Forgot to take a picture, so here are some tomatoes.
Paying close attention to vegetables can be rewarding.
When staying in London to use the library last week I made this for my friend Zoe and her housemate Henry. Zoe had been filming non-stop for ages, eating nutrient-poor trashy food on the road and expressly requested vegetable-rich dinner.
The idea for the ‘open lasagne’ aspect came from a recent episode of Masterchef where they topped a fennel and tomato stew with sheets of pasta. The principle of separately cooking all of the vegetables comes from a time-consuming but very good Rowley Leigh recipe for ratatouille that I made last summer.
Cooking each vegetable separately helps to distill the virtue of each.
Slow roasting tomatoes on a gentle heat means that they retain their shape and do not disintegrate into a sauce-like consistency, and it intensifies the flavour considerably (especially at this time of year..!)
Soggy, waterlogged courgettes are unpleasant and being forced to eat them at a schoolfriend’s house as a child put me off them for a loooong time. Searing them over a high heat however, gives a lovely smokiness and retains an element of bite.
Zoe and Henry really liked this.
600g, ripe small vine tomatoes, cut in half and seeds removed to a sieve over a bowl
3 small courgettes, sliced in lengths to ½ centimeter thick
2 bags of spinach
1 bunch basil
150g tub of ricotta
2 lasagne sheets per person (normal or spelt – one of us couldn’t eat normal wheat pasta and spelt is the best alternative)
a block of parmesan
How to make:
First of all – as mentioned – halve and gut the tomatoes and place their contents in a sieve over a bowl. Place emptied tomato halves in an oven dish or two – not too densely packed. Toss with a spoon of olive oil, salt and a couple of cloves of garlic and place in an oven at around 100-120 celsius for 1.5 – 2 hours.
Meanwhile – drink wine and dance in the kitchen to Charlie Mingus on piano – and then:
Heat a griddle pan or frying pan to high. Toss the courgette slices in a spon olive oil and salt and then cover the base of the hot pan with the courgettes. Do not overload the pan or they will stew/steam and not sear properly. When browned turn them over and set aside.
Blitz all the basil with 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a blender or bash in a pestle and mortar until a green oil is created. Mix 2 tablespoons of the reserved tomato juice and season with salt.
Wilt the spinach in a large saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt: do this by placing on a medium heat, chucking it all in putting a lid on and then stirring every 30 seconds to stop it scorching. Turn of heat when leaves are soft.
Make sure each component has enough salt and pepper for your liking (don’t overdo it though). In an oven dish or two, densely pack in the tomatoes with the courgette and the spinach, and tablespoons of ricotta nestled in amongst it – use all of the ricotta. Spoon over half of the basil oil mixture and grate a layer of parmesan over. Put in the oven at 150 celsius for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in lots of furiously boiling, salted water until al dente.
Place a spoon of the vegetables on a plate with a sheet of cooked pasta on top. Spoon over more basil oil and a good grating of parmesan. Serve with a green salad and lots of wine.