Inspiration. It’s what motivates us to do something. We can be inspired by someone’s actions or words, which in turn allows us to try something new. Cooking is made up of many things, but first and most important is inspiration. Whether it’s a beautiful vegetable at its peak of deliciousness, an upcoming event that screams for a special dish, or a recipe that sparks the creative juices of the mind and palate. That’s what this is all about…taking inspiration from a recipe.
Those of us who love to cook often come up with ideas that arrive like lightning bolts that must be harnessed into wonderful food. We take to the kitchen and experiment until we create the perfect storm, a dish that is fabulous. There are also times when we see someone else’s “perfect storm” and are inspired to create our own version of that perfection. Let’s face it, most of us do not follow a recipe to the letter (with the exception of baking where creative license can mess with the kitchen chemistry). We add a little more of something or maybe a little less.
There are times when I see a recipe in a magazine or on-line that gives me an idea. I take the basic idea and run with it. That’s how the Artichoke Lasagna came to be. The recipe I came across used artichokes, mushrooms, and red bell peppers to create the filling that included a huge amount of cream cheese. I kept the veggies and lost the cream cheese to create a lasagna that was all my own with a more traditional filling using ricotta, cheese, and eggs, along with a bit of pesto.I combined the vegetables with this and the result was a creamy filling ready to hold its own in my lasagna.I decided to try whole grain lasagna and I can highly recommend it. The nutty flavor and sturdy texture added to the lasagna’s taste.The lasagna went together in the usual way; layers of noodles, filling and cheese. I topped it off with a Bechamel Sauce that I made with fat-free half & half and Cracked Pepper Toscano Cheese. This is one of my favorite Trader Joe’s items. It’s a creamy Parmesan type cheese that is coated in black pepper. Wonderful in cooking and a delicious addition to a cheese plate. The lasagna emerged from the oven bubbly and golden as every lasagna should. After a waiting period that seemed endless, but was really about 15 minutes, it was ready to cut and serve.This was a win win for stolen inspiration and conscious en”light”enment. The filling was creamy and filled with veggie goodness. The six generous servings had plenty of cheesy goodness from modest amounts of ricotta and Italian Cheese Blend and of course, that killer Bechamel.
A Disclaimer: This is not a quick weeknight meal, but it can be assembled ahead of time (even the day before) and hang out in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake it. Just let it come to room temperature before baking. The recipe may look daunting at first glance. There are lots of steps which is typical of most lasagna recipes, but they are pretty easy to execute and are definitely worth the effort. Make this when you have time on a Sunday and you’ll have a delicious Meatless Monday supper with no more effort than turning on the oven and tossing a salad.