Advent of the Meatless Monk

Where we sit today, in central Vermont, a friendly snowfall freshens up last week’s bootprint-riddled layer, and it’s not impossibly cold, and our yuletide spirits are climbing. If you’re out there still shopping, we hope for your sake you’re finished soon.

Chances are, though, the menu plan for holiday supper is still totally up in the air. There’s still time! And maybe food-court dining for the umpteenth time in four weeks has persuaded you to, well, purify the ingredients for the spirited occasion.

Relax: we’ve got you covered. Our cookbooks with EatingWell and King Arthur Flour have always exemplified our belief in cooking with wholesome, chemically un-messed-with, easily accessible ingredients. And our newest cookbook author, a kindly monk named Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette, believes these qualities in a meal to be most sacred. The Pure Joy of Monastery Cooking is a generous offering of meatless recipes (egg- and dairy-friendly) that, as Brother Victor says, “exalt the values of health, freshness and nutrition.”

In other words, Brother Victor’s (did we say) gorgeously illustrated new cookbook, riding on his international reputation for classics like 12 Months of Monastery Soups and From a Monastery Kitchen, is your soul-cleansing holiday supper solution. The heart is inherent in these dishes, coming as they are from the resident monk—who also happens to create his own vinegars—at Our Lady of the Resurrection Monastery in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Give the gift of good food! Here’s a main dish everyone’s sure to love, stamped with Brother Victor’s blessing:

Acorn Squash-Mushroom Lasagna

Makes 8 servings
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
2 cups chopped onions
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)
Salt & freshly ground pepper
2 pounds, acorn squash, peeled, seeded, & cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 (14-ounce) can vegetable stock
4 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
4 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
3 (15-ounce) containers whole-milk ricotta cheese
4 cups grated mozzarella cheese
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
3 large eggs
Olive oil, for brushing pan
1 (9-ounce) package no-boil lasagna noodles

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Melt the butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 8 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the mushrooms, and cook until tender, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

2. Place in same skillet the squash, stock, and 3 tablespoons each of the thyme and sage. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until the squash is just tender. Uncover and cook until squash is very soft but still retains its shape. about 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Mix the ricotta, 2 cups of the mozzarella cheese, 1 1/2 cups of the Parmesan, and the remaining 1 tablespoon each of the thyme and sage in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper; mix in eggs.

4. Brush a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish with the oil. Spread 1 cup of the ricotta mixture over the bottom. Arrange three noodles on top. Spread 1 1/4 cups of the Ricotta mixture over the noodles. Arrange 1 1/3 cups of the squash mixture over that, and sprinkle with half the mushrooms and 1 cup of the remaining mozzarella. Top with three noodles, then with 1 3/4 cups ricotta mixture, the remaining squash, and the remaining mushrooms. Top with three noodles. Spread remaining ricotta mixture on top and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Cover with oiled foil.

5. Bake the lasagna, covered, for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake until heated through, about 25 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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