Tree-ripened peaches, Michigan blueberries, Bixby corn, vine-ripened tomatoes and armfuls of fresh-picked herbs are waving their final farewells as the heartier squashes and versatile apples take center stage. As my baby girl willing explores new tastes and textures on her virgin taste buds, I find it a daily challenge to avoid fall-back foods (Annie's mac and cheese or almond butter/jelly sandwiches) and find new fares for her to try. Today, I reawakened the chef inside and produced a dish that has all the flare of fall: comfort food (lasagna) and fall produce (butternut squash).
As I share my recipe with you, I'll provide hints/substitutions/suggestions along the way to guide your quest to reawaken your stove and enjoy the swell of heat in the kitchen again.
I printed this off a blog over a year ago and cannot remember the source. A deep apology to the person who deserves mounds of credit for this recipe.
(If you are using a food processor, chop the nuts before you make the fillings to save washing and drying between steps. The filling and sauce can be made ahead of time, and you don't need to precook the noodles.)
9-11 lasagna noodles, preferably whole grain*
1/2 onion, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil**
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chopped spinach, kale, chard or other dark green leafy vegetable***
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup boiling water
* Since I'm cooking for 2.5, I make two 8 x 8 pans instead of one 9 x 13 so I need at least 12 noodles if I'm making two smaller dishes.
** I used coconut oil so it wouldn't go rancid in the cooking process.
*** This is an excellent opportunity to use kale--so healthy, yet not so common in dishes.
1 1/2 pounds firm or silken tofu
2 eggs or 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried basil*
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon back pepper
* I used fresh, and it turned out fine.
3 cups mashed, cooked butternut squash*
3/4 cup milk (dairy or nondairy)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon miso**
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (this is where all the flavor comes in!)
* I steamed chunks of butternut squash until they were super soft and a fork could easily pierce the chunks all the way through. Then I scooped out the meat and put it directly in the food processor with the other ingredients.
** This may be one of those ingredients you're not prone to keeping handy in your kitchen--unless you have Asian flare like myself :). If you're having trouble finding miso in your grocery store or if you're having trouble locating an Asian market, you can usually get the miso soup mixes from most big chain grocery stores (in the Asian aisle) and inside you will find small packets of miso. I have a feeling that if you don't add the miso, it wouldn't affect the flavor drastically.
(the butternut sauce and tofu filling)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Saute onion in olive oil until soft. Stir in garlic and greens. If greens are dry, add a little water. Cover and steam 5 minutes or until soft. Set aside.
Place tofu filling ingredients in food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Remove to bowl and set aside. Place sauce ingredients in food processor or blender. Puree until smooth.
Assemble lasagna as follows: Cover bottom of 9 x 13 pan with thin layer of sauce. Place a single layer of lasagna noodles in bottom of pan. Leave a little space between the noodles because they will expand when cooked. Spread half of the tofu filling over the noodles.
(after the first layer of tofu filling)
Sprinkle half of the cooked greens over tofu. Spread a third of the butternut sauce over the greens. Repeat for one more layer. Place noodle layer on top and cover with butternut sauce. Sprinkle chopped nuts evenly over squash. Pour boiling water in corners and around edges of lasagna. Cover pan with foil and bake for 35 minutes.
(cooking in the oven, as you can see, the lasagna is fairly thick and fills the pan)
Remove cover and bake 10 minutes. Allow to stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
(yummy walnuts cooked on top)
(view from the side to illustrate the depth of the lasagna)
Makes 8 tasty servings.
Note: To save time, you can buy frozen pureed squash.
Variation: Ricotta cheese can be substituted for tofu. Only use 1 egg or 1 tablespoon olive oil if using ricotta cheese.