…with a little help from my friends.
I get high with a little help from my friends,
Going to try with a little help from my friends.
I’ve loved this song from the first time I heard it. I think it’s a lovely tribute to friendship.
Friends get us through good times and bad. They laugh with us when we need someone to laugh with; they cry with us when we don’t want to cry alone. They can be diplomatic about whether the outfit make us look fat(ter) or not; they can tell us the unabashed truth — and live to tell the tale! — when no one else can.
In short: friends rule. 🙂 They share in your joy when you feel like you’ve won the lottery and help you hang on when you feel like Sam and Frodo on the edge of Mount Doom. And I’m grateful for every friend I have. 🙂
Anyway, one thing led to another, and then we stopped by to see another friend, and we were all having so much fun, I asked them to join hubby and me for supper, provided they didn’t mind having an experiment for supper, as I was going to try a new recipe — Eggplant Lasagna.
Yes, yes, yes, the standard wisdom is to never try out a new dish on guests — but these weren’t guests, they were friends willing to try a bit of adventure. One friend grabbed a couple of guns she’d been wanting to shoot (we’re on 25 acres, so plenty of places for her to target practice if she wanted) and off we headed to my place. Sister left to check on her critters and feed them their supper before coming back, and my other friend and I got started in on the lasagna.
You can make this with (reduced fat) ricotta cheese or cottage cheese. I’ve been using cottage cheese lately because not only it is lesser in calories and fat than ricotta, it is much more affordable than good-quality ricotta cheese. The flavors are not quite the same, of course, but both taste YUMMY! TIP: When using cottage cheese, give it a whiz through your food processor or blender for a smoother, more ricotta-like texture.
I kept the meal easy. With my friends helping with the lasagna (peeling and cubing the eggplant, grating cheese, and sprinkling in the fresh herbs from our garden), once the lasagna was in the oven, everything else was simple: We rounded the meal out with a lite Caesar salad — a salad kit that I rounded out with some fresh lettuces from our garden — and a refrigerator loaf of French bread that I popped into the oven just past half-way through the lasagna’s bake time.
We all decided that it tasted as YUMMY as it smelled — this recipe is definitely a keeper!
The best part, ‘though, was a fun, good time with friends. 🙂
It really is true — I get by with a little help from my friends. 🙂 (Go on, play the video — I love the uniqueness of each version, like the uniqueness among each of us beings.)
Eggplant Lasagna (Makes 9 servings)
- 1 eggplant, peeled and cut into cubes
- Olive or canola oil
- Red wine (white would likely work, as well)
- 1/2 to 1 medium to large onion, finely chopped/diced
- 1 carrot, minced/finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, minced/finely chopped
- Minced garlic to taste
- 1 can (14 -15 ounces) diced tomatoes
- 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
- 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
- 1 small can (6 ounces) V-8 juice
- 3 cups reduced-fat ricotta or cottage cheese
- 2 eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
- 8 to 10 ounces (about 2 cups) grated part-skim mozzarella cheese (do yourself a favor and grate your own!)
- Grated Parmesan and/or three-cheese Italian blend to taste (optional)
- Worcestershire sauce (Vegetarians, leave out or use a substitute)
- Seasonings to taste: bay leaf(ves), basil, Italian seasoning, oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, parsley and rosemary (optional))
- Fresh oregano and basil to taste (optional, but my friends really commented on the pop of flavor the fresh herbs gave)
- 9 lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
- Place peeled and diced eggplant in a colander. Toss with salt and let sit in a sink to drain (at least 20 minutes). This lets the liquid drain from the eggplant so that you don’t end up with a watery sauce.
- In a splash of heated olive or canola oil, add in diced onion and sauté for just a bit. (I like to whiz up the veggies in my wee little food processor.) Add in carrot and celery. Add in minced garlic and sauté. Add in some healthy splashes of wine (I prefer red; I used some Shiraz, because that’s what I had on hand and open) to “deglaze” the pan, and simmer the onion/garlic mixture for just a bit.
- Pour in tinned tomatoes (UNDRAINED), tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Stir in vegetable juice. Stir together.
- Add seasonings to taste: a splash of Worcestershire sauce, basil, Italian seasoning, oregano, garlic powder, and parsley. I also like a sprinkle of red pepper flakes to give it a hint of “fra diavolo” flavor. Add in a bay leaf or two. I’m lucky enough to have fresh rosemary growing in my herb garden, so I like to lay a snipping or two of rosemary twigs on the sauce to simmer (as with bay leaves, I remove them before we eat). I much prefer fresh rosemary to dried, but you can use dried if you prefer, or you can just leave the rosemary out. Reduce heat to simmer. Stir in eggplant.
- While the sauce simmers, cook lasagna noodles al dente. (Remember, they’ll be baking in the lasagna, too.) Rinse in cold water and drain.
- Lightly beat the eggs into the ricotta (or cottage) cheese. Season to taste with parsley and coarse ground black pepper and, if desired, basil, Italian seasoning, oregano, and garlic.
- Lightly spray a 13″X9″ (3 quart) baking pan (preferably glass) or lasagna pan with cooking spray or oil lightly.
- Spread a small amount (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup) sauce along the bottom of the pan.
- Gently dry 3 lasagna noodles and lay them side-by-side in the pan. If using fresh herbs, sprinkle with fresh oregano and basil leaves. Spread about 1/2 of the ricotta (or cottage) cheese mixture along the noodles. Spread a bit less than 1/3 of the eggplant sauce on top of the cheese. Sprinkle lightly with some grated Parmesan or Italian cheese blend, if desired. Sprinkle with a bit of the shredded mozzarella.
- Gently dry 3 more lasagna noodles and repeat layers, which will use up the remaining ricotta (or cottage) cheese mixture, but will still leave you a nice bit of eggplant sauce and mozzarella cheese.
- Gently dry the last 3 lasagna noodles and place side-by-side in pan. Top with remaining eggplant sauce, making sure all noodles are covered. Sprinkle with some grated Parmesan and/or Italian cheese blend, if desired. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.
- Cover and bake at 350F until cooked through and bubbly; about 45 to 60 minutes. (Uncover during last 15 minutes of baking, if desired.) Let rest 15 minutes before serving. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.
To make ahead: Assemble lasagna. Keep covered, in refrigerator, for 24 hours, or in freezer for a couple of months. Bake refrigerated lasagna, covered, for 45 minutes or so, then uncover for another 15 to 30 minutes, until done. Bake frozen lasagna, covered, for 45 minutes or so, then uncover and bake for another 40 to 60 minutes, until done.