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Winter Greens Lasagna: great way to use up collard greens!

Winter Greens Lasagna: great way to use up collard greens!

One of the easiest ways to use of leftovers is to make a “lasagna.” I use the quotes because the term lasagna is used loosely here. Since coming back from  a recent trip to Florence, Italy I now know what authentic lasagna should taste like…but that is a topic for another post. I am back in the US and using the term “lasagna” to mean basically any baked flat noodle dish with sauce, filling, and cheese all baked together to result in a delicious casserole type meal.

After my New Year’s collard fix, I had leftover greens that were clean, chopped and needed to be used. In my search for how to use up the greens, I came across several lasagna recipes using spinach or swiss chard. So I thought, why not collards? I decided to take a risk and give it a try. It turned out to be a surprisingly tasty lasagna. The collards have a bit more bite than spinach, resulting in a lasagna that has a nice balance of flavor and texture. I added some chopped onion, red bell pepper, and kalmata olives to give the lasagna filling a Mediterranean twist. The end result was a delicious, healthy recipe that is a great way to use up leftover winter greens. The recipe below calls for collard greens in this version, but kale, swiss chard, etc. could be substituted. The key is to blanch the greens  for a few minutes to tenderize the them prior to baking in the lasagna. Oh yes, this is another vegetarian meal option that is hearty and flavorful enough for meat lovers to enjoy too!

Winter Collard Green Lasagna

9 lasagna noodles (no boil are ok, but I prefer regular)

1 chopped onion

1 chopped red bell pepper

garlic (optional)

1/2 cup chopped olives

4 cups fresh collard greens, washed and torn into pieces

one large egg, slightly beaten

salt and pepper

15 oz. whole milk ricotta

1 cup shredded low moisture mozzarella (feel free to use more, but I am watching my waistline…this is just enough for the perfect cheesy bite with each serving)

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (not the ready made canned/jarred stuff..but fresh grated)

tomato sauce (I used a homemade version that has garlic, basil, oregano, and dried chili flakes as seasonings that I always have around, but you can just use 1 jar of your favorite store bought brand if you don’t have homemade sauce on hand)

To Make:

If using regular lasagna noodles, place noodles in pan with hot water. Let the noodles sit and soften while you are preparing the filing.

Boiled collard greens in a pot of boiling water until just tender. Remove from water and drain well. Depending on the size of the torn collards, chop into a rough chop and place in a large mixing bowl. Sauté the onions, red bell pepper in olive oil until just softened. If you like extra garlic, add chopped garlic to the onions and peppers and sauté for another minute (the tomato sauce I used had plenty of garlic so I skipped this step). Place sautéed veggies in mixing bowl with collards, add olives and stir to combine. To this mixture add ricotta and egg; salt and pepper to taste–mix together so that all ingredients are distributed evenly for the filling.

Lasagna filling: collards, red pepper, onion, olives, ricotta

Lasagna filling: collards, red pepper, onion, olives, ricotta

Assemble the lasagna: in a 9×13 baking dish, spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan to cover. Top with a layer of 3 noodles, veggie filling, portion of mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce. Repeat layers ending with a layer of noodles, sauce then cheese as the top layers. Add parmesan cheese as extra cheesy topping.

Bake in 350 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes or until bubbly around the edges, heated through. You can check the warmth of the lasagna by sticking a knife in the center–checking the warmth of the knife tip to see if the lasagna is fully heated. Remove from oven, allow to cool for a bit then serve and enjoy!

Ready to slice for a perfect bite of winter greens lasagna

Ready to slice for a perfect bite of winter greens lasagna

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Although I am not a hunter myself, my family (and new family) enjoy the sport of hunting. I…enjoy the sport of cooking what has been hunted 🙂 Venison is a generic name that can refer to either deer, elk, moose, caribou, antelope, etc. For the past few years, we have received a few types of venison (deer) from my father-in-law. One of my favorite ways to prepare the meat is sausage. The deer meat can be used just as you would use regular sausage or ground beef. Generally venison will have a stronger or “gamey” taste compared to its more tame beef cuts. In this recipe the gamey flavor is dulled a bit due to the acidity of the tomato sauce. The result is a rich tasting meat sauce perfect for cooking up a delicious lasagna.

Deer Sausage Lasagna

approx 1-2 lb ground venison sausage

1 medium white onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 (6 oz) can tomato paste

1 (20 oz) can diced tomatoes

1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce

1 Tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper (optional/to taste)

1-2 cups cottage cheese

2 cups ricotta cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian/flat leaf parsley

3 tsp grated nutmeg

1 egg (slightly beaten)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or a mixture of Pecorino and Parmesan)

lasagna noodles (ready to bake or traditional–follow package instructions)

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (or Italian blend) for topping

To make:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

brown deer sausage meat well

Begin with fully browning the venison. Usually I do not fully cook the meat when making traditional sauce, but in this case I fully cook the venison meat to ensure there will be no possible contaminants or bacteria from the fresh wild game processing. Drain and reserve meat to the side. In a large Dutch oven, or heavy pot, begin the sauce base: Saute onion and peppers in the olive oil until softened a bit. Add the garlic and cook another minute—do not over-cook or burn the garlic. Add the sausage and tomato paste, stir and cook just until well combined. Add diced tomatoes with juice and tomato sauce. Stir and simmer over medium-med/high heat for approximately 30 minutes until all flavors combine. Add salt and pepper to your taste (I actually don’t even add it to keep the sodium content lower). While the sauce is simmering, mix together the cheese layer. In a medium mixing bowl, combine cheeses (except mozzarella/Italian blend), nutmeg, parsley, and egg. To assemble the lasagna begin with a thin layer of meat sauce to coat the bottom of the pan, next a layer of noodles, then cheese mixture, then the meat sauce…repeat and end with the meat sauce on top. Sprinkle the topping mozzarella or Italian cheese blend over the sauce. Bake in 350 degree oven for 25 minutes covered with foil, remove, then cook additional 20 minutes (total cook time approx 45 minutes). Remove from oven and let cool for approximately 10-15  minutes. Slice and Enjoy!

Delicious Deer Lasagna

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