Summer Lasagna with Vegetables, Sausage and Pesto

2 08 2011

Summer Lasagna with Vegetables, Sausage and Pesto

Farmers’ markets are at their peak right now and almost anything that grows during the summer is now available. To take advantage of the bounty, why not make this lasagna which is packed full of summer herbs and vegetables? It’s the perfect dish for entertaining because you can assemble it in advance and bake as guests arrive. The various components take a bit of time to pull together but it’s pretty straightforward and the effort is well worth it. The recipe can also be adapted to suit vegetarians.

Summer Lasagna with Vegetables, Sausage and Pesto

Serves 6 to 8

For a vegetarian version, omit the sausage and double the vegetables.

Pesto Sauce:

  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Pinch of salt

Sausage and Vegetable Sauce:

  • 3 mild Italian sausages
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced eggplant (about ½ small eggplant, cut into a ½” dice)
  • 1 cup diced zucchini (cut into a ½” dice)
  • ½ small red pepper, diced
  • ½ small yellow pepper, diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 28 fl. oz. (796 ml) can whole tomatoes
  • 5.5 fl. oz. (156 ml) can tomato paste
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt to taste

Béchamel Sauce:

  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3 cups whole or 2% milk
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Salt, to taste

For Assembly:

  • 3 to 5 fresh lasagna sheets (or more to fit the pan)
  • 5 oz. mozzarella, grated (equals about 1 cup loosely packed when grated)
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

To Make the Pesto Sauce:

  1. In a food processor or processor cup of a hand blender, combine all ingredients and puree until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To Make the Sausage and Vegetable Sauce:

  1. Remove sausage meat from casings. Heat olive oil on medium-high in a large skillet or enameled cast iron pot. Add sausage meat and cook until just browned, about 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove sausage from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add eggplant, zucchini, peppers and onion to the pan and cook until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, chopped basil and red pepper flakes and cook for another two minutes.
  3. Pour in tomatoes and break up with a spoon. Add tomato paste and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Let the sauce simmer for about 15 minutes until it is thick (béchamel can be prepared during this time – see below). Season tomato sauce with a pinch of sugar and salt to taste. Set aside until ready to use. Sauce can be refrigerated up to two days.

To Make the Béchamel Sauce:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat butter on medium-high until just melted. Add flour and quickly whisk into the melted butter. Reduce heat to medium and cook flour mixture for 2 minutes, whisking constantly.
  2. Add 1 cup of milk and whisk until smooth. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until mixture begins to thicken and add another cup of milk. Continue until all milk has been added. Add nutmeg and stir to combine. Season with salt to taste and set aside until ready to use.

Assembling and Baking the Lasagna:

  1. In the bottom of a baking pan measuring 7” X 11” X 2” (2 quarts), spread a thin layer of pesto sauce. Cover with a thin layer of tomato/sausage sauce and top with a drizzle of béchamel.
  2. Place a fresh lasagna noodle on top, cutting sheets to fit the pan as necessary.
  3. Repeat the process: pesto, tomato sauce, béchamel, noodles/pesto, tomato sauce, béchamel, noodles/pesto, tomato sauce, béchamel. Top with shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan. Lasagna can be refrigerated until ready to bake, up to two days.
  4. To Bake: Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake lasagna for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top is bubbling and beginning to brown. Let cool slightly before serving.
Bon Appétit and Enjoy!
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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

This recipe first appeared on Suite 101.com.

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Stuffed Red Peppers

9 09 2010

Stuffed red peppers make a hearty late summer meal

This week’s markets were awash in vivid colour as peppers hit their seasonal peak in Ontario.  I saw everything from mild poblanos to fiery hot habaneros but the most abundant were red bell and shepherd peppers.  Shepherd peppers are more elongated than bell peppers but they taste very similar and are basically interchangeable in recipes.

A red bell pepper growing in a garden near Picton, Ontario

Red peppers are just green peppers that have ripened.  However, once they turn red, the peppers become much sweeter, making them ideal for stuffing with meat, cheese, rice, grains or seafood.  This version was adapted from a recipe from an old issue of Bon Appétit magazine featuring the foods of Provence.  Stuffed vegetables are very popular in the South of France and are an excellent way to use up extra peppers or zucchini.

The recipe calls for slicing the peppers lengthwise in half and hollowing them out, however, they can also be stuffed by slicing off the top and filling the entire pepper.

A note to vegetarians: Check back soon for a meatless version!

Stuffed Red Peppers

Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 sweet or mild Italian sausages
  • 1 small zucchini (about 1-1/2″ in diameter and about 6″ long)
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 large red bell or shepherd peppers
  • Rosemary sprigs to garnish (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Remove the casings from the sausages and place the meat in a large bowl (see Removing Sausage Casing for tips on how to do this efficiently).
  3. Trim the stem and end from the zucchini and grate it into the bowl using a box grater.  Add the onion, garlic, herbs, breadcrumbs, egg and parmesan to the bowl.
  4. Using your hands, work the ingredients into the sausage meat until the mixture is thoroughly combined.  Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Slice the red peppers lengthwise down the middle.  Trim out the stem and any seeds and ribs.
  6. Spoon the sausage mixture into each pepper half.  Place on a baking sheet or in a shallow pan and bake for 45 minutes or until the tops are beginning to brown. Garnish with rosemary sprigs if desired.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Farmers’ Market Report – July 8th, 2010

8 07 2010

Zucchini blossoms are a rare and delicious summer treat.

Welcome to my first Farmers’ Market Report for Summer 2010!  The markets are at their peak for the next couple of months and this week’s offerings did not disappoint.  In fact, growing conditions in Southern Ontario have been so good this year, there were a few surprises.  Here is a rundown of some of this week’s highlights:

Corn

Corn has arrived at Ontario markets earlier than usual this year.

I was a bit stunned to see the first local corn at the markets already.  Speaking with some farmers, I learned that’s about two weeks earlier than normal this year.  I bought six ears to experiment with, crossing my fingers the quality was going to be decent. The ears were on the small side but the kernels were very tender.  It wasn’t as flavourful as I’d hoped but because it’s so early, I’m sure later harvests will be sweeter. My favourite way to eat corn is boiled, rolled in butter and then topped with salt and pepper. However, if you’re looking for something more elegant, try my recipe for Corn with Red Pepper and Herbs.

Peaches

Like corn, peaches are also early this year.  I didn’t buy any this week but we’ve been having a heat wave so hopefully that bodes well for upcoming weeks (peaches love hot, dry weather).  Peach Tiramisu is an elegant, no-bake dessert that showcases fresh peaches beautifully.

Apricots

Apricots were abundant at this week's market.

I often find raw apricots kind of bland with a bit of a mealy texture but the ones I bought today were pretty tasty.  They had a nice sweet-tartness to them so I ate a few out of hand.  I chose ones on the smaller side but the farmers were selling larger ones as well.  Apricots are ideal for both sweet and savoury recipes; why not make some Spicy Apricot Glazed Grilled Shrimp?

Herbs

Fresh herbs were in abundance this week including basil, mint and dill.  I keep an herb pot during the summer for day-to-day herbs but if I decide to do any large batch pickling or pesto, I’ll head to the farmer’s market to buy large amounts at a good price. To make use of summer herbs, check out my recipes for Pesto Sauce and White Bean Dip with Fresh Herbs.

Summer Squash

Pattypan squash and baby zucchini.

I have a feeling that zucchini are going to take over many gardens this summer, judging by the number and size of them at this week’s market.  Many of the yellow and green zucchini on display were already getting a little big for my taste (smaller ones tend to be less watery and are better for most recipes).  Pattypan squash were also abundant this week. You can make the most of summer squash by making Zucchini Pie with Fresh Basil or a moist Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting.  I was also excited to find zucchini blossoms at a local grocer this week.  They are fragile and rare but will occasionally turn up at local markets.  To use them, try my recipes for Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms.

I discovered another summer squash this week that I was not familiar with: vegetable marrow (see photo below).  I asked the farmer about them and learned that they are very similar to zucchini and are often stuffed with a ground meat mixture.  It seems to be a popular vegetable in England.  You can find a recipe for stuffed vegetable marrow here: Recipe for Stuffed Marrow with Sausage Meat.

Vegetable marrow are similar to zucchini and are delicious stuffed.

Cucumbers

My husband loves cucumbers and often eats sliced cukes with a dash of salt and pepper as a snack.  They also add a fresh note to sandwiches and salads.  A crisp Asian Summer Slaw makes a great no-cook dinner.  Some of the stalls were selling dill alongside baby cucumbers – one-stop shopping for pickle makers.  Pick up some smoked salmon to make a Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad that is accented with fresh dill.

Cherries

Both sweet and sour Ontario cherries were abundant this week.  While sweet cherries are imported from the U.S. each spring, sour ones are harder to find.  My grandmother had a sour cherry tree in her yard so they were the only kind we ever had when I was growing up.  They’re not very good raw but once cooked and sweetened, they have a tartness that is addictive.  For a classic sour cherry pie recipe, check out this one from Epicurious.com: Classic Sour Cherry Pie with Lattice Crust.  If you have sweet cherries, why not make a Cherry Clafouti with Almonds or a simple Cherry Almond Bread?

Asparagus

I was told that this is probably the last week for asparagus this year.  Usually by the end of the season, asparagus is starting to look tired but not this year.  The stalks were thick, robust and vibrant.  This was an exceptional year for asparagus and I enjoyed it in a variety of dishes.  Check out the Asparagus Archives for some delicious ideas ranging from Sesame Noodles with Asparagus and Mushrooms to a rich and decadent Roasted Asparagus Lasagna.

Until next week,

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Zucchini Pie with Fresh Basil

16 08 2009

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It’s no secret that I love savoury tarts. I have posted a number of different recipes for vegetable-based pies/tarts/quiches including Swiss Chard Tart, Leek and Ham Tart, Crustless Asparagus Quiche and Tomato Tart with Herbed Ricotta.  There’s just something about them that appeals to me and luckily the French and Italians have a strong tradition of cooking seasonal produce in pie form so I find inspiration everywhere. 

This pie is a great way to use the abundance of zucchini that crops up every summer. As a child growing up in the country, zucchini would over take gardens by the end of summer and people would give them away by the basketful.  I’m sure that farmers must laugh at city folk who actually pay for zucchini at the markets but since I don’t have room to grow my own, I have no real choice. One of my favourite recipes is Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting but I enjoy savoury main dishes made with this versatile summer squash as well. 

Zucchini Pie makes a great vegetarian main dish or an delicious side to grilled meats. Click here to check out my recent article for Suite 101.com:  Zucchini Pie with Fresh Basil.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting

28 08 2008

 

Zucchini is vegetable that a lot of people love to hate.  They grow very easily and by the end of the summer in farming areas, there are usually more zucchini than anyone can use!  Luckily it is very versatile – because it doesn’t have a strong flavour, it can be used in baked goods, pickles, savoury dishes or just eaten on its own.  

This bread is similar to a carrot cake.  The zucchini keeps the bread moist so the frosting is not necessary but it I urge you to try it because it really takes it over the top! The frosting can also be used on your favourite carrot cake as well.

Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 1 loaf 

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 1 cup cake and pastry flour (use all purpose flour if you don’t have it)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola or safflower
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups grated zucchini (about 1-1/2 medium zucchini)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Optional – Cream Cheese Frosting (see recipe below)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a standard size loaf pan with a neutral oil and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and sugar.  Stir until combined and spices are distributed throughout.
  3. In a separate small bowl, beat eggs vigorously with a whisk until they are frothy, about 30 seconds.  Add eggs to flour mixture.
  4. Add oil, vanilla and zucchini and mix until combined.  Add pecans and raisins and stir until combined.
  5. Pour batter into loaf pan.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Let bread cool completely before adding frosting.

 

Cream Cheese Frosting

This is also perfect for carrot cake.  The recipe can easily be doubled.

Makes about 3/4 cup frosting (can easily be doubled)

  • 4 oz. cream cheese (1/2 of a block), softened
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 4 teaspoons neutral oil, such as canola or safflower
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Add all ingredients to a large bowl.  Using a stand mixer with whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat ingredients until smooth, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.  
  2. Spread generously over cooled bread or your favourite cake.
Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting, cut into slices

Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting, cut into slices

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!

 

 

 





Zucchini Blossoms

28 07 2008

One of the goals of The Seasonal Gourmet is to develop recipes that almost anyone can make without searching high and low for exotic ingredients.  However, I feel that I must make a minor exception for zucchini blossoms.  They are not easy to find but if you do happen to come across some they are a wonderful treat.  Your best chance of finding them is at a farmer’s market – they are too fragile to be shipped very far for supermarkets.  The are very popular in Italy where they are often stuffed and then fried in a batter.  I don’t know why they aren’t more popular in North America because there certainly isn’t a shortage of zucchini here.  Perhaps a lot of people don’t realize that the flowers are edible (and delicious!).

Here are two recipes I’ve developed based on zucchini flowers I’ve eaten in Italy.  There are a few steps but it comes together quite easily and the results are definitely worth it.

Zucchini Blossoms with Herbed Ricotta

(VEGETARIAN)

Ricotta Filling:

  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon very finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon very finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine all ingredients and stir until blended.  Set aside until ready to use (can be made in advance and refrigerated).

Batter:

  • 1/2  cup unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil or neutral oil (such as canola or safflower)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3 egg whites
  1. In a large mixing bowl, add flour and olive oil.  Mix together with a spoon.  Add water 1/4 cup at a time, stirring completely into flour mixture.  Add enough to make a smooth batter. 
  2. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks.  Carefully fold beaten egg whites into batter.  Set aside until ready to use.

Putting it all together:

  • 10 to 12 zucchini flowers
  • Neutral oil for frying (such as safflower or canola) – enough to fill a large sauce pan about 2″ deep OR if you have a deep fryer, fill with oil according to manufacturer’s instructions
  • Sea salt
  • Lemon wedges
  1. Clean blossoms thoroughly, by gently peeling back the petals and rinsing inside.  Remove any stamen inside the blossom.  Blot carefully to dry on clean dish cloths or paper towels.  
  2. Carefully separate the petals and fill each flower with a spoonful of ricotta mixture.  Fold petals back up to enclose filling.  Dip blossoms in batter until they are coated.   
  3. Very carefully heat oil in pan (or heat deep fryer) until it is around 350 degrees Farenheit.  You should be able to fry a cube of bread until golden brown in about 15 seconds once it’s at the proper temperature (watch closely and reduce heat if oil begins to smoke).
  4. Drop a few battered blossoms at a time into the oil.   Cook until puffed and golden brown, approximately 2 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove blossoms from heat and drain on a layer of paper towel.   
  5. Repeat the frying process with remaining blossoms.  Sprinkle with sea salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and serve immediately.

 

Zucchini Blossoms with Shrimp

This recipe was inspired by a dish I had at Ristorante Romano, a seafood restaurant in Viareggio, Italy on the Tuscan coast.  This follows the same technique as the ricotta stuffed blossoms above but is even simpler because the filling doesn’t require any mixing.

  • 10 to 12 zucchini blossoms
  • 10 to 12 large cooked shrimp, shells and tails removed
  • Batter – see recipe above
  • Neutral oil for frying (such as safflower or canola) – enough to fill a large sauce pan about 2″ deep OR if you have a deep fryer, fill with oil according to manufacturer’s instructions
  • Sea salt
  • Lemon wedges
  1. Clean blossoms thoroughly, by gently peeling back the petals and rinsing inside.  Remove any stamen inside the blossom.  Blot carefully to dry on clean dish cloths or paper towels.  
  2. Carefully separate the petals and fill each flower with a shrimp.  Fold petals back up to enclose shrimp.  Dip blossoms in batter until they are coated.   
  3. Very carefully heat oil in pan (or heat deep fryer) until it is around 350 degrees Farenheit.  You should be able to fry a cube of bread until golden brown in about 15 seconds once it’s at the proper temperature (watch closely and reduce heat if oil begins to smoke).
  4. Drop a few battered blossoms at a time into the oil.   Cook until puffed and golden brown, approximately 2 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove blossoms from heat and drain on a layer of paper towel.   
  5. Repeat the frying process with remaining blossoms.  Sprinkle with sea salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and serve immediately.

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!