This week, I went out on a limb… with vegetables. I know, I know, what was I thinking? 12 little boys and a veggie lasagne with nary a tomato in sight!! For sure I knew that many of the boys wouldn’t eat beyond a spoonful of this but it’s all about the experience of cooking something which can often translate to a greater willingness to at least try something different. Not always, but that’s ok. This cooking with kids thing, it’s a journey, not a race! The great thing about this recipe for kids is that there is plenty to do. Some outstanding chopping skills were on display this week as the boys tackled asparagus…
… green onions, garlic, mint and thyme…
And some fine cheese grating was happening too! One of my Petits Chefs is allergic to eggs so he got to frying up some eggplant slices to use instead of the pasta to layer his lasagne…
Some of the boys carefully cut up the pasta sheets – knowing we didn’t have much time, I opted to make individual servings of the lasagne so that it would be cooked in time for the boys to take home so we had to measure our mini baking pans and make sure we had the pasta the right size…
The veggie filling is bright and beautiful:
I don’t have photos of the production line that was the filling of the baking pans as we were very pushed for time and my hands were busy helping little hands work their magic with even(ish) layers of the filling. For the first time ever in the history of Petits Chefs, we didn’t make enough! Fortunately one of the boys was very gracious and claimed that he preferred his with just a little of the filling and “lots” of asparagus tips and Parmesan. (His looked pretty yummy, actually!)
It was all I could do to keep their hands off the just-out-of-the-oven tray of deliciousness. And yes, we learned a lesson about evenly coating the pasta sheets. Ahem. It still tasted good, if a little crunchy!
I’m providing the recipe here as we made it. It’s not exactly as Jamie suggests but sometimes in the rush of things in the hour I have with the boys, I take the ingredients and wing it a little. This winging it worked out this week, though I did not drain the cottage cheese and might have done so next time – the sauce was a tad watery…
- A bunch of scallions, finely chopped
- Approximately 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed – tips intact and stalks finely chopped
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 2 cups frozen corn
- 1 cups frozen fava beans
- 2 cups mixed frozen vegetables
- 4 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1½ cups vegetable stock
- 3 cups cottage cheese (drained)
- 1 cup heavy (35%) whipping cream
- 200g grated Parmesan cheese
- 12 fresh lasagne sheets
- Pre-heat oven to 425˚F.
- Heat a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil.
- Gently sauté the scallions for a couple of minutes until soft.
- Add the minced garlic and continue to cook over medium heat until the garlic is soft and fragrant – about 5 minutes.
- Add the chopped asparagus stalks to the pan along with the peas, corn, fava beans and frozen vegetables
- Add the vegetable stock, mint and thyme, stir to combine.
- Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook until vegetables are cooked through – about 7-10 minutes.
- Add the cottage cheese, the cream, a handful of the Parmesan, give everything a good stir and cook for a few more minutes.
- Take the vegetables off the heat and spoon around one quarter of the mixture into a deep dish, large enough for two of the lasagne sheets to lay flat. Top with a lasagne sheet and a handful of Parmesan cheese.
- Repeat the layers of vegetable and lasagne sheets until you have used all of the filling, ending with a layer of filling.
- Scatter the remaining Parmesan and the asparagus tips over the lasagne.
- Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake in the oven for around 15-20 minutes until the topping has browned.
And the finished product???
Well it’s definitely not your average lasagne. I personally thought it was lovely – bright and fresh and a little bit sophisticated. My own taste tester Mr Neil was not a fan. Not surprising considering he is the person with the pancetta hanging in the basement…. I am proud that most of my Petits Chefs at least tried this. Many of them really liked it. Some of them not so much. But that’s ok. All I ask is they try. I am very proud of them – it’s not every group of boys who would happily chop and cook up such a veggie-laden dish. Good job guys. And who knows - next week, *I* might even surprise you by showing I am paying attention to your “requests’