If you follow me online you’ve doubtless seen many food pictures in the past two months.
Indeed, I’ve posted little else. For I’ve been finding great solace in the kitchen over this quarantine summer, as I know many others have as well. Part of this is because Husband and I both go back to school next month (I to learn, he to teach), so I’m packing the freezer full of good easy meals to pull out during busy weeks. But even more, because after my crazed and English-filled school year, it’s a little difficult to push myself to read or write. So into the kitchen I go, with an audiobook or podcast in hand.
So I cook. I eat. I take photos of food. And I dream of ways to make those foods better. Then I tweak recipes. And I make more food. I pop freezer meals into our deep freeze for the coming winter. Then I bake. I happily take unused ingredients from family members’ gardens. And when my Mum gives me veg I’ve never used before, I go searching for recipes.
What a grand adventure!
(Thankfully, Husband is always up for a foodie adventure. He being the less picky of us two, as long as I find a recipe that satisfies my whims, it tend to satisfy his.)
When I was younger I was ‘the picky eater’ in my family, but one thing I’ve learned in the last few years is that really, to like a certain kind of food, I just have to prepare it myself. Because then I know what goes into it, I can pair it with foods I do like, or, eventually give up on it, if I can never find a way to cook the mushro–whoops! I mean food. Eat them? Sure. But the real challenge is learning to enjoy these ingredients and foods.
So I’ve had many adventures on my own, discovering that I do like onions! They just have to be sautéed, instead of raw or boiled. And I do like peppers! They just need to be stuffed as a sandwich with meat and cheese and pickles, or else sautéed (the great healer, sautéing with plenty of oil and salt, yum!) I even like salsa and chili! As long as there aren’t giant tomato chunks. There are so many ways to make foods, that you can explore until you find your favorite. Yum.
This is why I love cooking. It’s so fluid, you can change the recipe to fit your own desires, tastes, and whims.
Take this recipe below. I actually used this vegetarian lasagna recipe to create it, and just altered it to fit what I had on hand. I had leeks from Mum’s garden, and needed to find some way to use them. And my original idea was to use leeks as the lasagna noodles–but didn’t have nearly enough. (Plus, that’s really better to do with zucchini or some thicker sort of veggie.) So I turned to this recipe. Not having kale, and not really being a vegetarian-type-person myself, I added chicken to it. And extra pesto, having just made fresh pesto the day before! I had to transfer all the measurements from the metric unit, and tweaked some more things along the way. (Adding a whole 16 oz of ricotta instead of just 13 was a great decision.) And it. was. delicious. So much so that I’m out begging or buying leeks, so I can stick more in the freezer for when winter comes!
Making recipes your own is the wonder of cooking.
And that’s what I invite you to do with this recipe. Use it as your own foundation for good food!
Pesto Chicken & Leek Lasagna
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 medium trimmed leeks halved lengthwise, washed and chopped
- 3 cloves garlic crushed
- 13 oz ricotta cheese
- 3/4 cup chicken or veggie stock (broth)
- 1/4-1/2 cup fresh pesto
- 8 sheets lasagna no-boil
- 1 can cooked chicken or 1 chicken breast, pre-cooked
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Heat the oven to 375 F. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the leeks with a good pinch of salt. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until really soft.
Add the garlic to the leeks and cook for 2 minutes. Keep 4 tbsp of the ricotta aside then stir the rest into the leeks. Add the chicken. Mix everything well then add enough vegetable stock to make it a little saucy but not watery. Take off the heat.
Put a 1/4 of the sauce in the bottom of an oiled 8x8 baking dish.
Top with pesto, then 2 sheets of lasagna. Repeat 3 times, ending with lasagna.
Mix the rest of the ricotta with another splash of vegetable stock and any additional pesto and spread over the top layer.
Scatter over the parmesan and bake for 40-45 minutes until golden and bubbling.
The 40 minute baking time is dependent upon no-boil lasagna. If using traditional lasagna boiled beforehand, reduce the baking time to appx. 20 minutes.
You can also make this vegetarian! Just cut out the chicken and add extra veg: cooked kale, such as in the original recipe, would be best.