Friday, February 20, 2009
I felt I had to share this with you today instead of the wine post I had planned because any meat-free dish - and given, this is no diet meat-free dish - that JR requests to have packed for his lunch and then says, "can't I have more?" upon reviewing his portion, must be a winner.
I've been on a bit of a cavolo nero, or dinosaur kale, kick lately, but this could be made with any leafy greens - spinach would be scrumptious, swiss chard succulent, and beet greens delectable. This is a multi-step recipe, so if you wanted to get a jump on the prep work, you could certainly make the walnut pesto and cook the greens a day ahead of time and refrigerate them until you're ready to make the Bechamel sauce and assemble the lasagna.
Kale Lasagna with Walnut Pesto:
For the pesto:
1/2 cup (2 ounces) walnuts
1/2 cup packed parsley leaves
1 ounce wedge or 1/2 cup grated Pecorino-Romano
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
For the kale:
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium shallot
2 bunches dinosaur kale (also called Lacinato kale or cavolo nero), rinsed well, dried, and chopped fine - you can chop the kale coarsely if you like, but you may find yourself fighting clumps of kale while eating. Best to try for fork-manageable pieces of kale in the prep rather than at the dinner table.
salt and pepper
For the Bechamel:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups milk
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
For the lasagna assembly:
9 lasagna noodles, cooked al dente (firm, but cooked through)
3/4 cup grated Pecorino-Romano, divided in thirds - you will be using 1/4 cup of cheese per layer of lasagna.
For the pesto:
The traditional way to make pesto is with a mortar and pestle. It's ok to exhale now. Even I don't do this, so I will not ask it of you. A good work-around for making pesto quickly without turning it into an actual paste is to use a mini-food processor or food processor, and pulse each ingredient separately until they are coarsely ground. I did it in this order to avoid having pureed parsley in the processor adding moisture to the pesto ingredients: walnuts, Pecorino-Romano, parsley. Once they are pulsed to a coarse texture - around the size of tiny pebbles for the walnuts and cheese, combine them in a small bowl, add the olive oil, stirring to combine, then salt and pepper to taste.
For the kale:
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until translucent, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Add the kale and saute until all of the kale is softened, turning kale over frequently to be sure kale on the bottom does not burn. This process should take approximately 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
For the Bechamel sauce:Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add the flour and, using a whisk, stir constantly to combine with butter. Continue to cook flour and butter until the mixture is a light golden brown, approximately 5 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking continuously as it is added.
Once milk is added to the roux (the cooked flour and butter mixture is a roux), cook over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes until sauce is thick and has a consistency similar to that of pancake batter, whisking constantly and being careful that the sauce does not scald on the bottom of the pan. Remove the pan from heat, stir in ground nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.
Place an oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Now, you are ready for lasagna assembly. Spread enough Bechamel sauce over the bottom of the lasagna pan to just cover it. Place 3 lasagna noodles over the Bechamel. Cover with 1/2 of the cooked kale mixture. Top the kale mixture with 1/3rd of the remaining Bechamel, then sprinkle with 1/4 cup of grated Pecorino-Romano. Repeat for the second layer, and then top with the last 3 lasagna noodles. Distribute the walnut pesto evenly over the top of the last layer of lasagna noodles. You won't have enough to create a carpet of walnut pesto, think of it more as a seasoning, so don't be alarmed that you aren't able to cover the noodles completely. Top the noodles and walnut pesto with the last 1/3rd of the Bechamel sauce, then sprinkle the last 1/4 cup of grated Pecorino-Romano over top. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake for 45 minutes, or until the lasagna is browned on top and the Bechamel sauce is bubbling on the sides. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into this gooey kale masterpiece. Serve it forth, and remind yourself that even though you are ingesting a huge amount of butter, milk, and cheese, there has to be some benefit from the leafy greens.
Dinner tonight: Yep. Even though we both had it for lunch, we're going to have it again for dinner. Does this make me lazy? Ahhhh, don't answer that. Besides, I had to revise my math now that I've actually executed the dish, and that has to count for something. Where were we? Right, dinner tonight: Kale Lasagna with Walnut Pesto. Estimated cost for two: $3.84. The kale was on sale for $1.99 per bunch at Whole Foods and you can see I used two bunches. The shallot/olive oil saute will add 45-cents in olive oil and 25-cents in shallot to the tally. The lasagna noodles are 1/2 of a box that cost $1.59, so that's 80-cents. The Bechamel sauce consists of 5 cups of milk for $1.25, butter at 44-cents for 5 tablespoons (out of 32 tablespoons for $2.79), and a little more than 11-cents in flour, with flour costing $3.99 for a 5-pound bag that yields us 76 1/4-cups of flour. We used $1.50 in grated Pecorino-Romano, tossing around 1/2-ounce over each of the three layers of lasagna. Two ounces of walnuts, at 44-cents per ounce is 88-cents. The bunch of parsley I bought cost $1.69, I used about half of that, so that's 86-cents. The Pecorino-Romano for the pesto was not pre-grated, so it was more expensive, $10.99/pound, rather than $7.99/pound for the pre-grated. We used 1 ounce, so that's around 69-cents. We'll call the olive oil for the pesto 3 tablespoons for the sake of rounding up, and that's 33-cents in olive oil. So we got 6 servings for a total cost of $11.54, or $1.92 per serving. Even less expensive than previously predicted. Love that!