Sunday, January 20, 2008

Not You. Me.

I’m a moron when it comes to cooking, but I love, love, love cookbooks. So much in fact that when I was a junior in college taking creative non-fiction writing courses, I wrote an essay about reading cookbooks. Seriously. Because I’m deep. Fun fact, huh?

When I follow a recipe, I tend not to deviate; I don’t improvise; I stick to the plan. And I re-read the plan about a bazillion times before and during the cooking process, just to make sure I don’t screw shit up. And sometimes I still screw shit up.

So, when I post a recipe on my blog, and I add extra notes about exactly what I did, rest assured, it’s definitely not you, it’s me.

But seriously my people. If you've got it in ya to try one vegan recipe I post here – even if you think this vegan crap is pure nuttiness – this one is well worth the time and effort. MM said it was the "best" lasagna he had ever had. And yes, I think that was probably an overstatement, but it's definitely the best lasagna I've ever made.

Vegan Lasagna
from The Candle Café Cookbook

Herbed Tofu “Ricotta”
1 pound firm tofu, rinsed
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Grilled Zucchini and Eggplant
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
--> I used minced from a jar.
pinch of sea salt
pinch of black pepper
2 medium zucchini, sliced length-wise into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices

Sauteed Mushrooms and Onions
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic
--> Again, I used the minced from the jar.
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
sea salt
12 pieces semolina or artichoke lasagna
--> I used the regular stuff since I don’t often – er, ever – make lasagna. I thought it safer to go with the tried and true white pasta in this particular case.
1 cup marinara sauce
--> Candle Café has a recipe for marinara sauce, which uses about 12 gallons of olive oil. I thought this lasagna had enough oil in it already, and I felt that making the sauce was a bit over the top for an already ambitious endeavor. I used Trader Joe’s Fat Free Organic Spaghetti Sauce with Mushrooms.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Combine the tofu, basil, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper in a food processor and process until smooth. Add a bit of water if the mixture seems too dry. I added about 1 tbsp of water. Refrigerate until ready to use. This part is totally easy.
  3. For the zucchini and eggplant -- Prepare a charcoal, gas, or stovetop grill.
    1. OK. I lied. I did improvise a bit here. I don’t have a grill, unless you count my mini-Foreman and frankly, I didn’t feel like busting that out. I totally skipped this and instead sauteed the eggplant and zucchini.
  4. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper and set aside. Lightly brush the zucchini and eggplant with the olive oil mixture and grill the veggies, about 4-5 minutes each side.
    1. Like I said, I didn’t grill them, I (well, MM) tossed them in a frying pan. It worked all the same.
  5. In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add the garlic, onions, and mushrooms and cook over medium heat until just softened about 4-5 minutes. Set aside.
  6. In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add sea salt to taste and the remaining tbsp of olive oil. Add lasagna noodles and cook at a rolling boil until just tender, about 8-10 minutes. Remove and cool, then rince the noodles with cold water. Drain and set aside.
    1. Next time I made this, I will start the water for the pasta a bit sooner. I have one of those mega-heavy-duty stainless steel pots, and it takes for-freaking-ever for water to actually come to a boil. We wasted loads of time, with everything else being prepared, waiting to cook the pasta. Also, do not forget the olive oil here. It keeps the pasta from sticking together. You probably already knew that… but it was news to me a few months ago.
  7. To assemble the lasagna, spoon a bit of the marina sauce over the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan and arrange a row of 4 noodles in the pan. Top with a layer of the grilled zucchini and eggplant, then a layer of the mushrooms and onions, then spoon a layer of the tofu ricotta over it. Spoon the marina sauce over the ricotta and repeat the laying once more (I totally ran out of the mushrooms and onions). Top with a layer of noodles and marinara sauce and bake for 45 minutes or until bubbly.
That’s it my people. Try it. For reals.

MM and I actually managed to put together a pretty nice dinner – completely vegan. We also made a spinach salad with toasted pine nuts, sautéed mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil (sort of an adaptation of another recipe from Candle Café Cookbook). I bought a demi-baguette from Trader Joe’s, which is the perfect size for two people, and we tried the bread with vegan “butter” for the first time.

This stuff is fatty, but good. And, it’s natural, no trans-fat, no animal by-products, and none of God knows what else they are putting into margarine.

And this was exciting… I finally figured out where Whole Foods hides the organic, sulfite-free wine. Turns out, it’s right next to all the other wines.

Our Daily Red only cost only $7.99, so I wasn’t exactly expecting much, but again, I was very pleased. Good stuff.

I suppose the only thing that was missing from this dinner was a vegan dessert. I suppose I’ll have to give something a try one of these days. But, in the meantime, I’ve been eating:

And they are oh so good.


L Sass said...

It's true, I think you're nuts, but this lasagna sounds delicious! Wonder if I could get my classic-Italian boyfriend to try it!

Anastasia said...

Well that sounds like an ordeal and a half! Seriously, it sounds very good, like if you made it for me I'd definitely eat it and probably like it. You know what kind of lasagna is also good? Stouffers.