Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna

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Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna
Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna

This adventure started with a Mushroom and Burrata Lasagnette recipe by Alison Roman published in the October 2015 issue of Bon Appetit. Ms. Roman admits her recipe is “indulgent” and, I am sure, delicious, but what I was going for is something much lower in fat and healthier. I not only want to “live a little,” but live a little longer.

Gone is the butter and olive oil. Gone is the heavy cream. In place of the heavy cream, I used a cauliflower cream (basically pureed cauliflower). If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making the cauliflower cream, substitute back in 1/4 cup of heavy cream. In place of the burrata, I used mozzarella. I am sure the extra creaminess of the burrata adds to the decadence, but would get lost in the lasagnette. For added nutrition, I added spinach to the recipe.

The other major change is the serving size. As published, the recipe indulgently serves 2 people. I used a little larger casserole dish and it yielded 6 large servings.

You can use dried lasagna noodles. Simply cook them until al dente according to package instructions before assembling the lasagna. I have sworn off store-bought pasta in favor of homemade. It’s really not that difficult to make and the taste and texture is far superior its store-bought relative. I used Bob’s Red Mill 100% stone ground whole wheat organic flour for the pasta. Bob’s Red Mill flour is ground finely enough to give you light, delicate pasta even using 100% whole wheat.

2 pounds mixed mushrooms, cut into bite-size pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 cup fat-free ricotta
1/4 cup cauliflower cream
1/4 fresh nutmeg, grated
2 tsp. fresh thyme
14 oz frozen cut leaf spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
12 fresh lasagna noodles (about 10 x 4 inches)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces
1 1/2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated

1) Preheat oven to 425°.
2) Add mushrooms to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has been absorbed, about 10-15 minutes.
3) Add shallot, wine and rosemary and again cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has been absorbed, about 5-10 minutes.
4) Combine ricotta, cauliflower cream, nutmeg and thyme in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper.
5) Working in batches, cook fresh lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 30 seconds.
6) Spread a thin layer of ricotta mixture in a 10 x 8 x 3 casserole dish and top with a 2 lasagna noodles side by side. Spread a large spoonful of ricotta mixture over pasta, layer with 1/6 of the mushrooms, spinach and mozzarella. Top evenly with 1/6 of the Parmesan. Repeat layering process 5 more times finishing with the last of the Parmesan and grinding on fresh pepper, to taste.
7) Cover casserole with foil and bake until warmed through, about 15-20 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown, 20-25 minutes.
8) Let cool at least 5 minutes and serve. 


Mushroom Soup

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The weather has been frigid lately and that demands soup to warm the bones. I had never done a mushroom soup so I decided to give it a go. I used a variety of mushrooms: 1/2 Crimini, 1/4 Shitake and 1/4 rehydrated Porcini. If using dried mushrooms, do not throw away the rehydration liquid. Strain it carefully and use it in place of some of the stock. In my case, I had 1 cup of rehydration liquid and 3 cups of broth. There is no sense in throwing away all that flavor.

I used a semi-dry sherry since the subtle, oaky flavors would go better with the earthiness of the mushrooms than a dry, fruity sherry. The Greek yogurt added some thickening and richness without the fat of regular or sour cream.

It’s not Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom (that is a good thing), but it was Mm, Mm, Good! I served it along side a pork loin roast stuffed with spinach, mushrooms and shallots, but it really could be a meal all by itself.

1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 Tbs. olive oil
3 medium shallots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. fresh wild mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 Tbs. fresh Rosemary
4 cups homemade chicken broth
1/4 cup non-fat Greek Yogurt
1/4 cup semi-dry sherry
Salt and pepper, to taste

1) Melt the butter and olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
2) Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
3) Reserve several slices of mushroom for the garnish and add the rest of the mushrooms and rosemary to the pot and cook until the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes.
4) Add the broth, deglaze the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

5) Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
6) Transfer about half of the soup to a food processor and puree until smooth.
7) Return the mixture to the pot and stir in the Greek yogurt and sherry. Salt and pepper, to taste, and reheat.
8) Garnish each serving with a couple of slices of reserved mushrooms.

Farrotto with Butternut and Porcinis

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This farro risotto is adapted from a Saveur recipe by Yewande Komolafe. I started my research after reading an autumn farrotto with butternut squash recipe in the New York Times. I have done mushroom farrottos and thought about combining the two. Some quick research revealed no such combination until, by chance, I stumbled on the Saveur recipe.

I was going to make it and abandon by own creation, but, as presented, is volume were off and fat was too high. 2 1/2 cups of squash, 1 cup of farro and 2 cups of mushroom seems heavy on the veggies, over-powering the inherent goodness of the farro. 3 tbsp of oil, 3 tbsp of butter 1 1/2 cups of parmesan and 1 tbsp of crème fraiche is much heavier than I like to cook. I decreased volumes and lightened the recipe: less oil, less butter, less cheese and non-fat Greek yogurt in place of the crème fraiche.

I used a homemade vegetable stock. I make my stocks, if I have the time, and only rely on store-bought in a pinch. Not only can I control the ingredients and thus the taste, but I can control the sodium. Even low sodium store-bought stock has way too much sodium. My homemade stock: zero added sodium. Today’s stock was made from veggies ready to find their way to the garbage disposer. I had leeks starting to age, celery that was getting limp, green onions that would only last a day or two more and left over Swiss chard from last night’s dinner. I add to that some carrots, peppercorns, and some frozen thyme and rosemary. 30 minutes later, I had enough stock for the farrotto plus plenty to freeze for future use.

Farro is tougher than arborio rice. You need to pre-cook it. Without the pre-cooking, you will be sautéing your farrotto forever. Cooking your farro, rehydrating your mushrooms and making your stock in advance will speed up preparation when guests are heading for your door.

2 cups butternut squash, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup farro
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig thyme, chopped
½ cup white wine
1 cup vegetable stock
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated and chopped
2 tbsp. shredded or grated parmesan
1 tbsp. non-fat, plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Place squash on a parchment lined baking sheet, lightly spray with an olive oil mister and season with fresh ground pepper. Roast for 30-35 minutes until slightly brown. Remove from oven and reserve.

2. Meanwhile, add dried porcinis to a bowl with 2 cups of boiling water. Let rehydrate for 30 minutes. Remove mushrooms, chop and reserve. Reserve 1 cup of the liquid straining carefully to remove sand and dirt.

3. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a 3 quart saucepan. Stir in farro and sauté until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain farro and reserve.

4. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add in the chopped porcinis and sauté about 3 minutes, remove from pan and reserve.

5. Melt additional 1 tbsp of butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add in the shallots and cook until the shallots are slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook an additional 30 seconds. Add the farro and stir, coating each kernel.

6. Add in the white wine, reduce heat to a simmer and let liquid simmer off, stirring occasionally.

7. Alternately between the vegetable stock and the mushroom rehydrating liquid, adding a 1/2 cup of liquid at a time and stirring occasionally until the farro has absorbed all the liquid, cook the farro for 25-30 minutes. After adding the last liquid, add salt and pepper to taste and add the mushrooms and roasted squash.

8. Fold in the cheese and stir until just melted. Fold in the Greek yogurt. Garnish with fresh sage.