Recipe: Changing Standards

A favorite lasagna recipe reimagined
by Erin Gautsche

When I became a vegetarian, my second cousin gifted me a well-worn copy of Anna Thomas’ 1972 cookbook The Vegetarian Epicure. As I experimented with its recipes, my mother did, too, and her favorite company meal became, and remains, Epicure’s spinach lasagna with wine and herb sauce.

This recipe, a new take on that old standard, celebrates the squash, root vegetables and greens that make up our seasonal winter staples. Lancaster Farm Fresh and other CSAs offer winter extension programs, some farmers’ markets continue year-round and the expanded Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal Market remains stocked.

I suggest serving this rich dish alongside some swiss chard or kale, lightly braised in a touch of olive oil, with a sprinkle of salt. This hearty, comforting lasagna could become your winter go-to company meal.

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Lasagna [serves 8]

  • 9 lasagna noodles
  • salt

Cheese layer:

  • 25 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 tsp. dried sage
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 eggs
  • freshly ground pepper to taste

Mushroom layer:

  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced

Squash layer:

  • 3 cups butternut squash purée*
  • 2 tsp. dried sage
  • 2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • fresh sage leaves (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil on the stove and add a pinch of salt. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet or wok. Add the onions, garlic and mushrooms and fry on medium-low heat until the onions are soft and the mushrooms have slightly browned edges.
  2. Add three lasagna noodles to the boiling water. Stir occasionally until the noodles are al dente (about eight minutes). Carefully remove from the pot and place on tinfoil to prevent sticking. Repeat with the remaining six noodles.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, half a cup of the Pecorino Romano, the herbs, salt and pepper. Add three eggs, mixing well until you reach an even consistency.
  4. In another bowl, mix the squash purée with the herbs, salt and pepper.
  5. Grease an 8 x 12 casserole dish. Place three noodles on the bottom of the dish. Top with 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, 1/2 of the mushroom mixture and 1/2 of the squash purée. Add three more noodles, and repeat with the remaining mushroom mixture and squash. Add one more level of noodles and top with the remaining 1/3 of ricotta and one cup of the Pecorino Romano.
  6. Cover the casserole with the sheet of aluminum foil, well-greased to prevent the cheese from sticking. 

Vegan Pear Tarte Tatin [serves 6]
by Dynise Balcavage, urbanvegan.net

With its gorgeous concentric circles of ginger-scented pears, this dessert is a seasonal alternative to the more traditional Apple Tarte Tatin. It provides the elegant “wow” factor required for a holiday dessert. And it’s not as difficult as you may imagine!

Serve it warm with soy ice cream and/or a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Don’t be afraid of inverting the tarte. The trick is to let the tarte cool for a few minutes, clear the edges with a knife, and then quickly and confidently flip it onto a dish.

Tarte:

  • 5 local pears (Bosc or Bartlett), peeled, cored and quartered
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 6 tbsp. vegan margarine
  • 8 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Sweet Pastry:

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour plus a few more tablespoons
    for rolling dough
  • 8 tbsp. vegan margarine, softened
  • 4 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 6-8 tbsp. soy or rice milk
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Peel, core and quarter pears. Toss in a medium bowl with lemon juice.
  3. On stove top, melt two tablespoons vegan margarine in a nine-inch cake pan. Remove from heat and sprinkle with four tablespoons brown sugar. Arrange pears on top in a tight, concentric circle, then dot with remaining vegan margarine and sprinkle with four tablespoons brown sugar, ginger and cinnamon.
  4. Cook cake pan with pears, margarine and sugar on stove top over medium heat until a loose caramel starts to form (about 20 minutes).
  5. Place in oven for five minutes to cook the tops of the pears.
  6. Mix all pastry ingredients together and roll out to a ten-inch disk. Place over top of the pears and trim or tuck in the edges.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the crust is golden.
  8. Remove from heat and cool on a rack for five minutes. Trace the edge of the pan with a knife to loosen any dough that might be sticking. Place a large plate over the top of the tarte and quickly flip the pan. Before removing the cake dish, tap to loosen any remnants that might be sticking. (This should not be a problem if you use enough margarine.)