Saturday, November 24, 2007

Yoking the Dining Companions


During my middle-school and high-school years, my mother had me in church every Wednesday night, every Sunday morning and evening, and at every other possible opportunity. So I had it drilled into my head, over and over and over again, to not find myself unequally yoked to a husband. I’m not sure if this is what all kids learn in church, or if this was merely a personal crusade on my mother’s part, or if it was something my childhood pastor felt strongly about, but that particular tenet is something that I never forgot, though I'm sure I paraphrased it to within an inch of its life. Even during the, eh, let’s call them the ‘lost years,’ when I stridently chose to ignore every single other lesson learned during those formative years spent in church and under my mother's formidable wing, I was smart enough to not rebel against the whole equal yoking thing.

What is she babbling about, you ask?

In case you weren’t sent out into the world with a well-worn Bible in your hand and a mother still preaching loudly in your ear, here is the nutshell version of this sermon: 2 Corinthians 6:14 says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” Hmmm, it must be some other version that uses the “do not be unequally yoked” phrase. I’m not a Biblical scholar, so I’ll get this wrong if I go on too long about it…

Even though I dated plenty of men that made my mother shudder in horror, when it was all said and done, I married a man who, as I do, believes in God. Granted, I met The Carnivore in a bar. And our lifestyle at the time was pretty much the antithesis of everything I learned in church, and no, I won’t be going into further detail here. But even during those lost years, men who scorned the Bible or professed any sort of disdain for God, well, they didn’t make the short list.

And yet, I married a man who eats red meat.

It was SO important to me that the man I marry be an equal match when it came to spiritual matters, but here I find myself yoked as unequally as possible when it comes to food. And I’m fairly sure I’ve mentioned how important food is to me.

I mean, we didn’t exactly walk into this marriage with our eyes closed. By the time we hit the aisle together, we had known each other for about eight years, and we had been romantically involved for three of those. During that time we ate many a meal together. I had no plans to make a vegetarian out of him, and he was well aware that this aversion to eating red meat and birds was not something I was going to grow out of.

And yet, here we find ourselves, 15 years after meeting each other, sniping at each other about lasagna while at the dinner table this week.

Our differences in opinion over the lack of meat at the table is mostly a non-issue for us. I love to cook. The Carnivore loves to eat. And for the most part, he is very appreciative of the time and effort I put into each night’s dinner. He brings home the tofu and I fry it up in a pan... Obviously, we have made some concessions to each other. On the nights when I prepare what he views as nothing more than side dishes, he reaches into the fridge, pulls out the package of boneless beef chuck roast that I buy for him each week, and quickly sears a small piece of it so that he feels he has a balanced meal. He doesn’t mind that I don’t cook it for him, and I don’t mind there being a bloody piece of dead flesh on the table.

What can I say? We love each other…

But there are times, like this week, when he grumps up about one of my meatless entrees. And there are times, like this week, when I take offense. Usually we agree on whether or not a new recipe is a keeper, but this is simply not one of those times.

To be fair to The Carnivore, I was on edge to begin with. Amongst the Thanksgiving dishes that I was working to prepare on Tuesday and Wednesday, I still had to deal with making sure we had supper those nights, and Wednesday was my birthday, generally a day when I might appreciate NOT having to cook my own dinner. So after spending half the day on Tuesday first making my marinara sauce, and then putting together a giant lasagna to get us through two nights (so that I could concentrate a little more on Thanksgiving), I was sorely disappointed when The Carnivore desultorily picked at what I thought was an absolutely DELICIOUS vegetable lasagna.

And when I say I was ‘sorely disappointed,’ what I really mean is I was partly (only slightly irrationally) heartbroken that he didn’t like a dish that I unequivocally LOVED, and partly (quite rationally) royally peeved off that he said, and I quote, “Lasagna just isn’t lasagna without beef.”

So again, I’ll just take my toys…

Really, this lasagna is spectacular. I could eat it every day, and mom and Lily raved about it as well (granted, they don't eat red meat or birds either) when I turned my nose up at my husband and sent the leftovers to people who would better appreciate it. And I will cook it again.

The recipe came from the October issue of Cooking Light magazine, and I made very few changes to it. I did ignore their recipe for basic marinara sauce, instead using the recipe I blogged about recently, and I chopped up some leeks that were languishing forlornly in my crisper so as to save them from a miserable and lonely death in the mulch bed, and I made a couple of other very minor changes, but other than that, I can take almost no credit for this recipe, which is why I have no compunction about bragging about how dadgum GOOD it is.

And, even though usually I preach and bluster on about whole-wheat noodles, when it comes to lasagna, I don’t want the noodles to take up too much space. Instead, I think they need to back up and accept that their job is to be the supporting role to the filling, and to that effect, I use the Barilla no-boil, rolled flat, lasagna “sheets.” They are much thinner and more delicate than the usual burly curled-on-the-edges slabs of doughiness that are so often used in lasagna.

So here it is, free to a good home, to be shared by those will appreciate it: a great recipe for vegetarian lasagna (and please, feel free to mix-and-match vegetables to your liking - just make sure you end up with approximately 9 to 12 cups of chopped veggies before beginning the saute step):

COLORFUL VEGETABLE LASAGNA (about 8 servings)
  • 1-2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 16-oz sliced cremini mushrooms (also called Baby Bellas)
  • 1 leek, halved lenthwise and thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 oz grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 5 cups marinara sauce (a little less than double the recipe I use for marinara), divided
  • 12 no-boil lasagna sheets
  1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  2. Saute the bell peppers, onion, zucchini, mushrooms and leeks in oil for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables are crisp-tender.
  3. Add garlic to vegetables and saute for another 30 seconds.
  4. Drain vegetables in a colander to get rid of the excessive leftover mushroom liquid.
  5. Combine 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, ricotta, 3/4 cup Parmesan, and egg, stirring well.
  6. Spread 1 cup marinara sauce over bottom of a 9x13 baking dish; top with three noodles.
  7. Spoon 1 cup marinara sauce over noodles. Top evenly with 1/3 ricotta mixture, and 1/3 vegetable mixture.
  8. Add another layer: 3 noodles, 1 cup marinara, 1/3 ricotta, 1/3 vegetables.
  9. Repeat step 8 one more time.
  10. Top with last 3 noodles, then remaining 1 cup marinara.
  11. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and remaining 3/4 cup Parmesan.
  12. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
  13. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes.

NOTE: this recipe makes a LOT of lasagna. One of the great things about using the Barilla sheets is that, since they are much shorter and slighly wider than normal lasagna noodles, it is easy to halve this recipe and bake the smaller quantity in an 8-inch square baking dish to yield four servings. Just use 2 of these smaller noodles per layer instead of 3.

4 comments:

Tudu said...

I have been cooking with less and less meat, much to my Pookie's dismay. The one meal he will not complain about the lack of meat is Lasagna, so I laughed out loud when I read this post.

Kevin said...

Sarah,

your recipe sounds delicious, but... where's the beef??

Love, Uncle Kevin

Chrisiant said...

I am a complete nincompoop? Isn't 8oz of mozzarella 1 cup?

And how is 2oz Parmesan 3/4 of a cup?

I was so excited to do this, got everything ready, went to print it out and now I'm stumped!

Sarah Beam said...

Chrisiant,

8 oz of a liquid equals one cup. However, when it comes to solids, those measurements are not the same. If you take one cup of shredded mozzarella and weigh it on a kitchen scale, you will find it weighs less than 8 oz. There is displaced matter to take into consideration and my science is too rusty to explain in perfect detail. So, yes, if you use the 2 oz grated fresh Parm and the 8 oz shredded mozzarella, you will have the amount called for in the rest of the instructions.