Sunday, April 5, 2009

Remember to Eat Your Veggies, Kids!

I love me a good, healthy vegetable dip. The first time my very talented cousin, DEWBaker, made her baba ganoush, I ate almost the entire bowl of dip with her homemade pita crackers. Roasting the eggplant, peppers, and onions brought out their inherent sweetness and whizzing them up in the food processor with lemon juice, olive oil, tahini and parsley provided all the other flavors of tart, herby, and toasty to make it a well rounded flavor. Her baba ganoush has inspired me to make my version of that over the years. I made it once for a dinner party and brought my own baked pita. It was a hit. This last time I made it, I wanted it to accompany homemade spelt crackers. The dip came out perfectly; the crackers were not so lucky. I think I did not roll them out thin enough and in the end, they were thick and very, very hard.
So what does a girl do when she’s got dip but nothing to dip with? Make lasagna! I could have purchased crackers for the dip but I’ll be honest – the dip, while super tasty and healthy, is not exactly pretty. It’s very brown with flecks of green from the parsley, purple from the eggplant skin, and red from the tomato. I, personally, think it looks great drizzled with a little bit of olive oil and chopped parsley on top but Boyfriend is a bit pickier than I am. So, I thought to myself, “How do I make this more visually appealing?” I decided to layer it between sheets of whole wheat lasagna pasta, ricotta, and shredded cheese. The result was a very healthy, tasty, simple lasagna that I knew was a homerun when Boyfriend took the initiative to reheat the leftovers in the oven the next day.

Roasted Vegetable Dip
1 Lb eggplant, diced into 1 inch pieces
1 large tomato, diced into 1 inch pieces
1 red onion, diced into 1 inch pieces
2 stalks of celery cut into 1 inch pieces
1 red pepper cut into 1 inch pieces
4 cloves of garlic smashed
5 tbs olive oil
1 tbs tahini *Tahini is ground sesame made into a thin paste – it provides a lovely, toasty, nutty flavor and depth in flavor*
2 tbs fresh lemon juice(I had to use lime and it was also very good)
1/3 cup chopped parsley
Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F, 190 degrees C. Line a cookie sheet with foil.

Place the eggplant, tomatoes, celery, red pepper, onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes onto the cookie sheet. Generously salt and pepper the vegetables. Drizzle the seasoned vegetables with the olive oil and toss well to coat. Place it into the oven for 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and gently browned. When the vegetable are done, take the tray out of the oven and let it cool.

Once cooled, put the roasted vegetables into the food processor. Add the tahini, lemon juice, and chopped parsley. If desired, drizzle in a little bit of olive oil. Pulse the mixture a couple of times before processing the mix. Process the mix until it’s blended almost smooth. I like it with a bit more texture. Test for flavor and adjust the salt and pepper. If you prefer not to use so much salt, try flavoring with more lemon before adding salt.

You can serve it up as it is drizzled with a little bit of olive oil and finely chopped parsley. Scoop it up with baked pita chips, crackers, or your own spelt crackers.

If not – you can layer it in a lasagna. Recipe as follows. This post is a two-for!

Chock Full o’ Vegetables Lasagna
3 cups of the vegetable dip (recipe above)
1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1 cup of shredded mozzarella
Enough lasagna sheets to line a small dish twice (Prepared by the package directions. I used a no-cook pasta)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, 170 degrees C and set the rack in the middle of the oven. Lightly grease the bottom of an 8x8 inch glass baking dish with olive oil. The dish I used was slightly smaller – more like 4x10 inches.

Spread about 1 cup of the vegetable mixture around the bottom of the baking dish. Put one layer of the lasagna pasta on top of the vegetable. Spread another cup of the vegetable dip on top of the lasagna sheets. Spread ½ cup of the ricotta on top of the vegetable and spread ½ cup of the mozzarella on top of the ricotta. Put another layer of pasta on top of the cheese. Spread the remaining cup of vegetables on top of the pasta. Add the remaining ricotta as a layer and then the remaining layer of mozzarella. Cover the baking dish with a piece of foil and place dish in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes. After 35 minutes, uncover the dish and bake for a remaining 10 minutes until the top is golden brown.

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