Every Wednesday I’m going to start writing about something new I’ve cooked that week, sometimes I might even cook it on Wednesday. I don’t want to become too predictable, but I have a two-part reason for including this in my blog, the first is that it’s nice to have some anchor posts here there to keep from getting overwhelmed (and since I have to eat, writing about trying new things should be pretty effortless) and, on the subject of having to eat, experimenting with cooking is good for me and fun to learn.

Enough explaining, on to the good stuff…

noodles, eggplant, big scary knife!

This week I tried making my very first home made lasagna, Eggplant Parmesan Lasagna to be exact, the recipe for which I found in Women’s Health Magazine.

Anyone who knows me well will understand why this is an interesting choice for me; I normally don’t like lasagna at all ( I’m weird about ground meat… don’t ask.)

Given that this recipe doesn’t call for any meat, I thought I would give it a try, couldn’t be too hard, right?  Apparently I make it a habit of turning simple situations into complicated messes, so the hardest part of this recipe, for me, was locating the noodles, which where, the whole time, right where you find all noodles. But the recipe called for raw noodles, so I assumed that I should be looking for soft, fresh noodles. After a few desperate text messages to a friend I saw my error and went straight to the lasagna noodles and the fuss ended there.

noodles, sauce, and cheese

The recipe is as follows:

1 tsp olive oil, divided

1 eggplant (about 1lb), sliced crosswise into 1/4 -inch-thick rounds.

1 jar cabernet marinara sauce

6 uncooked whole-wheat lasagna noodles (I used regular because I don’t like whole wheat pasta, it tastes like cardboard.)

1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

1 log (3.5 oz) soft goat cheese, room temperature

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

You begin by preheating your oven to 450 and then you want to line your slices of eggplant on a foil covered pan in a single layer and brush them with half the olive oil, then you roast them for 15 minutes. When you remove them, you pull the foil up around the eggplant, making a foil sauna for the eggplant to steam them the rest of the way done.

Meanwhile, use the rest of your oil to coat the inside of your baking dish, then combine the marinara with a 1/2 cup of water, then spread 1/2 cup sauce mixture in the baking dish.  Then you take your noodles and cover the sauce.

At this point it’s all layers, mix the ricotta, goat cheese, half of your basil, and the crushed red pepper flakes in a bowl. Use half of the cheese mixture and spread it all over your noodles (easier said than done, for sure), then cover that with half your eggplant, and then cover that with sauce and top with another layer of noodles, rinse, repeat.

Mmmmm cheese

After you create another layer ending with noodles, use your remaining sauce to cover the last noodle layer and then cover the baking dish with foil and pop it in the over for 45 minutes or until noodles are tender.

Last, uncover and top with the Parmesan cheese, then stick it back in the over for another 5 minutes or until the cheese melts. Let it stand for 10 before serving.

Another genius moment for me was running out of foil and not being able to recycle the foil from the eggplant roasting. Instead I made a make-shift cover for the lasagna out of a foil tray that some yeast rolls I’d cooked the night before had come in. I should have taken a picture of that, but I have to admit that I was rather ashamed of myself for running out of foil. =/

It's lasagna!

And here is what we ended up with, cheesy lasagna that lasted for days. The trouble with living alone is that you either have no left-overs because you’ve only made enough for one meal, or you have enough that you end up losing interest before you run out.

The only thing that I would change about this recipe, is that in the end, while still very tastey, it seemed to be lacking something in terms of flavor… I highly suspected this had something to do with there not being any meat involved. I asked a flavor savvy friend about it and he explained it to me this way:

In addition to sweet, salty, sour, bitter and spicy there is an additional “taste” sensation registered on the tongue. It was first identified by a Japanese scientist who called it “umami” which roughly translated means unctuousness. The specific chemical that registers in this way on the tongue is glutamic-acid or glutamate. This is the same chemical we find in MSG which is why it is used as a “flavor enhancer” protein rich foods contain this naturally such as meat. Other foods, such as aged or fermented foods, develop this chemical through those processes (so hard cheeses, wines, soy sauce) and that is why Parmesan cheese has more glutamic acid than anything else, including pure MSG but the young cheeses like goat and ricotta don’t have much.

So, he recommended adding Parmesan to the cheese mix instead of just cover the top of the dish with the Parmesan to make up for the loss of flavor due to no meat. =)

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