This has been the summer of the tomato. Ripened early because of the weather, we have been enjoying caprese (my favorite summer meal – or perhaps favorite meal of all time) often, and this year it was often served with my homemade mozz. The beautiful red and yellow tomatoes I bought at last week’s market made for some gorgeous jars of preserves that will be certain to cheer me up come January. But what else to do with the tomatoes? Especially now the cooler weather has made firing up the oven a bit less of a chore?
Last Saturday’s haul from the Union Square Farmer’s Market was an inadvertent inspiration. I had bought a bunch of eggplant and zucchini (in addition to the tomatoes) to grill for what was going to be a fabulous BBQ blow-out on Sunday afternoon when the weather intervened. Thus to use up an even larger-than-usual store of produce I decided to concoct a pasta-less lasagna.
First I needed to make the sauce, and using up the tomatoes that were too bruised to can (and were starting to attract fruit flies) was an easy decision. I simply saute-ed some chopped garlic in olive oil, added chopped tomatoes a few minutes later and then let it simmer to thicken up, eventually adding chopped fresh basil, salt, pepper and a dash of balsamic.
In the mean time I sliced my eggplant, zucchini, beets (which I parboiled) and tomato very thin (1/2 inch or so), aiming for long pieces, rather than rounds, when possible.
Next I assembled like a lasagna: a splash of sauce on the bottom of a square baking dish, layers of veg, then fresh mozz, then ricotta or marscapone, browned ground sausage (if you’d like – I did), more sauce, then repeat. I ended my dish with a final layer of mozzarella and then cooked in it a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes, or until the harder veggies were cooked through.
Served with a glass of wine and some crusty bread to soak up the liquid (and because the tomatoes are fresh off the vine, they produce a thinner and juicier sauce than one you’d get from an industrial can or jar) I didn’t even miss the pasta.