Saturday, 5:32 p.m: Erik and I are scurrying out the door after a desperate, last-minute blast of my baked brie at 440 degrees (not 450, which feels like a ridiculous heat at which one would cook a pizza, but higher than 400, which wasn’t doing the trick to brown the pie crust fast enough) when a sense of déjà vu washes over me. “Weren’t we about this late last year?”
Sure enough, we arrived at his classmate’s apartment just in time to get a thorough earful from his friend since yes, we were about this late last year. And so we walked into the crowd of people eagerly awaiting the gorgeous Friendsgiving spread, once again the very last ones to arrive.
Nothing can really excuse being that late, even when you come bearing baked brie and sweet potatoes with a nut crumble and toasted marshmallows on top. But! The good news is that the lovely Renee of Will Frolic for Food is hosting this virtual Friendsgiving potluck, thus granting me an opportunity to redeem myself with lasagna. Thank goodness the internet doesn’t require punctuality.
This virtual Friendsgiving is held in celebration of this wonderful salt from J.Q. Dickinson—magically wonderful salt that is hand-harvested from an ancient sea in West Virginia by passionate salt folks (or should I say artists?). It’s amazing stuff: a brilliant pure white with shatteringly clean flakes that make for happy pinching. You can watch a cool video here about their story!
Even though it’s technically a finishing salt, I couldn’t resist using it in all steps of this lasagna, where it turned out to be the perfect complement—salt is key to concentrating the sweetness in piles of caramelized onions and peppers, seasoning a creamy goat cheese-spinach mixture, and perking up the quinoa crepe-like rounds that stand in for pasta.
It managed to enhance the flavors without making the lasagna overly salty, a common complaint I have about lasagna. This lasagna, by the way, resulted from a failed attempt at quinoa calzones that turned into hey hello perfect lasagna layers!! Thin, crepe-like rounds of quinoa batter make for delicious “pasta” layers that absorb flavors well, particularly when situated in a flavorful sauce. The veggie filling was actually kind of a fridge-cleaning project to get rid of some wilting bell peppers and a nearly-full jar of pasta sauce, but the combination of spinach, bell pepper, onion and a random assortment of cheeses in my fridge turned out well (though you could really substitute almost any vegetable instead)! If you’re pondering a good vegetarian entree for Thanksgiving (or anytime really), keep this show-stopping entree in consideration!
However, putting together this lasagna is truly a labor of love, so fair warning: this lasagna is best assembled on a lazy day when you just feel like spending a lot of time doing some low-key cooking and hanging out.
Check Renee’s wonderful blog for J.Q. Dickinson-related giveaways all this week! I’m also giving away a 1 oz jar of this J.Q.D salt; to enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post. If you can’t wait (I don’t blame you), get yourself some here! If you have any serious cooking aficionados in your life, this organic, sustainably harvested salt is a perfect gift—a 3.5 oz jar runs under $10 and you can also find all sorts of salt swag in their online shop.
I loved this salt so much, I made another Thanksgiving-ish recipe with it that I’ll post tomorrow in case you still have room on your Thanksgiving menu dance card!
Check out recipes from other Friendsgiving folk here:
The Faux Martha |The Bojon Gourmet | Bread and Barrow | Broad Appetite |Dolly and Oatmeal | Dunk & Crumble | Earthy Feast | Ginger and Toasted Sesame | Glazed and Confused | Hummingbird High | Lexi’s Clean Kitchen | London Bakes | Mabel and the Wooden Spoon | One Part Plant | Food Loves Writing | Heartbeet Kitchen
Vegetarian Quinoa Lasagna
- 1 cup white quinoa
- 1 cup water
- ¼ teaspoon each: dried basil oregano, garlic powder (optional, use whatever spices you prefer)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- few grinds pepper
- Olive oil
- 1 giant onion or 2 medium about 4 cups once sliced
- 2.5 bell peppers
- 2 packages frozen spinach defrosted
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ½ cup ~4 oz goat cheese
- 2.5 cups your favorite tomato sauce (prepared or something like this
- 5 oz. gruyere cheese shredded (or any white cheese of your choosing)
- 1/4 cup parmesan grated or shredded
- Soak the quinoa in water for at least an hour, up to overnight. Drain and rinse the soaked quinoa thoroughly before blending in a high-powered blender with 1 cup of water. Add spices, salt and pepper and blend until smooth.
- Heat a 8 or 9-inch pan over medium heat and grease with a small amount of olive oil. Add quinoa batter ½ cup at a time; swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side, until it puffs slightly and you can easily slide a spatula underneath. Flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Repeat with the rest of the batter (this should make about five rounds of quinoa crepes).
- Slice the onion thinly. Add to a large frying pan over medium-low heat with about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt; stir to coat. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until caramelized.
- Meanwhile, slice the bell peppers into thin strips. You can wait until the onions are done to re-use the same pan, or use another pan to saute them in a tablespoon of olive oil with a pinch of salt over medium heat until soft (about 10 minutes).
- Squeeze water out of the spinach and mix the spinach, goat cheese and basil together along with another generous pinch of salt.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Get out a round, deep baking dish at least 8 to 9-inches in diameter (it's okay to use a square baking dish; you can cut the quinoa crepes to fit and they don't need to fit perfectly). Layer a quinoa crepe into the pan and top with ½ cup or so of tomato sauce. Top with spinach, pell pepper, onion and shredded gruyere. Repeat with remaining crepes, vegetables and cheese. Finish with a layer of sauce, gruyere, and parmesan.
- Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes.