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The Whole Dish: Mexican cheese, chiles meld in lasagna

Odds and ends from my kids’ meals are fair game for the rest of the family, particularly when they can constitute a new dish.

These little, uneaten portions don’t just arise from our own kitchen, like the flatbread reclaimed from my younger son for the following day’s fattoush salad. The kids’ school nutrition program sends home “weekend bags ”that often contain just a few ounces of frozen pulled pork, meat sauce or a combination of cooked chicken and shredded cheese for quesadillas.

These items are a much harder sell than the school’s chicken strips or burger patties for the boys’ weekend lunches. So I stash them away in the freezer until I’ve amassed enough for a family meal.

The pulled pork recently augmented black-eyed peas over plantain cakes for a Caribbean-inspired dish. The meat sauce likely will become a dipping sauce for baked mozzarella sticks. And the chicken-cheese combination is perfect for enchiladas or this lasagna inspired by Mexican cuisine.

This recipe, courtesy of Tribune News Service, also gives new purpose to my freezer stashes of Anaheim chiles, roasted during the fall’s garden harvest, as well as kernels stripped from locally grown sweet corn.

Tribune News Service photo

Mexican Lasagna

8 poblano chiles

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/2 onion, peeled and cut into rounds

1 cup corn kernels

1 chopped garlic clove

1 cup tomato sauce

1 cup vegetable broth

1 (8-ounce) container sour cream

15 ounces (1 1/2 [10-ounce] packages) cotija cheese, divided

9 pieces oven-ready lasagna

6 ounces quesadilla cheese ( 1/2 of a 12-ounce package), shredded

Roast the chiles under oven broiler or over a stove-top burner until skin is charred on all sides. Peel skin and seed chiles, then cut lengthwise into long strips.

Heat oven to 375 F.

In a large saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the corn and chile strips, reduce heat to low and continue cooking until corn and chiles are warmed through. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, for about 1 minute. Add the tomato sauce and vegetable broth and heat until hot. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a food processor, combine the sour cream with two-thirds of the cotija cheese and blend until creamy but lumpy (this can also be done by hand in a large bowl, using back of a spoon).

Line base of a 9-by-13-inch baking or casserole dish with 3 lasagna noodles. Add half of corn-chile mixture, distributing evenly over noodles. Dollop half of sour cream-cotija mixture over corn and chiles. Place 3 more noodles in pan and repeat with remaining corn-chile mixture and sour cream-cotija mix.

Place the 3 remaining noodles in pan. Sprinkle the shredded quesadilla cheese and remaining cotija cheese over noodles. Using a spoon, drizzle thinned tomato sauce evenly over noodles in dish.

Cover dish with foil and bake lasagna in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until cheese is melted and golden, for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

Makes 8 to 12 servings.