Yesterday I was set with all my ingredients to make my partner a lamb lasagna. Except, as I discovered in the cooking process, we had forgotten something crucial: the cottage cheese.
You’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about, but trust me, next time you make lasagna, replace the ricotta portion with cottage cheese and you’ll end up with a moist and creamy filling.
So, we didn’t have cottage cheese, and I talked with my partner about what we did have in the fridge besides the mozzarella and parmesan–cheddar, jack, paneer, feta–feta! Oh no, but that would be too strong for the lamb and tomato and morels soaked in red wine and . . . I can make this work!
I ran back into the kitchen, assessed what I had, and here’s what I did*:
- Two hours before cooking, take a handful of morels–fresh or dried–and soak them in a small bowl of red wine.
- Dice garlic and sauté in olive oil. Add 1/4 c. of red wine and cook three to five minutes until the alcohol sizzles away. Add 2/3 lb. of ground lamb and season with salt, tarragon, and thyme to taste. Turn and separate lamb while browning, mixing in the garlic, and ensuring that the meat crumbles. Turn off the heat and fold in a large, diced heirloom tomato.
- Spread a thin layer of olive oil over the bottom of the pan and layer the first sheets of lasagna pasta (brown rice for us) having already cooked them somewhat in boiling water. Lightly sprinkle red pepper flakes and grind black pepper over the mix. Place half of the lamb mixture in a fine layer across lasagna sheets, setting the other half in a bowl.
- Slice a zucchini lengthwise and then finely slice along the length. In the same pan as the lamb, sauté the zucchini. When it browns slightly, set it aside. Finely chop a handful of pitted kalamata olives. Place another layer of lasagna sheets over the lamb and spread the olives across the sheets evenly. Add the zucchini and crumble 1/3 lb. of goat or sheep feta over the top. Lay another layer of pasta sheets over the top.
- Sauté red wine-soaked and diced morels in the pan, adding it to the last half of the lamb mix. Spread all of the mushrooms and morels in on this layer, and sauté sliced red, orange, and yellow bell peppers. Add these over the top of the lamb with another sprinkling of red pepper flakes and black pepper from a grinder. Place the final layer of pasta sheets.
- Gently brush a thin layer of olive oil over the top sheets, and then place thin slices of mozzarella over the pasta. Squeeze the mozzarella between thumb and forefinger to widen circumference. Shave parmesan from block and crumble over the layer of mozzarella. Place lasagna in oven at 375 for about 20 minutes or until the cheese melts, bubbles, and gets brown at the tops and edges.
- Slice into squares and serve with a salad with light dressing (caesar, oil/vinegar, lemon/oil, et al), or put it on a bed of fresh spinach.
*(Understand that with the exception of the wine-soaked morels, I hadn’t prepared anything ahead of time, so all of this was happening at the same time–I had a baking dish on the back burner, a skillet for sauteing on the front left, and a big pot of boiling water that frequently burned my hand, and at one point left a big long red stripe across my arm from spitting at me. Don’t do it my way; do prep work!)