Monday, November 21, 2011

Too Much of a Good Thing

While at the local farm checking out what they still had on hand this late in the season, I found cauliflower for $2 per head. What's a girl to do but buy the biggest one she sees? And I did. Now, I have a cauliflower bigger than my own head! I wish I shot a picture of it before I chopped it up, but instead, I just showed it to everyone I could, in person. It was ridiculous.

After cleaning and chopping it for any kind of cooking, I was struck with the anxiety of what I could possibly do with all that cauliflower. I detest waste! I also love a good deal, which leaves me in these predicaments at times.

 I figured some Indian Aloo Gobi would do it (a cauliflower and sweet potato version),

With Lemongrass Jasmine rice and tasty Indian spiced pickles

Then maybe Veggie Korma.

Yet there I was, with tons of Indian leftovers and 1/2 a giant head left and a picky, All-American eater coming over for dinner. Me, a foreign-focused foodie, gluten free and vegetarian, with more cauliflower than I knew what to do with needing to be cooked, and Soon, scrambling to make something 'normal.'

Scattered about the table were a zucchini (last one from the garden and getting soft), a few other veggies, some rice paper wraps and a bit of milk in the fridge. It was all I could think of...Veggie Lasagna.

Finished Lasagna

Gluten Free Roasted Veggie Lasagna

Pretty easy, super delicious and made with yummy, stretchy rice paper, spring roll wrap thingys. A decidedly Non-Vegan recipe.


A huge head of Cauliflower (or any small one will do just fine)
1 Large Zucchini
1 Large Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic
1-2 Bell Peppers
Some Greens - Kale, Chard, Spinach
Any other veggies you feel like throwing in or substituting that might be on their last legs-
     Maybe broccali, kohlrabi, carrots, tomatoes, eggplant, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, etc
A jar of Tomato sauce (I had canned mine a few weeks earlier from garden tomatoes. I'll eventually get to a recipe for that)
About a cup of Ricotta cheese (I made this on the spot, see step Cheese)
A hunk of Mozzarella (I'll get to that one to, or you could just buy it)
An egg
A bit of milk
Fresh ground Parmesean
Olive or Grapeseed Oil
Salt and Pepper
Italian seasoning and/or Oregano, Basil, Thyme, 
6-8 pieces of rice paper


-Lemon juice

All I had was 1/2 a quart of milk, so that's what I used. Homemade ricotta is insanely easy. Heat some whole milk over med to med-high heat until just boiling, stirring often so it does not burn. A perfect exercise while preparing other items for this meal.

As it starts to boil add a 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and stir constantly. As soon as the curds separate from the whey, remove from heat and gently mix for a few more minutes. Drain in a few layers of cheese cloth in a strainer over a bowl for about 10 minutes. You don't want it too dry, but you can always add more milk or whey later if it is. Put it in a container and refrigerate immediately for later use.

Curds Separating from Whey - this persons picture

*** Save the whey! It's the liquid that is left in the bowl. It is a a gas-stopping way to soak beans, a protein packed additive to shakes or smoothies, a replacement for buttermilk in baking, a starter for lacto-fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi, among a slew of other uses. I will definitely post the many uses and values of whey in the near future.***

Drained Curds - Finished Ricotta


In order not to burn the cheese or under cook the veggies, I decided to roast the latter before assembling the lasagna, starting with the hardest ones, then adding the softer ones to the pan towards the end. You could certainly steam them, but they won't have that lovely nutty, sweetness that only roasting brings out.

In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower, onion and other dense veggies (such as kohlrabi, peppers and carrots) with a couple tablespoons of oil, salt, pepper and whatever seasonings you decided on. Spread them on a high edged baking pan and roast at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

While these are cooking, prepare any other softer veggies and toss with the same oil mixture, adding more if needed. Carefully remove the pan, after the 15 minutes, and mix in the softer veggies (garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini) in with the others. Steal a few just to "make sure" they are on the right track then return the pan to the oven at the same temp and cook for another 15 minutes, mixing once.

This is about the point that my brother walked it and demanded to have whatever it was that I was cooking. That is incredibly helpful and best for the final dish, if you happen to have a hungry and demanding brother stopping by.

More Cheese

While the veggies are in their final stages of delicious roasting, combine the Ricotta (I won't be mad if you didn't make it, but you might be), the Parmesan and egg in a small bowl. Add some milk or whey if the mixture doesn't look like this:

Slice the Mozzarella in order to be able to layer it over the vegetables and put aside.

Remove the veggies when they are done and lower the oven to 350 degrees F.


 In a large baking dish you will now assemble the lasagna. I am preferential to Pyrex (and alliteration apparently) so that is what I usually use. You will need to wet each sheet of rice paper before layering them, under running water in the sink is fine, or in a large bowl of the same.

I use these, which I find in my local Asian market. My pot is round so it works out. There are other shapes and sizes as well, but these are the most common (and cheap at about $1-2 per pack of 30 or so, depending on the day and sale) 

I spread a layer of tomato sauce first to keep the rice paper from sticking. After wetting each sheet, allow to soften, either in your hand or on a surface that they wont stick too, be careful of that! Layer 2 rice sheets, then mixed veggies, then greens, then ricotta mixture, then mozzarella, then sauce, then 2 more sheets of rice paper, then veggies, cheese, sauce, rice get the point...until you are out of mostly everything.

Top with 2 sheets of rice paper, a bit of sauce and some mozzarella, or whatever cheese you have left, cover and stick in the oven, which should be at 350F, for about 40 minutes. You really just want the cheese to melt and the minimal egg in there to cook. You can even take off the cover for a bit so that the top browns.

Take it out and let it cool before you cut it.  It will save your mouth and retain its shape better, trust me on both counts.

This was my final product. Sorry for the fuzzy picture, but I was obviously in a hurry to dig in! 

Have fun! 
Be creative! 
Enjoy your food and the process of it.

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