Last week, we were coming off of a particularly indulgent birthday weekend filled with good friends, great weather and an abundance of delicious food. Not only was my love tank overflowing, but so was our refrigerator, with our weekly CSA bounty and what we purchased for a party on Sunday.
Don't get me wrong - this is a great problem to have. And our late autumn harvest has been wonderful and chock full of hearty squash, funny looking carrots and dark leafy greens. But in an effort to use what we pay for, we end up eating a lot of roasted vegetable, grain and green bowls. While this is completely delicious a few days a week, I was craving something a bit lighter and more creative to balance out the birthday cake.
Enter collard lasagna.
I know what you're thinking. Replacing pasta sheets with raw vegetables can't possibly work. But I'm not looking to create a substitute for your mother's lasagna. Instead, I'm sharing a dish that is autumnal, comforting and wildly nutritious in a format that's just a bit more exciting than your typical weeknight meal. And it's also pretty easy and customizable too.
We've enjoyed a steady flow of collard greens this CSA season, which has delighted the cruciferous-loving man in my house. They're used for wraps, salads and shakes, and impart great doses of folate, Vitamins A, C and K. The remaining layers of the lasagna are pretty foolproof. Keeping with the autumnal vegetable theme I roasted what was in the refrigerator: onions, butternut squash, heirloom carrots and a melange of wild mushrooms.
In order to hold the vegetables and leaves together, you need some sort of glue. My mind was wandering towards pesto and ricotta. Since I had neither of these things handy, I improvised and used up a few broccoli and collard stalks and raw nuts in the cabinet to whip up a pecan broccoli and collard pesto and a grainy lemon-garlic cashew cream. Depending on your preference, you could use regular ricotta, basil pesto...hell, you could even use hummus. Since this dish is raw, let your imagination run wild.
When you're done whipping up the components, all you need to do is layer your bricks and mortar in a lasagna dish until you run out of ingredients or room. Then you just pop it in the fridge to set for an hour, use a good knife to cut squares, and voila! You're ready to fill your body with a delicious and healthy fall meal.
Autumnal Collard Lasagna
To make this recipe, you'll need a 9 x 13-inch lasanga dish and a bunch of collard greens, rinsed and stems trimmed. You'll want to whip up all of the other lasagna ingredients, and then set them out on a clean counter to artfully build.
Autumn Vegetable Melange
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 cup wild mushrooms, trimmed and chopped (I used oyster, maitake, and pioppino)
2 medium yellow onions, diced
6 large carrots, washed and diced
1. Set your oven to 400. On a large baking tray, arrange your chopped vegetables in one layer. Drizzle with olive oil and sea salt, and pop in the oven.
2. Roast for 40 minutes, or until vegetables are soft when poked with a fork. Remove and let cool.
Lemon-Garlic Cashew "Ricotta"
1 cup cashews
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup water
1. Boil water and put cashews in a heat safe bowl. Pour boiling water over cashews until they're completely submerged and let sit for 1 hour.
2. Drain cashews and put in the blender/food processor. Add garlic, lemon, salt and 1/4 cup water and blend until grainy or smooth, depending on your preference. I left mine grainy to have that "ricotta" feel. You might need to add a bit more water to get the consistency you prefer, but tread lightly.
Pecan, Collard and Broccoli Pesto
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup chopped broccoli stalk
1/4 cup collard stems (use from trimming this batch)
1/4 cup nutritiounal yeast
Pinch of sea salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1. Combine ingredients in blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Depending on the consistency you prefer, you may need to add more olive oil.
To assemble the lasagna, layer collard leaves in your dish, making sure to cover any gaps (you can use smaller leaves to fill blank spaces). Add a layer of pesto, a layer of roasted vegetables, and then a layer of cashew ricotta, using a wide spatula. Don't worry if it's not perfect - this dish is rustic, and all you need is for some of the glue to be on both sides of the vegetables to hold it together. I sprinkled some fresh thyme on top, before adding another layer of collards.
Continue layering, ensuring that all gaps between leaves are filled, until you get to the top layer. When you lay down the final layer of collards, use any remaining pesto or ricotta to "glue down" the edges of the leaves on top to each other, ensuring a smooth finish. Pop the lasagna into the refrigerator and let set for one hour. To serve, cut with a sharp knife and use a spatula.