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Rebecca Leffler
I moved to Paris in October, 2004 thanks to a Reynold's Grant from Dartmouth College to study contemporary French cinema. I i...
La vie en RAW

LOVEsagna


Oh, the weather outside is STILL frightful here in Paris. Trips to the market have been increasingly sad as even winter fruits and vegetables are sick of their favorite season.

I was craving a raw lasagna for lunch, but know that I’ll have to wait months before zucchini, tomatoes and fresh basil make their way back to this part of the world. So voilà a seasonal, wintery butternut squash lasagna that you can enjoy through the winter. This would also be great with marinated mushrooms.


At first, I was a bit wary about eating butternut squash raw. I consume this wonderful sweet treat all of the time, but usually steamed, roasted or in a creamy soup. Eating the butternut raw, however, allows the squash to keep its enzymes intact and maintain all of its health benefits. Butternut squash is a great source of beta carotene, vitamin , fiber, complex carbohydrates, potassium, folate and antioxidants.

We (see the lovely Camila's site at http://happycrulture.com/) sliced the squash very thin with a mandoline, added salt and let it “sweat it out” – it literally sweats and then becomes softer (sort of like you at the gym – you sweat and move around so you’re less rigid and more flexible, you’re like a human butternut squash).


Then, I added a layer of “faux-mage” that’s a très chic French way of saying “cheeze” made with macadamia nuts and cashews, topped with marinated spinach and the best sun dried tomatoes in the universe (from Premiere Pression Provence http://www.ppprovence.com/ – if you’re in Paris, you must try them, or if you’re not, any soaked sun dried tomatoes will do) and finished off with a green sauce.

For the green sauce, feel free to use whatever herbs du jour you can find – I used parsley the first time I made this, then arugula and parsley the next time and both were delicious. A sage pesto would also be fabulous with this. I like to serve this with a green salad to soak up all of the creamy faux-mage, but this is great on its own too.


If you don’t have a butternut squash, you can also use thinly sliced beets or turnips here.

This meal is packed with nutrients and, more importantly, a wonderful balance of flavor and texture. And, unlike other winter lasagna, this one will leave you full and satiated, but still light and energetic. Feel free to make any substitutes depending on what ingredients you have around – I don’t want to be responsible for sending you off into the cold! If you can find / want to splurge on macadamia nuts, they really add a unique and delicious creamy flavor here. I like the ½ macadamia- ½ cashew mix, but you can go all macadamia, all cashew, or also try some almonds (soaked and skinned) or brazil nuts. You can also experiment with different herbs - add thyme, sage or rosemary for a flavored fauxmage. If you don't have nuts on hand, or the time to soak them, you can cheat and use Blue Mountain Organics' amazing sprouted macadamia nut butter and/or sprouted cashew butter (extra points for flavor and digestibility from the sprouted nuts) and just add a splash of lemon, apple cider vinegar and salt.


This is a very versatile recipe that I also plan to adapt through the seasons – zucchini, tomato and basil pesto in summer, asparagus, mint with pea puree in spring… oh, Mother Nature, can you hurry up and bring us these seasons please? I am salivating just thinking about them.

You can also magically transform this dish into a ravioli plate. Just add the fauxmage in between the butternut slices, or use beets or turnips. Top with the green sauce, or even better, fill the ravioli with the fauxmage and the green sauce then top with a homemade marinara (I had to forego this option since sadly, tomatoes, even the ones from Italy and Spain, are pretty flavorless this time of year here, but I will definitely be trying this version when I can!)


This lasagna is also a great dish to make for company since it looks beautiful and complicated, but is actually quite simple. The faux-mage / cheese will keep in the refrigerator for a few days, so it also makes a great dish to use as a quick “leftovers” lunch the next day. Just add the butternut slices, top with the faux-mage, add more tomatoes and/or olives and the rest of the pesto, serve with some greens and voilà! Bon appétit!


Lovesagna à la Lafleur

Butternut squash
Peel the squash then slice very thin in a mandolin. Sprinkle with salt and let “sweat” for at least ½ hour and up to a few hours. Rinse.

Faux-mage
¼ cup of macadamia nuts, soaked (but only for a short time, around ½-1hr)
¼ cup of cashews (soaked for a few hours)
1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice
½ tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
A pinch of Himalayan salt
*Water, to thin out
Mix everything in a blender until smooth and creamy, adding water as needed.
(OR, just blend your macadamia nut butter, cashew butter and the remaining ingredients)

Green sauce
1 cup of arugula, parsley, spinach or basil or a mixture of any of these
½ clove of garlic (or more or less depending on how garlicky you want this)
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper
Mix everything together in a blender until smooth.

Marinated spinach
1 cup of spinach
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Fresh thyme
Add the marinade ingredients to a big bowl of spinach. Massage with your hands then let sit while you make the rest of the lasagna.

Assembly
Lay the butternut squash on a plate, use around 3 thin pieces per layer. Top with fauxmage, a few sun dried tomatoes and some spinach. Add the next layer of squash, then top again with fauxmage, tomato and spinach. Top with a butternut layer, pour the green sauce over the top.
*Optional: top with olives
Serve with a green salad – I love an arugula salad simply tossed with apple cider vinegar and olive oil here.


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