Day 130: Cultural Immersion Via Gastronomy

Day 130 of the Nowhere To Be Project fell on a Sunday. No matter where I am in the world, summer Sundays are synonymous with farmer’s markets. Buying local food directly from the source provides an unmatched opportunity for cultural immersion. If you’re like me, you worship food and understand that it, alone, holds the key to truly understanding the nuances of a locale.

The farmer’s market in Vail today was bursting with heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil and squash. These flavors reminded me of a delicious Tuscan Panzanella I once experienced (yes, food should be an experience!). With that sensory memory as my inspiration I created a quick yet magnificent slow cooker lasagna. It is naturally plant-based and dairy-free, and to be completely honest, it is so decadent that you wouldn’t have known it if I hadn’t told you! Enjoy and be sure to share!

TUSCAN PANZANELLA LASAGNA🌿🍅

Ingredients

1/2 pound assorted varieties of squash, thinly sliced*

1/2 pound ripe heirloom tomatoes, sliced

4 cups of your favorite homemade or store-bought marinara sauce**

1 ball of fresh plant-based mozzarella cheese, sliced***

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

Oven ready dried lasagna noodles****

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt & pepper, to taste

Preparation

-Begin by drizzling a bit of the EVOO into the slow cooker.

-Add a ladle full of tomato sauce to the slow cooker.

-Crack the lasagna noodles to fit the slow cooker, creating a single layer on top of the sauce.

-Drizzle a tad more EVOO on top of the dried pasta.

-Use the 1/2 of the sliced mozzarella to create the filling for the first layer of the lasagna, topping it with another layer of dried pasta and a ladle of sauce.

-Use the sliced squash to create the second layer of the lasagna, dusting it with EVOO, salt and pepper before adding another layer of dried pasta and more marinara.

-Arrange the sliced tomatoes in a single layer directly on top of the dried pasta.

-Sprinkle the chopped basil and garlic on top of the tomatoes along with another light dusting of EVOO, salt and pepper.

-Crumble the remaining mozzarella on top of the tomatoes before pouring the remaining sauce in the slow cooker.

-Cook on high for two hours and then turn the heat to low and cook for another hour or so, until brown and bubbly.

-Let the lasagna sit at room temperature in the slow cooker crock for 30 minutes before serving.

-Serve with garlic bread to mop up every morsel of deliciousness!

Notes

*I used patty pan and zucchini squash.

**Victoria White Linen is a wonderful option (and what I used) for simple marinara sauce.

***Miyoko’s makes an amazing vegan mozzarella that tastes and melts just like dairy cheese. I used this in the dish.

****Never assume that any pasta is vegan as many are made with eggs. I used Pastamoré dried lasagna noodles, purchased at the farmer’s market.

Day 125: I Did Not Inhale in Eagle-Vail

Day 125 of the Nowhere To Be Project brought me to the town of Eagle-Vail. You’ve probably never heard of Eagle-Vail, but it is an astoundingly popular destination for Vail Valley visitors and locals alike. It is just a few short miles from the resort areas of Vail and Beaver Creek and yet appears as if it could be on the other side of the Earth. The town’s popularity isn’t a result of great views or killer ski runs though. Okay, I’ll give you a hint…Eagle-Vail is nicknamed the “green mile”. You guessed it, visitors mainly come to this I-70 adjacent town to legally purchase marijuana because it is the one of the few spots to buy weed in Eagle County.

The main drag in Eagle-Vail is Highway 6 and it is most definitely peppered with pot shops. I am not a marijuana user, but if I was I would compare these establishment to Parisian boutiques in terms of their originality and coveted designs. From chocolates to gummies to plain old ganja, there is something to satisfy each and every doobie brother and sister. From what I’ve been told, the staff in these retail outlets are highly trained thus able to make suggestions for recreational and medicinal use. Not surprisingly, many tourists navigate pot tours much like wine lovers chase the best vineyards throughout Napa Valley.

Not to be a party-pooper, but I come to Eagle-Vail solely for the food. My favorite is Ti Amo, a northern Italian trattoria that serves deliciously homemade and creative dishes (many vegetarian and vegan).

The prices for entrees are about one-third of what you’d pay for a comparable meal in Vail Village making them much tastier! Other notable Eagle-Vail attractions include the Vail Brewing Company and a public golf course. No matter your motivation for visiting, you’ll no doubt find something to satisfy in Eagle-Vail.