It’s five years this summer since I left school. The 5 year anniversary had me musing on school life…especially the food. I boarded and so all meals were eaten in my boarding house- breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I suppose the food wasn’t terrible, but for the picky eater that I used to be, meals weren’t exactly to my taste… I did have my favourites though, especially some of the puddings, and me and friends would check the notice board with anticipation for the new weekly menu to be posted!
If there was one thing the kitchen did well though it was the lasagna. It was a fairly frequent Saturday lunch and one I actually looked forward to! It wasn’t the sloppy, cheesy mess you might expect from school food but packed with layers of roasted vegetables, spinach ricotta and pasta with crispy edges. I wasn’t vegan at the time but have found a fairly good replica in a variation on the Veganomicon “Lasagna Marinara with Spinach”. Despite loving that dish I wanted to try a new baked pasta-something lighter in flavour and more summery.
I found myself with a beautiful bunch of swiss chard in my fridge and browsed through my saved recipes to find these two: Swiss Chard with Currants and Pine Nuts from the NYTimes Recipes for Health, and this Swiss Chard Gratin with Vegan Bechamel from Chocolate & Zucchini, which together provided the inspiration for my lasagna.
Lemony tofu and cashew ricotta, earthy dark greens, little sweet bursts of raisins and crunchy pine nuts, topped with caramelized onions for good measure.
This isn’t an average 30 minute dinner (like any lasagna) but maybe, every now and again, like me you enjoy lingering in the kitchen that bit longer to produce something more special .
Swiss Chard Lasagna with Raisins and Pine Nuts:
Tofu Cashew Ricotta:
1/4C Cashews, Soaked and drained
1/4C Lemon juice
1T Olive oil
1T Nutritional yeast
2 Garlic cloves
1 1/2t Salt
1 400g/1lb pkg Firm tofu
2T Brown rice flour (Optional- to help set up ricotta)
2C Vegetable broth
Juice of 1 lemon
Large Bunch (approx 400g/1lb) Swiss Chard, thick stems cut off and julienned
1/4C Golden Raisins
1/4 Pine Nuts + 2T for topping (toasted if desired)
1 Large onion, thinly sliced
1/2T Olive Oil
4-6 Lasagna Sheets
Make the ricotta first- using a food processor or blender blend all ingredients until smooth. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate until ready to assemble lasagna.
Boil a pan of water and add julienned swiss chard. When the water comes back to the boil, drain and rinse in cold water to retain bright green colour. Stir through raisins and pine nuts. Set aside.
Whisk sauce ingredients together in a pot and then warm over medium heat until sauce thickens slightly, approx 10 minutes.
Par-boil lasagna sheets- Lay sheets in a large dish and pour boiling water over, then leave for two minutes to soften. Remove and set aside.
Preheat oven to 180C/350F
Lightly oil or line a large oven-proof dish with foil. Start layering up your ingredients. Start with 1/3 of the chard mixture, then 1/3 of the sauce, then a layer of pasta sheets, then 1/3 ricotta. Repeat until mixture is used up. Cover the dish with foil and place in oven to cook for approx 40minutes.
While it is cooking, heat olive oil in a pan over medium-low heat and add onion and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to low and cook gently, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes. Sprinkle over sugar and continue to cook for another 10-15minutes until onion is soft and caramelized.
When lasagna has finished cooking remove from oven and leave to firm up for at least 10 minutes. When ready to serve remove foil and top lasagna with caramelized onions and remaining pine nuts.
What was your school food like? Any dishes you remember fondly?!