Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Smoked Salmon, Goat Cheese and Zucchini Lasagna

Ill admit, this is a lot of work, but if you make each component in a medium quantity, you will have a TON of lasagna on your hands that you can freeze, or great sauces to make a bunch of leftover meals. And the soft, creamy lasagna with the slight flavor of smoked salmon permeating the entire dish is SO worth it.

Or... just buy your tomato sauce and lasagna (cook before assembling!), and use fresh cream instead of the béchamel. I feel I am obligated to prefer the from-scratch version, but that would cut about 2 hours out of the prep time for this recipe. Hannah's got your back.

Step 1: Make the tomato sauce

1 1/2 white or sweet onion, chopped
2ish cloves garlic, cut up
4-ish tomatoes, diced. Perhaps a can of whole tomatos, diced?
basil leaves
italian seasonings of choice
salt and pepper
a tsp or two of brown sugar and/or baking soda to cut down on the acidity of the tomatoes.

Sauté the onion in butter or olive oil and when they are almost translucent throw in the garlic for a few more minutes. When this is well cooked, but not burning into crisps, throw in your seasonings and give it a good stir before throwing in the tomatoes. Simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes or more until the tomatoes soften into a "sauce" texture. Sprinkle with baking soda and enjoy watching it fluff up (who knew sauces could fluff!?) and then salt, pepper, sugar it until the desired flavor is achieved.

Set aside for layering.

Step 2: Zucchini

1 shallot, thinly sliced
3 medium sized zucchini, diced

So simple. Sauté the shallot in butter or olive oil then add in the diced zucchini over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon every 5-10 minutes until they are soft with translucent edges.

Set aside for layering.

Step 3: While this cooks, the pasta!

Alternatively, boil lasagna strips, cut into desired shapes, and set aside.

Fresh pasta is really, absolutely wonderful and fairly easy in a lasagna. Since there is practically no cutting/shaping, you don't need an expensive pasta machine and it is also a good chance to practice your dough-making skills before moving up to spaghetti or linguini!

2 eggs
2 cups of flour, or so
a pinch of salt
any fresh herbs you'd like to throw in

There are suggested flours for making pasta and pizza dough, but I enjoy adding density of whole wheat, or the nuttiness of country wheat, etc. As you like!

There are plenty of wonderful online tutorials for making pasta, so I won't pretend to be an expert here, but do google the process if it is your first time. Here is my favorite.

In any case, using a well in the flour and a fork, slowly whip together the eggs and flour

Let sit 20 minutes, covered, to let the flour soak up the moisture.

Knead the dough and roooool out into large sheets, half the dough at a time, making sure to use plenty of flour to keep it easy.

Cut dough into the shapes of the pot you will be using to bake your lasagna, and keeping in mind that it so does not have to be perfect in any way what-so-ever. I suggest making all your shapes before making the béchamel in step 4 because it will start to get lumpy if you leave it sitting while you roll out more dough.

Set aside for layering. (see a pattern here? makes this long and complicated recipe much more manageable...)

Step 4: Assembling

Sauteed zucchini (above)
a chunk of goat cheese
Tomato sauce (above)
Pasta (above)
one package smoked salmon
frozen spinach, thawed, slightly cooked, and salted
béchamel (below) or about 3/4 c cream
swiss cheese, grated (or cheese of choice)

The béchamel sauce in step 5 is finicky and won't stay smooth long after cooking, so its best to set up and start the assembling beforehand, making the sauce only at the last second.

layer the bottom of your baking dish with the following:

1. zucchini
2. chunks of goat cheese
3. pasta layer

Go ahead and assemble your work space with the smoked salmon, cut into strips, the tomato sauce, and any other vegetable layer you want to use (I highly suggest sautéeing and salting some spinach leaves... ahem... I just thawed some frozen ones...), cheeses and lasagna strips.

Step 5: le béchamel

This sauce makes the lasagna, I do believe. It is a basic French sauce, and an unfathomable boon to your cooking repetoire. It inexplicably has that thick, cheesy flavor despite the fact that it is made with butter, flour and milk, and it is eternally flexible for any genre of sauce you want to make. Curry, basil, fish sauce, veggie sauce... n'importe quoi!

50g butter, or a little less than 1/4c
50g flour, or a little less than 1/2c
50cl milk, or about 1/4 a cup
~actually, i've been converting this wrong and adding more like 2 cups of milk, and its great! same thing, but with a lot more of it!

In a sauce pan, melt the butter. Then, while whisking furiously, plop all the flour in at once.

This will create something of a greasy ball of flour that should also be consistant and smooth. This much can be made earlier and set aside.

Off the heat, whisk in the milk one good splash at a time, whisking until it is homogeneous before each consecutive splash. Once all is incorporated and homogeneous, put the pot back on the stove and continue whisking - without stopping! - for about 5 or 10 minutes and all the sudden you will literally feel it start to thicken.

Continue whisking until it is the consistency you desire. As a basic level of reference, when a wooden spoon dipped in and lifted out of the sauce keeps a thick coating, and when swiping your finger across this coating leaves a distinct tract, it is sufficiently thick.

Salt and pepper, and if you want to be french, a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg. I am not french.

Immediately start spooning it into your baking pan over the first layer of lasagna.

Continue layering.

Below is the sequence of layers that I used, but honestly, I don't think you could go wrong, with the one exception of having an uncovered lasagna layer on top. Finish with a veggie layer, and cheese!

(already layered:
zucchini and shallots
goat cheese
lasagna layer)

smoked salmon
swiss cheese
tomato sauce
zucchini and shallots
generous swiss cheese

Bake @ 395ºf (200ºc) for 30+ minutes, uncovered. The time could vary, so go until the cheese starts to brown and the liquid bubbling on the sides starts to subside, leaving a dark edge. I highly suggest these little serving size ceramic cups! They're (imagine the pinched voice) high fashion right now in Paris, but I like especially like them because you can cut out the circles of your pasta with the lids, they keep all the liquid in so they cook perfectly, AND you can just pop them in when your guests arrive and they're done just 20 minutes later!

This recipe makes a TON, so just keep layering till you're out of ingredients, or keep some tomato sauce to the side for pizza, or some pasta for spaghetti night, or just freeze the extra portions!

1 comment:

  1. I feel I should say "Now I've seen everything". That's gotta be the most intriguing lasagna I've discovered in a long time. A delicious marriage of flavors. Now, to find the time to make it!