Spinach & Spicy Eggplant Lasagna

Spinach & Spicy Eggplant Lasagna

1 tablespoon salt
2 bags (10 ounces each) curly spinach, stemmed and rinsed

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon for baking dish
5 large shallots, minced (about 1 cup)
4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (generous 1 tablespoon)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
2 bay leaves
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup julienned sun dried tomatoes (Optional)

Spicy Eggplant
1 large Italian eggplant
1 teaspoon cayenne
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (generous 1 tablespoon)
1 ½ teaspoon sugar or honey
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Cheeses and Pasta
8 ounces whole milk cottage cheese
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 no-boil lasagna noodles from 1 box
2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
2 ounces blue cambozola
8 ounces Italian fontina, shredded (about 2 cups)

1. For the spinach: Fill large bowl with ice water. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven or stockpot over high heat; add salt and spinach, stirring until spinach is just wilted, about 5 seconds. Using skimmer or fine-mesh strainer, transfer spinach to ice water and let stand until completely cool, about 1 minute, then drain spinach and transfer to clean kitchen towel. Wrap towel tightly around spinach to form ball and wring until dry. Chop spinach medium and set aside.

2. For the eggplant: Remove the top and bottom by slicing. Then proceed to make half inch slices from north to south. Using a fork make holes all through out the slices, then pat the slices down with wet paper towel to remove any moisture. Combine all the ingredients in the eggplant section and thoroughly rub them onto both sides of the eggplant. In a frying pan on medium heat, using a tablespoon of vegetable oil fry the eggplant until golden brown on both sides and remove to dry on paper towel until use.

3. For the béchamel: Melt 5 tablespoons butter until foaming in medium saucepan over medium heat; add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 1/2 minutes; do not brown. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat, whisk in bay leaves, nutmeg, salt, and pepper; reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. Whisk in Parmesan and discard bay leaves. Transfer sauce to bowl, press plastic wrap directly against surface, and set aside. For a modern twist on the béchamel add in a quarter cup of julienned sun dried tomatoes once it is completed.

4. For the cheeses, pasta, and assembly: Blend cottage cheese, egg, and salt in food processor or blender until very smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to bowl and set aside. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Place noodles in 13 by 9-inch broilersafe baking dish and cover with hot tap water; let soak 5 minutes, agitating noodles occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove noodles from water and place in single layer on kitchen towel. Wipe baking dish dry and coat with remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Use rubber spatula to distribute 1/2 cup béchamel in bottom of baking dish; position 3 noodles on top of sauce. Stir spinach into remaining béchamel in bowl, mixing well to break up clumps of spinach (you should have about 4 cups spinach/béchamel mixture). Spread 1 cup spinach mixture evenly over noodles, sprinkle evenly with Parmesan, and top with 3 more noodles. Spread 1 cup spinach mixture evenly over noodles, and at this stage lay down all your eggplant evenly across the spinach, top this with 1 cup fontina, and top with 3 more noodles. Spread 1 cup spinach mixture evenly over noodles, followed by cottage cheese mixture. Finish with 3 noodles, remaining cup spinach mixture, and remaining cup of fontina and all the cambozola. Lightly spray large sheet foil with nonstick cooking spray and cover lasagna. Bake until bubbling, about 20 minutes, then remove foil. Remove lasagna and adjust oven rack to uppermost position (about 6 inches from heating element) and heat broiler. Broil lasagna until cheese is spotty brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, then cut into pieces and serve.

Spicy Eggplant recipe by Chef Devan