Savoriesnsweets’ Blog

Vegetarian Cravings

Posted on: October 29, 2009

For some strange reason, this past week, I have had absolutely NO desire to eat any meat at all.  As a matter of fact, I’ve only wanted vegetables, cheeses, good crusty breads, and some pastas.  This is very strange, but I’ll go with it.  I wonder if it’s the colder weather making me crave hearty vegetables.  Or if I’m finally feeling the need to detox from culinary school and all the rich and delicious food I had while I was there.  Or maybe, I just want my pants to fit a bit better, since I have unfortunately, put on about 12 pounds during culinary school. Eep!

Those who know me know I love food.  I think that swine, in all its forms is divine and freshly made pastas and pastries are like manna from heaven.  But maybe, it’s time for a break and my new veggie cravings are my body’s way of telling me to just chill out for a bit!  So in the spirit of veggie cravings, I bring you two recipes I’ve had that satisfied my new craving very much!  I’m sure I’ll be having some meat again soon enough — my freezer is still well-stocked with some home made sausage I made as a part of my externship!  But, until then, I’ll enjoy the beautiful vegetables in a hearty Ratatouille and Vegetarian Lasagna!

Autumn Ratatouille

This ratatouille is a hearty blend of eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes.  It’s quick, so it’s great for a weeknight and it’s sure to warm you up on a cold night!  Serve this with some warmed crusty bread and you’ve got a delicious and healthy meal!  If you want to make it vegan, omit the cheese and instead top it with some chopped toasted pine nuts. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup white mushrooms, sliced (You can also use cremini.)
  • 1/2 large or one whole small eggplant, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, quartered and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated or minced
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary or 1 sprig fresh
  • salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • grated parmesan or romano cheese (optional
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted and chopped
  • hearty, crusty bread, sliced and toasted
  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until it ripples.
  2. Add the onion and mushrooms and sweat for 5 to 6 minutes.
  3. Add the eggplant, zucchini, and bell pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. If you have a microplane, grate the garlic right into the pot.  If not, add the garlic, minced.  Cook 1 minute more.
  5. Add the rosemary, salt and pepper and tomato paste.  Cook for 2 minutes, until the tomato paste begins to caramelize.
  6. Add the whole tomatoes and break up with a wooden spoon. Cover and cook for 30 to 40 minutes until thick and reduced.
  7. In the meantime, toast the bread.  If using the pine nuts, toast in the oven at 350 degrees for about 5-7 minutes.  Cool and then roughly chop.
  8. Add the lentils and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes.
  9. To serve, ladle into a heated bowl and top with cheese or pine nuts.  Serve with toasted bread.

Veggie Lasagna

The key to making sure this is delicious and rich is using fresh mozzarella.  Although my batch came out a bit on the watery side, it was flavorful, rich and delicious.  And since I used oven-ready lasagna noodles, this was quick enough for a weeknight meal.

Ingredients:

For the vegetables:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 yellow squash, diced
  • 1/2 large eggplant, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 box oven ready lasagna noodles
  1. In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat the olive oil.
  2. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini, squash, eggplant, and carrot and cook until softened and the carrots are browned.
  4. Add the garlic, fennel seed, red pepper and rosemary and cook 2 minutes more.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  5. Once the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes, reserve.

For the sauce:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 (28 ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes
  1. In a large pot, over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil.
  2. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and the wine.  Cook until thick and reduced by about 1/3, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.

For the cheese:

  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 bunches of spinach, washed and torn
  • 1 ball of fresh mozzarella, diced
  1. In a deep bowl, place the ricotta cheese, egg, red pepper flakes and spinach.
  2. Mix thoroughly to combine and reserve.

To assemble:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a rectangular baking dish, add a spoonful of the sauce and spread it evenly.
  2. Add a layer of noodles, placing them close together.
  3. Add a layer of vegetables, spreading the vegetables evenly.
  4. Add a layer of sauce.
  5. Dollop half of the ricotta cheese mixture on top of the sauce and one third of the mozzarella. Add another layer of noodles.
  6. Add a layer of vegetables on top of the noodles.
  7. Add a layer of sauce.
  8. Dollop the remaining half of the ricotta cheese mixture on top of the sauce and one third of the mozzarella. Add another layer of noodles.
  9. Top with another layer of sauce and the rest of the mozzarella.
  10. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  The cheese should be melted and the noodles cooked through.  To serve, let the lasagna rest for 10 minutes after removing from the oven and slice.

Sorry for the lack of pictures but I was really hungry!

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