Tonight I made individual cold lasagna filled with goat cheese, beets, arugula, peas, asparagus, and topped with an apricot nectar reduction and peppercorns. It was somewhat an experiment and turned out wonderfully.
I'm terrible at giving out recipes. I never measure anything while I cook and there are so many steps that are second nature or intuitive that I forget not everyone knows to do them. This is my attempt at instructions for this meal. Hopefully as I continue to post I will get a bit better at this.
So, for this meal this is what you will need:
Lasagna noodles, arugula, peas, cooked beets, asparagus, honey, rice vinegar, salt, pepper, goat cheese, olive oil, and apricot nectar/juice. Originally I was going to use some garlic but then I decided the flavor might be overpowering and I opted to not use it.
Some notes about the ingredients I decided to use, I use white pasta when using any oil in my cooking because wheat pastas absorb oils very quickly requiring you to use more. The beets I used were already cooked. They are organic and come in a vacuum sealed package from Trader Joe's. I could cook my own beets but in my opinion it would be a waste of time. I enjoy creating beautiful, wonderful meals but I also live a busy life. There are fantastic ready made foods out there and I don't see the problem in utilizing them. Last thing before I actually try to describe how to make this dish, the apricot nectar was a total gamble. I saw a woman on the show The Next Food Network Star make a glaze reduction from bottled pomegranate juice and I thought it was a fantastic idea. I searched the juice aisle for something I thought would be good with beets before settling on the apricot nectar. After trying it I think I would do a balsamic vinegar brown sugar reduction next time, although the apricot nectar wasn't bad at all.
Okay, onto the cooking. The very most important thing you do is start your reduction first thing. You need time to let some of the water cook out and for the sugar (that is naturally in the juice) to thicken. I made this meal only for myself so I used about a cup and a half of the apricot nectar and cooked it over medium high heat stirring frequently. At the same time I threw a pot of water on the stove to boil. When your reduction starts to boil lower the temperature to low and continue to stir frequently. After about five minutes you can remove from the heat and allow it to thicken. Remember, just because you need to stir it frequently doesn't mean you need to stir it constantly. Basically you want to keep the sugars from burning but go ahead and chop things in the meantime.
In case you don't know what pots on a stove look like here you go.
Next I cut up a couple beets into pieces this size...
and asparagus into pieces this size (with two pieces left longer).
Now the idea here is to serve this cold but you still need to cook the peas and asparagus. All you really need to do is blanch them then rinse with cold water. In order to save time (and water! and energy!) just throw the veggies in once the water is boiling and let them cook for two minutes before scooping them out with a slotted spoon so you don't have to keep pouring out the water and boiling more (you'll use the same water for the pasta as well). You can take them from the water into a bowl then throw them into a strainer for a quick rinse before tossing them into a bowl with the other veggies.
As soon as you're done blanching and rinsing the peas and the asparagus go ahead and throw the pasta in. Keep an eye on it and drain and rinse with cold water when done. While that's cooking you can make a goat cheese spread with goat cheese, a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper. You just need enough olive oil to thin the goat cheese out a bit so it becomes spreadable. If you make too much it's a great thing to put on sandwiches or wraps.
Next up is dressing for the vegetable mixture. I swear by honey, rice vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper as a dressing for anything. Seriously. Anything. I usually just do a couple tablespoons rice vinegar, a couple teaspoons olive oil, a tablespoon or so of honey, and salt and pepper to taste. Vinegar thins out sugars so don't worry about there being clumps of honey. Just do a quick whisk together and toss it with the veggies.
Now comes the teensy bit difficult part. The assembly. Rather than blather on and try to explain how to do this I'm going to let the photos speak for themselves.
First step, spread some of the goat cheese onto the lasagna noodle like so.
Next pile on some of those gorgeous veggies.
Fold over the lasagna noodle back on top of the filling you've already placed and do the whole goat cheese and veggies thing again. Don't at all worry about it being messy. It's far more beautiful not neat.
Fold the remaining portion of the lasagna noodle back over again. Drizzle your reduction over the pasta and top with diced beets, the asparagus spears that were left long, whole peppercorns, or whatever you like.
I know this looks complicated when finished but the whole thing took about 45 minutes and it's one of those dishes that likely wouldn't take much longer to do for more people. If you're intimidated by not having measured amounts to reference just think of it as a salad. Everyone can make a salad. Add as much or as little of any of the vegetables as you like to make it something enjoyable for you.