Eggplant and Chard Lasagne and Being a Reluctant Gardener
In case you’re in the mood for lasagne, and up for something different, try this Eggplant and Chard Lasagne. Yes, it’s vegetarian and it’s incredibly good in a Wow-That’s-Vegetarian?! kind of way. I served it to a group of carnivores who whined (a little) before tasting it. They shut up after the first bite. Then, the rest of the lasagna was history…gone with the skeptic wind.
Eating what I consider a “balanced” diet
I do love my chocolates, high-fat Irish butter, desserts and everything sweet, so I try to balance them out with oatmeal or 2% greek yogurt in the mornings, and vegetable/fruit-rich dishes the rest of the day [Keep in mind: I try, but it doesn’t always happen.]. Having said that, I also don’t see the point of dreading a lackluster meal only to make myself feel better with too much dessert. And let’s face it–it’s way easier to keep eating dessert…so very easy. I want to eat with a good diet in mind, but I don’t want to eat like I’m missing out. I’m with the camp who believes that eating healthier shouldn’t mean resigning to eating food that taste like crap.
After having cooked several recipes from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone, I couldn’t recommend it enough for anyone thinking of putting more vegetable dishes on their tables. Remember the split pea soup? Yum! This lasagne? Oh my. It’s another winning combination, and I can’t believe I’ve never used chard and eggplant together like this, it’s so deviously simple.
I wasn’t quite sure how it would taste from the recipe, to be honest, but knowing that my fellow food blogging pal Dana made it before was the extra assurance I needed to feel at ease making this for the first time and serving it to hungry non-vegetarian bellies.
And you know what? It was a smashing success of a pasta dish. If you taste this, you won’t say: “This tastes good for vegetarian…” It is awesome. Period. No need to label it as “vegetarian” as an excuse for its taste. I know what it’s like. I used to wince whenever someone said the V-word. I die a little each time then, if I want to be dramatic about it. But this. Oh, I love it! I’ve no qualms about serving it to anyone. I plan to serve this at my next birthday party, and it won’t need the usual introduction of, “That’s vegetarian, FYI.”
It tastes like lasagne (in case you’re wondering). It’s not too leafy, not too rich. It’s filling, but it won’t weigh you down–y’know that feeling with pasta that’s bloated you can barely look at it before thinking there’s just no way I could eat that? I was quite surprised at how good eggplant was in between sheets of pasta, and really being good friends with wilted chard. Mmmm…mmm!
So the question is: would I pick this over the conventional lasagne if I had the choice? YES! Oh, heck, YES!
Truly, I love the dish as is, but something’s missing. With the beginning of spring, I can’t help but think of how it could be better with garden-fresh eggplants and chard. Yeah, I’m going to go all oogly-vegetably on you now.
Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, a-gardening we go!
I won’t lie. I don’t have a green thumb (although he says there is no such thing) and gardening became obliterated from my thinking process before I reached my teens. Gardening wha’? Before that, I enjoyed mostly third-party gardening. I was perfectly content with watering the plants and removing/cutting the occasional dried stem or leaf. The major dig-ins, I just watch while others do it. My forte was harvesting and eating the fruits/vegetables, or cutting flowers and leaves to put in vases for our rooms. Very nice.
This year, I want to overcome my fear of soil–of earthworms, in particular–and start a small garden in the backyard. I used to live in a building complex where the yard consisted of rocks and manicured lawns and trees tended on an almost-daily basis by gardeners. You can’t plant. Not that it mattered at the time. Now that I’m back in the ‘burbs of Vancouver, there is actually a yard to play with.
I fear the yard. All it looks to me is more work when I could be tweeting instead! I’m so inspired by Kristina and Kristina‘s gardens. [Hah! Did I confuse you? Raise your hand if your name is Kristina and you garden. I see a pattern here.] I hope I’m not setting myself up for failure. We’ll see. I’ll try.
I mean…really, I will. Just thinking of having fresh produce from my own garden makes me happy. And I know that sounds like the geekiest food-related thing I’ve said. Help.
Do you have any tips for a newbie gardener like me? Can you share links/resources or books/primers to read?
I want to have a vegetable garden and eat the fruits of my labor. Hopefully, we can get soil this weekend. And no, I have not read a single book on gardening. Can gardening knowledge be–hold your breath–organic? :D
Ingredients (Makes one 9×12 baking dish lasagne)
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a 9 x 12 baking dish.
- 1 ½ pounds lasagne sheets (1 box dry)
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 ½ pounds eggplant, sliced ¼-inch thick crosswise
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing on both sides of eggplant slices
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ onion, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 ½ pounds green chard
- salt and fresh ground black pepper
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 cup ricotta
- 1 egg
- ¾ cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a 9 x 12 baking dish.
- Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, turning once halfway through the baking time. Eggplant will be browned on both sides. Chop coarsely.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes. Add chard and ½ teaspoon salt, cook until leaves are wilted, about 5 minutes. Pour wine and cover for about 10 minutes, until the chard becomes tender and the pan is dry. Transfer onto a cutting board and chop finely.
- Mix ricotta, chopped chard, 1/3 cup water and egg in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
- Spread one third of the tomato sauce over the bottom and place a layer of pasta over it. Sprinkle grated cheese on top and add a quarter of the eggplant, ricotta mixture, and a layer of mozzarella cheese. Add another layer of pasta and repeat for 3 more layers. Pour remaining sauce over the last layer of pasta.
- Cover the baking dish with foil, tenting above the surface. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until heated through. Remove the foil and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more.