Thursday, January 17, 2008

Vegetarian Lasagna

This is another one of those recipes that I kinda hate to share because it's easy and delicious and when I make people think I'm some sort of genius kitchen wizard (which I'm totally not). But it's one of my standbys, I make it at least once a month, and last night, I made baby tins of it for my boy Brian's birthday. He doesn't like cake. And since I don't BAKE cake, I thought little lasagnas would be a great present for my favorite bachelor. He can pull one out of the freezer and bake it whenever he pleases. Plus, how cute are they??

I've had this recipe for ages- pulled out of a magazine probably 6 or 7 years ago, long before I became a vegetarian. I can't even recall where I got it, so I can't give credit, but now it's a grease-spattered, tweaked and marked-up, ragged little security blanket for me. I wish you could taste it before you read the ingredient list- because I swear even the most discernible of palates won't be able to tell that I substituted high-protein, high-fiber soft tofu for the fatty ricotta. The original used eggplant, squash, and zucchini, but over the years I have decided my favorite combination is spinach, mushrooms, and carrots. It's prettier, more vitamin-diverse, and tastes better (in my humble opinion). Plus, I love the different textures of the wilted but still verdant spinach, the woodsy, earthy mushrooms, and the slight crunch of the sweet carrots.

1 lb soft tofu
1/2 C grated parmesan cheese, + additional for topping
2 eggs
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
2 T each of basil, thyme, oregano (or 6T of your favorite Italian herb blend)
1/4t each of salt and pepper
32 oz homemade marinara sauce* (or your favorite jarred brand, if you must)
1/2 pkg no-boil lasagna noodles
8 oz shredded mozzarella
6-8 oz fresh spinach, washed and torn
2-3 large carrots, peeled and cut into half-moons
6-8 oz sliced mushrooms of your choice (I prefer brown criminis)

*Jamie's standby marinara: Sautee 1/2 white onion and 5 garlic cloves, minced, + 1/2 carrot, finely grated, in 1T of olive oil with salt, pepper, and a palmful of Italian herbs. Then add 1 can of tomato sauce, 1 can of crushed tomatoes, and a generous spoonful of tomato paste. Simmer on low heat while you're preparing the lasagna, and with a nod to this recipe, stir in 1T of butter once you take it off the heat. Perfection.

Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl, combine tofu (drained and pressed as to discard as much liquid as possible), eggs, parmesan, garlic, herbs, and salt & pepper. Mash up to the consistency of ricotta. Lightly coat a lasagna pan with non-stick spray. Spread about a cup of sauce on the bottom. Layer lasagna noodles, tofu mixture, spinach, mushrooms, carrots, more sauce, and mozzarella, and repeat until you get to the top. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover, top with additional cheese, and bake another 10 minutes until top is brown and bubbly. Let stand for at least 5 minutes before cutting so it can set.

YUM. Now that I've written about it, I think I will go have my leftovers for breakfast. :)

Sunday, January 06, 2008

apple-onion stuffin' muffins

So, I've never been a huge fan of stuffing. Probably because my mom was not a cook, and it was one of those dishes we only had at holidays, and it was probably from a mix or picked up at Honeybaked Ham, or when I was really little, my grandmother, who was from Arkansas, put oysters in it. Gross. I'm not sure I ever even had homemade stuffing until Krysten and I made it last year.

I have been promising this recipe to Chanelle for quite a while. I'm extremely proud of this them, because it's one of the first recipes I actually mostly concocted myself. I used Rachel Ray's as a guideline, because I think her muffin idea is brilliant, but mostly, it's a Jamie original. I think they turned out really well, and vegetarian, to boot. (Tip: you could make these vegan by exchanging the butter for more olive oil.)

1 9" pan of cornbread + 6-8 buttermilk biscuits, crumbled
2 T olive oil
1/2 stick butter
2 bay leaves
4 ribs celery with leaves, chopped
1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
1/2 C applesauce, unsweetened
2 T fresh sage, finely chopped
1/4 C fresh parsely, finely chopped
1/4 C fresh celery leaves, finely chopped
salt & pepper

First, you have to prepare your cornbread and buttermilk biscuits. I usually do it the day before, and I use 1 box of Jiffy for the cornbread, and my biscuit recipe makes 6-8 biscuits. Bake those and let cool completely- several hours or overnight. They should be a little dry. Once they're cool and dry, just crumble them directly into a large zip top bag.

When you're ready to cook the muffins, dump the crumbled, prepared cornbread and biscuits into a large bowl with your parsely and celery leaves. In a large skillet, heat olive oil, 4T butter, and bay leaves. Once the butter is melted, sautee onions, celery, sage, and salt & pepper. Once the vegetables are starting to turn translucent (I like mine a little al dente), add them to the bread and herb mixture with the applesauce. Then start adding the vegetable broth, a little at a time, stirring and adjusting the seasoning, until mixture has the consistency of a wet meatloaf.

Butter or spray a muffin tin liberally and mound the stuffing into the cups. They won't rise, so use an ice cream scoop to really mound them up to the size you want them. This recipe makes about 12 large muffins.

Bake at 350-375 for 30-45 minutes. I was cooking at 6,000 feet so everything was a little different. You can also certainly cook in advance for only 30 minutes and reheat right before dinner.