Kitchen Focus

Living on a big planet means having lots of ethnic cuisine to choose from. But it also means having the ability to blend those cuisines to create a fun fusion option as well. Whether it's a stir-fry using Indian ingredients or a pot pie filled with the flavors of Spain, blending ethnic flavors and techniques can give your meals a fun and exotic flair.

This month, I'm offering a south of the border twist on an Italian favorite. In a month that has so many feeling the peak of the winter season with the festivities of the holidays at their end, there's nothing like some creative comfort food to make you smile and remember that winter gives cooks a great opportunity to experiment with the wide array of options that lie before them.

You can tweak this recipe in several ways. There are as many salsas out there as there are cooks that make it. To keep this meal quick, I recommend using one of the many blends available from the jar, but you can always opt to make your own as well. If you like a lot of heat in your food, opt for a really spicy salsa. Salsas that include roasted tomatoes or peppers had a smoky element to the mix. Salsas boasted fresh tomatoes and onions will brighten the flavor of the dish.

In the same way, the diced tomatoes you choose will impact the flavor of your lasagna a lot. There are multiple options that will keep a strong southwestern flavor to the mix: such as those with green chiles or varieties labeled "chili ready". If you want to bring the lasagna a little closer to its roots, consider diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning or balsamic vinegar.

You can opt to change the kind of beans used or switch out the corn for diced onion, peppers and/or chiles. Even the kind of cheese you choose will impact the flavor of your final dish. If the thought of a meatless dish doesn't appeal, consider adding browned ground beef or turkey or even shredded pork to the sauce. The point is you have a lot of options available and a whole winter to experiment with your culinary variety. Enjoy!

Southwestern Lasagna

  • 1 (16 oz.) jar salsa -- I like a chipotle corn variety
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes -- I like a fire-roasted with roasted garlic variety
  • 1 c. frozen corn -- thawed
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans
  • Cooking spray
  • 9 lasagna noodles
  • 2 c. shredded pepper jack cheese -- I like a chipotle monteray jack variety
  • 1 (2.25 oz.) can sliced black olives -- drained
  • 1/2 c. chopped green onions
  • Sour cream -- optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the salsa, diced tomatoes, corn and black beans. Mix to form a sauce.

Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray and spread 2/3 cup of the sauce evenly along the bottom of the pan. Arrange 3 noodles evenly over the sauce. Add 2/3 cup of the sauce over the noodles and sprinkle with a third of the cheese. Repeat this technique three times, ending with a layer of the remaining cheese. Sprinkle the very top with the sliced olives.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes or until the noodles are softened and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Sprinkle the lasagna with the green onions before serving. Serve with sour cream, if desired.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 50 minutes