It has been hot, hot, hot here in London this weekend. Being from the northeast US, I’m thrilled with these hot, sunny days and hope we get a few months of it. It’s still less humid than back home, so I really can’t complain. Plus, there are loads of summer vegetables to eat, and finding ways to prepare them is a fun challenge.
Yesterday the gentleman and I spent the day in Whitstable, a really nice seaside town. One of my favorite things about it (besides the peaceful beaches and the delicious local oysters and lobster we had for dinner) was how focused the town seemed on “staying local”. The high street was full of locally owned shops and restaurants selling local products. Sometimes it can seem like a losing battle when most high streets are full of chain restaurants and Wetherspoon pubs. Whitstable was a very pleasant surprise.
One of our Whitstable oysters came with its own oyster-handle.
Speaking of local, pretty much all the vegetables from this recipe came from our Riverford box – the only thing that didn’t was the garlic and the canned tomatoes. I’ve gotten a bit more adventurous thanks to these boxes. You might not consider an eggplant (aubergine) particularly remarkable, but I’m not a big fan, so being forced to cook them sometimes has challenged my creativity and even changed my mind about a few vegetables.
Recipe note: Some people are vehemently against adding sugar to their tomato sauces. And while I fully admit it’s a short-cut, it’s one I’m happy to take – especially when I want tomato sauce NOW and not in 3 hours. Simplicity works well for the lasagne, as the veggies do a lot of heavy lifting and you don’t want the sauce to overpower all those fresh veg.
On the Counter
2 cans whole plum tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
1 medium red onion, chopped
1/2 cup red wine (chianti)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper (chili) flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
2 tsp demerara sugar (1.5 tsp if using white granulated)
1 tbsp olive oil
6-8 no-boil lasagne sheets
1/2 cup mild white cheddar, shredded/grated
2 medium zucchinis (courgettes), sliced and quartered
1 eggplant (aubergine), sliced
10 chestnut mushrooms, sliced
salt to taste
fresh basil, shredded
What to Do
Sauce: In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Once shimmering, add chopped onions, cook until nearly translucent. (If your onions are browning too quickly, add just a tiny bit of water to regulate the temperature of the pan and stir with a wooden spoon.)
When the onions are just about there, add chopped garlic. Cook for another 2 minutes, until garlic is soft but not brown. Meanwhile, chop or squish the tomatoes in their cans.
Deglaze the pan with red wine, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes, breaking up any bigger pieces.
Lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Add in sugar, oregano, basil and chili flakes. Taste and add salt (or a bit more sugar) as needed.
Simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering, sprinkle salt on all sliced vegetables. If you’re using lasagne sheets that need to be pre-boiled, start them now. Cook them for about 2 minutes less than the package says, as they’ll soak up some liquid during baking.
Lay down a single layer of 3-4 sheets at the bottom of a wide baking dish. Spoon on a thin coating of sauce.
Add a layer of vegetables, no more than 2 deep. Add another layer of lasagne sheets. Continue until the dish is full, ending with a layer of vegetables.
Sprinkle shredded cheese on top.
Bake at 180C for 40-45 minutes until bubbly with golden cheese.
I hope you’ve had a chance to enjoy the summer while it lasts!