Saturday, April 17, 2010

When Italy and Mexico had a baby ...

On Friday night, we ate some straight up comfort food. Sure, maybe it was born from a Rachael Ray-style pairing of cuisines (no, that's not a compliment) - a "let's jam a bunch of random things together and call it a dish" sensibility. (Buffalo wing pizza, anyone?) But I swear it works in this instance. This is the kind of food that you could feed to a pack of hungry wolf-children, and they would demolish it within seconds. The lasagna construction is Italian (red sauce, layers of cheese), but corn tortillas stand in for the traditional pasta noodles.

The recipe originally comes from Vegetarian Times. I've scaled back the ricotta a bit from the original dish, and I also sub in some lovely dry herbs (Herbs de Provence) for the fresh basil. In this kind of dish, a good quality dry herb works perfectly fine. You should pick yours up at a shop that does a brisk herb business, so that you don't buy them already stale (yes, dry herbs do expire!). They are freshest within the first few months, and you should discard after about 6 months. Like eye shadow. Ahem. I'm not sure who replaces their eye shadow every six months, but it's good to know what we're supposed to be doing to prevent things like eye disease and chalky herbs.

I will admit, this dish isn't a looker. But its tasty, satisfying, and feels a little bit indulgent - lasagna without the noodles!

Tortilla Lasagna with Swiss Chard
Adapted from Vegetarian Times - original here

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch Swiss chard, cleaned, center stems removed and chopped; leaves sliced into 1/2 inch wide ribbons
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced (I used Trader Joe's frozen crushed garlic - three cubes)
1 jar of marinara sauce (you need 2.5 cups total)
herbs of your choice - I used Herbs de Provence
9 6-inch corn tortillas
1.5 cups ricotta (buy a good brand)
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
3 tablespoons grated parmesan

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Use either a 10-inch springform pan or other baking pan about that size. Spray the pan with cooking spray.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chard stems and onion for about 8 minutes, until they are soft and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Stir in the chard leaves (they should still be slightly damp from washing). Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low, cooking for 5 minutes or until chard is tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir salt and pepper into the ricotta. Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce over the bottom of the springform pan (or baking dish of your choice). Place three tortillas in the pan, overlapping slightly in the center. Spread half the ricotta over the tortillas in the pan, then top with 1/2 cup marinara, herbs to taste, 1/2 the chard-onion mixture, 1/3 cup of mozzarella, and 1 tablespoon parmesan. Repeat this step again: layer in 3 more tortillas, the remainder of the ricotta, 1/2 cup marinara, herbs to taste, the remainder of the chard-onion mixture, 1/3 cup of mozzarella, and 1 tablespoon parmesan. Put the last three tortillas on top, and spread the last 1 cup of marinara over the tortillas. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and parmesan over the top. Continue to cook, uncovered, for 10 additional minutes. Remove from the open and let stand for 5 minutes. When ready to serve, unmold from the springform pan (or cut slices from the pan).

Serves 6.

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