Monday, December 10, 2012

Cooking @ Dawn.....

I don't know if this happens to other people, but sometimes I head to the kitchen with my groceries and whip up the world's most tasteless meal and then other times I strike gold. It's like I enter this alternate universe of cooking where my left hand is Rachel Ray and my right is my mom's  and everything is perfect. It started as I was cruising Pinterest and saw a mouth watering Penne Bake with Spinach and Tomatoes. I couldn't get it out of my head! Mind you, it's 4 am and I should've been in bed but my mind was already made up. I got my veggies ( I am vegetarian most of the time), my rice cooker and frying pan ( and I am very immersed in my college life)....and this is what I came up with.

University Veggie Lasagna (Servings: 2)

1 medium sized onion, finely diced 
4 medium sized cloves of garlic, finely diced
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried pepper
3 heads of clove
1 piece dried ginger
2 medium sized tomatoes diced
1 cup pasta sauce
2 cups eggplants, grated
2 cups spinach looking plant (honestly, I haven't figured out its english name)
2 tbsp flour
4 lasagna strips, ready to bake
3 tbsp margarine
Salt and black peper to taste

4 inch deep dish glass container

 For the 'Meat' and Sauce:
1. Cover pan with a thin layer of oil at medium heat. Follow by adding 1/4 of the onion and garlic, clove and salt and pepper to taste. When they turn slightly brown, add eggplants and stir at a high heat. Leave covered for 10 mins at low heat. Stir again and re-cover for 5 mins. Place aside. 

2. Heat 1 tbsp butter in pan until melted. Add another quarter of onion and garlic, 1 tsp dried basil, oregano, parsley and pepper and allow to 'sweat' at medium heat. Add tomatoes and salt and heat until soft. Follow with tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Add 2 tsp of white sugar or honey to soften that acidic flavour. Mix in the cooked eggplant and place aside.

For the Cheese-less Cheese Sauce ( Dairy products are not very popular in China and I unfortunately ran out of cheese. But thanks to Malliard browning, I was able to attain a similar flavor. The secret is in the butter and the salt)

3. Heat remaining butter, seasonings and salt without allowing it to become too brown (It would be very unattractive).  Add a well mixed solution of the flour and water and heat until the excess water disappears and the mixture thickens. A creamy consistency should do it. (If you do have cheese, add 1 cup  of your favorite grated) Put aside, not much longer now.

Cooking the Spinach Substitute
4. Add a little oil to the bottom of the pan. Add your freshly rinsed spinach to the pan and stir until evenly coated with oil. Also add ginger and salt. The salt helps the water to come out of the leaves, therefore softening it. Cover and allow the steam to do its thing. When the leaves are tender then its time to bake.

Placing in the Dish 
4. Begin with one layer of lasagna, followed by 'meat' sauce, spinach substitue and the cheese less cheese sauce. Repeat, covering the last layer with a lasagna strip. If you're a student like me, you probably dont have access to an oven...soo.....stick your pie in the microwave at light wave or the high function for 5 mins. Depending on your microwave, you may experience some trial and error but I know you'll work it out.. 

Slice and enjoy !!