Friday, April 13, 2007
SPINACH LASAGNA, SPINACH & PEAR SALAD
I guess "Italian" truly is the national cuisine of vegetarians and vegans. It seems whenever my dh and I are at a loss as to what to have for a meal (as in 'What language are we eating in today, dear?'), if it's not Indian then it's Italian - and many people I know say the same. Pasta lends itself beautifully to being combined with wonderful vegetables and varied sauces, so that even the most ardent carnivore (do you like that oxymoron?) enjoys a veggie meal. We don't use vegan cheese for lasagna, however, preferring to add flavour and texture in other ways, but I appreciate that others like to use some of the excellent vegan cheezes available. Anyway, here's the lasagna I made the day before yesterday (yes yes, I'm late with getting back to this blog! Sorry, everyone!):
whole wheat lasagna - as much as you need for your lasagna pan (most take nine for 3 layers) - cooked al dente
1 smallish yellow onion, chopped
3 or 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
5 or 6 mushrooms, sliced
1 large can (28 ounces) tomatoes, chopped
a little more than half a 5.5-oz can tomato paste (save the bit that's left to help out later - or to freeze)
1/2 tsp dried thyme or to taste
1/4 - 1/2 tsp crushed chili peppers, or to taste
1 pkg soft or medium tofu, beaten to creamy texture
1 flax 'egg' (I add a little soy lecithin to mine)
several Tbsp nutritional yeast, to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce (optional)
salt to taste
1 10-oz pkg frozen spinach, thawed and chopped and pressed VERY dry (I use a strainer and a wooden spoon)
more nutritional yeast for the final topping, sprinkled
While the water for the lasagna is coming to the boil and all that, start the sauce.
Put your onion in a large skillet over medium-high with a little water to saute it until translucent. (You could use olive oil, but it works just fine without.) When the onion is soft, add the garlic and the mushrooms and 'saute' a little longer, until the mushrooms start to give up their liquid. Add the tomatoes but NOT all of their juice yet - you may need it later, or not, depending on the heat of your pan etc. Add the tomato paste, stirring it in well, the thyme and chilies, bring all to the boil, lower the heat and continue to cook until the tomatoes have broken down more and the whole thing is starting to look like a nice chunky sauce. Add any extra juice from the can of tomatoes as needed.
While the sauce is simmering, beat your tofu into a creamier state. Add nutritional yeast, pepper, salt if using, perhaps a dash
of vegan worcestershire sauce (if using), and taste for flavour. More nutritional yeast will give a stronger 'cheezier' flavour, but remember that this will be in the whole lasagna and so the flavour will diffuse a bit.
When you have the tofu as you like it, add the VERY dry spinach and stir it around so that it is a nice green and white mixture. (This looks pretty - wish I'd snapped a photo!)
Assuming that your noodles are cooked by now (plunged into cold water to stop them cooking further and to await your pleasure) and that the sauce is ready, assemble your lasagna.
Preheat your oven to 375F.
A couple of spoonfuls of the liquid part of the sauce gets smeared in the bottom of your lasagna pan, then the first row of lasagna noodles. From then on, alternate the tomato/mushroom sauce/mixture with the spinach mixture and the next layer of noodles, as in any lasagna. Save enough WET sauce for the top (you can thin this out a bit with a little of the remaining tomato can juice and/or thicken with a little of the leftover tomato paste - this is not an exact science). Okay, wet sauce over the top, sprinkles of nutritional yeast over the sauce (I use a couple or so Tbsp), and you're ready to pop it into the oven.
Bake for around 45 minutes, covered in foil for the first half of that time. The top should have browned and the juices should be bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.
Feeds 4 - 6. Serve with a nice salad :)
Okay, I was on a roll with the spinach (love spinach!), so had some lovely organic baby spinach fresh from the greengrocer. Here's my salad -
SPINACH AND PEAR SALAD
For two people, around half a bag of baby spinach, stems picked off (I save for stock), 1 lovely ripe pear peeled and sliced in smallish pieces. 1 -2 Tbsp dried cranberries, soaked in as little water as I could manage. A few slivers of onion.
For the dressing, since we don't use oil or add salt, it was mild on the acidic and a little sweeter than I used to make. I mixed a little red-wine vinegar, a little seasoned rice vinegar, the tiny amount of liquid from soaking the cranberries, a couple of tsp. organic raspberry jam, a pinch of sugar and a tsp of mirin. All whisked together and tossed with the rest. Very nice :)