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Comfort food just got a makeover.

Story and photos by Natalie Paramore

Fall is prime time for some of Central Texas’ best produce. It’s also a time when many nightshade vegetables are available in abundance. For some people, nightshade vegetables, such as eggplants, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes, can cause inflammation, and others may avoid them in their diets for varying reasons. For fall entertaining, we’ve put a twist on some of our favorite recipes traditionally made with nightshades by substituting other in-season vegetables. It’s creative look-good, feel-good cooking at its finest.

Basil and Mushroom Lasagna

Serves four to six

Ingredients: 

1 1/2 pounds sliced baby bella mushrooms

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

Lasagna noodles

1 1/2 cups fresh basil, packed

2 cloves garlic

3 cups ricotta cheese

Directions: 

  1. Saute mushrooms with one tablespoon of olive oil and one teaspoon of kosher salt until they’re slightly softened, about six to seven minutes.
  2. Boil the lasagna noodles until they’re al dente. Note: Do not use no-boil noodles for this recipe.
  3. In a food processor, pulse the basil with garlic and remaining olive oil and salt until a chunky paste forms, creating a pesto.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the pesto with the ricotta.
  5. In a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, line the bottom of pan with 3/4 cup of the ricotta mixture. Top it with one layer of lasagna noodles. On top of the noodles, layer 3/4 cup of ricotta then some of the sauteed mushrooms. Repeat this process two times, finishing with mushrooms on top.
  6. Bake the lasagna for 25 minutes at 350 degrees, or until it’s hot and bubbly.
  7. Remove it from the oven and top it with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Stuffed Zucchini

Serves two

Ingredients: 

1/2 cup quinoa

1 cup chicken broth

2 strips bacon

2 medium zucchini

1/2 cup white onion, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 shredded Monterrey jack cheese

Directions: 

  1. Rinse the quinoa and boil the chicken broth. Add the quinoa to the boiling chicken broth and cook until it’s done, according to the package.
  2. Fry the bacon in a skillet until it’s crisp. Set it on a plate lined with a paper towel. Let the oil cool in the pan but do not discard it.
  3. Wash the zucchini and remove the ends. Slice the zucchini vertically down the middle. Slice down the sides of the inner flesh and seeds. Using a spoon, scoop out the insides. Chop the zucchini (the insides, not the boats) into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
  4. Chop the onion and combine it with the chopped zucchini. Saute the onion and the chopped zucchini in the pan with the bacon grease over medium heat, until softened, about eight minutes.
  5. Add the quinoa, chopped zucchini and onion to the pan, tossing with olive oil and salt.
  6. Fill the zucchini boats with the mixture and top it with the crumbled bacon and cheese.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees, or until the cheese bubbles, about 10 minutes.
Mashed Cauliflower Potatoes

Serves four

Ingredients:

2 cups cauliflower (about 1 head)

2 cloves garlic

1/2 stick of butter

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1 tablespoon fresh chives

Directions: 

  1. Wash and chop the cauliflower. Boil it in salted water until it’s tender, at least 10 minutes.
  2. Drain the cauliflower and reserve 1 cup of water from the pot.
  3. Put the cauliflower into a food processor with the garlic, butter and salt. Pulse it until the mixture is smooth, adding the reserve pot water one tablespoon at a time as needed to blend. More water will lead to a smoother, thinner dish. Less water will have a thicker consistency.
  4. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  5. Top the mixture with chives and serve hot.
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