A special post by RAFFL's summer intern, Anna Flinchbaugh. A couple of weekends ago, a friend and I took a trip down to New York City for a music festival. While that sounds like a pretty simple goal, our travel plans were complicated by a slew of things that made it feel much more like an epic adventure than a little pop down to the city. For one thing, my friend is…well, not exactly a city slicker. Middlebury is the largest place she’s ever lived and she’d never been to New York before – very much by choice. The promise of a day of DIY music had proven to be a strong enough lure to overcome her aversion, but I was more than a little nervous about being a good guide; my own knowledge of New York is spotty at best and my sense of direction is laughably poor. Then, just as we were all psyched for the trip, our place to stay fell through. After a lot of frantic and fruitless phone calls, we accepted that we would have to turn our planned weekend into a one day trip. It was going to be a lot of driving, but it would be worth it. We were fierce, determined, and ready to dance our bejeezers off.
And so we set to logistics, the most crucial being – naturally – food. My friend is severely gluten-allergic, so this required a bit of strategic planning. She ticked off cuisines: South Asian food was usually workable, Mexican food was awesome, American food was hit and miss, and Italian….not a chance. Structured around pasta and bread, at least in its American interpretation, the cheesy goodness of Italian food had long ago been written out of my friend’s dietary repertoire. Which strikes me as pretty darn sad, to be honest. Enter this lasagna. It replaces the noodles that usually structure the layered dish with thinly sliced planes of zucchini. It’s totally gluten-free and totally delicious. It’s a fun take on an old favorite, even for those without dietary restrictions. While I usually find lasagna to be such a comfort food that it ends up relegated to snowy times, the slightly al dente zucchini slices give this version a freshness that makes it feel completely appropriate for summer. It’s also a great way to use up zucchini when your garden is overflowing and you can’t stand one more loaf of zucchini bread. When we made it for the Downtown Farmers Market last Tuesday, we stacked our lasagna with sautéed kale, tomato sauce, and homemade ricotta, but you could use any combination of veggies that you have in abundance; one visitor to the market even suggested replacing the zucchini noodles with bright slices of bell peppers. With a few minor adjustments, the assembly on this lasagna is pretty standard. After slicing the zucchini - a mandolin slicer would be useful, but isn’t essential - lay it out on paper-towel lined cookie sheets and sprinkle with salt; this helps to draw out excess water and keep your lasagna from getting soggy. To help distribute the kale evenly, we combined it with our ricotta mixture before layering, but you can adapt that depending on the other veggies you choose.