Linguine with Pea Pesto

 - by Elizabeth

This recipe is from Smitten Kitchen (link to the right), but my sister Christine says she’s made it, so I know it’s been around a while.  Basically you puree some peas, add the rest of the pesto ingredients and toss cooked linguine with this and some of the pasta water, and you have a quick and delicious summer meal.  I mean it was so delicious I’ve had it every day this week and I’m still not tired of it.  It’s creamy without being high-fat-high-calorie.  I used the frozen peas, but did buy a fresh bag so we didn’t have to use that bag that’s been kicking around the back of the freezer all winter.  We served it with fresh tomato bruschetta on crostini--a perfect meal.

1 1/2 cups (from approximately 1 1/2 pounds peas in pods) fresh pea or a 10-ounce package frozen peas (I didn’t defrost mine–just dumped them into the boiling water.)
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted and cooled
1/2 cup (1 1/8 ounces) finely grated parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon table salt, plus more for pasta water
1/3 cup olive oil
1 pound dried linguine
Garnish (optional): thinly slivered basil leaves

Prepare an ice bath, a large bowl filled with ice water. Bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook for 2 minutes (this leaves them with a bit of structure). Drain peas then add them to the ice bath (if using) and drain again. If you haven’t used an ice bath, let your peas cool to lukewarm before making the pesto.

Set aside 1/2 cup of your cooked peas. Whirl the remaining cup of peas in the work bowl of a food processor with garlic, pine nuts, 1/3 cup parmesan and salt until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as necessary. With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil.

Cook your linguine until al dente. Reserve about two cups pasta cooking water, as the pea pesto will be surprisingly thick, then drain linguine and return it to pot. Over moderate heat, toss pasta with pesto, reserved peas and as much reserved pasta water as needed to smooth and distribute pesto; let cook for one minute so that the pesto adheres. Adjust salt to taste, add freshly ground black pepper if desired. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh herbs, if using, and remaining parmesan.

Pasta Jumble

 - by Elizabeth

It was at the end of a long three weeks of baking, prepping, shopping, comparing prices and shopping again for a women’s conference luncheon (for 300!), when we had the occasion to have over some family who had come into town unexpectedly.  What to serve?  While elaborate dishes can be fun to make if you are in the right mood, I was not in the right mood for such a recipe.  So my husband and I opened up our brains and creativity to pull together what we call Pasta Jumble.  It’s quick, it’s easy, and it contains just about whatever you have in your refrigerator. But it all starts with a box of small, shaped pasta. My favorite is campanelle–a trumpet-shaped pasta with a fluted edge, but do try and keep in your pantry interesting shaped pastas.  They go on sale quite often.

This may vary depending on what vegetables and other items you have in your fridge; I’ll list what has gone into the above dish.  This serves 6-8, amply.

1 lb. box shaped pasta (this is “campanelle”)
1 bell pepper, red or yellow
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 white or yellow onion
8 oz. frozen white corn
about 10 Spanish olives (pimimiento-stuffed green olives), sliced (We usually use 1/3 small can of chopped black olives, but had run out.  So we substituted.)
1/4 pound good-quality bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4″ strips
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped into small pieces (about 1/2″ dice)
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, cut into smaller pieces (about 1/4″ dice, approximately)
2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken (we buy it at Costco, take it off the bone and pack it into freezer bags for a quick meal–one chicken yields about 4 bags)

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt & pepper
olive oil
red wine vinegar

Boil pasta until nearly tender (al dente), drain well, then place into large mixing bowl.  While pasta cooks, fry bacon until cooked, but not dark or too crisp; drain on paper towels.  And while that cooks, melt butter and olive oil together and add onion and bell pepper; cook until tender, about 5-8 minutes.

Add corn, olives, chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, black beans, cooked bacon, sauteed vegetables, fresh tomatoes to the pasta, and toss lightly to mix.

A proper vinaigrette could be made here, but instead I’ll include the cheater method: glob some olive oil over the mixture (about 1/4 cup), two to three shakes of vinegar (roughly 2 Tablespoons), a squirt of mustard, salt and pepper, and stir.  Add cayenne to taste (we’re wimpy–about 1/4 teaspoon for this amount).  Add more salt and pepper if needed.


Beggar’s Linguini

 - by Elizabeth

Recently my sister came to visit and while I was more than happy to go out for dinner every night (my husband was gone and I like doing that), there came a time when we were both ready to stay in.  What to cook?  I’d just been reading Dorie Greenspan’s blog, where she gave the recipe for her Beggar’s Linguini, from her new book Around My French Table.  I’m really enjoying this cookbook–a good investment.

This sounded great to both of us, and I already had most of the ingredients.  Basically it’s a sauce made from browned butter, golden raisins, pistachios and chopped almonds, tossed with some parmesan and some grated orange rind.  It has a rich, yet not overly heavy, taste.  I made it again the next week for Dave and we were both angling to have the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Cynthia and I served it with fresh broccoli, lightly marinated salmon, grilled on the barbeque.  Since Ms. Greenspan has already printed the recipe on her blog, I don’t feel the need to reproduce it here. Click on the link to get the story of how she found this, and the recipe.  However, even though she says it doesn’t reheat well–I liked it fine the next day for lunch.

Hoppin’ John

 - by Elizabeth

A million years and another life ago, I lived in Texas and across the street from me lived Margaret Hall, a “live one” as my Dad might say.  She lived life at full throttle, including cooking.  Because she had lived so many places with her husband, she had recipes from all over, but for some reason this one stands out–maybe it was her favorite?  She gave it to me with the admonition that I MUST eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s day–for good luck in the coming year.  (It didn’t work that year–her husband left her for another woman.  Talk about a woman scorned!  It was instructive.)

I have never made this recipe the same way twice.  I give you Margaret’s basic Hoppin’ John recipe, then directly after that, how I made this year’s version.

Hoppin’ John (to serve at New Year’s for Good Luck)

Prepare each ingredient separately:

1/2 cup brown rice (prepare according to package directions)
1/2 package Jimmy Dean Sage Sausage
1/2 lb. bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces, cooked and drained
1/2 onion, chopped
3-4 celery stalks, chopped (I saute these last two ingredients in a small amount of the bacon grease)
1 to 1  1/2 cans black-eyes peas, undrained.

Add all to crock pot. It is ready when hot, about 2-3 hours. Rice can be white, brown or wild (I use brown rice). This is mild, add dashes of Tobasco until spicy enough or use spicy sausaage. I serve with blue corn chips or Fritos or hefty corn chips.

This Year

This year I sauteed up a yellow bell pepper with the onion, and used fresh black-eyed peas, found in the produce section of my grocery store. Instead of the sage sausage, I used some cooked chicken-apple sausage that we had left over from our holiday party.  I also sauteed crimini and shiitake mushrooms, and added them to the mix.

I gave it four-to-five shakes of Tobasco, added some salt and pepper and wrapped it up and put it in the fridge to mellow the flavors, while I started to take down Christmas.  I wasn’t happy with the flavor, though–too bland.  Then I remembered Bayou Blast–a comglomeration of spices that I use when I make dishes for Mardi Gras (scroll down the the bottom of the linked page for the recipe).  I added in 3/4 teaspoon of those spices–a little a time, stirring well after each–and that did the trick.

Serve it with your choice of bubbly (mine’s Martinelli’s) and an Everything Green Salad.  This one has chopped leafy green lettuce, chopped napa cabbage, mandarin oranges from my friend’s tree, pine nuts, chopped tomato, palm hearts and (soon) avocado.  A light dressing of oil, vinegar, salt and pepper will complement the ingredients.

Happy New Year!

Quinoa, Corn and Edamame Salad

 - by Elizabeth

I first read this recipe in the New York Times, in a special article on summer salads with recipes by Martha Rose Shulman.  I subjected Dave, my husband, to a series of these, and he declared this one to be a winner.  It’s pretty–green and red–and crunchy, but not a wildly out of control crunch–just pleasant fresh vegetable munching.  While this is a summer salad, I could also see it served as cold side dish at a holiday buffet, as the colors are so beautiful. Regarding the “optional” feta cheese: we tried it both ways–with and without.  Adding the feta cheese brings a creaminess, a certain “mouth” satisfaction to the dish.  I recommend it.

For the salad:
1 cup quinoa, cooked (I made it with chicken broth, but water works as well.  Click **here** for basic quinoa cooking directions.)
1/2  of a 16-ounce bag of WHITE frozen corn
1 small red onion (about 1/3 cup), cut in small dice
1 red bell pepper, cut in small dice
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery, from the tender inner stalks
4 or 5 radishes, sliced
1/2 cup fresh or thawed frozen edamame
2 ounces mild feta, cut in small dice (about 1/2 cup), or crumbled.  I buy the bricks, then crumble it.
1/2  jalapeño chile, seeds and membranes removed, minced finely
1/3 cup chopped cilantro

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 small lime, depending on size)
1 garlic clove, finely minced or pureed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Soak the onion in cold water to cover for five minutes. Drain, rinse and drain on paper towels.  **I have no idea why this step is here, but I did it.  Must be some kitchen chemistry.

Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and toss with the salad. Serve.

Yield: Serves four main dish, and six side dish servings.

Advance preparation: The quinoa freezes well and the assembled salad will keep for a day in the refrigerator.

Here’s our version. I served it with a delicious foccacia from the local bakery, which was topped with tomatoes, potatoes and dill.  We were full after our meal, and our leftovers the next day were even better.

Nutritional information per serving (four servings): 359 calories; 18 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 43 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams dietary fiber; 25 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during cooking); 10 grams protein

Quinoa Lentil Salad with Tomatoes

 - by Elizabeth

First off, this is taken from the Los Angeles Times, from an article written about the Immaculate Heart Center and their new cookbook.  That’s just to keep the copyright gods squared away.  I think I’d like to buy this cookbook as this recipe was such an intriguing and interesting standout, that I can’t wait to try some of their others.

I’ve cooked so much with the Lemon Vinaigrette recipe on this site, that the shift of the acidic flavor in this one to an apple cider vinegar was very refreshing and I quite liked it. Where to buy Lentils de Puy, the small French lentils called for?  Amazingly, my Ralph’s supermarket has been carrying them in the specialty food section.  They cook up quickly and keep their shape.  I’ve become a fan.  If you want to store this for another day, I’d not add the tomatoes until you serve it.

Total time: 50 minutes, plus cooling and chilling times
Servings: 6

1 cup French green or brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup white wine vinegar or cider vinegar, plus more for drizzling
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and strained
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup fresh parsley
2 cups cherry or other little tomatoes, halved

Place the lentils in a large saucepan and fill with water to cover by 2 inches. Simmer until tender, about 20 minutes, then drain the lentils and transfer them to a medium bowl. Season the lentils with one-fourth teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper and drizzle over about 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Taste the lentils, and adjust the seasoning or vinegar, or both, if desired. Set aside the lentils to cool, stirring occasionally.

In a large saucepan, combine the rinsed quinoa with 2 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the pot and reduce heat to a gentle simmer, cooking until the grain is soft and translucent, about 15 to 20 minutes. The water should be absorbed; if not entirely absorbed, drain any excess. Remove from heat and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl, drizzle about 2 tablespoons of oil on the grain and stir gently.

In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, one-fourth cup vinegar, one-half cup olive oil, one-fourth teaspoon salt and one-eighth teaspoon pepper. Taste and add additional seasoning if desired.

Stir the cooled lentils in with the quinoa in the large bowl. Stir in the dressing, then cover and chill the salad for at least 1 hour.

Just before serving, stir in the mint, parsley and tomatoes and check the seasoning. Drizzle with a bit more vinegar and oil.

Each serving: 387 calories; 13 grams protein; 40 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams fiber; 20 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 3 grams sugar; 202 mg. sodium.

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Confetti Pasta Salad

 - by Elizabeth

I first tasted a variant of this salad on an airplane in the glory days of airline travel, when they served real food with real utensils in-flight.  I was intrigued with the savory-sweet combo of the spices and onion against the corn kernels, and wanted to reproduce this.  It didn’t seem to really provide that perfect combination of flavors, but I couldn’t figure out what I was missing until my sister Christine came to visit: she added a shake or two of cayenne pepper to the pasta salad.  Eureka!  That was it.

Use Lemon Vinaigrette for your dressing and then gently shake the cayenne over the top of the salad, then blend in. Caution–a little cayenne goes a long way.

1/2 lb. (1/2 of a box) orzo (a rice-shaped pasta), cooked and drained–you may need to use a wire mesh strainer instead of a colander to drain (it’s tiny!)
1 can black beans (15 oz.), drained & rinsed
1/2 bag bag frozen WHITE tender corn, approx. 16 ounces
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced (pieces are about 1/4″ size)–roughly 1/2 to 2/3 cup
fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, to yield about 1/3 cup

Place in large bowl: cooked orzo, beans, corn, pepper, onion and cilantro; pour vinaigrette over the top and stir gently.  As you toss it over the salad, add more olive oil if it looks dry. Season with salt, pepper and a small amount of cayenne, gently fold into salad.  Be cautious: you can always add more cayenne.  Sometimes I’ll just sprinkle that over the finished dish instead.

You can serve with grilled chicken breasts (marinate them also in the vinaigrette before cooking); garnish with lettuce leaf.

If you make it ahead and need to refrigerate it, bring it to room temperature to serve.  Serves 4-6 main dish servings.

For a variation: serve with crumbled mild Feta cheese and halved grape tomatoes.

Quinoa Spring Salad

 - by Elizabeth

Basic directions for the Quinoa Salad for the Women’s Conference.

While I show the prep work for ONE batch of salad, please keep in mind that yours will be tripled, using the recipe amounts found below.

Thanks in advance for helping us out with the luncheon!

Shopping Preamble & Some Tips:

TIP #1: Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”) is a grain that is full of protein and is fairly mild.  You can buy it in boxes at Trader Joe’s (you’ll need 1 and 1/2 pounds or  three cups–check the box for weight; photo is above).

You can also buy it by the pound at Sprouts, up in the Mission Grove area.  Again, buy about a pound and half by the store’s scales; this gave me about 3 cups.  DON’T buy the red quinoa–we want the beige color quinoa.

Trader Joe’s also has shelled edamame, but so does Sprouts (in the back by the produce in the flat freezer cases).
SHELLED Edamame looks like smooth little lima beans. The one above is Trader Joe’s.

This is how the bag from Sprouts looks.  Again, get the shelled edamame.

Please buy MILD Feta cheese in a block and crumble it yourself (see salad directions).  I bought this at Ralph’s–while they have it many places, I couldn’t always find the mild, as many times the feta is flavored.  Don’t buy the flavored Feta.  [Note: if you are desparate, and can't get to Ralph's, it is okay if you buy it pre-crumbled--you'll need a 6 to 8 ounce package.]

TIP #2: When mincing the jalapeno, get rid of all the seeds and the membrane and then wash your hands thoroughly.  Those two parts are the “spicy-hot” parts of the jalapeno.  When I say finely minced, I mean teensy.  We don’t want any observable chunks of jalapeno in the salad.  It’s just for flavor.

TIP #3: Please use good quality olive oil.  Not that light stuff (which is blended with another vegetable oil) or any other cooking oil.  Just olive oil.  If you don’t have any, come see me.  I’ve got vats (I buy if from Costco in bulk).

If you wish to be reimbursed for your expenses, please save all your receipts–I’ll reimburse you that day, after the luncheon is over. However, we would appreciate it if you could donate your salad.

Please drop it off at the kitchen before going into the conference, and cross your name off the list, so we’ll know whose salad has arrived.  Thank you in advance for your willingness to help us out–with your contribution, this luncheon will be a big success (and delicious!).

Now to the recipe.

Recipe for Women’s Conference (The Recipe is Tripled)

3 cups dry quinoa
5 cups water
1 and 1/2 16 ounce bags of frozen WHITE frozen corn
1 large red onion (or about 3/4 cup), cut in small dice (about 1/4″ pieces or smaller)
3 red bell peppers, cut in small dice
1 and 1/2 cups cup thinly sliced celery, from the tender inner stalks (about 6)
12 to 15 radishes, sliced
1 and 1/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen edamame
6-8 ounces feta, crumbled.  I buy the bricks of it at Ralph’s, then crumble it.
1 and 1/2  jalapeño chile, seeds and membranes removed, minced finely
1 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes, depending on size) (I have plenty of limes that were given to me.  Holler if you want then.)
3 garlic cloves, finely minced or pureed
1  cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

For Salad:

Bring the water to a boil, add quinoa and cook for about 12 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and you see the white cuticle of the grain. Set aside.

Soak the onion in cold water to cover for five minutes. Drain, rinse and drain again on paper towels.

Place the edamame in hot, but not boiling, water for about 5 minutes to thaw.

Measure out the corn and add it to a very large mixing bowl.  The corn will thaw very quickly. If yours has been kicking around in the freezer for a hundred years, perhaps you’ll want to run it under some hot water to refresh it.  Drain well.

Seed and devein the jalapenos, then mince finely.    I cut the jalapeno into slices, then turn the cutting board 90 degrees, then chop again.  I then go at it again, chopping the bits like I do nuts, over and over.

My hand is there for a guide to how small it is. If you are an experienced cook, I apologize for boring you, but I wanted to be clear on the directions. Place into bowl.

Chop the red bell pepper into fine dice (1/4 inch). Place into bowl.

Drain the onion and the edamame, then place on paper towels to drain again, then place into bowl.

Cilantro is stored upright in the refrigerator in an glass of water, with a plastic produce bag over it to keep it fresh.  When you need some, just whack it off above the twisty-tie; a thumbs-width-worth is about 1/3 cup chopped, more or less.  For a cup, you may need about 1/2 bunch.  To measure, layer the leaves in the cup loosely–don’t pack!!  Or use the guide of three thumbs-width bunches.  Remove any gangly stems before chopping.  Add the cilantro to the bowl.

Choose celery from the inner core of the bunch; the two laying crosswise on top are representative.

Trim off the raggedy ends and cut the rest of the stalk thinly, yielding moon-shaped slices; add to the bowl.

Feta cheese is sold in blocks like this: choose MILD.  Cut off what you need.

Crumble the cheese, then add to large mixing bowl.

One fun thing about this salad is the amount of crunchy vegetables.  Here’s one more: radishes.  We serve this salad all through the summer!  Add these to the large mixing bowl, then toss all ingredients together lightly.

For Dressing:

Smash a garlic clove under your knife to loosen the papery skin; peel off and discard.  You can either mince the clove finely (finer than the jalapeno), or do what I do:

Put it in a garlic press and press it into the bowl.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Please use bonafide, good quality olive oil.  See Tip #3 above.  Toss with the salad. Serve.

Advance preparation: The quinoa freezes well and the assembled salad will keep for a day in the refrigerator. It’s fine to make the whole salad a day ahead and then bring it Saturday morning.  It still tastes fresh.  Please use these proportions; we’ll add more dressing if we need to, but we don’t want soggy salads.

Thanks so much!!

Recipe yield: 45 one-half cup servings.  Yes, we are counting every serving.  We currently have 285 servings coming, so I’ll be making up a batch myself to bring it up to the 300 servings that we need for that day.

If you want to make this for your family, the amounts for a single batch can be found if you click **here**.

Confetti Pasta Salad-Women’s Conference

 - by Elizabeth

Basic directions for the Confetti Pasta Salad for the Women’s Conference.

While I show the prep work for ONE batch of salad, please keep in mind that yours will be tripled, using the recipe amounts found below.

Thanks in advance for helping us out with the luncheon!

Shopping Preamble & Some Tips:

This is Orzo.  It’s a type of pasta that looks like large rice.  You’ll need a fine wire mesh strainer of some sort for draining after its cooked–it washes out of a typical colander’s larger holes.

It doesn’t much matter which brand of black beans that you buy.  I’ve used both a name brand and store brand and found both to be fine.

Here’s the basic round-up.

NOTE: Please use good quality olive oil.  Not that light stuff (which is blended with another vegetable oil) or any other cooking oil.  Just olive oil.  If you don’t have any, come see me.  I’ve got vats (I buy if from Costco in bulk).

If you wish to be reimbursed for your expenses, please save all your receipts–I’ll reimburse you that day, after the luncheon is over. However, we would appreciate it if you could donate your salad.

Please drop it off at the kitchen before going into the conference, and cross your name off the list, so we’ll know whose salad has arrived.  Thank you in advance for your willingness to help us out–with your contribution, this luncheon will be a big success (and delicious!).

Salad (The recipe is already tripled):

1 and 1/2 pound boxes of orzo  [NOTE: 1/2 box is about one and 1/4 cups of dry orzo.]
3 cans black beans (15 oz.), drained & rinsed
2 bags frozen WHITE tender corn, approx. 16 ounces
3 red bell peppers, finely diced
1 and 1/2 cups of red onion, finely diced (pieces are about 1/4″ size or smaller)
about 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Bring a large pot of water to boil; add orzo.  Cook until nearly tender (not mushy, but not crunchy).  Drain, using a fine wire mesh strainer.  This may have to be done in batches.  Place drained orzo in a large mixing bowl.  You’ll continually add ingredients to this bowl as you chop and prepare them.

Drain the cans of beans, and rinse until water is clear.  Add to bowl, along with both bags of white corn–no need to defrost. Add the rest of the ingredients:  chopped red pepper, minced onion.

A cilantro bunch is kept in a glass of water, upright and covered with a plastic bag.  To use just whack off just above the twisty tie.  It will keep like this for at least a week or two (change water as needed).  I find a thumb’s thickness yields about 1/3 cup, chopped.  To measure, place LOOSELY in a measuring cup, or use the thumb-measure method.

Add chopped cilantro to everything in the large mixing bowl; pour one batch of Lemon Vinaigrette dressing over the mixture and stir gently to mix.  This can be made one day ahead.  Please cover tightly and refrigerate.

Lemon Vinaigrette:
1 lemon (to yield about 4 tablespoons juice)
1/2 – 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard (do NOT substitute other mustards)
2 Tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence (you can buy this in the grocery store, or see me)
salt and pepper to taste

First, squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into a medium bowl.

Add the Herbes de Provence, a few grinds (or shakes) of salt and pepper, water and sugar.

Whisk to blend, then add the Dijon mustard (a healthy squirt) and whisk again.

Keeping that whisk going, dribble in olive oil until it starts to thicken, then add some more.  I probably use about 1/3 to 1/2 cup in total.  Cconcentrate on it going from watery looking to slightly thicker as it emulsifies, while you are continually whisking and dribbling.  The success of this is in the two actions: dribbling and whisking.  It takes about a minute or two.

Recipe yield: 45 one-half cup servings.  Yes, we are counting every serving.  We currently have 285 servings coming, so I’ll be making up a batch myself to bring it up to the 300 servings that we need for that day.

If you want to make this for your family, the amounts for a single batch can be found if you click **here**.

Elizabeth’s Vegetable Lasagna

 - by Elizabeth

I don’t know how I dreamed up this dish.  I guess it was when I had to take something to a church supper, and I didn’t want another lasagna that weighed 40 tons on the plate and would send a person into cardiac arrest.  I wanted something that had a rich taste, but didn’t have the greasy, overloaded-with-cheese experience that is germane to this dish.  Now those types have their place.  Just not on my plate.

This recipe is open to variations, and is always a winner, even though that is a cliche.  I think the inclusion of the mushrooms give it a meaty taste, the vegetables bring it juiciness and the minimal cheese brings it richness.

We make this a lot in summer and it is really good leftover in lunch containers.  I like it also in winter as it is satisfying.  Okay, enough of telling you what it is and isn’t–the recipe follows with pictures.  Make it yourself and decide.

about 1 pound crimini mushrooms, also known as brown mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 red sweet bell pepper, julienned
1 yellow sweet bell pepper, julienned
3 medium or 2 large zucchini, scrubbed clean and sliced
9 oz package of no-boil flat lasagne noodles (I use Barilla brand in a blue box)
1 jar spaghetti sauce (I use Ragu with extra mushrooms)
1/2 to 1 cup water
less than 8 oz. whole-milk mozzerella cheese, cut in thin slices (I use Precious brand, in shrink wrap)  I can’t give you an exact amount because while I use it sparingly, you may want more.

Start by sauteeing about a pound of mushrooms in a small amount of olive oil and butter (equal parts).  Don’t crowd the pan–do it in several bathes.  Then slice up the bell peppers and do the same. The zucchini needs the same workup.

Place about 1/2 cup of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish, approximately 9 by 13-inch size.  Spread the sauce to cover the bottom, then place a layer of noodles on top of that, covering the bottom of the dish.  It’s okay to break some in half if you need to do that, now, or later on.  Add water to the top of the spaghetti sauce jar, replace lid and shake to blend.

Top the noodles with about one-third of your mushrooms.  Spoon some sauce over that, then using a light touch, place the thin slices of cheese on top of that.  I do not cover the surface.  Instead it looks more like the red squares on a checkerboard, with the black squares being left devoid of cheese.

Layer in more noodles, more sauce, and then add about another 1/2 cup of water to the jar of sauce, shake to blend.  Your next layer can be the peppers, as shown above, or zucchini. There’s no set order, just alternate mushrooms, peppers, and zucchini until the pan is full.

This is how I place my cheese: sparingly. I promise you that you won’t miss the excess.

Keep layering (this is the mushroom layer–I heap those babies on) until you end with noodles.  Or mushrooms, or whatever. Place the rest of the sauce on top of that (you can always slosh in some more water if you’re running low on sauce), then cheese. Stroke the dull side of a large piece of tinfoil with a cube of butter to grease it, then place it over your lasagna, crimping to seal the edges.

Bake in a 375-degree oven until bubbly, about 50-60 minutes.  If your cheese isn’t melted (take a peek), you can uncover your lasagna and bake for about 5 more minutes, until it is.  Let it stand for a about 10-15 minutes before serving, then enjoy!