Friday, April 6, 2012

Black Bean Lasagna

Next up on my Recipe Challenge and Pantry Raid projects is a Black Bean Lasagna I stumbled across while looking for my potluck contribution that originally inspired these challenges! Though this recipe didn't make the original cut for the potluck, I did keep it in the back of my head as something I wanted to try out!

I also chose this recipe since I had a box of whole wheat lasagna noodles in my pantry that I'd inherited from a friend when she moved to Beijing almost two years ago! She'll shortly be moving back to the States, and I didn't want to still have all the food she'd donated to me to still be there when she gets back! I was also able to use half a bag of frozen onions that has been in my freezer since who knows how long. I don't know why I'd even bought them, since I usually always buy a fresh onion whenever I have a recipe that calls for it! I also still had some leftover parsley from last week's polenta casserole, so that was one more thing I didn't have to buy for this recipe! Sweet!

I did end up subbing 1% whipped cottage cheese (Friendship brand) instead of the ricotta since for some reason they only had full fat ricotta! Since I was on my bike, stops at multiple grocery stores would be inconvenient, so I just bought what I deemed was the next closest thing.

While I liked the idea of this dish, I thought it was lacking in the flavor department. I think I'll definitely make it again in the future, but maybe adding some cumin, chili powder, and oregano to increase the spice in the dish. It could also use a bit more cilantro, and perhaps some fresher ingredients like a green pepper or even poblano. As it is, it feels like it's still an Italian dish with some hints of latino flair. Adding a few extra ingredients could kick up the flavor without too much extra effort. I also gave the cottage cheese sub a thumbs-up. Since I'd used the whipped version, I think the consistency was pretty spot-on.

Another idea for future version is to use different types of carbs in the dish. I went with the lasagna this time around because I had it, but it's not something I generally buy. To go with a latino theme, I could opt for corn tortillas instead of noodles in the future, or perhaps choose a penne or ziti to make a general noodle casserole.

So, for this recipe, since I've linked the original version above, I'm going to go ahead and put in some of my additions in the re-print below. That way, when I come back to re-trying this, I'll remember the changes I want to make rather than re-inventing the wheel! This should be a good starting point. Also, for a future version, I may also play with the sauce- perhaps more diced tomatoes and less tomato paste, and even using fresh tomatoes rather than canned.

In any case, this looks like a win for in-season dinners. It's pretty easy to make, and the recipe is big enough that it should last for most of the work week. I can totally see this as a go-to type meal that I'd make on a Sunday night, and give me something to eat for the rest of the week! It would go great served with a side salad of tomatoes, avocado, mushrooms, and mixed greens. Nothing like coming home this sort of post-workout meal after my evening training sessions!

Black Bean Lasagna
9 lasagna noodles or corn tortillas, or equivalent penne or ziti noodles
1 large onion, chopped (or ~1 cup of frozen)
1 green pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (16 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cans (6 ounces each) tomato paste
1 cup water
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 carton (15 ounces) reduced-fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley (or sub in more cilantro)
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Mexican cheese blend

Cook noodles according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook onion and green pepper in oil until tender. Add cumin, oregano, chili powder, and garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, water, cilantro and pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until slightly thickened.

In a small bowl, combine the egg whites, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Drain noodles. Spread 1/2 cup bean mixture into a 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer with three noodles, a third of the ricotta mixture, a third of the remaining bean mixture and 2/3 cup cheese blend. Repeat layers twice.

Cover and bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes. Uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer or until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Yield: 12 servings.

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