Best Black Bean Lasagna

Black Bean Lasagna - the Potluck Version

Believe it or not, this vegetarian black bean lasagna tastes better than a meat lasagna to this carnivore. It’s an amazing recipe and one that I don’t cook often, because it’s more work than I usually like to put into cooking a meal. However, for potlucks, parties and guests, it’s a perfect choice. People will be amazed.

Ingredients:
1 15 oz can black beans, drained with liquid reserved
2/3 cup of brown rice – uncooked
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2  tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup vegetable stock plus 1 tablespoon
1/3 cup Anaheim chili pepper, seeded and diced
1 4 oz. can chopped green chilis – drained
3 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro

Bean Sauce
3/4 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons onion
2 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp pepper
1.5 tsp dry sherry
1/2 tsp sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
(plus reserved beans and liquid from above)

2 2/3 cups marinara sauce
6 sheets lasagna noodles
2 2/3 cups mozzarella, grated
1 cup lowfat ricotta (you can be more generous and use the whole container)
1/4 fresh bread crumbs

Drain the beans, reserving the liquid. Measure 2/3 cup of beans and reserve the rest for later.

Cook the rice.

Roast the cumin and coriander in a dry skillet.Add cooked rice, stir in salt and pepper and let cool. Stir in corn, stock, peppers, chilis, cilantro and 2/3 cup black beans.

Place 2 tablespoons of the vegetable stock in a saucepan. Add onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, chili powder, sherry and sherry vinegar.  Simmer 3 minutes. Add tomato paste, reserved beans and its liquid. Cook additional 8 minutes. Process until nearly smooth, leaving some bits of beans intact.  Add remaining vegetable stock and cilantro. Reserve.

Spread 2/3 cup of the marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9*13 backing dish.  Cover with one layer of cooked lasagna noodles. Spoon on half of the rice mixture and 3/4 cup of the bean sauce. Top with 1/2 cup of the ricotta cheese and 1 1/4 cup of the mozzarella. If you want, add more ricotta and use the whole container.

Cover with another layer of lasagna noodles and 1 cup marinara sauce. Repeat the layering of rice and cheese. Top with the last layer of noodles. Press lightly to distribute evenly..

Add last layer of marinara (3rd). Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and bread crumbs.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 35 minutes. Let stand about 20 minutes before cutting.

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Pork Shoulder Steak, Pommes Maxim Aus Herbes and Zucchini Ribbon Salad

Pork Shoulder Steak, Pommes Maxim aux Herbes, Ribbon Zucchini Salad

I made the salad first since I wanted it to marinate in the lime juice to soften it just a bit. First I sliced 1 yellow squash and 2 zucchini lengthwise using a mandoline for thin 1/8th inch slices. The yellow squash was much bigger than the zucchinis so it’s really equivalent amounts. I also cut the yellow squash slices in half so they were about the same length. I slice up 1 tomato to add a bit of color and tossed in some pecans. For the marinade, I squeezed two kaffir limes, added 1 TBSP of olive oil, 3 minced cloves of garlic and about 1 tsp of cayenne. Mixed and poured over the salad. I made it in a plastic container with a tight cover which I put on and shook the salad vigorously to ensure it was all covered and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours before serving. This has a fresh, bright flavor with a dash of heat at the end. Whenever you season a salad like this with cayenne, underseason at first, because the heat grows. Funny thing! I had some salad for a tv-watching snack later in the evening and when I set the bowl down, my cat ate up all the lime/cayenne sauce. I kept expecting him to freak at the heat, but he didn’t.

For the potatoes, I trimmed off the tops and two sides to make a nice, rectangular shape that was flat for the mandoline and sliced 8 long, thin slices at about 1/4 inch. (Next time I make them I will try 1/8th). I used PAM olive oil spray and sprayed my baking sheet layed down 4 slices, sprayed them lightly, laid down some fresh tarragon leaves and another slice on top, sandwiching the tarragon between the slices of potato. I sprayed lightly with olive oil and put them in the oven to bake at 250° for 45 minutes. I turned them up to 350° for the last 10 minutes to give me some more browning. Pommes Maxim are usually made with butter, not olive oil. I tried this option to see if i could make a slightly healthier version. It still tasted delicious, but butter gives you a much nicer brown without crisping the potato quite so much.  The potatoes are also more translucent, revealing the herbs more clearly. Butter and olive oil don’t react to temperature the same way, so I assume that is why. With olive oil, it’s still tasty and delicious, but not quite as pretty, so if you want pretty, go for the butter.

To serve with it, I simply fried a nice pork shoulder blade steak, about 5 minutes on each side with a bit of salt and pepper.

Lentil Soup and Roasted Veggies

Lentil Soup with Roasted Veggies

I put two ham shanks into my stock pot along with 1 yellow onion, 2 cloves of garlic, a bay leaf, salt, pepper and two quarts of water and let simmer until the water reduced by half. I added more water and let it cook some more, until I had a rich, dark broth. I added 2 cups of lentils, some salt, pepper and cumin and let it continue to simmer for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, I chopped up 2 carrots and half a head of celery and tossed them in. I removed the shanks and let them cool, took the meat off the bone and chopped it up before adding it back.

When I added the lentils to the soup, I turned the oven to 450 F and put some brussels sprouts and fingerling potatoes in a baking pan with some olive oil and kosher salt salt and let bake until the potatoes were done and beginning to caramelize.

The soup has a rich, meaty flavor and was deliciously filling. The potatoes and brussels sprouts added a nice fresh taste, especially lovely with the toasty, slightly salty seasoning.

Caldo Verde and Roasted Edamame

Caldo Verde & Roasted Edamame

With company coming and just thirty minutes to whip something up, I decided to roast some edamame and make a fast and tasty soup. Portuguese Caldo Verde is a delicious soup that takes no time at all to prepare and even less now that I tried cooking the sausage with the soup instead of separately. The key is getting a nice spicy sausage that isn’t too fatty. The recipe calls for chorizo, but that puts a bit too much fat into it which is why it gets cook separately. I picked up a nice spicy Italian sausage from New Seasons and cooked it with the soup – and then I left out the olive oil that is normally used.

Rinse fresh soy beans (edamame), pat dry and place on a baking sheet. Turn oven to 450° F and let it heat up. Sprinkle with olive oil and kosher salt and bake until they begin to caramelize. Even though you don’t eat the shells, when you open them with your teeth, you will get their delicious flavor. If you serve with the soup, put them in the oven at the same time you put the potatoes in the soup.

On the stovetop, heat your soup kettle to medium and toss in 4 spicy sausages and let cook, while it’s cooking, dice up a yellow onion and three cloves of garlic. By the time they are diced, there will be enough fat from the sausage to cook them until they are nicely softened. Season lightly with salt and pepper. While they cook, peel and cut 6 medium potatoes and cut into chunks. Add 2 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Turn to simmer and let cook for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, clean 1 pound of kale and slice into thin ribbons. When the potatoes are tender, remove the sausage and mash the potatoes, then cut the sausage into 1 inch pieces and add back to the soup. Add the kale and let cook another 10 minutes or so. Salt and pepper to taste. I think you should season lightly throughout the cooking process, step by step, and not just at the end.

The soup will be just slightly spicy and creamy, with many layers of flavor. The edamame taste delicious when roasted, sort of nutty and savory.

The soup

Root Vegetable Mash with Bratwurst

Root Vegetable Mash with Bratwurst

This was quite an easy dish. I peeled two parsnips and a rutabaga and boiled them with an onion until tender. I then mashed them as best I could. Sadly, I misplaced my potato masher and had to do it with a wooden spoon which left fairly big chunks. I added salt, pepper and some bratwurst I had sauteed in another pan and cut into 1 inch pieces. I love the earthy flavor of the sausage with the bright, tart flavor of the veggies.