How do you make a dish healthier without destroying its integrity?

Mollie Katzen is best known for the hand-lettered, charmingly crafty Moosewood Cookbook she authored in the 1970s, but it was an answer to this question that got me driving the steep streets up to her studio and kitchen in Berkeley, California. In Katzen’s latest book (The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation, published last fall), lasagnas invert the normal order of things. Instead of noodle structures bulked out with thin layers of vegetables and sauce and hefty beds of cheese, Katzen’s have two scant layers of noodles, heaped with a whole lot of sautéed vegetables and only a handful of cheese. It’s a way of keeping the basic integrity of a high-calorie dish, only making it better.

The idea came from Greg Drescher of the Culinary Institute of America, creator of CIA’s Worlds of Healthy Flavors Leadership Retreat with the Harvard School of Public Health. Drescher was working out sweet “flips,” as he called them: a small wedge of full-fat cheesecake, for instance, served on a bed of healthy fruits, reversing the normal dessert order. He tasked Katzen with working out savory flips. She started with fried rice—er, rice-fried vegetables.

Unlike the healthy eating built around cold-turkey denials, Katzen’s flips are far more forgiving. “You can keep the rice or pasta,” Katzen says. “Just inch up the vegetables.” In the case of the Winter Lasagna she made for me, it’s about achieving a particular balance. “There are just enough noodles so the psychological need for noodles is addressed,” Katzen says. To be honest, the warm sauté of leeks, cabbage, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, and sweet pepper had such a satisfying earthy sweetness, I wasn’t even thinking about noodles.

Get the recipe for Mollie Katzen’s flipped Winter Lasagna on page 252 of The Heart of the Plate; and see photographer Chris Rochelle’s step-by-step recipe photo mosaics.

See also: A Peek Inside Mollie Katzen’s Studio

Ever tried a Katzen-esque flip? How have you made a calorie-laden dish lighter and healthier? Let us know in the discussion box below!

Photos by Chris Rochelle /

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