Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna and Brussel Sprout Leaves

It snowed in Connecticut- in October! I, blessedly, did not lose power, so I have time to record recent culinary adventures.
Did you know the leaves of the brussel sprout plant are edible? Not just edible- really delicious. They have the texture of collard greens, but are sweet without needing long simmering or a lot of fiddling with. The addition of some mustard into the cooking liquid (called 'likker' in the South) toward the end of cooking gives the dish a great added dimension. I had it with some roast chicken and a baked sweet potato with maple syrup and cajun seasoning.

Short Simmered Brussel Sprout Leaves
These are the leaves that grow on the top of the plant- not to be confused with the leaves that comprise each little sprout. 

Leaves from one Brussel Sprout plant
1 Tablespoon oil or butter
1 medium onion
1 garlic clove
1 cup chicken broth
1 heaping teaspoon brown mustard mixed into 1/2 cup warm water

1. Remove the leaves from the plant and cut into one-inch pieces. Peel the onion and slice thinly. Peel and slice the garlic.
2. Fill a bowl with cold water and put the leaves in, swishing around to remove any dirt or silt. Lift out of the water, and repeat with clean water. Repeat until there is no longer any visible dirt in the water. Do not dry the leaves.
3. Heat the oil or butter and add the onion. Cook over medium heat until soft. Add the garlic and brussel sprout leaves and stir to coat the leaves with the onions, garlic and oil. Add the chicken broth and lower the heat to a slow simmer. Simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, tasting occasionally to see if it is the ‘toothsome-ness’ you prefer.
4. When it is the right texture, add the mustard-water and turn the heat on high. Cook, stirring, until the liquid is reduced, about another 5 minutes.

We are officially into the autumn-comfort-food season now! My CSA share brought purple-topped turnips, cauliflower, potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, escarole. peppers and eggplant. The escarole went into a soup with pigeon peas and pastina. I added carrots, onion and garlic to the eggplant, pepper and turnips, roasted them with lots of rosemary, and layered them into a lasagna. Much easier than it sounds, and redolent with the essence of autumn.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagne
You can substitute any hardy vegetable for these: sweet potatoes, parsnips, white potatoes, onions, fennel- all would work. Sage instead of rosemary would also be delicious. This recipe looks long, but it is mostly hands-off, so you can start roasting the veggies and simmering the sauce and read the paper until they are ready. Assemble, throw in the oven, and relax some more for another hour.
The Vegetables:
 1 medium eggplant
2 large carrots
2 purple-topped turnips
1/2 onion
1 banana pepper
4 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary
salt and pepper
 The Sauce:
 One 32-ounce can tomato puree
1/2 onion
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 fat cloves garlic
1 stalk of celery
4 ounces mushrooms
1/2 cup red wine
salt and pepper
The Assembly:
 one package of no-bake lasagna noodles
1-pound ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces mozzarella

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Roast the vegetables: Wash the eggplant, carrots, and turnips and cut them all into strips 1/4” x 2”.  Cut the onion half into 4 wedges. Cut the pepper in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and cut into strips.  Peel the garlic and slice thickly (each clove will make about 4 slices). Place in a roasting pan and toss with the olive oil and rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and roast for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and cook another 15 minutes. The vegetables should be tender, but not mushy.
3. Meanwhile, make the sauce: Mince the onion, garlic, celery and mushrooms. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onion and celery. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic and stir to combine. Cook another 2 or 3 minutes and add the wine and tomato puree. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Combine the ricotta, egg and oregano and season with black pepper. Grate the mozzarella.
5. Spread a small amount of sauce (about 1/4 cup) over the bottom of a lasagna pan. Make three layers, starting with the lasagna noodles, then ricotta, vegetables, mozzarella, and then sauce. Finish with sauce and mozzarella.
6. Bake at 375 for about an hour. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting.

Escarole and Pigeon Pea Soup
White cannelloni beans could be used instead of pigeon peas. This is a very hearty soup, great served with whole grain bread and sweet butter.
1 onion
1 large or 2 medium carrots
2 cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon olive oil
One bunch escarole
1 can pigeon peas, or 2 cups cooked pigeon peas
4 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water
2 Tablespoon pastina or orzo
1 Tablespoon fresh herbs (sage, thyme or oregano)
kosher salt and pepper to taste

  1. Cut the escarole into 1/2-inch pieces and wash in several changes of water. Peel and chop the onion and garlic. Rinse and drain the peas. Dice the carrot and chop the herbs.
  2. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onion and carrots. Cook over medium-low heat until barely tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and escarole and stir. Add the peas and broth and cook, stirring, about 15 minutes. Taste to see if the escarole is done. When it is done, add the pastina or orzo and herbs. Cook an additional 10 minutes.
Even though the summer CSA season is over, I'll be shopping at the farmstand through November. More to come!

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