There are salad people and I am most definitely not one of them. Lettuce, or other chopped greens, mixed with other vegetables, random proteins and slathered in dressing do not make a satisfying meal in my world.
If I must, I will make sure the base for my salads is either arugula, spinach or radicchio but it will always be the last option when dining out, if I can help it.
But I do love vegetables: raw, roasted, braised, grilled. Their only drawback is that, whatever the cooking methods, most likely cleaning, chopping, peeling and other time-consuming steps are needed.
In recent years, especially in Los Angeles, restaurants have done a much better job at creating vegetable centric dishes that truly pass for a main course, and the poor vegetarian doesn’t have to make do with steamed carrots and mashed potatoes any longer. But, at home, one is stuck peeling, chopping, cleaning….invariably, though, every time I devote those extra minutes to a vegetable I am deeply rewarded.
Take today’s lunch – inspired by a recipe I saw in Sweet Paul Magazine (ambitiously called “Carrot Lasagna”) I set out to make what is, more than a lasagna, a stack. I am also a firm believer in stacking vegetables: by diversifying the layers, using different cooking methods, or leaving some raw, the end result is always much more interesting than the individual parts.
This dish couldn’t have been simpler. I started with some big carrots, which I peeled and cut thin, lengthwise. I tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted them at 400F (200C) for about 15 minutes, until tender and golden.
In the meantime, I sliced some ripe tomatoes and some mozzarella. When the carrots were ready, I organized my stacks by combining three slices of carrots to create a base, on which I layered the layers of tomatoes and mozzarella, ending with the cheese. In the interest of more flavor (as November tomatoes are pretty tasteless), I smeared a bit of pesto in between the layers. I finished by drizzling some olive oil, sprinkling some salt and pepper and putting everything back in the oven for 10 minutes. It was one of the most satisfying lunches of the last few weeks, worth the 30 minutes it took to prepare it.