Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tofu "Ricotta" Lasagne

Tofu "Ricotta" Lasagne

I have been completely uninspired in the kitchen lately.  I think it has something to do with my taxes being due very soon and the stress of finishing them, sending them off, paying some outrageous amount to the State and Feds, and then wondering for the next 7 years whether I'll get audited!  That would stifle any good foodies creativity, don't you think?

I decided to make a big vegan lasagne for the week and hoped it would take care of most of our dinner needs for at least a few nights.  I opened my favorite all time/all around vegan cookbook, "Veganomicon, the Ultimate Vegan Cookbook" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero to search for the tofu "ricotta" recipe.    Here is what I did, following their culinary advice:

Tofu Ricotta
from "Veganomicon" page 206

Makes 3 1/2 cups

1 pound of extra firm tofu
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped finely
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1.  In a large bowl (I like using my big red bowl!  Remember my passion for bowls.  This is one of my all time favorites), mush the tofu up with your hands until it's crumbly.

2.  Add the lemon juice  (Thanks for the great Meyer lemons, Brenda!  Yummy)

3.  Add the garlic, salt, pepper and basil.  I used parsley because it is not basil season and my garden is not currently growing basil.  In the end, basil is much better!  Use it if you can get your hands on it.  I would add more garlic to the mix next time - maybe 2 - 3 cloves instead of 1.

4.  Mush with your hands again until it is very mushy and reaches the consistency of ricotta cheese.

5.  Add the olive oil and stir with a fork or large spoon.  Add the nutritional yeast and mix well.  (For those of you not familiar with nutritional yeast, it is what we vegan types use for a wonderful cheesy flavor.  The added benefit is that it is full of B-12 and that is a vitamin lacking in the vegan diet since it is primarily found in animal products)

6.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  It stores well for a few days and can be used in lasagne, stuffed shells, enchiladas, and for pizza topping. You can also freeze tofu ricotta for later use.

I think my tofu ricotta was a bit bland.  Basil would have made a great difference.  I also think that I will use a bit more salt and some dried Italian spices in the next batch. And more garlic!

I used the tofu ricotta as the "cheese" base in our vegetable lasagne.

We have learned to use whole wheat noodles in place of white noodles and I have to say that it really doesn't taste all that different and isn't hard to get used to.  Nutritionally it's a bit better.  Brown is just better than white when it comes to most noodles or bread.

I cooked the noodles 4 at a time in salted water with a bit of olive oil.  I laid down about 4 tablespoons of red sauce - I used a combination of organic marinara from a jar and a bag of my basic red tomato sauce from last summer.  (I make tons of roasted tomato, basil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar sauce and freeze it in quart baggies so we can use it all winter and spring)

I laid the noodles down to cover the bottom of the pan and then spread a generous portion of the tofu ricotta.

I added handfuls of fresh organic spinach and chopped broccoli.  Layer the raw vegetables on top of the tofu ricotta - they will cook while the lasagne is cooking.  I ladled lots of sauce on top of the vegetables and then laid down a new layer of noodles.

The second layer was tofu ricotta, more spinach, and roasted red and yellow peppers (again, from last summer - easy peasy, folks... just roast up a bunch of peppers from the Farmer's market every week and then freeze them in gallon bags and you have them all year round!  I think I bought these peppers for $2 a pound at our local FM)  I dumped even more sauce on top of that!

After adding the last layer of whole wheat noodles, I poured the remaining sauce on top and covered with ground cashews. (so don't even bother asking me where I get my protein... come on folks this thing is full of protein - cashews, whole wheat noodles, spinach, tofu!)

I baked it at 350 degrees for about 30 - 45 minutes until it was bubbling.

Truthfully, I thought this lasagne was a bit bland and needed something a bit more savory. The husband, however, loved it. I think I might use some sun dried tomatoes next time or some black olives or even a mixture of the tofu ricotta and the cashew ricotta (from the same page in the same cookbook!)  However, we have eaten it and eaten it for 4 days now.  Tonight we finished it off.

I roasted some organic asparagus brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt in the oven at 400 degrees .  Are you as happy as me about asparagus season?????!!!!  Heaven.  I plan to eat it every day until the season is over.


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