Friday, March 23, 2007

Caroline's spinach and mushroom lasagne recipe

My experimental lasagne turned out to be a success, according to my happy, friendly guinea pigs! Here's the recipe, to the best of my recollection:

Ingredients:

about 1 pound of frozen spinach (if possible, the whole leaf-kind, not chopped up)
2 cups of cottage cheese (I found it at the Champion supermarket on rue Pierre Demours -- I have not seen it anywhere else in Paris)
almost 1 pound of grated mozarella
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
at least six cups of my mushroom tomato sauce (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Thaw frozen spinach and squeeze out excess liquid. In a bowl, mix spinach with cottage cheese. In a 9x13 baking dish, pour a little bit of sauce evenly on the bottom. Mentally divide sauce into thirds, as well as the spinach-cottage cheese mixture, because this is a three-layer lasagne. For the mozarella, you should probably be a little more conservative on the inner layers, saving maybe about half of it for the top.

Okay -- ready to stack? Lay down four lasagne noodles on the bottom of the pan. Top with a third of the spinach-cottage cheese mixture (even out as much as you can), add a third of the tomato sauce, and then add a quarter of the mozarella. Then, lay down another four lasagne noodles. Add a third of the spinach-cottage cheese mix, add a third of the tomato sauce, and then add a quarter of the mozarella. Blahblahblah, etc., etc. You should finish with a nice thick layer of mozarella. Mmmm.

Place on the middle rack in the oven. Cover with foil if it gets too brown, or start with the foil and remove for the last 15 minutes or so. Bake for about 40-45 minutes? I have no idea, because this is what I actually did:

I baked it for 30 minutes, spooned off the extra liquid that had collected on the edges (I can tell you how to prevent that later in my mushroom tomato sauce recipe), let it cool a bit, then shoved it in the fridge because I was going to serve it the next day. I kept it lightly covered with the foil. Next day: preheated oven to 400 degrees and put lasagne in for about 30-45 minutes until the cheese was beautifully browned and the inside was nice and bubbly. Making your lasagne ahead of time means you get to take a relaxed pace the day of your entertaining.

Mushroom tomato sauce recipe

Ingredients:
Two 28-oz. cans of tomatoes (I happened to use whole, peeled tomatoes which I later pureed in a blender)
One pound of fresh white mushrooms, carefully cleaned and thinly sliced
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 cup of red wine
About 1/3-1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
Olive oil
Salt (I used "fleur du sel")
Freshly ground pepper

In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil, medium-medium high heat. Add onion and garlic. Stir occasionally. Try not to let it brown -- just get it nice and soft. Then add your mushrooms. Turn up your heat to high. The water in the mushrooms will come out. If you can be more patient than me, let as much of the water come out as possible and let it evaporate! Then your lasagne won't come out so wet like mine did. Add the wine (cheap wine works fine, even according to the NY Times!) and cook that down until it has completely evaporated (some flavor still stays in the mushrooms and onions). Now add your tomatoes and bring to a boil. Bring heat down to medium-low to simmer. I cannot say how long to simmer since I was very impatient, the time being about 10:30 pm -- it might have been about twenty minutes, but I would recommend a longer time. In the last five minutes, add your basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. And do taste your sauce to make sure it's salty enough. Without enough salt, you will only taste tomato. With the salt, somehow, the other flavors come through.

Mmm...writing about lasagna makes me want some. Thank goodness I have leftovers. I'm outta here.

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