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Archive for January 17th, 2010

Yesterday was H’s birthday and I wanted to make her something a bit more involved than what I’ve been cooking lately. I let the produce market make some decisions for me based upon what was available. Radicchio, endive, spinach, satsumas, nectarines and blueberries caught my eye.  Here’s what I came up with:

Bitter Greens with Satsuma and Dried Figs

1 endive

1 head radicchio

1 satsuma, peeled and membranes removed from segments

1 handful baby spinach leaves

2 dried kalamata figs

toasted pine nuts

olive oil

fresh lemon juice

freshly cracked black pepper

Spinach Lasagne

A few things need to be brought together to assemble this dish:  cooked lasagne noodles [whichever variety you prefer],  a tomato-based sauce [I used my go-to sauce which I call a lentil bolognese, though you could use jarred if you prefer], béchamel sauce and a filling.   The entire procedure is very easy and can be done earlier in the day, kept in the refrigerator and baked an hour or so before serving.  Also, as much as I like leftovers I didn’t want to be eating this for a week [there are just two of us, afterall] so I made a small panful.  If you want to make this in a normal-sized lasagne pan you will need to double the recipes for the filling and the béchamel sauce, but not the tomato sauce. 

Lentil Bolognese

This recipe will make more sauce than you need for the lasagne.  I make it and freeze whatever leftovers we have in two-serving allotments for quick pasta dinners or to pour over a baked potato. Mmm

1 28 oz can plum tomatoes [I use San Marzano tomatoes]

1 box Pomi chopped tomatoes [It’s roughly 28 oz so you could use another product.  I just happen to like the flavors of Pomi]

2 carrots, finely diced

2 zucchini, finely diced

1 onion, finely diced

5 cloves garlic, diced

1/4 – 1/2 cup Puy lentils [The amount depends upon how “meaty”you like your sauce.]

olive oil

red pepper flakes

1 tsp. dried oregano

5 bay leaves [dried, the fresh taste like cough drops to me, go figure]

salt/pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a pan and add onions, garlic, carrots, zucchini, oregano and bay leaves.  Sauté until the vegetables start to give off liquid.  Add the lentils and tomatoes.  Simmer until the lentils are tender which takes around 45 minutes.  If the sauce thickens to a consistency that is denser than you would like simply add some vegetable stock or water to thin it out.  The more lentils you add, the more liquid you shall most likely need to add in as well.

Béchamel Sauce

4 T. olive oil

4 T.  unbleached flour

2.5 cup unsweetened coconut milk [I used the So Delicious brand.  You could substitute soy milk.]

1/2 tsp freshly-grated nutmeg

1 garlic clove, gently cracked

freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:

Place the milk and cracked garlic clove into a pot and warm it.  In another pan, create a roux with the olive oil and flour by warming the oil and whisking the flour into it.  Cook, while stirring, for a couple of minutes.  Add the roux to the warmed milk while whisking to prevent lumps.  Add the nutmeg and pepper and stir occasionally until thickened.  It only takes a few minutes so don’t wander far.

Tofu, Spinach and Cashew Filling

This will create a filling with the consistency of ricotta cheese using a 1:1 ratio of tofu to raw cashew nuts.  It’s so easy and very tasty. 

1 cup firm tofu

1 cup raw cashew nuts [Don’t use roasted and salted.]

1/2 package of frozen spinach, all water squeezed out [I prefer frozen to fresh here, which is rare]

1 T  freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 clove garlic

2 tsp  nutritional yeast [NOT Brewer’s yeast, that is an entirely different creature]

1 T olive oil

1 tsp salt

freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:

Place cashews into a food processor and grind into a meal.  Add tofu and remaining ingredients and process until a ricotta-like consistency is achieved.  Told ya, dead simple.

Assembly:

Now, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Add a bit of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish so that your noodles don’t stick.  Place a layer of lasagne noodles down and then a layer of the tofu filling atop them.  Ladel some tomato sauce over the filling and then add a layer of the béchamel.  Repeat another set of layers.  Finish with a layer of noodles topped with a mix of the béchamel and tomato sauce.  This will be the top of the lasagne. 

I sprinkled some Italian blend Daiya “cheese” over the top of my lasagne but this may be hard to find at present.  It’s not necessary.

Bake at 350 degrees lightly covered with foil for 30 minutes and then continue cooking uncovered for an additional 15 minutes or so until you see liquid bubbling at the sides.  I like to crank up the heat and broil the top to get some nice color at the end.  If you do this don’t wander away because it can burn quickly. 

So as I said earlier, it was H’s birthday and a dessert was a mandatory nosh.  I just wanted to make it a healthy decadent treat!

Blueberry and Nectarine Crumble

2 nectarines

1 pint blueberries

1/3 cup flour plus a small bit for dusting the fruit

3 T. cold Earth Balance margarine, Vegan style

lemon juice

1 tsp. cinnamon

Freshly-grated nutmeg

2 T. sugar

turbinado sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut nectarines into wedges and place in a bowl.  Add blueberries and the juice of half a lemon.  Add a spoonful of flour, a few grates of fresh nutmeg and a dash of cinnamon.  This small bit of flour will thicken the sauce that is created from the juices of the fruit.

In a food processor add the flour, sugar, cinnamon and earth balance.  Pulse until you see pea-sized bits.  If you can press some into your fist and it retains the shape, it’s perfect. 

Place fruit mixture into ramekins and top with the flour crumble.  Do not pack the topping down, you want it light and loose.  Sprinkle the tops with some turbinado sugar to give a nice sweet crunch.  Bake for 45 minutes.

Happy Birthday H.  Smoochi.

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