Friday, September 25, 2009

Mama wants Lasagna! (veggie lasagna)

Mama wants me some lasagna. Avoiding writing another post about this waiting period, I won't go on and on about my daily tasks and passings of time. But I shall say that I finally got some big cooking in and it has felt good! Forget the living room, perhaps the baby was just giving me some time in the new kitchen before he/she joins us for a meal.

But how can we forget the living room? Here it is, in all its cozy-ness (complete with newspaper strewn on the coffee table).

I have found the Italian cravings creeping back in later in pregnancy (this is what I craved the whole first trimester). I think it's the cheese. I have remained a pescotarian (meaning I eat fish, no other meat) throughout the past 9 months, which was easy, though I had to keep up with my protein or I would quickly begin craving grilled chicken sandwiches. This past week I, without shame or apology, ate half a "Thanksgiving Style" turkey sandwich; oh yes, complete with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mayonaise, and roasted turkey. I believe I have written here before about my continous shift in belief around food, and my repeated conclusion is that food, for every person, is a very personal relationship. As we let go of our own judgements around the food we eat, it allows us to let go of the judgement of others, and perhaps that is when the most opportunity to educate arises.

Ah, so enough about that delicious sandwich, and HOW, was it delicious. Italian. When my friend had a baby in February, I made her a giant sloppy delicious lasagna (inspired by my own cravings at the time). I wanted to do the same for us, but perhaps a little less sloppy. Also, I didn't realize till I started to buy the ingredients, if you want to make a yummy cheesy lasagna using organic ingredients, it can get a bit pricey (organic cheeses, you pay for). So I decided to replace the Ricotta with tofu and make my own filling. This lasagna is not vegan, I did put other cheeses in, but cut back on the cost, increased the protein and vitamin B, and made what I believe an equally tantalizing lasagna with less saturated fat.

"Less Sloppy" Vegetable Lasagna

1 28 oz can Crushed Tomato
1 lb Extra Firm Tofu/or a container of Ricotta
2 eggs
1 package shredded cheese of your choice (I used parmesan, asiago, and fontina blend)
1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast
1 package lasagna (no boil) noodles (brown rice for gluten free)
1 eggplant
1 med zuchini
1 small head broccoli
5-10 cherry tomatos
1 large portobella mushroom
2 T olive tapenade (or 3-4 T olives chopped)
2 T Pesto (or 1/2 bunch basil chopped finely)
2 cloves garlic
Optional: artichoke hearts, extra cheese (feta), any vegetable of your choice!

Lets start with the ever allusive tofu. Like anything else you don't want to eat tofu every day, you don't want this to be your staple source of protein. Soy can be very difficult to digest, and too much soy can cause hormonal imbalances. But so can cheese!! But in a healthy rotation it can be a great source of protein which is low in fat, so lets give it a whirl.

You may have heard that it is best to press the water out of it. True. Whether you are grilling it, stir frying, or using as cheese in a lasagna, it will be much more cooperative in retaining flavor if you get the excess water out.

To do this, I put the tofu in a metal baking pan, with another pan that fits inside it, on top. Then added my weights.
Beautiful juicing oranges act as my weights. I learned a "pressing tofu" lesson the hard way once, by using my entire stack of glass mixing bowls as weights and walking away a little to long, well long enough for a big clean up and a mourning of my bowls to be in order.

Leave the tofu, occasionally draining the water, while you start the rest of your prep.

Veggie lasagna has the potential to be very watery, dissolving the flavor. I wanted to use the rest of my BI grown zuchini, despite zuzhini having major water content. So I sweat it, like the eggplant. This draws out the excess water, as well as any bitter flavor in the eggplant-just slice, lay out, and sprinkle with salt (you can rinse any excess salt off before cooking if you'd like). So now you have veggies sweating, tofu sweating, time for you to start to sweat! Preheat the oven to 350*

Chop up your remaining vegetables. I used garlic, broccoli, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes (I cut these and deseeded them by rinsing them in a colander, again to cut out excess water). Saute the veggies with some olive oil, and add any seasonings at this time. I added about 2 Tbl of olive tapenade (you can finely chop olives if you don't have this made) and 2 Tbl of pesto, some salt and pepper (artichoke hearts, olives, basil, oregano, all would add great flavor).

OK, so now its probably been about 1/2 hour- 45 minutes. Take your pressed tofu and crumble it into a bowl.

Now for the cheese trick. Nutritional yeast, found at all/most health food stores in bulk section. Nutritional yeast is known for its deceptively cheesy flavor. An excellent source of protein, gluten free, rich in vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamins, and an excellent source of folic acid. So add away, I used about a 1/4 cup, plus 1 & 1/2 tsp of sea salt to give the tofu the cheese flavor (though I have to admit ricotta always seems a bit flavorless to me anyway). Add 2 eggs and mix well.

Now press or squeeze the excess water out of your sweating veggies and toss on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes in the oven. While those are baking, start to layer your lasagna, starting with the sauce.

I used Muir Glen crushed tomatos with basil as sauce. Then a layer of lasagna noodles (no boil, rice noodles-made this lasagna gluten free) then sauteed veggie layer, more sauce, cheese (parmesan, fontina, asiago blend-buying the container of blended cheese saved money as well), noodles, eggplant and zuchini, tofu, sauce, cheese. You just want to make sure that you start with sauce and end with noodles (sauce and cheese), as you put it together just think how it'll hold together while eating (the noodles being the binders). I underestimated my pan size and ran out of noodles, so I used eggplant slices on the top to act as the book cover.

Top with sauce and cheese, cover, and bake for 45 minutes or until done. You can take the cover off and brown the top at the end if you'd like that toasted yummy cheese, and who doesn't?

I threw some feta on there too. mmmmm.


Emily said...

Woah, this looks DELICIOUS! I haven't eaten dinner you deliver? Are you freezing some for after baby arrives?

And I have to mention that I love BOTH your color picks for living room and kitchen. House looks great P!

persephone said...

Thanks Em! This was DELICIOUS! I wasn't sure how it would be because I was kind of making it up as I went along, but I have to say it was worth the work. And yes I have one in the freezer for after baby (whenever he/she plans on joining us!!)