Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Vegetable Gods

When my friend came to stay this week, she brought with her a big bag of home-grown goodness from her dad's vegie patch. We don't have our own vegetable garden (yet) so it was nice to pretend for a while. The tomatoes and basil, along with some two-day-old crusts of Bourke Street Bakery olive oil loaf got turned into a scrummy bread salad. And the eggplants and zucchini became a tonight's dinner of chargrilled veg lasagne.

The vegetable gods are smiling down on our house tonight.

Tomato and Bread Salad
Cut some slightly stale good bread (not white sliced) into small chunks. Dice some good tomatoes. Combine in a bowl with torn basil and generous sloshings of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Eat.

Chargrilled Vegetable Lasagne
Using whatever you have available (zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, squash, capsicum), slice into lengths, brush with olive oil and grill on a barbecue or in a chargrill pan until just cooked. I like to char the capsicum separately directly over the flame on the gas stove, then seal in a plastic bag for about 15 minutes, and rub off the skin. Cut into large flat pieces.

In a saucepan, saute a diced onion and a couple of cloves of garlic in some olive oil. When onion is soft, add a tin or two of tomatoes and a bottle of passata. Add a few sprigs of thyme or oregano or bay leaves or whatever's lying around. Simmer for about 30 minutes, allowing it to reduce slightly. Add water if it gets too thick. Season. The tomato sauce has to taste good because it is in every layer of the lasagne and the vegetables finish their cooking in it, so make sure it tastes delicious.

In another saucepan, make a basic bechamel (melted butter, flour, milk). When it is the right consistency, add a small tub of ricotta and whisk in. Much nicer than grated tasty cheese any day.

In a lasagne dish, cover the base with a few spoons of the tomato sauce. Layer with lasagne sheets, vegetables, tomato sauce, lasagne sheets, vegetables, tomato sauce. I like to dot each layer with a few fresh oregano or marjoram leaves, or torn basil if you have it. End with a final layer of lasagne sheets and then pour over the bechamel. Top with grated parmesan and bake in a 180 degree oven for about 40 minutes until lovely and brown and bubbly and delicious.

Serve. Eat.

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