Monday, May 21, 2012

Grilled Vegetable Lasagna

This is by far the best vegetarian dish – and one of the best dishes period – I’ve ever made.  It’s grilled at every stage, which brings out a smoky and savory flavor in the vegetables and sauce, then it's topped with gooey, melty cheese.

The sauce is made with fresh, grilled onions and green peppers, and then simmered slowly over the grill in an open, cast iron Dutch oven to soak in all the smoky goodness and develop layer after layer of flavor.  The sauce is then layered with pasta, grilled squash and eggplants, and mozzarella cheese, then baked on the grill.  You’ve simply got to try this.

Ingredients (serves 6-8):

½ pound lasagna, prepared according to package directions
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-sized eggplant
2 medium-sized squash (or 1 squash and 1 zucchini)
2 onions
2 green peppers
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes (or use fresh if you have them!)
About 1 teaspoon each of the following (adjust to your own taste): dried oregano, dried basil, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese


1.    While you’re heating your charcoal, soak some wood chunks in water.  Add the chunks to the coal a couple minutes before you start grilling.  The wood chunks will add great smokiness to all of your ingredients.
2.    Eggplant has a lot of extra moisture that you need to get out of it before cooking by “sweating” it out.  To do this: Cut the eggplant into thin slices, about a third of an inch each.  Place slices in a single layer in a pan, then sprinkle generously with salt.  Let rest for about 30 minutes.  You’ll be able to see the water seeping out of the eggplant.  After 30 minutes, use paper towels to wipe off the salt and excess moisture.

3.    Cut the onions in half from root to stem.  Chop off ends and remove outer layers.  Cut each in half and skewer.

4.    Cut green peppers into quarters and remove seeds.

5.    Chop ends off squash and then cut each in half from end to end.

6.    Grill the onions, peppers and squash for 15 minutes (covered), turning once.   Grill the eggplant slices for ten minutes, turning once.

7.    Chop grilled onions and peppers.

8.    Place Dutch oven in center of grill.  Add garlic and onions, cook for 3-4 minutes.  Then stir peppers, tomatoes and spices.  Let simmer for about 45 minutes, with the Dutch oven itself uncovered but the grill covered, stirring every 15 minutes.

9.    While sauce is simmering, chop squash into slices about a third of an inch thick (same as the eggplant).
10.    Once sauce is complete, build your lasagna in a cast iron pan.  Start by covering the bottom of the pan with sauce.  Then layer your ingredients in the following order: pasta (cut it into pieces to fit the circular pan), squash and eggplant, sauce, cheese, pasta, squash and eggplant, sauce, cheese.

11.    Place cast iron pan in center of grill and cook, covered, for 30-40 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted and bubbly.  Then carefully remove and enjoy!

*Note: After the first hour of total grilling time, you’ll need to add about 8-10 more coals to keep the grill hot enough to bake the lasagna.

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