A few weeks ago, we were at the Librarie Fontaine bookstore down the street, and I was (naturally) looking at cookbooks, but X saw this one first: “Vieux Légumes.”
Since I feel like an old vegetable most of the time anyway, this seemed like just the cookbook to add to my ever-expanding collection, which has more or less taken over the apartment. It’s beautifully photographed, and the recipes are short and mostly easy to put together, although that’s not the intent. The idea is to focus on the taste of these ancient veggies– like Swiss chard (blettes); potimarron, the pumpkin that tastes like chestnuts; topinambours (Jerusalem artichokes); and lots of roots, from carrots, black radishes and rutabaga to salsify, finger-shaped scorsoneres, and my favorite, les cardons — and offer up recipes that allow these veggies to be the star of the show.
I’ve been going a bit overboard with Swiss chard, I know, but when the price is two bunches for 1 euro, I can’t resist. And when I see a recipe that calls for Swiss chard, ham, and cheese – -I’m pretty much a goner.
I don’t mean to oversell, but this lasagne is incredible – you’ve got the sweet raisins, the crunch of pine nuts, the creamy béchamel, and sharp Pecorino — all coming together in a warming, good-for-you winter dish that’s classically old school, but with a surprise or two up its sleeve.
I’ve been experimenting with the do-ahead factor of my recipes, and this one’s great. You can assemble this in 30 minutes, put it in the fridge, and then heat it up later for dinner. Even though there’s no other place than my kitchen where I’d like to be, it’s nice to know that dinner’s already done, and I can concentrate on other important things — like window shopping with Rosedog along avenue Victor Hugo (and sometimes shopping shopping, too – the Petit Bateau salesgirls love her), instead of the big rush up to dinnertime.
Swiss Chard-Prosciutto Lasagne
Inspired by a recipe in “Vieux Légumes” (Marabout)
Makes 4 big servings
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bunches Swiss chard, well-rinsed and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, optional, for serving
½ cup toasted pine nuts
½ cup white raisins
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 cup Pecorino cheese, shredded
5 oz. fresh goat cheese
6 pieces prosciutto
6 lasagne noodles, uncooked
Preheat oven to 200 C/400 F.
1. Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of an 8″ X 8″ dish and with your hands or a paper towel, smear it around so the dish is evenly and well coated.
2. In a large skillet, drizzle 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, add the garlic and turn the heat on medium. When you can smell the garlic, add the chopped Swiss chard, and give it a good stir. This won’t take long at all to begin to wilt – about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the skillet and put the Swiss chard into a colander to drain.
3. Make the béchamel sauce. In a heavy skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter, stirring with a wooden spoon. Gently and slowly sprinkle the flour into the butter, stirring all the time, until the mixture is incorporated. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the milk a bit at a time, now using a whisk to combine. Keep whisking and adding milk until it’s completely incorporated and you have a smooth, milky liquid. Continue to cook and stir with a whisk until the sauce begins to thicken. Add a pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg — just enough to season the sauce but not to overwhelm. Put this sauce aside.
4. Assemble the lasagne. Put one layer of the noodles on the bottom of the dish, then add the Swiss chard, half of the prosciutto, torn into small pieces, and one-third of the béchamel. Dot with half of the goat cheese and one-third of the Pecorino, and sprinkle half of the pine nuts and raisins in there, too. Now make a second layer, doing the same thing. Finally, top with a layer of pasta and the last bit of the béchamel and the Pecorino. I totally forgot this step, and used up all of my béchamel, and it’s OK if you do, but it’ll look prettier if you add the last pasta layer. (Note: You can do everything up to this step ahead and refrigerate.) Cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10-20, or until the top is crispy. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.