My father-in-law’s favorite meal strategy is to “use up.” He rummages in the fridge and pulls out anything that requires immediate eating. He evaluates the pile of bits and bobs on the counter, grabs a frying pan and starts cooking.
It’s never the same twice but it’s always (surprisingly) delicious.
People I’ve asked about the cons to their weekly produce box say it’s a challenge to use everything. From the advice they’ve given me, emptying the box seems to require a vigilant using-up mindset, like my father-in-law’s.
Since it’s hard to find recipes that call for the strange assortment of produce that happens to arrive, I’ve followed my father-in-law’s lead with this little using-up strategy.
- Choose meals that I already know how to cook without a recipe;
- Riff on them by throwing in veggies from the box.
Today it’s an old simple standby, lasagna, made by layering noodles, sauce and cheese between some produce-box-veggies that require immediate using-up. My father-in-law would be very proud.
Lasagna with Layers of Organic Vegetables
You can use different kinds of vegetables and of cheeses and any kind of cooked meat. A layer with ricotta would certainly be a nice addition. No matter what your layers are made up of, be sure to use plenty of sauce if you’re not pre-boiling the noodles. As a guideline, use the amount of sauce stated below for each layer.
- 5 cups tomato sauce (about 2 tall cans or jars), divided
- 1 9-oz package of no-boil lasagna noodles (or regular lasagna noodles boiled according to package directions)
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 of a sweet onion (like a vidalia) thinly sliced
- 1 bunch broccolini, trimmed and chopped into 1 inch pieces (about 3 cups when chopped) (substitute with an equal amount of broccoli broken into very small florets)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (about 8 ounces), divided
- 1 large bunch curly kale (6-8 ounces or even more since it shrinks a lot), rinsed and chopped into 1 inch pieces (substitute with an equal amount of spinach)
- 1 and 1/2 cups white sauce (recipe below)
- 1 lb of smoked sausages (sliced) or cooked chicken (in 1/2 inch cubes) or of cooked ground beef or turkey. Instead of meat you can go with another layer of cooked vegetables here, whatever you’ve got on hand. My favorite is a simple sauté of bell peppers, mushrooms and onions, which I sometimes add to this layer even if I’m including some meat.
Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Spread 1 cup tomato sauce into a deep dish 9×13 inch lasagna pan. Top with a single layer of lasagna noodles.
In large skillet, combine 1 tbsp olive oil and the red pepper flakes. Get it good and hot before adding the broccolini, onion, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic. Cook another minute letting the garlic do its thing and then remove the skillet from the heat. Add the lemon zest. Stir before spreading it out onto the layer of patiently waiting lasagna noodles.
Top the broccolini with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese, 1 cup of the tomato sauce and then another layer of noodles.
Wipe the large skillet clean. Warm up 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the curly kale, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Cook until just softened and wilted. Spread the kale over the lasagna noodles. Top with the creamy white sauce and then another layer of noodles.
Bring on the smoked sausage topped with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella and 1 cup of the tomato sauce.
Finish with a final layer of noodles, the remaining sauce and remaining cheese.
Cover with foil and bake for 50-60 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the cheese looks gooey in the middle and crunchy and brown on the sides. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Cut, remove a slice. Watch stringy cheese make line from pan to plate. Grab string by fingers and make line of gooey-ness head towards mouth. Slurp, chew, smile.
The White Sauce
Yields 1 and 1/2 cups
This is a basic white béchamel-style sauce. This is what I tend to do when I want a white sauce but feel free to use any white sauce you usually make (or even some from a jar).
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp coarse ground pepper (omit this if you don’t like the black specs in your white sauce, though note that the specs will not be noticeable in the lasagna).
- a pinch of nutmeg
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour (I prefer to use a flat whisk but whatever you’re comfortable with will work).
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in a few tablespoons of the milk. Whisk until smooth before adding a few more tablespoons. Whisk until smooth before adding a few more tablespoons. Whisk until smooth before adding a few more tablespoons. Then, you guessed it, whisk until smooth before adding a few more tablespoons. In a fine stream, slowly pour in the rest of the milk continuing to whisk it until, yup, smooth. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir.
Return pan to medium heat. Whisk continuously until it comes to a boil. Continue to cook and stir for another minute before removing from the heat. If you’re not ready to use it immediately, scrape sauce into a bowl so that the heat from the pan doesn’t scorch the sauce.
See the other post in the series What’s in the Box? Tips for Dealing with Your Weekly Organics Box Produce:
Get kale info and recipes at Foodista: