In the past, many times I have wondered, if my kids were spoiled rotten, since they request a non vegetarian menu every single day. That may not be a big deal for non-Indians but most Indians do get it. It may or may not be a religious thing but most households, (at that time...now everyone I know is in a mad rush to incorporate mass produced food in their daily menu AMAP), cooked non vegetarian fare only twice a week- Wednesdays and Sundays.
The reasons for the limited use of non vegetarian cooking, as I think, seems to be economical, religious and some ancient wisdom. The ancient wisdom in this particular habit being simplicity and keeping indulgences to minimum, keeping a firm control over the tendencies to go overboard. No wonder, two generations back we had the healthiest seniors around.
Either way, I decided a couple years back to enforce this little bit into my life. Even after trying to be a perfectionist in introducing fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, in a timely manner and yet...
I have one kid who could eat fish - steamed, fried or curried three times a day, every day, loves fruits but wont touch a vegetable. And another who detests any kind of seafood and actually throws up if a piece actually crosses his lips. And he loves his vegetables cooked.
Now, you might all agree that between both of them, I have to cook really creative or incur the wrath of one. That's when I enforced two purely non veg days into our week. Initially, it was met with grumbles. But with my supportive hubby's backing, it soon became an important part of our home traditions. When eating out, my husband and kids are free to follow or not follow this, but at home, any food cooked by me follows this rule. As a result, my dinner menu is more elaborate in vegetarian dishes, and the ones, I started this tradition for, are eating much better. So much better that sometimes, they request a vegetarian item, on a non veg day.
So here is one of my more popular dishes for a Meatless Friday. Its one of the simplest lasagnas, made with entirely non vegetarian ingredients (not vegan), if you can manage to get egg-less pasta.
12-15 Lasagna Noodles, cooked and drained and coated in a little oil spray (so that they dont stick to each other)
4 cups Mamma's Hearty Pasta Sauce or Marinara (You can use the vegetarian variation or the Meat Sauce Version)
5-6 cloves of minced garlic
10-12 oz of chopped spinach
2 large eggplants, thinly sliced
1 lb or 850 gm skim milk Ricotta Cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 tsp Italian herbs (basil, parsley and oregano)
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
Olive oil- 2 tbsp + 2 tbsp
Salt and Pepper
In a large nonstick pan, add 2 tbsp olive oil and toss the eggplant slices in it. Sprinkle salt and Pepper. Cook in low heat, until they wilt a little. Keep aside.
In the same pan, or maybe another, add 2 tbsp of olive oil and saute the garlic until a little sweaty. Add the chopped spinach and cook until wilted. Stir in the Italian herbs and add a little salt and pepper. Remove from heat and gently stir in Ricotta and Parmesan. Keep this mixture aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degree F and spray a Lasagna Pan with a little bit of oil.
Add 2 cups of the Pasta sauce to the pan. Lay 3-5 noodles on top of the sauce. Spread the spinach and cheese mixture on the noodles and arrange a single layer of the eggplant slices on top of it.
Pour the remaining pasta sauce on top and smooth it out. Let the sauce drizzle down the corners.
Sprinkle the mozzarella on the top.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30-45 minutes until the cheese on top has melted and light brown spots start appearing.
Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!!!
1. This is a very mild and basic recipe and you can add spices and herbs to give it your own twist.
2. Substitute eggplants with cooked chicken or mince meat, or use a Meat Sauce, to make it a yummy non vegetarian dish.