The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.
When I learned about the Daring Bakers challenge this month (lasagna), I thought of being unique and making a dessert. But sweet pasta just didn't sound too good to me- maybe I'll try it some time and prove myself wrong.
Instead, I created a lasagna-shaped pie with a Balsamic Strawberry "Ragu," and a Vanilla Custard "Bechamel," and topped it with Candied Lemon Zest.
Hope you enjoy my deceptive creation!
After making my "crust squares," which was made slightly healthier by making a vegetable oil crust, instead of the traditional shortening or margarine crusts, I made the other components and simply assembled everything cold. In hindsight, I would probably try to roll the dough thinner since there are so many layers! This would also be good with puff pastry or phyllo, I think, but you may not be able to make those rad looking waves!
Balsamic Strawberry "Ragu"
If you've never tried strawberries with balsamic vinegar, it's wonderful! The vinegar brings out more of the strawberry flavor, and when reduced, makes a delicious syrup.
1 16 oz. package of fresh strawberries, sliced or cubed -then divided into 2 parts
1/3 C. sugar
1 T. balsamic vinegar
squeeze of lemon (@ 1 tsp)
Put everything into a sauce pan except half of the strawberries, and simmer until reduced to a thick syrupy sauce. Taste and make sure the sour to sweet ratio is to your liking and adjust as desired with sugar or lemon. Let cool, then fold in the other half of the fresh strawberries.
Vanilla Custard "Bechamel"
Ok, this was far from being like a sauce, but I wanted it to look neat and not sloppy, so I hardened it with some agar and cut it into squares. It had a great flavor, but could probably use a bit more creaminess, perhaps some pureed silken tofu...and a little less agar? If you didn't want to add more fat, then you could put the hardened custard into a food processor and crumble it to resemble ricotta, so it would then be more aptly named, Vanilla Custard "Ricotta." This was a great dessert on it's own, and I'll definitely be tinkering with it in the future!
1 stick of agar- I found this at the Asian market
2 C. soy milk
1 C. water
1/3 C. sugar
1 T. vanilla extract
1/2 pkg. Tofutti cream cheese (non-hydrogenated kind)
As directed on the package, I soaked the agar stick in the liquids (soy milk and water) for about half an hour. Then I heated it on the stove and mixed in the sugar and vanilla. After zapping the cream cheese in the microwave for about 30 seconds, I whisked that in and stirred until everything was fully combined and the agar was fully dissolved. Then I poured it into a 12 X 20"
rectangular cake pan and let it cool to room temp, then into the fridge until chilled.
There was a lot of the custard left over after making the above, which I will happily eat by itself or with some other fruits.
Candied Lemon Zest
Just zest a bunch of lemons and put the zest into a baggie and shake with some sugar. Let it sit for an hour or two, then shake off excess sugar- this "lemon sugar" is great stuff too!
This was definitely a dessert to share with a few friends with forks. Below was how I made the crust squares to look like lasagna noodles, using metal skewers.