Meatless Monday: Green Zucchini Lasagna
Many great things came from tonight. It was as if the stars aligned. First, I made gluten-free vegetarian lasagna without it being soggy (a personal celebration due to all the times I’ve come up short with overly moist eggplant parmesan). Secondly, this personal best came about from the creation of the sauce plop (something I may want to trademark before you all steal this golden idea! – kidding obviously). Lastly, I found a way to hide some organic leafy greens in this meatless dish and I also managed to start tomorrow night’s dinner. Whew! I’m a little exhausted.
I’m sure you are wondering what sauce plopping is and how it saved this dish (or maybe you’re not, but if you keep reading you will find out anyway). Sauce plopping is the art of splattering sauce on top of your zucchini lasagna layers. In doing this, there wasn’t an excess of sauce, which in the past has led me to watery eggplant parmesan. Sauce plopping is almost like making those splatter paintings I made when I was a kid, except that as a kid I was using paint and dripping it onto paper attached to an awesome spinner machine. What could be better than a little nostalgia before dinner?
Anyways, back to the lasagna, which turned out fabulous. The gluten-free bread crumbs stayed mostly crunchy, which added some texture to this soft dish. I made sure not to overcook the zucchini, so it still had a bit of a slight crunch. In between the green layers was tomato sauce, a dusting of mozzarella cheese, thickly grated carrots, and garlic flavored spinach. On the last layer, I topped it all off with Parmesan cheese, which became crispy upon baking. The smell that came from the lasagna-filled oven was beyond the smell any Italian would hope to create when cooking.
Ingredients for Green Zucchini Lasagna:
*Serves 8 (or 2 with many leftovers for lunches) / cook/prep time: about 1 hour and 15 minutes (though I’m sure if you get creative you can shorten the time by either baking the zucchini slices all at once)
1 organic red bell pepper, halved with the stem and seeds cut out, roasted and then sliced
2 medium Zucchinis (or 7 small), sliced lengthwise (not peeled)
2 1/2 cups of gluten-free or regular breadcrumbs (if they are not Italian breadcrumbs add 1/2 tsp each of oregano, dried basil, garlic powder, and pepper)
1 egg with 2 tbsp of milk (almond, regular, or other), beaten
4 tbsp and 1 tsp of olive oil (1 tbsp for each batch of zucchini strips and 1 tsp for the spinach/carrot mixture)
1/2 – 2/3 cup of baby carrots thickly grated or chopped lengthwise
2 – 3 cups of baby spinach (or more if you like!)
1/4 tsp of salt, pepper, and garlic powder
2 1/2 cups of tomato sauce (roughly)
2/3 cup of mozzarella cheese (grated)
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, thickly grated (or whichever way you prefer)
1 – Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Then chop and grate all your vegetables, as specified above. Put the halved pepper on a baking pan and roast until the skin becomes wrinkled and soft (about 30 minutes). At this point, you can take the pepper out of the oven to cool. Once it is cool, slice it lengthwise.
2 – While the pepper is roasting, beat the egg and almond milk. Set out your breadcrumb mixture (in a large flat bowl) and your zucchini slices. Coat the zucchini slices with egg and then cover them with breadcrumbs. Set aside. After you have breaded about 1/4 of the mixture, heat the frying pan. Add about 1 tbsp of olive oil (my choice for a healthy fat). When the olive oil is heated add the breaded zucchini to the pan. Turn the slices after they begin to brown (no need to cook them fully in the frying pan) or about 2 minutes on each side. The intent is not to fry them, but to brown them and begin the cooking process (which is why I only used I tablespoon of olive oil per pan of zucchini).
3- After each batch of zucchini is done, sweep out the crumbs, add another tablespoon of olive oil and start again. At some point during this process heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the carrots to the pan with the 1/4 teaspoon of salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Let the carrots soften in the pan for about 3-5 minutes. Then throw the spinach in. Let the spinach wilt and stir the mixture.
4- Time to assemble! Layer the bottom of the pan with a thin coat of your choice of tomato sauce. Add 1 layer of breaded zucchini slices. Loosely place carrots and spinach on next (save 1/2 of the mixture for the next layer). Then add a layer of bell pepper slices. Sprinkle a thin layer of mozzarella cheese. Start sauce plopping (with a tablespoon add dabs of sauce over the layer – then spread if you choose). Repeat. For the last layer add the zucchini, sauce, and Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the zucchini is tender.
Do you have any silly techniques that help you in the kitchen? Feel free to share any vegetarian lasagna recipes below!