Indian Summer Lasagna Stacks
Makes 4 large or 8 smaller servings. Vegan if made as directed in the variation
Swelter-free, this no-bake treatment, which is like a lasagna salad or a double-decker lasagna tostada, will be a happy addition to your summer dinner repertoire. First, you grill and marinate zucchini and/or summer squash with herbs and fresh corn. Then you layer the vegetables generously with a basil-laced cheese filling, cooked noodles, and a tomato “sauce,” which is simply a bowlful of diced, fresh tomatoes that have been given the opportunity to (literally) express themselves. Prepare all the components well in advance and assemble the stacks on a platter or on individual plates just before serving. After a brief heat-up in the microwave, the lasagna is ready to serve. Added bonus: there is no pan to wash afterwards.
I’ve divided this recipe into two parts, to make it easier to follow.
Make sure the tomatoes you use for the sauce are very fresh, yet still firm. After you cut them, juices will accumulate in the bowl as they sit. Save it as a delightful sop for fresh bread. Or just drink it.
Go ahead and use a good store-bought basil pesto, unless you feel like making your own well ahead of time. You can also just add ½ teaspoon minced or crushed garlic and a handful of minced fresh basil to the ricotta, if you don’t have any pesto on hand.
With your good, sharp knife, you’ll find your own preference for the thickness of the squash—neither too thick nor too thin.
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Dried rosemary, crumbled
1 pound small (4- to 6-inch) zucchini and/or yellow summer squash, cut into circles about ¼ inch thick Black pepper
Kernels from 1 ear fresh, sweet corn
3 tablespoons grated or shredded Parmesan
1) Combine the 2 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt in a large, shallow bowl. Whisk to blend and place the bowl near the stove.
2) Set a ridged grill pan or a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, brush it lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with a little thyme and rosemary. Place the zucchini slices on the hot, herbed surface in a single layer and cook on medium-high on both sides until browned and just tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle it lightly with salt and pepper as it cooks. When it is tender and golden, transfer the cooked squash directly to the marinade, spreading it out so all surfaces can get flavor exposure. Sprinkle with 1½ tablespoons Parmesan while it is still warm. (You will likely need to cook the zucchini in several shifts.)
3) Without cleaning it, heat the pan again, brushing with a touch more oil, if necessary. Toss in the corn and a little more thyme and rosemary and cook for just a minute or two. Scrape the corn and all the flavor from the pan into the marinating squash and toss to coat. Add the remaining 1½ tablespoons Parmesan, season with more salt and pepper, if desired, and set aside to marinate for up to an hour— and ideally, for several. (If it’s going to be much longer and your kitchen is hot, cover the bowl and refrigerate until it’s time to assemble the lasagna.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ripe but firm, sweet in-season tomatoes
½ teaspoon salt
Nonstick cooking spray (optional)
8 2¼-inch-wide lasagna noodles (about ½ pound)
1 pound whole-milk ricotta
Up to 6 tablespoons basil pesto (store-bought or homemade)
¼ cup grated or shredded Parmesan
10 or more fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips (optional)
1) Fill a large pot with water, add the oil, and bring to a boil.
2) Core the tomatoes and cut them into small (¼-inch) dice. Transfer them to a bowl, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of the salt, cover, and set aside.
3) Lay out a towel on a counter near the sink, or spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Add the noodles to the boiling water, using a dinner knife or something similar to swish in a gentle slicing motion between and among them, to prevent their sticking together. Boil for exactly 7 minutes, then carefully drain the noodles in a colander. Immediately use tongs or a pasta gripper to gently lift them out, laying them flat in a single layer on the waiting towel or baking sheet.
4) Combine the ricotta and pesto to taste in a medium-large bowl. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste.
5) To assemble the lasagna, have ready four or eight broiler proof plates. Place a noodle — long, or cut shorter (or in half, if going for 8 servings) with scissors—on each, then spread it with about a tablespoon of the ricotta. Add spoonfuls of the vegetable mixture and the tomatoes, then repeat with a second tier. (Don’t worry if things tumble down—that’s part of the charm.) You’ll end up with beautiful stacks, topped with a preponderance of vegetables.
6) Sprinkle with the Parmesan and then microwave each stack on high power for 1 minute, or broil to heat through and possibly brown the top. Serve hot or warm, topped with strips of fresh basil leaves.
Excerpted from THE HEART OF THE PLATE, (c) 2013 by Mollie Katzen. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.