Seasonal Secrets – Spring farmers market bounty

by Amanda McInerney on 11/10/2011

My lilac - I only wish you could smell it!

Spring – it’s everyone’s favourite time of the year surely?!  We all perk up a bit after huddling round the fire for months, shed a layer or two of clothing (and of fat, if we can) and cast a glad eye over the fruit and vegetable stalls at the markets as the new seasons produce starts to appear.  It’s time to air out the house, the dogs and the kids, see what clothing still fits from the last bout of warm weather and review what we’ve been eating in order to fit into a few more of last years outfits (or is that just me?).  Good intentions proliferate, inspired by the gorgeous, fresh harvest available now and visions of fabulously healthy, tasty and low-fat dishes dance about in our heads and even occasionally actually appear on our tables at family mealtimes (or is that just me again?).

A visit to the local farmers market, green-grocers or even the fruit and veg department of the local supermarket is a pretty rewarding thing to do at this time of the year and I come away from my shopping trips with the basket loaded and my mind buzzing with meal ideas.  It is still early in the season here, but even so there are some pretty wonderful things to chose from and I love the fresh life that the season breathes into my kitchen.

New season's beets - who knew they came in orange?!

Along with the new seasonal produce there is plenty that might be just plain new to you, so grab the opportunity to try something different and broaden your  culinary horizons (or just startle your kids!).

I can't wait to see what the disaffected teens make of purple carrots!

Try a new version of healthy greens.

Kale broccoli

Remember that the brighter, intensely coloured vegetables are nutritionally very dense.

And remember that many things that might have the potential to offend the delicate sensitivities of persnickety offspring can be safely secreted in familiar, comforting dishes – thus making everyone happy.

Spinach & Eggplant (Aubergine) Lasagne

Summary: The use of ricotta in this dish reduces the fat levels, without compromising the flavour at all!

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch spinach (or silverbeet)
  • 2 eggplants diced
  • olive oil
  • 500 gms ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 egg
  • 1 packet fresh lasagne sheets
  • 700 mls tomato passata (I used a jar of locally made bought stuff)
  • fresh basil
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • salt
  • pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 170C.
  2. Grease a lasagne dish.
  3. Shred spinach, rinse in colander. Put into large pan and cook over moderate heat until wilted down. No need to add extra water – the moisture left from rinsing will be enough. Set aside.
  4. Heat a couple of slurps of olive oil over moderate heat, add eggplant, season well and cook until just soft. Set aside.
  5. Blend ricotta, egg and parmesan in processor until smooth. If it is too thick, loosen with a little milk until desired consistency.
  6. Spread a thin layer of tomato passata over base of dish, scatter with some torn basil leaves then cover with a layer of pasta.
  7. Spread a layer of tomato passata over the pasta, followed by spinach, scattered eggplant and torn basil leaves.
  8. Cover with a thin layer of ricotta mix.
  9. Repeat in this fashion for at 3-4 layers, finishing with a layer of pasta covered with ricotta mix. Cover this with a layer of grated mozzarella.
  10. Bake, covered with foil for 20 minutes.
  11. Remove foil and continue to bake for another 15 minutes or until pasta is cooked and top brown and bubbly. Stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Number of servings (yield): 6

 

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella October 11, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I know, I’m so excited come Spring! Winter food is nice but I get so excited for fresh produce! :)

The Food Sage October 11, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Gotta love orange beets and purple carrots. Great shots.
And just what i needed … another spinach recipe. Seriously, spinach growing like weeds in the garden. Can’t cook enough of it.

InTolerantChef October 12, 2011 at 7:43 am

Such lovely colours. You serve up orange beets with orange carrots, and purple carrots with purple beets – we could start a monochromatic food trend!
I love seeing the piles of pretty produce at the markets, so much better than sterile supermarkets.
Fantastic recipe too, great way to squeeze in more veggies, and I use the ricotta trick as well, but haven’t tried it with an egg- thanks for the tip, I’ll give it a try. Yumm..

Ann October 12, 2011 at 8:52 am

I have 3 fat shiny eggplants waiting to be used right now. Thanks for that delicious recipe, that’s tonights dinner sorted. Looking forward to it very much.

Lizzy (Good Things) October 12, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Love your blog, you are my kind of food enthusiast!

Cakelaw October 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm

I love spring too – though unfortunately the weather has regressed to winter here. Great looking lasagne – looks filling and hearty.

Hotly Spiced October 12, 2011 at 5:07 pm

No, it’s not just you – I also love the end of winter and become excited by seeing the new season’s arrival of fresh produce – out with the mandarins and in with the mangoes. Love the photos of the vegetables. Fabulous lasagne recipe. My children would gobble that up without even realising it was good for them. Great post.

Celia October 13, 2011 at 10:03 am

Gorgeous post, Amanda! Such lovely colours, and lots of exciting new produce to try! I’ve never heard of kale broccoli. Lasagne looks most fine.. :)

Kate October 14, 2011 at 5:24 pm

I love the mix n’ match beets and carrots !!

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