Roasted Pumpkin Lasagna with Red Chard and Fried Sage Bechamel (with Homemade Pumpkin Puree)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2014

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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This recipe requires a few steps but all are pretty easy & the result is an impressive crowd pleaser.  I roasted a couple of pumpkins myself but you could use canned pumpkin with little change in the result.  The only real difference is that canned pumpkin doesn’t come with seeds & I am going to post a roasted pumpkin seed recipe next & they are SO FRIGGING YUMMY – you will definitely be missing out if you do not try them.

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Roasted Pumpkin Lasagna with Red Chard and Fried Sage Bechamel (with Homemade Pumpkin Puree)

INGREDIENTS

1/2 – 1 lb lasagna noodles (I used about 10-12 noodles)

3 cups pumpkin puree (recipe for homemade is below)

16 oz ricotta cheese

1 bunch red chard (or rainbow or green chard or kale) – thick ribs cut out

1-2 TBS crushed red pepper (optional)

1+ cups grated Parmesan

1+ cups grated mozzarella

S&P

for the bechamel

4 cups milk (I used almond milk)

7 TBS butter

6 TBS flour

1 large bunch of fresh sage

Pinch of nutmeg

S&P

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cook the lasagna noodles for about half the time recommended for them to be al dente and – being sure to reserve the boiling water – scoop them out & run cold water over them in a colander.  Maybe toss with a touch of olive oil to be sure they don’t get sticky.

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Plunge the greens you are using into the hot water & let them sit 2-3 minutes.  Drain & chop them & set aside.

Melt 1 TBS of the butter in a small saute pan & fry the sage leaves for about 1 minute of med-high heat.  Do not brown it.  Drain the sage on a paper towel & set aside.

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Melt the remaining 6 TBS butter in the same pan in which you fried the sage (to take advantage of all the lovely sage flavor) & then transfer it into a stock pot large enough to hold 5 cups of milk.

Set the heat at med-low & whisk in the flour.  Keep whisking until the mixture smells nutty & takes on the color of light sand – about 6-7 minutes.

Meanwhile – in another pot – warm the milk but do not boil it.  Add the milk to the flour & butter roux – one cup at a time – and whisk until smooth & thick.  Reserve a few sage leaves for garnish & then crumble the rest into the bechamel.  Bring to a boil – whisking the entire time.  In 5-10 minutes – remove from heat, add some S&P and the nutmeg & set aside.

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To make assembly easier – I blended the ricotta & pumpkin puree in my food processor.  This isn’t necessary but ricotta tends to be thick & hard to spread so blending it with the puree makes spreading easier & assures an even distribution.

Treat a small lasagna pan with cooking spray & assemble the lasagna.  Put 1/4 of the sage bechamel in the bottom of the pan & top with a layer of noodles.  Layer 1/2 of the ricotta & pumpkin & top with 1/2 of the greens & a sprinkling of crushed red pepper.  Add another 1/4 of the bechamel & another layer of noodles.  Top this with the other 1/2 of the pumpkin/ricotta and the other 1/2 of the greens.  Add more crushed red pepper – if you like – and maybe some S&P.  Add another 1/4 of the bechamel & another layer of noodles.  Top with the rest of the bechamel & spread the Parmesan & mozzarella on top.  Garnish with a few sage leaves.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling & beginning to brown.  Let the lasagna rest about ten minutes & then start hacking into it & shoving it into your pie hole.  Mmmmmm!  Autumn!

Oh!  And in the interest of full disclosure – the pictures I used here of the lasagna on a plate is really TWO pieces of lasagna stacked on top of each other.  You can do this when you serve it – if the deeper lasagna appeals to you visually.

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Homemade Roasted Pumpkin Puree

INGREDIENTS

Fresh pumpkin (I used two small pie pumpkins & got about 4 cups of puree from them)

Water

S&P

DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the tops off & then pumpkins in half (or quarter them, if your pumpkin is large), seed them (keeping the seeds for roasting!  I will post a recipe for that next) & roast for about 40-50 minutes or until the skin is soft & the meat is fork tender.

Let them cool a bit & then scoop out the meat & puree in a food processor or blender.  I added about 1 cup of water to mine to thin it enough to blend.  Add a bit of S&P.

This puree is REALLY good for dogs & can be a miracle cure for doggy diarrhea if you add some to their food.  Just FYI.

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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If you read this blog with any regularity, you know I am obsessed with cauliflower.  It can be used to replace or replicate so many things and is inexpensive & free of so many things many people are trying to avoid, like carbs, calories & gluten.  This pizza crust was not my first attempt at using cauliflower as a base for pizza but, the last time I tried it, I wasn’t blogging so the results were never made public.  The results were that it tasted good but I thought it used too much cheese & felt like it was worse for you than regular pizza dough.

This crust is lighter & smelled incredible cooking, but it was a tad moist for my taste & didn’t set together as well as I’d hoped.  In fairness, no cauliflower crust is going to fool anyone into thinking they are eating a standard issue pizza on dough but this one still isn’t perfected.  I did dump a lot of wet ingredients on it (sliced tomatoes & fresh mozzarella) and that definitely contributed to the moisture factor.  Still, I could pick it up & eat it like a slice – just not a crispy one.

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The cooking time on this one will likely vary for everyone – depending on the calibration of your oven & how much moisture you manage to squeeze out of the cooked cauliflower rice & how thick you make your crust.  I kept going in five minute increments from the initial 25 minute cooking time I guessed at until it looked like this:

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I then transferred it (and tore it in the process) to this wire pizza rack thing I have – hoping the vented rack would allow the oven to dry the crust out more.  It looks like this:

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It didn’t really help.  Next time – I might start with the wire rack & cook the dough on parchment atop that & see if it impacts the crispness of the crust.

All that said – this pizza crust was very tasty & even my dogs gobbled up the cauliflower crust I gave them.  That might seem obvious to you but my Dexter is a very finicky eater.  So – I do not want to discourage you from trying this.  The spices I added were sort of random.  You can use the ones I did or not – or you can add some of your own.  Rosemary might be nice!

The pizza you see here that I made is finished with a tomato sauce, fresh tomato, fresh mozzarella & basil on one side & my Chard Pesto (which I recommend VERY highly) on the other.  You can top your crust any way you like.

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

INGREDIENTS

1 medium head cauliflower

1 egg – beaten

4 oz. goat cheese

1 TBS dry oregano

1 TBS dry parsley

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

DIRECTIONS

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Chop your cauliflower & then either pulse it in your food processor (or, as I did, use the grater blade) and reduce the cauliflower to a rice-like consistency.  A regular cheese grater will work, too, but one of the drawbacks to cauliflower is that it pops everywhere when you cut it raw & it gets messy.  Still – the rice cauliflower can be achieved with just a regular cheese grater.

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Boil about an inch of water in a large stock pot.  Boil the cauliflower for about 5 minutes.  Drain it through a fine mesh sieve.  Cool it with cold water & then, in batches, wrap it is a clean kitchen towel & twist it tighter & tighter – squeezing out every bit of water you can.

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In a large bowl, beat the egg then add all the remaining ingredients, including the cauliflower.  With your hands, completely blend the ingredients into a moist dough.

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Line your pizza pan with parchment paper or REALLY grease it.  I suggest the paper – but in a pinch – grease will work.  I just fear it will stick to the pan on you.  No need to grease the parchment, though.  Press your dough into your pizza’s shape – even creating the deep crust on the edges, if you like.  Your pizza dough should be about 1/3 inch thick or so in the flat part.

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Bake this for about 30-45 minutes – watching it carefully because it will go from not done to burned in a flash.  When it reaches a nice golden color take it out of the oven.  Top it with your toppings & cook until your cheese is melted.  Voila!

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Pizza with Swiss Chard Pesto, Roasted Tomatoes & Fresh Mozzarella and Thug Kitchen

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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vromans front vromans back

I initiated this blog less than a year ago, July 5th or so, impromptu & with no clear vision as to where I would go with it.  My boyfriend called & asked what I was doing that day and I surprised myself by replying, “I don’t know.  I might start a food blog.”  And then I did it.

I was surprised to hear myself answer that way because I hadn’t any aspirations like that, I have never written any kind of blog before & because I always hated the very word, “blog.”  But here I am, nearly a year later, having shared dozens, if not hundreds, of recipes & restaurant experiences & trips to things like The Museum of Death, Bangluck Thai Market,  Super King and even the gynecologist.  Still – I haven’t really found an angle or a hook & I bounce around from vegan things to hominy or cauliflower obsessions & I curse the cost of groceries.  But recently – I found a food blog that makes me so happy – and so jealous at the same time.  These guys cook the kind of food I can eat (I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian who aspires to veganism) and fucking talk about it in terms I can relate to.   Many of you may already be aware of these guys but for the uninitiated among you – let me present THUG KITCHEN.  Here are a few of my favorites from their collection:

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Salad – it’s like plant nachos?  Hahahahah!  It is just too good!  They not only post these gorgeous photos with the world’s BEST pitch lines for recipes but also post the recipes.  I want to BE these people.  I am so fucking jealous.  I get all butterflies & brace for fallout when pitching my GYN post on Facebook like this, “Why pelvic exams are not for pussies” and these guys get all genius like this:

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Seriously.  AND – I found out we are soul mates because they have cunty spoons at their house, too!  I thought it was just me!

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Anyway – I can only look at their site and Facebook page a few times a week – or less – because I am rendered fetal on the floor as I accept my total defeat at the hands of their superior cool factor.  It is very hard on the self esteem.  Very hard on my motivation.  It fucking drives me to drink and I already have a lot of rides to that destination – if you catch my drift.

So – go look at Thug Kitchen.  Get a laugh.  Get some awesome recipes.  Become a vegan before I can muster that dedication – even after I have given 25 years to my bullshit lacto-ovo pescatarianism.  I’m such a loser.

BUT – at least I am a loser that can eat pizza with real mozzarella on it.  Fuckers.  None of that icky Daiya for me.  Sure, real cheese might be full of hormones, antibiotics, Monsanto byproducts & the ceaseless agony of dairy cows (ouch) but at least it melts.

Oh God.  I’m just making myself feel worse.  They can put a man on the moon & my i-phone is more powerful than the computers that put those men on the moon – but they can’t make an edible vegan brie?  No luck on the vegan salmon front?  <deep sigh>

So, yeah.  Brushing myself off from the complete defeat delivered to me & my self-image by the awesome Thug Kitchen – I present to you my latest pizza creation.  It is no wild invention & breaks no new ground.  Still – I couldn’t find a recipe like in on Google so – there.  Swiss chard – super good for you.  Raw almonds – good for you and no danger of the hideous pine mouth you risk if you take the bait & use those over-rated & “kinda too oily & rich anyway” pine nuts.   This is really easy & super tasty.  The micro arugula I used to garnish it is the last of my over-priced $5 experiment with the stuff.  For now.  Because, in reality, it has an amazingly strong flavor & looks frigging gorgeous atop foods.  But – no need for you to splurge on something so obnoxious.  Regular arugula would work nicely, too.  Or no garnish.  Or use basil.  Or parsley.  Whatever.

As a side note – I went to TJ Maxx recently & splurged on a few necessities – like some saucy Jessica Simpson panties & some fancy salt.  The two are unrelated.  New undies make me walk around feeling all fancy, like Queen Jinglefarts.  Can’t you see the sparkle in my eyes as I stand in my kitchen – naughty bits all snugly held in by my new bikinis?

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More interestingly – here is the salt:

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I paid $3.99 for it.  I could eat each individual grain of this salt like miniature hors d’oeuvres.  This salt is actually delicious!  I bought it because (like the micro arugula) I thought it would look pretty, and it does, but holy crap!  I will never look at regular salt again as anything but some unworthy red-headed stepchild.  I shudder to think what a salt fetish could end up costing me down the road but know that – as my obsession develops – I will take you along for the ride.

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Pizza with Swiss Chard Pesto, Roasted Tomatoes & Fresh Mozzarella

INGREDIENTS

Pizza dough of your choice (mine is here)

1 head Swiss chard

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

4 (or more) cloves of garlic

3/4 cup + 1 TBS olive oil

1/2 cup raw almonds

a dozen cherry or grape tomatoes

1/2 cup (more or less to taste) grated pizza cheese

1 dozen or so cherry-sized mozzarella balls (ciliegini or other fresh mozzarella) – sliced

S&P to taste

micro arugula or some other green for garnish (optional)

Extra diced tomato as garnish

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DIRECTIONS

Make your pizza dough (if you are doing that) or let your store bought version come to room temp on the counter.

Cut your little tomatoes in half & toss with 1 TBS olive oil & some S&P.   Roast them at about 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat & set aside.

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Raise the temp of the oven to the 450-500 degree range.

Wash the chard & remove the center rib.  Immerse in boiling water for about 2 minutes.  Drain & squeeze out the excess water.

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Toast the almonds in a dry pan for about three minutes or until they get fragrant & start to brown.  Remove from heat

In a food processor, puree the nuts & garlic & 1/4 cup of the olive oil then blend in the chard & then the Parmesan and the additional 1/2 cup of olive oil and some S&P.  Use less oil if you think you can get away with it (for a dense pesto) or add more (or some water) if you want a thinner pesto.

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To assemble the pizza, simply roll out the dough.  Place it on a cooking sheet sprayed with cooking oil.  Top with pesto, grated pizza cheese, roasted tomatoes, mozzarella & some fancy orgasm-producing Hiwa Kai Black Lave Sea Salt (or just a little sea salt) and some pepper.  Bake at 450-500 for 12-15 minutes or until it looks done to your taste.

Garnish with whatever you selected for that purpose.  Tap a gala keg of some drinking wine & get your eat & your drink on.

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