Monday, March 9, 2009

Mexican Lasagna

This is a recipe I invented years ago and it's one of my favorites. It's outrageously delicious, very filling and gets rave reviews from vegetarians and meat eaters alike. It's easy to make, although like most lasagnas, it's a little time consuming and has a lot of ingredients. I always eye-ball the ingredients, so the amounts below are my best estimate. This recipe makes a large lasagna of about 15 servings.

Ingredient List:

8 tbs. oil (olive or vegetable)
10 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large onions, chopped
1 lb ground vegetarian "meat" (I like Gimme Lean for this recipe, but you could also use chopped up veggie burgers)
2 16-oz jars of mild salsa
2 cups tomato sauce (spaghetti sauce works fine, as does diced tomatoes in their liquid)
2 large bell peppers (any color), chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
3 plum tomatoes, chopped (or 1 large regular tomato)
About 10 regular-sized mushrooms, sliced (baby portobellos/cremini are the tastiest)
2-4 jalapeno peppers, minced (remove seeds and stem first)
2 cups corn kernals (frozen or fresh)
1 14-oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 14-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbs cumin
2 tbs chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1 lime
1 handful chopped, fresh cilantro (or 1 tbs dried cinantro if you can't get fresh - fresh is best, though)

1 package of large, soft flour tortillas (corn tortillas also work, but flour tortillas have a better consistency in this recipe)

12 oz. grated cheese (I like to use a mixture of cheddar and Monterrey jack)

2 cans of refried beans, warmed in the microwave

First, chop all your vegetables, grate the cheese and set them aside.

In a large skillet, heat 4 tablespoons of oil over med/high heat. Add half of the minced garlic and half of the chopped onions. Saute about 2 minutes. Add the ground vegetarian "meat" and saute until nicely browned. Reduce heat to med/low and add the salsa and tomato sauce. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the sauce from the pan and put aside in a bowl.

Add another 4 tablespoons of oil to the pan continue to heat on medium/high. Once the oil is hot, add the remaining minced garlic and chopped onions and saute for a couple minutes. Add the remaining vegetables and saute until somewhat tender, but not mushy. Add beans, cumin, chili powder, salt & pepper to taste. Cook for another 3 minutes or so. Remove from heat, stir in lime juice and cilantro and set aside.

To assemble the lasagna:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray 10 x 15" lasagna pan generously with vegetable oil spray.

Spread the bottom of the lasagna pan with a thin layer of the salsa/meat sauce so that the entire bottom of pan is covered with a thin layer of sauce.

Place one layer of soft tortillas next, cutting them into pieces as needed to cover the pan in a solid layer.

With a rubber spatula, spread refried beans generously over the tortilla layer so that the entire layer of tortilla is covered (hint - the beans will spread more easily if you heat them first in the microwave)

Spoon veggie/bean filling generously and evenly over the refried beans layer.

Sprinkle a handful or 2 of grated cheese lightly over the veggie bean filling.

Add another layer of tortilla

Spoon more salsa/meat sauce over the tortilla spread evenly so that the tortilla is covered with a thin layer of sauce. Sprinkle with another handful cheese.

Spoon more veggie/bean filling over and spread evenly.
Add another layer of tortilla.

Continue layering the various components until all the ingredients are used up. For the very top layer, you can top the veggie/bean mixture with dallops of sauce and ripped up pieces of tortilla. Sprinkle generously with cheese.

Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.

Remove foil, allow to bake 15 minutes longer.

If the top is not browned enough for your taste, broil for a couple of minutes to give the top a nice toasty brown color.

Remove from oven and let the lasagna sit for about 15 minutes before eating.

Serve with sour cream.

Note: like all lasagnas, this lasagna is best if eaten the next day after it has solidified and the flavors have melded. It's still delicious right out of the oven, but it's looser and doesn't hold a nice solid shape as well as if eaten the next day.

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