Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Zucchini Lasagna

As I mentioned on Sunday, I helped host my friend Jess' fiesta-themed bridal shower over the weekend.  I was so busy running around decorating, preparing food, organizing games, and helping the bride-to-be open her gifts, that I took zero pictures! I know there are pictures out there somewhere, so hopefully they trickle into my inbox soon.  Let me tell you though - the spread of food we had was amazing! Quesadillas, nachos, tacos, and fajitas with all the fixins one could imagine.  The dessert spread was equally impressive: homemade iced sugar cookies, mini cupcakes, and mini cheesecake bites from the maid of honor; s'mores brownies; and a watermelon cake made by the bride-to-be's stepfather.  Not only did her stepfather play an instrumental role in the food prep for this weekend, but he also made the favors (homemade pepper jellies)! Check out his Facebook page - Mars Honey House.

Ironically, I posted about spinach lasagna when I recapped Jess' New Orleans bachelorette weekend, and now I'm writing about zucchini lasagna! If you have one, use a mandolin to slice the zucchini.  Not only is it easier, but the mandolin also leaves you with evenly sliced vegetable strips.  Gina's post over at Skinny Taste warns several times about the amount of water zucchini retains.  It's really important to thoroughly blot the excess liquid from each zucchini strip to avoid ending up with a soupy mess! Since you're using salt to remove some of the excess liquid from the zucchini, think carefully before adding too much additional salt to the meat sauce.  Because I only have a small grill pan, grilling the zucchini took a long time so this would not be an appropriate weeknight meal.  At ~3 minutes/slice, 8 slices grilling at one time, and ~100 slices, it took about 40 minutes to grill the zucchini.  Yikes! But the effort was worth it because swapping traditional pasta noodles for veggies still resulted in a filling lasagna that didn't leave us feeling weighed down.  Plus, since the dish is loaded with veggies - no side salad required!

Zucchini Lasagna
Adapted from Skinny Taste
Time: 2 hours
Serves: 6-8

1 lb. ground turkey
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
28-oz. crushed tomatoes
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp crushed red pepper
3 medium zucchini, sliced 1/8" thick
Cooking spray
15 oz. part-skim ricotta
8 oz. Italian cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Parmesean cheese
1 large egg

1.  Season turkey with salt and pepper, then brown in a medium sauce pan, about 5-10 minutes.  Once cooked, drain turkey in a colander to remove any fat; set aside.  Add olive oil to the saucepan and saute onion and garlic for 2 minutes.  Return meat to the pan, add crushed tomatoes, basil, crushed red pepper, and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer on medium-low for about 40 minutes, covered. Continue to simmer until sauce is thick; do not add extra water.

2. Meanwhile, using a mandolin if you have one, slice zucchini into 1/8" thick slices.  Lightly salt pieces and set aside for 10 minutes; the salt will take out a lot of the zucchini’s moisture.  After 10 minutes, firmly blot excess moisture with paper towels.

3. Using a grill pan or gas grill, grill zucchini 1-2 minutes per side.  Place grilled zucchini on paper towels to soak up any excess moisture.

4. Preheat oven to 375°.  Coat 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.

5. Mix ricotta cheese, Parmesan, and egg together in a medium bowl. Stir well.

6. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the prepared 9x13 dish, and layer 1/3 of the zucchini to cover.  Cover zucchini with 1/3 the ricotta cheese mixture, lightly sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, and cover with 1/3 the remaining meat sauce   Repeat the process (zucchini, ricotta, mozzarella, sauce) two more times, and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on top of the final sauce layer.

7. Cover dish with foil; bake 40-45 minutes covered, then uncovered 10-15 minutes.

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