- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Today’s dish, clever and simple, has made the circuit in the suburbs.It’s called lasagna, but the flavors are Mexican, and you can have fun adding your favorite salsa, garnishing with fresh lime wedges and cilantro. As a bonus, it reheats well the next day, if you like to tote leftovers to work for lunch.

The recipe is well worn and is accustomed to being changed, so doctor away. Use ground beef or turkey. Use corn tortillas or flour. Bake it in a pie plate or a springform pan. You can even add a few more layers and increase the cooking time a bit.

We like to assemble this type of recipe with the Mexican cheese blend, but any Monterey Jack and cheddar mix is fine, too. To crank up the heat, add cheese with chilies. Be sure to round out this family meal with a crisp green salad, some sweet fruit such as pineapple or melon, and serve warm chocolate chip cookies for that homey touch.

Five time-shaving ways to use pre-shredded cheese:

• Turn flour tortillas and a bag of cheese into fast quesadillas by sandwiching two tortillas with a hefty handful of cheese and grilling on both sides in a little oil until crispy and melted through.

• Make a quickie chili or baked potato soup a whole lot more interesting by adding shredded cheese, bacon and chopped scallions.

• Fill Saturday-morning omelets with the shredded cheese of your choice and fresh herbs from the garden.

• Toss leftover pasta with leftover meat sauce, and turn this into a casserole. Top with shredded cheese and cover with aluminum foil. You have spaghetti casserole for tomorrow night.

• For a fast hors d’oeuvre, combine shredded cheese with a little minced onion and enough mayonnaise to moisten. Spread this onto sturdy bread, and run it under the broiler until bubbly. Slice into squares and serve with a glass of wine.


Mexican lasagna

Green salad

Fresh sliced melon and pineapple

Chocolate chip cookies

Mexican lasagna

The preparation time is 15 minutes, and the cooking time is 20 to 25 minutes.

Vegetable-oil cooking spray for misting the skillet

1 pound ground beef round or ground turkey

1 12-ounce jar chunky salsa

6 10-inch corn tortillas

1 16-ounce can refried beans, fat-free if possible

1 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1 8-ounce or 2-cup package pre-shredded Mexican-style four-cheese blend

Chopped fresh tomato and chopped scallions for garnish, optional.

Mist a large skillet with vegetable-oil cooking spray and place over medium-high heat. Crumble in the ground beef or turkey and cook, stirring and breaking up the lumps with a wooden spoon until the meat browns all over and is cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in ½ cup salsa. Set the meat mixture aside.

Spread remaining salsa in the bottom of a 10-inch glass pie pan. Top it with 3 of the tortillas. Spread half the beans over the tortillas, then half of the meat mixture, then ½ cup sour cream, then 1 cup of the cheese. Top with remaining 3 tortillas and repeat the layers, ending with all but 1/4 cup of the remaining cheese. Cover pie pan loosely with aluminum foil.

Bake lasagna in preheated 400-degree oven until hot throughout and cheese has melted, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove lasagna from oven, let it rest for 5 minutes, then cut into wedges or spoon servings onto plates, garnished with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and the chopped tomato and scallions, if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings.


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