Thursday, January 28, 2021

Butternut-and-Broccoli-Leaf Lasagna

I said in my last post that one of the upsides of receiving a boxful produce in the mail is the challenge to more purposefully work fruits and veggies into your meals. It's an upside if you enjoy looking up new recipes, trying new flavor combinations, and getting creative with substitutions -- which I do.

Getting creative is another valuable tool for not wasting food. What can you make with what you already have on hand, without having to go to the store?

I already had this pumpkin lasagna in my repertoire and, it just so happens, a box of lasagna noodles in my pantry. What came in my Misfits box that is like pumpkin? Like Swiss chard?

Butternut squash and broccoli leaves weren't the only substitutions I made. We didn't have any heavy cream on hand, but I did have two-percent milk and cream cheese. Let's walk through the recipe and see how my riffs panned out. 

While sautéing the onion, I tossed in a paremsan nub. Here, I was riffing on a tip from Lydia Bastianich. On her recommendation (via one of her cookbooks), we keep a zipped baggie of cheese rinds in the fridge. 

While I wasn't making a sauce or broth, I hoped it would still add some depth of flavor. It certainly added that distinct aged-parmigiano aroma to the kitchen.

As mentioned above, instead of chard, I chopped the broccoli greens from Misfits Market and added them to the pan at the appropriate time. The parmesan rind was still in the pan with the onion, greens, and spices, toasting away.

I roasted (technically, steamed) one of my three butternut squashes in the microwave for time's sake. Looking back, I think I should have roasted two of them. The one just barely got me to three loosely filled cups of cooked squash, and, while it was enough to coat the pasta, doubling the squash would have made for thicker, more distinguishably squashy layers in the lasagna.

I let the squash cool and then just used my hands to squish it out of its skin. Where the recipe called for heavy cream, I mixed in milk for the needed liquid and about three ounces of cream cheese for the creaminess. In addition to standard grated parmesan from a plastic canister, I freshly grated what I could from that nub I'd been sautéing with the onions.

When layering everything into the baking dish, I used even more milk than the recipe called for, because the squash didn't cover the noodles like a sauce so much as dress them. I hoped the extra milk would make up for the moisture that would have come from a more uniform spread of squash and fully cook the noodles during the bake. It worked OK. The noodles are on the chewy side, and the corners are crispy, which I kind of like, but it's not the expected cooked-pasta texture.

You can see in the finished product how the lasagna noodles are quite visible beneath that top layer of squash and cheese. 

It turned out delicious. Not as gooey and thick as you'd expect of a lasagna, but that comes down to the amount of squash in the layers and the fact that it doesn't ooze with melted cheese. If you're looking for a new flavor profile in baked pasta, This combination of sweet squash and onions with savory greens and aged cheese with earthy nutmeg and sage is excellent. 

I thought my improvisation made a great side dish, and we had some tomato-basil chicken sausages in the freezer, which went well with it. With a heartier amount of squash -- as I've had when using canned pumpkin and following the original recipe -- it would have worked as an entrée.  

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