Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Can you believe that this lasagna was a first for me? Ricotta was always something I couldn't stand growing up (I never grew out of that) and that made lasagna a "no, thanks" food for me. Obviously, that means that I've never missed lasagna as a vegan because I couldn't possibly miss something I'd never eaten. However, I promised ma meilleure amie that I would give lasagna a shot sometime soon.
I had an 8 oz. bag of crimini mushrooms, 7.5 oz. of spinach, and 2 zucchini in the fridge, plus about 2 cups of leftover Marinara from Yellow Rose Recipes and it seemed like those were just the right ingredients to concoct my own lasagna. All I needed to buy was a box of brown rice lasagna noodles and I was ready to create!
My first step (after pre-heating the oven to 375 F) was to prepare vegan ricotta. I based it on the Basil-Tofu Ricotta from Vegan with a Vengeance with these changes: I halved the recipe and used extra-firm tofu, a small clove of garlic, 1 tsp of Toffuti Better Than Cream Cheese instead of olive oil, and vegan parmesan instead of nutritional yeast.
Next, I prepared the veggies. I dry sauteed the mushrooms and zucchini in a skillet over medium heat (I'd cut them into thin half-moons first) with about 5 garlic cloves (minced) that were on their way out. The reason I dry sauteed the veggies is two-fold: 1) I didn't want to add fat to the dish by sauteeing in oil and 2) I knew the veggies would release water after they'd been in the skillet for a few minutes, thus providing their own sauteeing liquid. I allowed the veggies to brown and then, once they released their liquid, added the spinach to the pan, put the lid on, and let the spinach steam until bright green.
When the veggies were ready, I started layering the lasagna in a 9"x13" Pyrex casserole dish. The layers were: a little sauce to coat the bottom of the dish, 3 lasagna noodles, 1/2 the ricotta, 1/2 the veggies, a little sauce, 3 lasagna noodles, 1/2 the ricotta, 1/2 the veggies, a little sauce, 3 lasagna noodles, the remaining sauce, and a ton of Teese mozzarella on top. I filled in the gaps of the dish with extra broken noodle pieces (the brown rice noodles were of the no-boil variety). Then, I covered the dish with foil, put it in the oven for 30 minutes, removed the foil, and baked it for an additional 25 minutes.
Please don't think this first attempt at lasagna was perfect because it most certainly was not. I didn't have enough ricotta (I'll make a full recipe next time), veggies (who would have thought that all those veggies wouldn't be enough?), or sauce. I'd use a slightly smaller dish (one that the noodles would fill easier) and I'd leave the foil on for 45-50 minutes, cooking for 55-60 minutes total. One of the noodles slipped and arched awkwardly and the Teese melted unevenly. However, my first lasagna was (well, is, since I'm still eating the leftovers for lunch every day this week as you can see from the above photo) absolutely delicious! I'm pretty excited about the little culinary world I just opened for myself and I've decided that the next lasagna should definitely include roasted or grilled eggplant.