Thursday, February 18, 2010

The dilemma of the grocery gardener

We eat really well at my house in the summertime.

Starting in mid-June, with the first harvest of snowpeas, early greens, and radishes, it's fresh food bonanza well into October. I've been known to go weeks without stepping into a grocery store and our food bill drops to less than $2 a day (even taking into account the direct cost of the garden). In a good garden year I can stretch that into November and even December with lardering--preserving, drying, freezing, and modified root cellaring.

But by mid February the bounty is really gone. I don't have the space, harvest, time, or technology to get much past Christmas from the garden. And I hate, I absolutely hate buying produce from the market. It just feels so wrong. I want my food miles and carbon cost as low as possible, but of course since I live in northern Illinois, this is impossible. It doesn't help that I'm not much of a meat eater. I stand in the produce section and I have to force myself to pick up that eggplant. Ugh, I'll think, it probably came all the way from Chile or something, but I really really want lasagna.

Today I bought my garden at the market. Eggplant, broccoli, two kinds of squash. Snow peas, baby peas, corn (the last two frozen). Peppers, tomato sauce. (I almost tried quinoa, but was put off by the admonishments to prep it right "to get rid of the unpleasant bitter taste." Yum.) Just 11 weeks until I might be able to pick something from the garden.

Vegetarian lasagna with roasted peppers
One box lasagna noodles
Romano or parmesan cheese, large wedge, grated
Mozzarella cheese, 1/2 to 1 pound, sliced or crumbled
1 each, large green and red peppers
1 medium eggplant
1 large summer squash (yellow or zucchini, or 1 of each, smaller), sliced thin
1 medium onion sliced very thin
1 pint mushrooms

2 quarts tomato sauce (from a jar, or make your own from canned tomatoes, or really make it from scratch. I used the stuff in a jar today. I'm only human.)

Prepare the lasagna noodles per package instructions. Yes, I know you can get that kind that cooks in the sauce in the oven, but, um, no.

To roast the peppers, quarter them and cut out the seeds and the white part of the spine. Place them face down on a lightly greased cookie sheet (cooking spray will do). Place them on a high rack (not the very top) in a very hot oven (400-450F) and roast for 20 minutes. Let them cool until you can handle them, then peel the blackened skins off. The flavor of roasted peppers is indescribable. Cut into strips.

To prepare the eggplant, cut it into 1/2" (1 cm) or thinner slices. Salt it and let it drain on a paper towel or newspaper for a few minutes, then heavily dredge it in olive oil. When the olive oil is completely absorbed, dredge it again, and then sautee it. Keep adding olive oil until it stops absorbing. Add the mushrooms and saute until they start to change color. Add the onions and saute until the onions are soft.

Start layering with a layer of noodles, then sauce and cheese, then noodles, then sauce cheese and veggies, until you finish with a top layer of noodles. Cover completely with sauce (make sure no noodle is sticking out, or it will dry out), and then sprinkle the remaining cheese over it.

Bake for about 30 minutes in a 350F oven, or until the cheese is lightly browned.

If you really must, you can substitute chopped meat for the eggplant. Make one quart of the sauce a meat sauce.

No comments:

Post a Comment