wild card wednesday: pumpkin lasagna + arugula, pancetta, and cranberry salad

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Welcome to Wild Card Wednesday: November edition, which is officially Challenge Gourd!  After some facebook crowdsourcing today, I had a tough choice to make from all of the great ideas from some of our readers, but a common theme was an obvious go-to for the month that brings us Thanksgiving: pumpkin, different kinds of squash, and sweet potatoes.  We’re wrapping all of these together in the gourd category.  Yes, I know that a sweet potato isn’t a gourd–I’m just including it because of its similarity to butternut and acorn squashes.

Between the last school bell ringing and jetting off to a session at Pure Barre, I searched the Food and Wine magazine website for gourd recipes.  I found one for pumpkin lasagna, said aloud, “Yep.,” made my grocery list, hoisted on a pair of leggings and a tank top, and dashed out the door.  After my class, I gathered a few ingredients at Fresh Market and headed home.  Only after pouring myself a glass of wine (because this week is “doing the most,” as my students would say), I began assembling this surprisingly easy, yet deliciously complex dish.  I’m telling you–if you can stir things together and follow directions, you can make this in under an hour!

The salad is a nice, savory and sharp counter to the creamy lasagna.  If you’re vegetarian, leave out the pancetta (obviously), but you might want to add something salty in its place.

Pumpkin Lasagna

Adapted (not by much) from Food and Wine Magazine

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2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 sweet onions, chopped

2 lbs. Swiss chard, stems removed, chopped

1 Tbsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. dried sage

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

3 cups canned pumpkin puree (one 28-ounce can)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan

1/2 cup milk

3 no-boil lasagna noodles

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large nonstick frying pan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to moderately high and add the chard, 2 teaspoons of salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon sage, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Cook, stirring, until the chard is wilted and no liquid remains in the pan, 5 to 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix together 2 cups of the pumpkin, 3/4 cup cream, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and the remaining teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon sage, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.

Pour the milk into an 8-by-8 inch baking dish. Top the milk with one third of the noodles, then spread half the pumpkin mixture over the noodles. Layer half the Swiss chard over the pumpkin and top with a second layer of noodles. Repeat with another layer of pumpkin, Swiss chard, and noodles. Combine the remaining 1 cup of pumpkin and 3/4 cup of cream. Spread the mixture evenly over the top of the lasagne, sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of Parmesan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden, about 15 minutes more.

Arugula, Pancetta, and Cranberry Salad

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4 cups arugula

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup diced pancetta

1/4 cup almonds, chopped

2 Tbsp. cherry balsamic vinegar (or regular, whatever you have)

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

salt and pepper, to taste

Place the arugula in a medium-sized bowl.  In a small frying pan, add the pancetta and cook until slightly crispy.  Take the pieces out and allow to drain on a paper towel.  Pour about 1 1/2 Tbsp. of the rendered fat from the pancetta into a small bowl, then add the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper.  Whisk to combine.  Add the almonds, cranberries, and pancetta to the arugula, then toss with the warm dressing.  Serve immediately.

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