July 13 2016

No Distractions Eggplant Lasagna

As one veteran sporting clays shooting instructor is fond of saying, “Shooting is simple, but shooters are complicated.”

In basic terms, that means any shooter who wants to break more targets and be the envy of his circle of shooting compadres should focus on the task at hand – allow no distractions!

Annoyances such as a slow group ahead of you; approaching bad weather; referees or trappers who are untrained or not paying attention; broken targets; and other common occurrences should be ignored whenever possible.

There is also a common distraction of having to listen to well-meaning shooting companions who offer unwanted and sometimes inaccurate advice.

If a shooter hasn’t heard any of the following comments, he or she hasn’t been sending enough lead down range:

“Don’t miss this one.

“You are behind it.

“I think you should take the other bird first.

“I’ll shoot first every time because I can’t hit anything and it just doesn’t matter to me.”

Any or all of these can be uttered with good intentions, but often have just the opposite effect – a missed target that should have been obliterated.

The shooters who maintain their composure and focus on breaking one target at a time, each and every time, are the ones who will be spending time in the winner’s circle.

If a shooter has to stop for a moment, take a deep breath and clear his or her mind before getting back to a composed, focused and smoothly effective shooting form – just do it.

Similar advice can be applicable for a kitchen craftsman preparing a savory dish for a fine meal to celebrate that latest quality performance with the old smokepole.

My older brother, Harvey, and I worked up the following creation as we were discussing how to make a healthier dish that normally requires pasta. While it requires a few more steps than simply plopping lasagna noodles in the pan, as long as the cook is not distracted by a little added work, the result is a taste-tempting delight.

No Distractions Eggplant Lasagna

1/4 cup butter or bacon grease
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pounds ground venison
1 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon Chef Ralph’s Super Seasoning
1 can (14.5-ounces) petite diced tomatoes
2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 container (16 ounces) small curd cottage cheese
4 cups shredded Italian Blend cheese
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
1/2 teaspoon Chef Ralph’s Super Seasoning
Olive oil
2 large eggplants, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
salt and pepper

Melt butter or bacon grease in a cast-iron Dutch oven and sauté onion and garlic until transparent. Add crushed fennel seed and oregano, then stir in venison and pork. Sprinkle Chef Ralph’s over meat mixture and stir well. Brown meat, stirring often. Add diced tomatoes, sauce and tomato paste after meat is browned. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. In a separate bowl, mix cottage cheese, 3 cups shredded Italian Blend (mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, Asago, Fontina and Romano), eggs, oregano, crushed fennel and Chef Ralph’s. Set aside. In a separate large skillet, heat a little olive oil over medium low heat, then lightly brown both sides of the eggplant slices (try to get them about 1/8-inch thick or less) that have been seasoned with salt and pepper, to taste. Set lightly browned slices aside on a plate. Place a layer of browned eggplant slices on the bottom of a lasagna pan. Top with a layer of cooled meat mixture, then sprinkle with cheese mixture. Repeat layers. Top with a layer of browned eggplant slices, followed by any remaining meat, cheese mixture and the reserved 1 cup of shredded Italian Blend cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes.