed the pumpkins.
  2. Coat the exposed flesh with olive oil and herbs.
  3. Bake the pumpkins at 375F for  ~30 minutes at 375F.
  4. Fill them with polenta.  (… Or mashed potatoes!  Surely that would be amazing.)


Perhaps I should say that this started out as a butternut squash + leek soup:

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 3 leeks

But then, somehow, these guys joined the show:

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 potato

Why the random amounts?  Because that’s precisely how much of each of those things I had in my kitchen.  I am sure that more or less of any of the above would be just fine.

If you’re playing along at home, you will also need approximately:

  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 cups of vegetable or chicken broth

And then:

  1. Coarsely chop the leeks, carrots and potato.  Add them to the boiling water + broth and cook on low until soft (~7 minutes).
  2. While the vegetables are simmering, poke many a hole in your butternut squash and microwave it for 10-12 minutes.  Once it’s cool, peel it and remove the seeds.
  3. In your blender or food processor, puree the vegetables and broth in batches.  Toward the end, add the butternut squash.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.  And while you’re at it, surely you will also want to toss in some crushed sage.  Look, pretty!
  5. Really, you want another step?

I admit, I bought a futsu squash mostly because:

a) It’s fun to say;

b) It goes well with my kitty.


Turns out, though, it’s a tasty little devil!  Here’s what you do:

1)  Wash it and put it into a bowl.  Admire.


2) Poke it with a fork quite a few times.

3) Microwave for 10-12 minutes.

4) Let it cool.

5) You may be compelled to start harassing the irresistible, delicious-smelling futsu after, say, 5 minutes.  Don’t.  I would have taken a picture of my burned fingers had I been able to hold the camera.

6) Once it’s cool, peel off the skin and take out the seeds.  Husbands are good for this step.

7) The futsu will mostly mash itself while being peeled.  Leave it in the original bowl and add your favorite seasonings.