Monday, March 15, 2010

"where did our respectable convictions go?"

the food: Green Lasagna
the song: "Holiday" The Get Up Kids

I have a love-hate relationship with our fair city this time of year. SXSW may well be the time when my two sides clash the most. My preferred activities, in order, are time spent in my home (cooking, gardening, cleaning, cat petting) closely followed by soaking up sun with good friends on beautiful Austin days (usually with music, most definitely with beer).

Homebody Emily, I'd like to introduce you to Social Emily. I think you guys have some things to work out.

Our week is even crazier this year, because the husband leaves tomorrow at 6 a.m. for a business trip. He gets back Thursday, and he will be heading directly from the airport to his dayshow. From then on, the rest of the week will be devoted entirely to music. I'm excited about it. South By is like taking a little mini vacation in our own town. We go to good restaurants, hang out downtown, stay out all day then go back out at night. It's a fun time. 

But I don't want to neglect homebody Emily. She keeps things going during the 51 non-SXSW weeks of the year. So I planned one big meal for the week that would take some time, love, and attention to prepare. Sunday I harvested all my collard greens, swiss chard, and cabbage from the garden (it is getting too hot these days. My collards were starting to bolt). About a third of these went into this amazing green lasagna. 

The secret is in the two, a creamy roasted garlic bechamel, the other a bright green pesto. The pesto brightens the lasagna a bit, while the bechamel provides the creaminess that I really like in self-indulgent pasta dishes like this one.  It is a big meal, not something I'd cook on a typical weeknight. The recipe makes a ton, but there are leftovers in the freezer waiting for either a late night meal this week or lunch when we go back to work. The important thing is that this meal tasted delicious. It is the one homecooked meal we're guaranteed to eat this week, so who cares if it's a little decadent? It's our vacation, afterall.

Green Lasagna
makes 8 servings

For the sauce:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk (most recipes call for whole milk, but I used 2% and it was fine)
1 head garlic
crushed red pepper (optional)
about 1/2 cup pesto (store-bought or homemade)

For the lasagna:
9-12 lasagna noodles (depending on how many layers you want and the size of your pan)
large bunch greens, cleaned, stems removed, roughly chopped (use whatever you like. I used a combination of collards, swiss chard, and cabbage)
1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
1 onion, diced
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 
olive oil

To start, roast your garlic. Slice the top off your garlic and drizzle with a little olive oil. Wrap in foil, and roast in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, until garlic is golden brown and very soft. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Once cool, squeeze garlic cloves out of their skins and mash lightly with a fork. Set aside.

Prepare lasagna noodles according to package directions. Set aside.*

When you are ready to make the sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in your mashed garlic. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Add a sprinkle of cracked red pepper, if you like. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

In a large skillet, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook until both start getting soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in greens and cook until they are just beginning to wilt. Remove from heat.

Spread 1/2 cup bechamel over the bottom of a 9x11 inch glass baking dish. Arrange a layer of lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/3 of the greens mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Top with another layer of noodles, then bechamel sauce, a few big tablespoons of pesto, greens, and cheese. Repeat layering until you are out of ingredients, ending with noodles, sauce and cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until top of lasagna is beginning to brown. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. 

*If you are using no-boil lasagna noodles, obviously this step isn't necessary. I never have used them because it doesn't bother me to cook the traditional noodles before hand. Plus, the no-boil are more expensive, and I am pretty cheap.

See you all next week when I'm back in the kitchen!


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