In my “What I Learned in Culinary School” series, I’ll be sharing tips and tricks that I learned from two years of working with some of the country’s best chefs. This will include big things like learning to work efficiently, and small things like how to cook bacon perfectly. All of them will be applicable to your home kitchen, making you a faster, better, and more confident cook.
We’ve all been to a gathering with bad banquet food. There might be Salisbury steak. There’s generally overcooked baked chicken. And there is always a bad vegetable lasagna. It’s probably mushy and overcooked, and it’s usually watery and runny. One of the few banquets I’ve been to that has had great food? At my culinary school graduation, of course. Those chefs know what they are doing!
Vegetable lasagna can be great if it’s made well. But the fact is, vegetables give off a lot of moisture as they cook, and too much moisture is the enemy of any great pasta dish. It wasn’t until I took a class from a vegan chef instructor in culinary school that I learned how simple this problem is to solve.
The cheap, quick, painless solution? Couscous. Ordinary, dry, uncooked couscous. As you’re assembling a vegetable lasagna (or any lasagna that has a hefty load of veggies), sprinkle a few teaspoons of dry couscous on top of each layer of vegetables. That’s it. No other changes to the recipe or assembly needed.
As the lasagna cooks, the vegetables will begin to give off a bit of moisture. No worries, because the couscous is there to save the day, absorbing the wetness and cooking alongside the rest of the ingredients. The great thing about this trick is that the couscous is virtually undetectable in the finished dish. You won’t be able to recognize its flavor amongst all of the other tasty morsels in your lasagna, and unless you’re looking really carefully, you probably won’t see it, either.
For more tips and tricks from my school days, be sure to check out my culinary school archive.