The Fantastic Mr. Feedbag

A website celebrating and enumerating Juneau, Alaska's food culture

Blonde Lasagna

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Blonde Lasagna

One of the best reasons for me to travel is to pick up ideas for recipes by sampling Northwest restaurants, and this is a fine example. It calls for a butternut sauce instead of a red sauce and pecans in place of sausage. Here it is, with a nod to the Skylark menu for a starting place.

On a quiet brick-paved alley in the Fairhaven section of Bellingham sits Skylark’s Hidden Café. We were drawn into the alley by the aroma of fresh-baked focaccia and sat down at the outside tables on a rare sunny day. I really just wanted the focaccia but couldn’t resist trying the lasagna, and when we returned to Juneau found that I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

Coincidentally, our newest addition to the family is a determined but flexible vegetarian. She doesn’t mind cheese, eggs, or fish, so she isn’t vegan, just sensible. So when her family from Spokane flew up to meet the Juneau crew, I wanted to prepare a welcoming feast that anyone could eat. Since the Skylark lasagna is a veggie dish, it fit the bill but needed some tinkering, something that delights me.

Whole grain brown rice lasagna noodles (one package) or actually any lasagna noodles
1 pound of mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
1 pound of ricotta
1 yellow onion
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 smallish butternut squash or 4 or 5 sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons of flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 eggs
1 cup of pecans
basil and sage for seasoning (chopped fresh leaves if possible)
salt and pepper

You’ll want the squash or sweet potato to be a pulp, so the squash cut in half lengthwise with the seeds removed goes into a glass cake pan with about a half-inch of water. Bake for 40 minutes, or if it’s small enough, microwave it till it’s soft– same with sweet potatoes. Either way, peel off the skin and what’s left should be beaten like pumpkin whipped up for pie. Let it ride on the side while the sauce gets fried.

Chop onion into ¼ inch pieces.
Heat olive oil on medium temperature in a large skillet (mine is a ninety-year-old cast iron 12-incher.) Add the onion and let it sweat.
While that’s going on, chop garlic.

Time out for garlic reminder: A simple way to manage garlic is to smash the cloves with the side of your knife—just lay the side of the blade on the clove and smash down on it with your fist—the husks will fall away. Sometimes the clove will shoot across the kitchen, so watch it—you could shoot your eye out with that thing. OR just chop the cloves, and the husks will separate anyway. Tip #2: sprinkle the chopped cloves with a teaspoon of salt and use your knife to grind the salt into the garlic until it becomes pulp. This makes it easy to add salt and garlic to your sauce without big bits.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program—When the onion in the olive oil is softened but not burned, add the salted garlic and let it “swap around,” as Huck Finn says. It’s a good time to add some pepper, too. Mix in the squash/sweet potato pulp. If it’s too thick, add some water; think red sauce consistency. That’s your sauce, and you may need to experiment a bit to get about 3 or 4 cups of sauce. Don’t worry if it’s thin because the dry noodles will soak it up.

As usual with lasagna, mix the eggs with ricotta, basil and sage, but this time add pecans and a little more salt.

Splash a little olive oil in the bottom of your cake or lasagna pan and spread a thin layer of the sauce, then nestle a layer of dry noodles in it. Add a layer of the egg/ricotta/pecans, a layer of cheese, and cover it with 1/3 of the sauce. Add a second layer of noodles, the rest of the egg/ricotta/pecans, and cheese; cover the whole thing with the rest of the sauce. Because we’re using dry noodles, it’s important that the noodles are covered with liquid sauce. This may take some experimenting; I have even added a bit of veggie broth around the edges. Cover the baking pan with foil and bake it for about an hour at 350 degrees. Bake uncovered for the last 10 minutes; don’t be surprised if this dish is flatter than usual.

If dry noodles make you nervous, boil and drain them according to package directions first. You won’t need quite so much liquid sauce.
This is terrific using chicken breast instead of pecans, and adding chicken broth in the sauce.


Written by drmrru12

November 10, 2011 at 9:20 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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  1. Squash lasagna is one of my favorites! My go to is a rosemary squash lasagna which is pretty similar to this recipe, except instead of adding water to thin the squash I used rosemary infused milk. Just simmer 1 or 2 whole branch of rosemary in 1-2 cups of milk and use as much as needed. Gives the whole thing a beautifully subtle rosemary flavor.

    Erin Anais Hanson

    November 13, 2011 at 1:16 pm

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