Latin Lasagna from She Cooks, He Cleans / by Alex Boake

Lasagna. In my opinion, it's one of the ultimate comfort foods. It's also something that I hadn't been able to seek comfort in for quite a long while since I had gone gluten and grain-free over a year ago. That all changed when this recipe from my good friends over at She Cooks, He Cleans popped onto my radar. It combines scrumptious Latin flavours, a perfect balance of savory and sweet, a generous serving of cheesy goodness, and, in a stroke of pure genius, separates the layers with thinly sliced plantains. It's a bit of effort, but believe me, you won't be craving regular lasagna after you get a taste of this baby! Gluten-free or not, you'd be crazy not to make this! I made a couple of tweaks to suit what I had in the pantry, but the essence of the recipe remains.

Latin Lasagna with Beef and Plantains Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 4 Shallots, chopped
  • 1 Yellow Bell Pepper, chopped
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil or Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs Ground Beef
  • 28 oz. canned Plum Tomatoes in juice
  • 2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 6 Dates, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 2 tsp Smoked, Hot Hungarian or Spanish Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Coriander
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 4 Extremely Ripe Plantains with black or heavily spotted skin
  • Coconut Oil or Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Eggs
  • 3 Tbsp Water
  • 2 packages Pepper Jack Cheese, shredded
  • Fresh Cilantro, chopped, for serving

Directions

To prepare the Beef mixture, heat Coconut Oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped Shallots and Pepper. Cook until softened, stirring frequently. Add the Garlic and cook until Garlic is fragrant, stirring constantly. Add the Ground Beef. Cook until browned, breaking up large pieces as you stir. Drain off excess fat, leaving about 3 tablespoons or so.

Cut the whole Plum Tomatoes in the can. Pour in the cut Tomatoes, along with their liquid. Then add the Tomato Paste, chopped Dates, Vinegar, Oregano, Cumin, Paprika, Coriander, Salt, and Pepper. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes, covered. Stir occasionally and break up large chunks of Tomato with your spoon. Remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasonings. The meat mixture should be moist and saucy. If it seems too dry, stir in some water or broth. Set aside to cool slightly while you prepare the plantains.

Peel plantains. Unlike Bananas, they don't peel very easily. Slice down one side of the skin with a knife, and then peel.

Slice the Plantains in half lengthwise, and then lay each half flat side down on the cutting board. Slide the knife along horizontally to cut each half into about 3 thin slices. In a large flat pan, heat a generous amount of Coconut Oil or Olive Oil over medium-high heat. Saute the Plantain slices in batches until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. If they begin to stick, add more oil. Transfer the cooked Plantain slices to a plate covered in paper towels to absorb any excess oil.

Now you're ready to put the whole thing together!

Preheat oven to 350, and grease a large lasagna pan or large casserole dish.

In a small bowl, whisk the Eggs and Water until blended.

Place about 1/3 of the Beef mixture in the bottom of the pan as a base. Top with half of the Plantain slices, and then about half the shredded Pepper Jack Cheese. Add another 1/3 of the Beef mixture, then pour half the Egg mixture into the pan, spreading it out over the ingredients. Layer with the remaining Plantains and the last of the Meat. Cover thoroughly with the rest of the Cheese. Pour the last of the Egg mixture over the top of the casserole, distributing it evenly.

My Lasagna Pan was full to the max, so I tented it with aluminum foil, making sure the edges were sealed tightly. Bake, covered, at 350 until hot and bubbly, which should take about 45 minutes. Remove foil, and bake for 10 or so more minutes to brown the Cheese on top. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes so that it can set, and will keep its shape once you cut it. Serve sprinkled with fresh Cilantro.

Aw yeah, doesn't that sound amazing! This reheats really well leftover for lunch the next day.  Make sure you go check out She Cooks, He Cleans for more of their great recipes and tasty photography. Everything I've made from them is a surefire winner. You won't be disappointed!