Most of my readers are women. That’s okay – most bloggers and blog readers are women, especially when it comes to the topic of cooking. But that doesn’t mean regular guys don’t like to cook. Far from it. The problem, as I see it, is that most cooking blogs are written by women for women. Us guys try to follow along, but since we don’t understand the language, we tend to open a can of something and then put cheese on top. The microwave is our friend.
So today I am posting the first in a randomly written series called “Can a Regular Guy Cook?” These will be recipes written in a manner that most men, if adventurous enough to try, will end up with a good tasting, and hopefully nice looking plate of food to share with someone special. And while I am certainly not the expert when it comes to relationship advice, if a man knows how to cook – and doesn’t mind doing it – it will only help him get / keep the person of his dreams. (see disclaimer)
Disclaimer: No promises are made and no results are guaranteed. This is Exploding Potatoes, not e-Harmony or the like. Cook at your own risk. Please be cautious – some utensils are sharp, some plates are hot, and please do not drink alcohol until after the food is on the table AND the stove / oven is turned off. It wouldn’t hurt to know where the fire extinguisher is, either.
Today’s Dish – Vegetarian Lasagna – written in “cooking-challenged man-language.”
Veggie Lasagna, by yours truly.
Why cook something vegetarian first? Because for most of us omnivores, cooking meat-less is a challenge. And if your significant other is a vegetarian, you can’t just fry up some bacon and slap it on bread – there won’t be a second date. Plus, you can always add meat to your plate after the fact.
What you will need:
9 x 13 glass Pyrex baking dish. Don’t worry that the measurements aren’t exact. It’s just the way it goes. Just be sure to use an oven-safe glass dish, or you will have a whole ‘nother problem.
One box of “No Bake” lasagna noodles. For your purists, we will explore making our own pasta at a later time. For now, baby steps. Brand isn’t important. If it has an Italian sounding name, it’s probably good enough.
One Jar of Marinara Sauce. I prefer Newman’s brand, but only because he was great in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and he drives race cars.
One big tub of Ricotta cheese. You will use all of it, and (bonus) you get a nice container for spare parts and other stuff.
Some Mozzarella cheese. This is a white cheese; the same stuff that is on pizza. You really can’t have too much of this stuff so don’t worry about the quantity. You can even buy it shredded. In a bag. It’s great. Less work!
Parmesan cheese. You can buy a “triangle” of this in the fancy cheese section of the grocery store, or pick up a bag of pre-shredded parm when you get your shredded mozzarella!
5 – 6 Carrots – Save a few pennies and buy regular carrots. If you aren’t handy with a vegetable peeler, buy the little carrots called baby carrots. Costs more, but less work for you.
2 Green Zucchini – Okay, this is important – Cucumbers ARE NOT zucchini. If you need help at the store, ask someone. (Ahem, this is a good ice-breaker to meet someone. Just don’t start channeling Animal House.)
1 Yellow Squash – usually found right next to the zucchini.
1 handful of fresh spinach – man, fresh spinach comes in a bag. It just doesn’t get easier than a bag, does it? All you gotta do is open it, and you can use whatever cool knife you want. (see disclaimer, again.)
Spices – this one is easy. You probably have some sitting in the pantry already. A little garlic, some oregano and some cilantro would be perfect. Now, can you use fresh spices instead of dried? Absolutely! But, man, I hope you have a bottle of wine. Using fresh spices takes this to a whole new level! (see disclaimer, one more time.)
Here’s what you do:
First – shred any Mozzarella and grate any Parmesan cheese that hasn’t already been shredded or grated. If your cheese grater is one of those four-sided jobs, it’s probably on the shelf. If it’s one of those wooden handle graters, it’s in the junk drawer with all the other miscellaneous kitchen things.
Now – get a big bowl and put in the Ricotta, shredded Mozzarella, and half the grated Parmesan cheese – mix it all together. Save the other half of the Parm. You will need it at the end.
Next – Using a vegetable peeler, peel the carrots, then chop off a half inch off each end (and discard the ends.)Don’t peel the zucchini or squash, but do chop a half inch off each end and discard, like the carrot ends. Now chop the carrots, zucchini and squash up into little bits. If you have a food processor, that would be even better. Mix the chopped veggies in with the cheese.
Alright Popeye – pull the stems off that fresh spinach and add to the cheese-veggie mix.
Then – add four to five good shakes of the garlic, oregano and cilantro. If you are using fresh, try three cloves of garlic (smash ‘em then chop ‘em) plus a hand full of the oregano and cilantro leaves.
Mix it all up one more time. I usually hum will I do this. Makes me sound more authentic.
Putting it all together
First, get your oven going. Dial in the temp control to 350 degrees. Once the ding “dings” or the beep “beeps” – your oven will be hot enough.
While you are waiting for the oven:
Spread a thin layer (quarter inch for those engineering types) of the cheese mixture into the bottom of the glass baking dish.
Put a single layer of the noodles on top.
Now add a layer of the cheese; this time a little thicker than the bottom layer. Be sure to cover all of the noodles.
Add a thin layer of marinara sauce next.
Now just repeat: noodles, cheese and sauce until you either run out of something or run out of room in the baking dish.
Top it all off with the rest of the Parmesan cheese.
Carefully open your pre-heated oven (watch out for the blast of hot air) and put the lasagna dish in the middle rack, in the center of the oven. Close the door and set the timer for 30 minutes.
After the timer dings/beeps, reduce the temperature down to about 300 degrees and cook for 20 more minutes. If it starts to look like it is burning (edges turning black) then set a piece of aluminum foil on top of it. (see disclaimer – the part about things being hot.)
If all goes well, and it should – once the timer dings/beeps, you should have an awesome dish of veggie lasagna!!
See? A regular guy CAN cook!