Buh-bye Summer

What is your life like today, compared to one year ago?

I read my post from last year, where I wrote about starting a new job. That was certainly a “big” deal for our family. During the ensuing school year, though, things stayed about the same. Then a bunch of “new” stuff happened as summer approached. Thankfully, they have been mostly positive, so don’t think for a second that this post is a lament! However, my life is so different now. The biggest event being: I have one less kid at home! I can shed a tear, and smile at the same time, right?

Ponder, for a moment, how different your own life is after a mere 365 days have passed.

Now that you’ve done that, you feel hungry, huh?

I have just the thing for you! This dish is an homage to the end of summer. If you are lucky, (or unlucky – depends on your point of view) you have an abundance of zucchini in your garden or fridge. Maybe you have some sweet corn, and some basil too. You could, of course, buy some of these things at the farmer’s market, or at Trader Joe’s (or Costco, depending on how many people you have to feed.) I had to buy it all, as my *gasp* zucchini plant has not produced one successful fruit this season! (I haven’t tried growing corn. I rely on a giant bag of frozen kernels.)

NOTE: I’m figuring out some good information as I increase my gardening skills. The most recent is: I actually have to shade some of the plants! It turns out, they don’t tolerate the relentless, beating sunshine, along with days and days of over 95ºF heat. The flowers won’t pollinate, and in the case of the zucchini, the leaves wilt like deflated balloons. I have some beautiful, lush tomato plants right now; they just have no fruit. Such a bummer!

Back to the food: I had a bunch of zucchini, a jar of pesto, and some cooked chicken.  In the cabinet there were some leftover no-boil lasagne noodles. I did a little bit of research regarding flavor combinations. Corn and basil combine well.  Zucchini and basil combine will, too. They are practically made for each other! Try it! Sauté some sliced zucchini, and season it with salt, lemon, and some finely chopped fresh basil before serving. It is lovely!

For the lasagne, though, I used pesto. I keep a giant jar on hand for quick-meals. This lasagne isn’t necessarily “quick” as it involves the steps of sautéing vegetable before you layer and bake. However, it is quicker than authentic lasagne. Plus it tastes fresh and summer-y, with just the right hint of impending autumn.

You will need the following ingredients:

three or four zucchini, cut up into 1 cm square dice

one medium onion, diced

about a cup of corn kernels

one egg

one cup of cottage cheese or ricotta

5 – 6 Basil leaves

pre-cooked and boneless chicken

no-boil lasagne noodles

prepared pesto

one pound, or more, of shredded mozzarella cheese

Some broth

Saute the onions in a bit of oil, until they start to soften. Then add the zucchini and continue to cook until they become a little soft. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the corn, and set aside.

Next, mix the egg, cottage cheese (or ricotta) and the basil leaves in a food processor or, my favorite, the mixing cup of an immersion blender. Seriously, look for ways to decrease your work load. A food processor has a lot more parts to wash than an immersion blender. You could avoid the machinery by finely chopping the basil, and mixing with the egg and ricotta – not cottage cheese.

Before you start layering, preheat the oven to 375ºF.

For baking, I used two bread pans. One square brownie pan would work, too. Coat the bottom and sides of the pan with non-stick spray first. Then make two layers: noodles, cottage cheese/ricotta mixture, a couple of tablespoons of pesto, vegetables, chicken, cheese. Ration your ingredients as you need, depending on how many pans you are using. But use as much chicken and mozzarella as makes you happy – or as much as you have available. Top with noodles, more pesto, and a little bit of cheese, reserving about 3/4 cup of cheese (or more!) for the end of baking. Pour some broth, and any remaining juice from cooking the vegetables, around the edges of the lasagne until the liquid pools just above the top noodle. Then wrap that sucker up tight, TIGHT, I say! with foil and bake it for about 45 minutes at 375ºF. Take off the foil and add the remaining cheese, then bake for about 10 minutes more.  Let it stand for a while after baking, a half hour or so, before serving. (If you know how to make lasagne successfully without boiling regular noodles, go for it! Prob need to add more liquid and cooking time. Regular lasagne noodles are cheaper.)

I made this for dinner for Zander and me. He was mostly happy with it, and ate and ate. He complained about the corn, though. He didn’t appreciate the sweet flavor with all the savory. I thought the corn was an outstanding addition. You know what you and your family like. It will still be good without the corn.

I’m curious: What vegetable would you substitute for the corn? If you are a low-carber, what vegetable would you substitute for the pasta?




One Comment

  1. Fritha Matus

    Thank you for another amazing recipe!!! I have to try this . . . now that I have a real kitchen ‘ just like grown-ups” have. I have no idea how I would improvise on this because it sounds yummy just the way it is; however, as usually happens, I find I am missing some ingredient once put to the task, so if I do improvise .. . I will let you know.
    Sounds like a lot of growth for the De Soto family in new and exciting ways from a year ago! Lots of good things happening to cherish!

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