Pumpkin & Bean Lasagna with Caramelized Garlic

9 11 2010

The only way I can really describe this lasagna, is by comparing it to going on a date with someone who is really high maintenance, who you think you’re going to have nothing in common with, but you end up totally hitting it off. Um then you keep them in your fridge for a week, snacking on bits and pieces.

This is the first recipe I’ve ever made from Passionate Vegetarian. Honestly, the book scares the shit out of me. Over 1,000 recipes, thick as hell. I’ve had it for over a year and have rarely glanced at it. It’s like the Atlas Shrugged of vegetarian cook books…minus the fascism. But in my fall process of milking every pumpkin for what it’s worth, I needed to find a new recipe.

I looked this one over, my initial thoughts including, “Pumpkin and bean filling?? Ookkay. Ricotta and cabbage?…that’s fucking gross”. But I pushed through, getting to the part where I have every burner going on my stove, and bowls of stuff on the counter. It is time-consuming. You have to make the noodles, 2 different fillings, caramelize garlic. And apparently I thought that wasn’t enough. Because instead of sanely opening a jar of tomato sauce, I opt out and go for the Sauce Soubise, a Bechamel sauce with caramalized onions. So an additional half an hour, 3 pans later, and a near panic involving  roux, this glorious hunk of lasagna came clawing into the world.

It has dimension, layers of flavor. It’s all peasant-y and rustic, but with an edge. We like our lasagnas edgy.

Pumpkin & Bean Lasagna with Caramelized Garlic
Adapted from Passionate Vegetarian

Caramelized Garlic:
3 tbs. olive oil
20 cloves garlic, halved, any green part in the middle taken out, then cut into 1/4 in. pieces

Pumpkin-Bean Filling:
2 16-oz. cans of pumpkin puree
1 can kidney beans, rinsed & drained

Ricotta-Cabbage Filling:
1/2 green cabbage, sliced into ribbons
3 eggs
1 container (15-oz) ricotta
1 1/2 cups milk
2 oz. neufchatel cheese
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

8 oz. whole wheat lasagne noodles
Sauce of your choice (I’ll give the recipe for the soubise sauce I used, but really, anything would be good here. A jar of commericial tomato sauce, a white sauce, or your favorite recipe)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over low heat. Add garlic and cook slowly, stirring frequently until pale gold, about 8 minutes. Remove garlic from skillet with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the pumpkin puree and drained kidney beans to the skillet. Stir to combine and set aside.

Steam the cabbage until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain well, blotting dry. Set aside in a medium bowl.

Whisk together the eggs, ricotta, milk, neufchatel, and nutmeg until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, stir, then pour over the cabbage. Stir well.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In an 8x12x2.5 in. sprayed or oiled baking dish, layer the ingredients as followed: Swirl about 3 tbs. of the sauce in the bottom of the dish. Line with a layer of lasagna noodles. Scatter half the pumpkin filling over the noodles, and then sprinkle with half of the caramelized garlic. Spoon all of the ricotta-cabbage filling over the garlic. Add another layer of pasta, half the Parmesan, and then all of the remaining pumpkin filling. Sprinkle the pumpkin with the remaining garlic. Cover with a layer of pasta (if you have any left. I stopped at 2 layers), then add the remaining sauce. You will have some Parmesan left.

Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 60 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes, uncovered. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Sauce Soubise
Caramelize 2 onions by slicing, putting into a medium skillet with heated oil. Turn the heat down to low and slowly cook onions, stirring occasionally for 20-30 minutes. Add to Bechamel sauce with a splash of tamari.

Bechamel Sauce:
1 bay leaf
1/4 onion, skin on
1 rib celery, with leaves
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup milk
2 tsps. butter
2 tsps. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps. cornstarch
Salt and pepper

Affix the bay leaf to the onion, using the cloves as tacks. (fun!) Place the onion along with the celery top and a pinch of nutmeg in a medium saucepan. Pour all but 2 tbs. of the milk into the pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer GENTLY, for 15 minutes.

Towards the end of the simmering time, melt the butter over medium-low heat in an oiled skillet. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring often, until the flour is slightly golden and aromatic, 2-3 minutes. This is the roux.

Between stirs of the roux, dissolve the cornstarch in the reserved 2 tbs. milk.

Pour the warm infused milk through a strainer and into the skillet containing the roux, whisking to prevent lumps. Bring it to a simmer, whisking often, until it is the consistency of a cream soup. Raise the heat slightly.

Whisk the cornstarch mixture one more time, then stir it into the thickened milk mixture. Remove from heat. This is where you would add the caramelized onions and tamari. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use immediately.

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Pumpkin Butter

23 09 2010

Why I like Fall… it’s so versatile. A person can be completely content in pulling on a sweater, throwing your face to the sun and letting an autumn breeze smack you in the kisser. A “Hey, you’ve almost made it through another year”,-smack, as you proceed to fill your home with the aroma of cloves and seasonal gourds. Fall is also perfect for couples and for friends. Outdoor activities abound, yet it’s getting nicer and nicer to come in and curl up with someone once the sun goes down, or sit around with buddies and drink Pumpkin Ale (which I have just started and will blog about in a few weeks).

My Fall experience today was meeting up with my friend Al and walking to the market to pick up some pumpkins. We were discussing our respective situations, both of us relatively down in the dumps. But something about getting that first pumpkin of the season helped serve as a reminder that we’ll be alright. Seasons change, things are always growin’, we’ll be OK.

Anyways, pumpkin butter! Super easy to make and there’s tons of things to do with it. Eat it on toast, with oatmeal, ice cream, whatevs. Or just hang out in the kitchen, eating it from the jar, enjoying the moment.

Pumpkin Butter
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 (15 oz) cans pumpkin puree
¾ cups apple cider (or juice)
2 tsps. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cloves
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
1 tb. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg

Juice of ½ a lemon

1. Combine pumpkin, apple cider, spices, and sugar in a large saucepan; stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened. Stir frequently to prevent it from burning to the bottom. Adjust spices to taste. Stir in lemon juice, or more to taste.
2. Once cool, pumpkin butter can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge.