Good Grief: Lasagna Two Ways

Joyful activities. We need them. Remember what makes you happy and start filling up your bucket. Celebrate you and you celebrate those you have loved and lost. “Good Grief” in the blog title. Whenever you see it, going forward, something joyful will follow including, as always, a most delicious recipe and maybe a bit of a surprise. These are “no more tears” blog posts.

stop & smell the roses

stop & smell the roses

First, the fun surprise. It is a D.I.Y. project perfect for this time of year known as lasagna compost gardening. It is a no-till (aka no back-breaking work) method of turning a sunny grassy area into a new garden. “Lasagna”, in this case, refers to the layering of nitrogen rich green material like grass, vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds and manure with carbon-rich brown elements like cardboard, dead leaves, straw and newspaper. Continue alternating green and brown layers, watering in between, until the pile measures 2 to 3 feet.

6 months later you will be ready to plant your new garden

6 months later you will be ready to plant your new garden in a loamy soil loaded with earthworms

Now for some real lasagna. This is one of my favorite recipes from Epicurious. As always I tend to tweak things according to my taste. For instance, I did not have porcini mushrooms, so I used dried shitakes and I used a large enough skillet to cook all the button mushrooms, zucchini, onion and garlic at once. Make the filling the day before to stream-line the whole process.

wild mushroom lasagne

wild mushroom lasagne

from Epicurious.com

Wild Mushroom Lasagna

For mushroom filling
3 cups water
2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 cup)
2 pounds fresh white mushrooms
2 large zucchini (about 1 pound)
1 large onion
3 garlic cloves
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons Sherry
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For sauce
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
4 1/2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
eighteen 7- by 3 1/2-inch sheets dry no-boil lasagne (about 1 pound)
1/2 pound freshly grated mozzarella (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan (about 1/2 cup)
preparation

Make filling:
In a small saucepan bring water to a boil and remove pan from heat. Stir in porcini. Soak porcini 20 minutes. Lift out porcini, squeezing out excess liquid, and reserve soaking liquid. In a sieve rinse porcini to remove any grit and pat dry. Chop porcini and transfer to a large bowl. Simmer reserved soaking liquid until reduced to about 1/4 cup. Pour liquid through a sieve lined with a dampened paper towel into bowl with porcini.

Quarter white mushrooms and in a food processor pulse in 3 batches until finely chopped. Cut zucchini into 1/4-inch dice. Chop onion and mince garlic. In a 12-inch heavy skillet heat 1 tablespoon butter over moderate heat until foam subsides and cook one third white mushrooms with 2 tablespoons Sherry, stirring, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and they begin to brown. Add mushroom mixture to porcini. Cook remaining mushrooms in 2 batches in butter with remaining Sherry in same manner and add to porcini mixture. In skillet cook zucchini in 1 tablespoon butter until tender and stir into porcini mixture. In skillet cook onion in remaining tablespoon butter, stirring, until softened. Stir in garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir onion into mushroom mixture until combined. Filling may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

Make sauce:
In a 3-quart heavy saucepan melt butter over moderately low heat and whisk in flour. Cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes and whisk in milk. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Stir in Parmesan, mustard, and salt. Remove pan from heat and cover surface of sauce with wax paper. Sauce may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring sauce to room temperature before proceeding.

Preheat oven to 375°F. and butter a 13 x 9-inch (3-quart) baking dish.

Assemble lasagne:
Spread 1 1/4 cups sauce in baking dish and cover with 3 pasta sheets, making sure they don’t touch each other. Spread one third filling over pasta sheets in dish and top with 3 more pasta sheets, gently pressing down layers to remove air pockets. Top pasta sheets with one third mozzarella. Continue layering in same manner with sauce, pasta sheets, filling, and mozzarella, ending with mozzarella (dish will be filled to rim). Spread remaining sauce over top and sprinkle with Parmesan. On a foil-lined large baking sheet bake lasagne in middle of oven until bubbling and golden, about 45 minutes. Let lasagne stand 20 minutes. Lasagne may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring lasagne to room temperature and reheat before serving.