Thursday, April 16, 2009

Terrifying Tuesday: East Coast Lasagna

I'm so lazy, this is so late. The good news is that we found a winner. Almost.

First, I'll start with the recipes. I got the recipes from "Skinny B**** in the Kitch". (Lord only knows what possessed me to pick up a cookbook, much less any book, that has a swear word in the title and then followed by thousands throughout the book - totally tacky and classless - can't believe I gave these women my money) I'm going to copy and paste these recipes in here, and my justification for that (since I haven't been doing it) is because there is a flaw in the recipe that I want to discuss and there are changes I made. So these are not exact copies of the recipes, at least the red sauce is not exact. And I'll discuss that too. I just want you to know that the recipes below may vary from what's in the book.

East Coast Lasagna

6 qts. water
about 3 tbsp. fine sea salt
1 lb. whole wheat or brown rice lasagna noodles
5 cups Basic Red Sauce (see recipe)
4 cups Tofu "Ricotta" (see recipe)
12 - 14 oz vegan ground beef (if frozen, no need to thaw)
10 oz vegan mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350* F.

In an 8-10 qt stockpot over high heat, combine the water with about 3 tbs. salt. Bring the water to a boil, add the noodles, and cook according to the pkg directions. When the pasta is done, drain it, briefly rinse it (just to make it cool enough to handle), and drain it again. Separate the noodles and lay them on foil, waxed paper or parchment paper to keep them from sticking together.

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a 13X9 Inch pan. Top the sauce with some of the lasagna noodles, overlapping them slightly. Top the noodles with 1/3 of the Ricotta, 1/3 of the ground beef, and 1/3 of the cheese, spreading each layer of ingredients out evenly. Repeat the noodles, ricotta, beef and cheese layers 2 more times (you may not need all the pasta).

Place the pan of lasagna on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the tip of a knife inserted in the center of the lasagna comes out piping hot, 60 to 75 min. (check on it periodically to make sure the cheese isn't burning. If it seems like it might, cover with foil unitl the final 15 minutes)
Remove the lasagna from the oven and let it sit 10 to 15 min. before cutting and serving.

Basic Red Sauce

2 tbsp. oil
1 onion, cut into 1/4" dice
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
2 (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1/4 cup fruity red wine (optional)
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. hot sauce, like Tabasco (optional)
1 Tbsp. agave nectar (optional)

Heat the oil in a 4-6 qt stockpot over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender. 6-8 minutes (adjust heat, if necessary, to avoid browning). Add the garlic and cook stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste, increse the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the wine, if using, along with the basil, oregano, salt and hot sauce (if using). taste, and if the sauce is too acidic, stir in the agave. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 2 months.

Tofu "Ricotta"

14 to 16 oz extra firm tofu, crumbled
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried oregano
3/4 tsp fine sea salt

In a food processor, combine the tofu, garlic, olive oil, oregano and salt and pulse to puree. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Recipe notes:
  • The Skinny B gals like to use refined coconut oil, and they give their arguments for it. I'm not quite sold on the idea, nor do I wish to experiment with my health since I do have high cholesterol and can somewhat control it through careful watch on my diet. So on the red sauce recipe where I have "oil", they call for the coconut oil. Where there is evoo on the ricotta, they call for evoo.
  • On the lasagna assembly portion of the recipe, they only call for the use of the sauce one time, in the beginning before you put down the first layer of noodles. Obviously this is a mistake, since the recipe calls for 5 cups of sauce and lasagna needs it's sauce. So, you need to remember to include a layer of sauce each time. This is the one recipe mistake that I caught.
  • I used white lasagna noodles because I don't have access to whole grain noodles
  • I used regular part skim mozzarella cheese because we are not vegan and soy cheese just doesn't melt or taste as good as real dairy cheese. Why mess up a good lasagna?
  • The mistake I made when I typed out the recipe is that I forgot to include the vegan ground beef. I didn't realize that until it was time to cook. I happened to have a 1/2 pound of ground beef and just 1 Amy's hamburger patty - so I nuked the beef, thawed the patty and made do with that.
  • I used canola oil to saute the onions
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic is a LOT, it's good, but be warned that it's an odor that will be hard to shake
  • We don't drink so I didn't use wine
  • I didn't have fresh oregano, so I used dry, 1 tsp
  • I used Cholula hot sauce because that's what we had
  • I used sugar because that's what my mama uses! (instead of the agave)
  • the tofu they sell around here comes in 12 oz tubs, so I bought two and used 1 and 1/4 pkgs.
The results were really good. Thumbs up all around. I do want to make it sometime with just the faux hamburger. Next time I will give myself more time to make it. It took about an hour of hustling (before baking). Either I need to make the elements ahead of time, or start earlier. Also, I need to remember to check it earlier to make sure the cheese doesn't get overcooked. And be more generous with the sauce. It was a little on the dry side. When I assembled, I did not measure out 5 cups, so I don't know how much I used.

While I am not a big fan of this cookbook for personal reasons, they do have an excellent pizza sauce recipe.
And so you won't think that Tuesday is the only day I experiment with food, I made a quinoa recipe on Monday that I saw in the newspaper. I couldn't resist. It was okay, could have done without the orange segments in it.
Tomorrow is the day I go in for my little surgery to remove that spot on the side of my face. I've become quite the spokesperson for sunblock ever since I was diagnosed with skin cancer! I've already offended a couple of people, I do believe! Not that I mean to, but you'd be surprised how resistant folks are to the idea of using sunblock. But this is the tropics and the sun is very serious here. That reminds me, I want to take before and after pictures. At least a before picture, now that it's not gross and bloody. It's just red. It would be educational.

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