Whole wheat penne with masses of broccoli, green olives, and pine nuts

November 9, 2013 at 12:02 am (B_minus, Cruciferous rich, Deborah Madison, Italian, Pasta, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

One of my students recently visited Russia and brought me back a beautiful box of pine nuts. We were trying to decide what to make with them when I found this recipe in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Suppers. I was excited because it calls for either oregano or marjoram. I really like marjoram, but have almost no recipes that use it.

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Winter lasagne with spinach, shiitakes, and fromage fort

April 23, 2012 at 2:18 pm (French, My brain, Necessarily nonvegan, Pasta, Starches, unrated, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

Derek rented a car this weekend (to see Chick Corea in Luxembourg), and so we decided to check out the Cora across the border in Forbach, France.  It was enormous and packed, and (strangely) I heard tons of people speaking American English.  Why were there so many Americans in Forbach?   Could they be coming all the way from the military base in Kaiserslautern just to shop in France?   We explored the store a bit, but didn’t find much of interest.  Derek got some cheap Leffe Belgian beer, and picked out a few cheeses.  It turned out, however, that most of the cheeses were not very good.  He wanted to toss them but I hated to throw them away.  I found Alton Brown’s recipe for “fromage fort” online, and made it with half of the (quite sour) Little Billy goat cheese and half of a (quite stinky and sharp) Camembert.   I added quite a bit more garlic and parsley than the recipe calls for.  After pureeing everything together the cheese was more like a cheese sauce than something you could spread on crackers.  It tasted a little odd, but not bad.  Kind of like a very strong, stinky Boursin.  I decided to use it in a lasagne.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Whole grain pasta with salsa cruda

August 23, 2011 at 9:51 pm (B_minus, Italian, Pasta, Peter Berley, Sauce/dressing, Starches, Summer recipes)

It’s finally gotten hot in Saarbruecken, so I decided to make this uncooked pasta sauce from the Summer section of Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast.  The sauce is made of raw, chopped tomatoes, olive oil, parsley, basil, chives, balsamic vinegar, and minced garlic.   Read the rest of this entry »

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A lasagna for every season

August 7, 2011 at 7:42 pm (Pasta, Starches, Uncategorized)

In updating a recipe on this blog I noticed that I have quite a few lasagna recipes, all of which are vegetarian (of course), but quite different from one another. I also noticed that in the various recipes I tend to spell lasagna two different ways (either with an “a” or with an “e” at the end).  I looked it up and apparently “lasagna” is the singular, but in Italy only the plural “lasagne” is used.  But I think I prefer the American spelling, which allows you to distinguish between one lasagna and multiple lasagnas. Read the rest of this entry »

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Spring vegetable pasta

May 22, 2011 at 7:50 pm (B_minus, Cook's Illustrated, Italian, Pasta, Spring recipes, Starches)

It’s unusual to find a light, vegetable-inspired recipe on the Cook’s Illustrated website, so I was intrigued when I saw their recent recipe for a spring pasta dish with leeks, asparagus, peas, mint, chive, and lemon.  The ingredient list sounded delicious, and the technique was interesting as well.  They toast the pasta in the oil and then cook it in a small amount of liquid, like risotto.  The sauce is made from just vegetable broth, a moderate amount of olive oil, and white wine, and they claim it is “light but lustrous and creamy”.  Supposedly the starch from the pasta helps it thicken up. Read the rest of this entry »

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Green goddess lasagna with white bean sauce

February 14, 2011 at 10:07 pm (Beans, Beans and greens, B_, Dark leafy greens, Necessarily nonvegan, Pasta, Starches, Website / blog)

I cooked up a bit pot of white beans for the (not so successful) white bean salad.  I froze what I didn’t need for the salad, and then defrosted them this weekend.  For some reason I felt like eating lasagna, so I dug up this recipe for a vegetarian white lasagna with bean sauce.  It’s pretty similar to a traditional lasagna except it doesn’t have any tomato sauce and the white sauce is made from blended white beans, milk, and nutritional yeast. Read the rest of this entry »

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Curried cauliflower with penne, peas, and chickpeas

December 24, 2010 at 8:21 pm (AMA, Beans, B_, Cruciferous rich, Italian, Pasta, Starches)

This AMA recipe is a strange combination of a standard Indian curried cauliflower dish with peas and chickpeas, and a standard Italian cauliflower dish with parmesan, raisins, and pinenuts.  It also has tomato sauce.  I love curried cauliflower, but I’ve never been that excited about the sweet Italian cauliflower dish. (I’ve tried several versions, including one in Bishop’s Italian Vegetarian Kitchen and this Sicilian recipe from 101 cookbooks).  But I was curious to find out how I would like the combination of the two recipes.

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Pasta Estate

September 7, 2010 at 9:41 am (B_, Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Pasta, Starches, Summer recipes, Vegetable dishes)

Yeah, I know.  Pasta Estate (pronounced eh-STAH-tay) doesn’t roll off the tongue quite like Pasta Primavera.  But it’s Summer, not Spring.  What can I do?

My memories of  pasta primavera are extremely positive.  I don’t actually have any specific memories of  eating pasta primavera in my youth, but nonetheless I associate it with culinary perfection.  My memories (despite being hazy) tell me that pasta primavera is rich and delicious and satisfying, and a real treat.  Every couple years I try making it, and it never lives up to my memories, but I keep trying.  This weekend I had some leftover cream, and in trying to figure out what to do with it I thought of pasta primavera.  But it’s summer not spring, so I decided to make Pasta Estate instead.  I found two primavera recipes on the Cook’s Illustrated website.  Both recipes called for the same vegetables:  asparagus, frozen peas, mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, and basil.  All of those vegetables are common in late summer except for asparagus.  I thought about using frozen asparagus but decided to sub in broccoli instead.  I bet cauliflower would also be nice.  I also added in two grated carrots, for color, and because my memories of pasta primavera always include grated carrots. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chili pasta with arugula and coriander seeds

September 2, 2010 at 4:15 pm (B_, Dark leafy greens, Italian, Other, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches)

This recipe comes from the cookbook Rancho la Puerta, by Bill Wavrin.  I was intrigued by the idea of a somewhat Italian-style pasta but with coriander seeds and chilis as the main flavoring.  I made a few modifications though.

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Pasta with leeks, spinach, and sundried tomatoes

May 4, 2010 at 12:09 am (Dark leafy greens, Fall recipes, Pasta, Spring recipes, Starches, unrated, Website / blog)

A few weeks ago I stopped by the grocery store on the way home from work, with no dinner plans.  I bought the veggies that looked the freshest–spinach and leeks.  When I got home Derek and I looked for recipes.  Derek thought that the spinach and leek would make a nice tart, but we didn’t have much cheese and I didn’t have the energy to make a crust.  Instead we went with pasta.  I was inspired by this BBC recipe, but I left off the blue cheese, cut the amount of pasta, and subbed yogurt for the crème fraîche.  Unfortunately I didn’t write down exactly what I did at the time, so some of the measurements below are just my best guess. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sesame noodles (peanut style)

February 21, 2010 at 10:17 pm (B plus, Chinese, Derek's faves, Isa C. Moskowitz, Nancie McDermott, Other, Pasta, Peter Berley, Seitan, Starches, Tofu, Website / blog)

I make Madhur Jaffrey’s sesame noodles all the time. It’s one of Derek’s favorite dishes. Tonight when I asked him what he wanted for dinner he said “chiliquiles!” but all my tortillas were frozen, so he went with his second choice–sesame noodles. I agreed, but didn’t tell him that I wasn’t going to make our standard recipe. I had recently come across a recipe for cold sesame noodles from Nancie McDermott’s Quick and Easy Chinese: 70 Everyday Recipes. I really like McDermott’s Real Vegetarian Thai cookbook, so I decided to give it a try. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cacio e Pepe

February 5, 2010 at 8:12 pm (Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Italian, Necessarily nonvegan, Pasta, Spring recipes, Starches, unrated, Winter recipes)

Derek had had a really excellent version of cacio e pepe in one of Mario Batali’s restaurants, and was very excited about trying it.  Mario Batali’s version has quite a bit of olive oil and some butter, but the Cook’s Illustrated recipe looked unusually light for a cream pasta.  They cook the pasta in very little water so that the water ends up very starchy, and can be used to help make the sauce more cohesive.  We decided to give it a try. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mushroom, fennel, noodle soup

February 4, 2010 at 1:01 am (B_, Cruciferous rich, My brain, Pasta, soup, Starches)

I went to a Bauch, Beine, Po class tonight, and it just about killed me.  (That’s Belly, Legs, Bum for all you anglophiles.)  I had absolutely no energy afterward to cook dinner.  Also, I hadn’t been shopping for a few days and had very little in the fridge–just a large pack of crimini mushrooms and a small head of fennel, plus a number of leftovers.  My mom suggested I make soup, and so I did.

I quartered the mushrooms, and sauteed them in a little bit of butter briefly.  (Maybe 1.5 tsp?)  Then I added a little white wine and let the mushrooms soften slightly.  I added about 4 cups of water, a few big pinches of truffle salt, a couple pieces of dried porcini mushroom (crumbled), some freshly ground black pepper and one no-salt bouillon cube, and let it all come to a simmer.  Meanwhile, I used my mandoline to slice the fennel very thinly.  When the soup started to boil I added the fennel and offed the heat.  I also added a cup or so of leftover “cabbage noodles” (a variant of this recipe, which I will hopefully blog about shortly).  I let the soup stand while I toasted two slices of rye, multi-seeded bread.  I then broke a clove of garlic in half and scraped the garlic all over the now-crusty bread. (I learned this trick from my friend Amira, who learned it in Italy.)  I topped the soup with cubed pieces of the garlic bread, and a little freshly grated parmigiana-reggiano.

It hit the spot.  Derek liked it too.  There wasn’t a whole lot of  broth, but it had an intense, mushroom flavor.  The mushrooms were still pretty fat and juicy, and the fennel was lovely (as always in soup).  The raw garlic  on the “croutons” (and to a lesser extent the black pepper) added quite a bit of heat.  Rating: B+

Derek said it was satisfying and earthy, but not overcooked and stewy–more like some stuff with a little light broth in the bottom.  It reminded him of fancy restaurants where they bring you a bowl of something then the waiter pours a little broth over it at the table.  Rating:  B+

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Vegetarian Pad Thai at Home

December 30, 2009 at 2:15 am (Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Nancie McDermott, Other, Pasta, Starches, Tofu, unrated)

I love paht thai, but I rarely order it in restaurants anymore because I’m always disappointed by the oily, bland mockery they serve.  Restaurant pad thai is invariably insufficiently sour, and often too sweet.   Proper pad thai requires a careful balance of sweet, salty, and sour, as well as warm heat and a strong peanut flavor–two other features that are often lacking in restaurant versions of this popular dish.  Traditionally, pad thai is made with salty dried shrimp and fermented fish sauce.  Nancie McDermott, in her book Real Vegetarian Thai, suggests that vegetarians substitute Asian bean sauce (dao jiow), a pungent condiment made from salted, fermented soybeans.  She says that either the “brown bean sauce” or “yellow bean sauce” will work fine.  McDermott’s excellent cookbook includes a recipe for vegetarian phat thai that is superb, if decadent.  If you’re going to eat pad thai, and don’t have any excellent Thai restaurants around, I strongly suggest making it yourself rather than settling for another mediocre mockery.  Here’s Nancie’s recipe, with a few adjustments to reduce the oil content and speed up the process just a little. Read the rest of this entry »

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Vegan macaroni and “cheese”

December 20, 2009 at 5:33 pm (Pasta, Soymilk, Starches, unrated, Website / blog)

There’s a large corner of the internet devoted to recipes for vegan macaroni and “cheese.”    When I was a kid I remember my mom making a recipe from the farm cookbook that calls for nutritional yeast and lots of oil.  Even though I love vegan mac n’ cheese, I can’t remember the last time I made it.  I often eat pasta with yeast and soy sauce, but not mac n’ cheese per se.  Last night Derek was craving something creamy and I had the brilliant idea of making him vegan macaroni and cheese, which he’s never had before.  I wanted something a little less rich than the farm recipe, and I finally settled on the creamiest vegan mac n’ cheese ever, which had received rave reviews from the Pink Haired Girl and others. Read the rest of this entry »

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Whole wheat linguine with chard, tomatoes, and chickpeas

November 1, 2009 at 11:53 pm (Beans, Beans and greens, Cook's Illustrated, Dark leafy greens, Italian, My brain, Pasta, Starches, unrated)

This recipe is based on the cook’s illustrated beans and greens recipe.  I used to make it with collards or kale, but since I can’t get those greens here I made it with swiss chard and added tomatoes, which blend nicely with the acidity of the chard.  Normally I add kalamata olives but I didn’t have any so I added a few spoonsfuls of capers instead.  I didn’t have any white beans so subbed in chickpeas.

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
8 cloves garlic, 5 cloves sliced thin lengthwise, 3 cloves minced (1 Tbs.)
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 medium red onion, diced small (about 1 cup)
1/2-2/3 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
20 ounces chard, stems halved lengthwise and sliced thinly and leaves sliced into ribbons
3/4 cups vegetable broth
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with juice
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped (or 3 Tbs. capers)
10-12 ounces whole wheat spaghetti or linguine
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)
ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat oil and sliced garlic in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring and turning frequently, until light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer garlic to plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
  2. Add onion and chard stems to pan; cook until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add half of chard to pan; using tongs, toss occasionally, until starting to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add remaining chard, broth, tomatoes, and salt; cover (pan will be very full); increase heat to high and bring to strong simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, tossing once, until chard is completely wilted. Stir in beans and olives or capers.
  4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in dutch oven or 5-6 quart pan over high heat. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is just shy of al dente. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add the greens mixture to pasta, set over medium-high heat, and toss to combine. Cook until pasta absorbs most of liquid, about 2 minutes. Season with black pepper to taste.  Serve immediately, passing garlic chips and parmesan separately.

Note: By draining the pasta before its al dente, and finishing cooking in the brothy sauce, the pasta absorbs the flavors of the sauce and release its residual starch, which helps to thicken the sauce slightly.

Derek really loved this dish, even without the olives.  I thought it was reasonably flavorful, but I’m never as excited about beans and greens as he is.

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Whole wheat penne with pan-fried brussels sprouts and rosemary

November 1, 2009 at 6:36 pm (Cruciferous rich, Fall recipes, My brain, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches, unrated, Vegetable dishes)

We recently returned from 10 days in NYC, and were scrambling to figure out what to do for dinner given our uncharacteristically empty fridge and unusually busy schedule.  (When you disappear for 10 days there’s a lot to do once you get back!)  I left work too late to make it to the Asian and bio stores, so tofu was out, and the Turkish store was already closed.  My only option was the local, standard grocery store, where I almost never buy produce.  The Brussels sprouts looked reasonably fresh, and both Derek and I love brussels sprouts, so I decided on a simple dinner of pasta with brussels sprouts.  I also bought a few tart apples for snacking on.

When I got home I tried to figure out  what I could add to bump up the protein content of the meal, and make the pasta dish a little more interesting.  I remembered that I had a box of falafel mix in the pantry.  Falafel and brussels sprouts didn’t seem like too odd of a combination, so I mixed the falafel mix with water and fried it up as falafel patties in a little oil on the stovetop.  I removed them from the pan and then used the same pan for the sprouts.  I quartered the brussels sprouts and cooked them over medium heat in my large 12-inch skillet, until browned.  When they were almost done I decided to jazz the dish up a bit more, and added one diced granny smith apple, and a heaping spoonful of minced rosemary (from the plant on my windowsill).  When the sprouts were cooked through I tossed in some whole wheat penne, and crumbled in a few of the falafel patties.  The texture of the falafel crumbles reminded me a little of bread crumbs, but they were more flavorful.  The sweet/tart apple contrasted nicely with the heavier flavors of the falafel and brussels sprouts, and the rosemary added a nice “fall” flavor.  The dish ended up being tasty, if a little odd.  It was also a bit dry, so we ended up drizzling it with a little olive oil at the table.  I wish the dish had had more of a sauce, but I never know how to make a non-red sauce like you get at an Italian restaurant, without using 1/4 cup of olive oil per person.

Update Dec 2012:

We just got back from a long weekend in Paris, and faced with a near-empty fridge I threw together another pasta with whole wheat penne, brussels sprouts, and rosemary.  But this time instead of apples and falafel crumbs I added red onions, lemon zest, and crumbs leftover from our “bar nuts.”  Derek really liked the dish and asked me to write up what I did.

I put some water on to boil, then added 1 Tbs. of unsalted butter to my 12-inch nonstick skillet.  While I waited for the butter to melt I trimmed and halved my brussels sprouts.  (I cut the really big ones into thirds.)  When the butter was melted I added the brussels sprouts I had cut, placing them face down in the skillet.  I turned the heat down to 7 (out of 9) and kept cutting more sprouts.   As I got toward the end of my 500g bag of sprouts I began to run out of room, so I cut the sprouts smaller (into quarters or sixths) and just placed them on top of the other sprouts.  When I started to smell caramelization I flipped the sprouts, and indeed the bottoms were starting to get almost black in spots.  I turned the heat down to medium.  I chopped up about a tablespoon of rosemary and sprinkled it on the sprouts along with lots of aleppo pepper and some black pepper.  I sliced a medium red onion into thin rings, and added it to the pan.  But there didn’t seem to be enough free butter left for the onion to saute, so I added a half a tablespoon of olive oil directly to the onion slices.   Once the onion started to soften I turned the heat down even further, to 1, because I was afraid the sprouts would overcook.

At this point the water was boiling so I salted the pasta water and added 9.25 ounces of whole wheat pasta to the pot.  To the skillet I added a few cloves of crushed garlic, the zest from one lemon, the juice from half a lemon, and some salty, rosemary crumbs leftover from some bar nuts I made last week.  The crumbs contained a number of sunflower seeds, some rosemary, some nut skins, warm spices, and salt.  I put in a few spoonfuls of the pasta cooking water and then the penne once it was cooked.  I dished out the pasta and Derek grated a French sheep’s milk cheese on top (about 1/3 ounce per serving).  The ratio of sprouts to pasta was pretty good, and even though there wasn’t really a sauce to speak of the dish was quite flavorful.  It made about four small servings or two restaurant-sized servings.

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Summer corn and zucchini lasagna

July 27, 2009 at 2:09 pm (B_, Derek's faves, My brain, Pasta, Starches, Summer recipes, Vegetable dishes)

It’s been a year since I made this lasagne, but now that there’s finally corn in the market I can make it again!  Originally posted August 7, 2008.

When I saw corn at the market I felt a sudden desire to make a light, summery, white lasagna.  Rather than use tomato sauce, I thought I could top the lasagna with the slightly caramelized and jewel-like tomatoes that crown Cook’s Illustrated’s summer gratin recipe (recipe here). This was a great idea–it made a beautiful presentation and the tomatoes were delicious.  The rest of the lasagna turned out great as well–it held together perfectly, was very flavorful, and looked gorgeous. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pasta and Summer Squash with Tomatoes, Basil, and Pine Nuts

July 20, 2009 at 12:33 pm (B plus, Cook's Illustrated, Italian, Pasta, Starches, Summer recipes)

I made this recipe tonight and liked it so much I decided to repost it.  It was originally posted on August 17, 2006.

I’ve often tried to make this sort of light/summery pasta dish without a lot of success. Unless I use a large amount of olive oil or parmesan in the past the dish has always seemed rather bland. But this recipe is light and delicious! This is based on a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, but I cut down on oil and pasta, and increased the amounts of squash and seasonings. I give options for a number of ingredients depending on how rich, spicy, starchy etc. you want your dinner to be. Read the rest of this entry »

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Thai-ish tofu and green beans with whole wheat pasta

June 6, 2009 at 7:04 am (B_, East and SE Asia, My brain, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches, Summer recipes, Tofu)

I threw together this dish for lunch today, with various things I scrounged from the fridge.  I didn’t measure, so all amounts are a guess.  This recipe is similar to one I posted last year for green beans, red peppers, and tofu in a Thai chili paste, but its less fiery, and the addition of pasta and nutritional yeast and sesame seeds makes it taste a bit more co-op pan-Asian and a bit less Thai.

  • 2? Tbs. toasted sesame seeds
  • 2-4? tsp. oil
  • small onion
  • 1/4 – 1/3 pounds very firm tofu
  • salt
  • nutritional yeast
  • black pepper
  • 2 scallions
  • about 3 cups of green beans
  • 1/4? cup white wine
  • 1? Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1/4? cup water
  • 1/2-1? tsp. Thai red curry paste
  • 2 cups of cooked, chunky, whole wheat pasta
  • 1/2 cucumber (with peel), cut into 1-inch chunks
  • a small handful of mint and a small handful of basil, torn into small pieces
  1. Wash and snap green beans.  Slice the onion into rings.  Cube the tofu into 1-inch cubes.
  2. In a medium pan (I used a 3 quart slope-sided pan), toast the sesame seeds over medium-high heat.  When the seeds start to brown and smell fragrant, pour them onto a large plate or bowl.
  3. In the same pan, add enough oil just to lightly coat the bottom.  Heat the oil on medium-high until hot, then add the tofu and onion rings in a single layer.  Sprinkle on salt and nutritional yeast, and let cook until the bottom has browned.  Meanwhile, chop up a few scallions.  Use a metal spatula to scrape up the tofu and stir it around so another side gets browned.  When the tofu is brown enough for your taste, add the chopped scallions and sprinkle on more yeast and some black pepper.  Fry briefly just to wilt the scallions, then remove the tofu and onions to the plate with the sesame seeds.  Use your metal spatula to try to scrape up any cooked on tofu bits, but you won’t be able to get them all.  That’s okay.
  4. Keep the pan on medium-high and add a little more oil to the now-empty pan, and when the oil is hot add the green beans.  Stir-fry the beans briefly, until all the beans are slightly browned.  Then add the Thai red curry paste and the cooked pasta.  Stir to distribute.  Add a little white wine, soy sauce,  and water to deglaze the pan.  Immediately cover the pan and let the green beans steam for a few minutes, until they’re just tender crisp.  Meanwhile, cut up the cucumber and tear the herbs.  Remove the lid and cook on high until almost all of the liquid has evaporated, and all that’s left is a bit of glistening glaze.  Remove the pan from the heat, throw in the tofu and onions and sesame from the plate, the cucumber, and the torn mint and basil leaves.  Stir to coat everything with the glaze.
  5. Serve immediately.

This dish made a very satisfying lunch for two.  The basil was essential I thought.  The mint and basil combo was good, but if you just have basil that would work as well. (Thai basil would be especially good.)  The onion added a little depth and sweetness, and the little bit of curry paste added a nice bit of spice.  I also liked the earthiness that the sesame seeds added.  It might seem odd to add cucumber to a cooked dish like this, but it adds a moistness and crunch that is a nice contrast to the cooked green beans and soft tofu.   If you don’t have cucumbers, radishes or halved cherry tomatoes might also work well. If I make this again, the only thing I might add is a little garlic when I add the green onions.

I wouldn’t make this recipe with white pasta.  It really needs something more hearty.  If you don’t have whole wheat pasta, then maybe just serve it over brown rice or another whole grain.  If you don’t have curry paste probably any chili paste or even dried chili flakes would be fine. If you don’t have white wine then maybe use a little mirin or rice wine vinegar to add a bit of acid.  If you don’t have a very firm tofu, you might want to press some water out of your tofu.  The lack of moisture in the tofu really helps it to brown well.  Otherwise you’ll need to cook the tofu at a lower temperature and allow more time to cook all the water out, so that the tofu can brown.

I removed the tofu and onion from the pan before adding the green beans because I thought that if I didn’t the pan would be too crowded, and the green beans wouldn’t brown, and the tofu and onions would become soggy when I steamed the green beans.

Derek said this dish was delicious.  The vegetables were nice and crisp, the onions added a nice depth of flavor, and the tofu was excellent.  It was the essence of simple, ingredient-oriented cuisine.  “If only I could get this sort of thing at a restaurant in Saarbruecken,” he lamented.  Rating: A-.

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Passover spinach matzoh lasagne

April 12, 2009 at 10:15 am (B plus, Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Jewish, Necessarily nonvegan, Pasta, Starches, Website / blog)

For Passover this year I wanted to make Peter Berley’s spinach mushroom vegan tart, but I didn’t have enough time to figure out how to make a kosher-for-Passover crust. I did try making an almond, matzoh meal crust held together with butter, but it just turned to crumbly sand. Instead, I ended up making this matzoh spanokopita (spanomatzikah? matzokopita?) recipe from Gourmet magazine for the main dish. Although it’s certainly rich and cheesy, it doesn’t taste overwhelmingly rich. I call it spanokopita, and although the flavors are similar, it would need significantly more feta and butter to deserve the name. I simplified the recipe significantly, by using a stick blender instead of a stand blender and skipping the matzoh soaking and spinach squeezing steps. Here is my modified version of the recipe. Read the rest of this entry »

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Greek pasta with broccoli, olives, feta, and mint

February 5, 2009 at 3:53 pm (B_, Cruciferous rich, My brain, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches)

I threw together this quick Greek-inspired pasta dish for dinner tonight, in order to use up some feta that needed to get eaten. Although it uses a pretty standard combination of ingredients, we liked it enough that we thought it was worth writing up what I did. Unfortunately, I didn’t measure ingredients, so everything is approximate.

  • 1 small bunch of mint (about the size of a fist), leaves minced
  • about 75 grams of kalamata olives, finely chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • splash of red wine vinegar (maybe a tablespoon?)
  • 2 small red onions, sliced into rings
  • a little olive oil
  • salt
  • 1/2 pound whole wheat linguine
  • 1 bunch broccoli, stem sliced and top cut into florets
  • 1/2 English cucumber, diced
  • feta, maybe 4 ounces?
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  While you wait, get out a very large serving dish.  Chop the mint and olives, and add them to the serving dish along with the chickpeas, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar. Slice the onions.  Heat the oil in a small frying pan.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook over high heat, briefly, until slightly softened and blackened in places.  Add to the serving bowl. Prep the broccoli.
  2. When the water comes to a boil, salt the water, and add the pasta.  When the pasta has only five minutes more to cook, add the broccoli to the pasta water.  Chop the cucumber.
  3. When the pasta is done (the broccoli should be done as well), drain it, and add it to the serving bowl.   Crumble in the feta, and mix well.  When the pasta has cooled slightly, add the cucumber, and serve immediately.

I thoroughly enjoyed this pasta.  The broccoli and mint and olives and feta and lemon were all essential.  The cucumber added a nice bit of cool crunch, but not a lot of flavor. The red onions added color and flavor, but probably aren’t essential.

Rating: B
Derek: B+

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Sicilian Broccoli and Cauliflower Pasta

January 5, 2009 at 6:02 am (101 cookbooks, B_, Cruciferous rich, Italian, Pasta, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

Whenever I ask Derek what veggies he wants me to get at the store he invariably asks for the same thing:  broccoli and cauliflower.  I have a few recipes that are my regular weeknight standbys for these vegetables (sesame noodles, pan-fried broccoli, stuffed hashbrowns, and cauliflower curry), but I’d like a few more recipes to add to the rotation.  I found this recipe for Sicilian broccoli and cauliflower pasta on 101 cookbooks, and it looked like something Derek would love.   Heidi warns that it is a large recipe, but I decided to make the whole thing nonetheless.  Because it’s such a big recipe, the instructions say to saute the broccoli, cauliflower, and onions in separate batches.  Between all the chopping and sauteing, this was a pretty time consuming recipe.  It’s definitely not a quick week night meal, which is what I was looking for.  The recipe, however, is competently done—the final pasta came out just as I imagine it was supposed to.  The vegetables were well cooked, the onions and garlic created a nice flavor base, I could taste the saffron and a touch of sweet from the raisins, the olive oil and pine nuts added a nice mouth-feel without the dish tasting heavy, and the fresh parsley added a final touch of freshness.  My only complaint is that I couldn’t taste the rosemary, and I think the saffron should be soaked in warm water before adding it to the dish.  But otherwise the recipe is fine as is. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mediterranean Pasta with chard and olives in a spicy harissa sauce

November 16, 2008 at 4:43 am (101 cookbooks, B plus, Dark leafy greens, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches)

The photo of the harissa spaghettini on 101cookbooks is enticing. Moreover, the recipe includes both greens and plenty of spice, so I immediately added it to my “to try” list. I can’t find that lovely tender dinosaur kale shown in the photo here in Germany, so I used chard instead. I made a few other adjustments as well, transforming this recipe from a Moroccan recipe to a trans-Mediterranean one.  The pasta and chard and parmigiano represent Italy, the kalamata olives come from Greece, and the harissa paste represents North Africa. Read the rest of this entry »

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Late Summer Pasta Salad with Curried Tahini Yogurt Sauce

September 11, 2008 at 7:17 am (B plus, Cruciferous rich, Pasta, Peter Berley, Sauce/dressing, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

I make this pasta salad (adapted from a recipe in Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen) a couple of times every summer.   It’s not the most exciting recipe in the world, but it’s reasonably tasty and full of veggies—broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, and herbs. The sauce is made from yogurt and tahini, and is creamy without being greasy or overly rich. Although it’s flavored with curry spices, it tastes more co-op than Indian.  With its bright yellow slightly goopy sauce, the dish won’t win any beauty contests.  Nonetheless, it makes a healthy one-dish dinner, and the leftovers make a great lunch to bring to work. Below is my version of Berley’s recipe, with my own game plan. Read the rest of this entry »

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Vegan Cabbage Noodle Kugel

March 2, 2008 at 4:25 pm (B_minus, Cruciferous rich, Jewish, My brain, Pasta, Starches, Tofu)

I was trying to decide what to make for dinner last night, and my friend Katrina suggested a casserole. I said I never really make casseroles, and asked for ideas. She rattled off a bunch of recipe ideas from The Passionate Vegetarian, including a recipe for a cabbage, apple, sauerkraut, noodle casserole, seasoned with applesauce and paprika. It reminded me of a dish my college roommate’s Hungarian grandma used to make for us all the time: “cabbage noodles,” which were spiral noodles and sauteed cabbage and lots of oil and salt. They were simple, greasy, and delicious. The casserole also sounded reminiscent of a traditional noodle kugel.

I used to love my grandma’s noodle kugel when I was a kid. Many noodle kugels are sweet, with cinnamon and sugar and raisins, but my grandma’s recipe stood squarely in the savory camp. Her recipe called for 3 cups egg noodles, 1 cup full fat sour cream, 3 eggs, 3 ounces cream cheese, 1/2 cup cream, 2 Tbs. butter and 1/2 pound full fat cottage cheese, and just a Tablespoon of sugar and touch of salt. All that dairy fat made it rich and delicious, and the sour cream made is just a tad sour, which I loved. Sadly, her recipe, and most traditional noodle kugels, have few redeeming features from a nutritional standpoint. Not only would her recipe appall the the very-low-fat Dean Ornish types, and the no-carb Atkins types, but it would also be a no-no to the more modern low-animal-fat-and-white carbs (but lots of veggies) types. I think the only one who might approve is Michael Pollan, as most of the ingredients do seem like “food” (although I haven’t read his most recent book yet so I’m not positive that these ingredients would qualify). I’ve been wanting to experiment with Isa’s technique of using pureed silken tofu in place of eggs in baked dishes, and decided this was the perfect opportunity: I would try to create a savory vegan cabbage noodle kugel using tofu in places of the dairy and eggs.

  • 11 ounces of whole wheat fusilli
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 pound red onions (about 2 medium or one very large)
  • 1.5 pounds shredded savoy cabbage (about 10 cups)
  • salt (maybe 1 tsp? I forgot to measure)
  • 2 twelve ounce packages of dry-packed silken tofu (or 1.5 packages water-packed soft tofu)
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 Tbs. paprika
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, slice the onions (I did both the onions and cabbage using the slicing blade on my food processor, but I had to do the cabbage in two batches as it wouldn’t all fit at once.)
  2. Heat 2 Tbs. of oil in a large 12-inch skillet or large dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and saute until softened. While the onions are cooking shred your cabbage, and add it in to the skillet in batches, along with a 1/2 tsp. of salt. You want to cook the cabbage and onions until they start to carmelize. Use a little water from the pasta pot if the veggies start to burn or stick.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375. When the water comes to a boil, salt it and add the pasta. Cook until just al dente (remember that the noodles will cook more in the oven). Drain the pasta and add back to the large pot it was cooked in.
  4. While the cabbage and pasta cook, blend your tofu in a food processor, with the last Tbs. of oil, the cayenne, cinnamon, and paprika, and another 1/2 tsp. of salt.
  5. Add the cabbage and onions and the tofu puree with the noodles. Mix to combine. Pour the mixture into a 9×13 casserole pan, and bake for 40 minutes.

My Notes:

The kugel came out all right, but not great. It holds together pretty well, looks like noodle kugel, and the taste isn’t bad, but it’s a bit stinky from the cabbage. I was hoping that by carmelizing the cabbage and onions I’d avoid any sulfur odors, and bring out their sweet sides. It didn’t quite work. I think that a sweet version might be a better choice. The cabbage and onions already make it a little sweet, and the little bit of cinnamon I added reinforces the sweetness, but it’s not quite enough. Next time I would add the traditional raisins, use slightly less cabbage perhaps, and add some sweetener (and maybe copy Dragonwagon and add a bit of apples or applesauce as well). I added the paprika to give the pureed tofu more flavor, and to go with my Hungarian theme, but I suspect it just ended up muddying the flavors more than enhancing them. Next time I would just use more sweet spices like cinnamon.

The tofu didn’t work as well as I would like. In Isa’s potato omelette recipe the soy flavor is not detectable, and the tofu gets all puffy and egglike. That didn’t happen here, I’m not sure why. In the baked kugel the tofu has the texture and taste of raw blended tofu. Perhaps the tofu needs more room to expand, and my casserole was packed too tightly? I do think that the tofu was useful in helping the casserole hold together, and giving it a slight creaminess. However, next time I would try cutting back on the amount of tofu a bit, maybe try just 16 ounces, which would help reduce the soy flavor. Also, the kugel is not quite rich enough for my taste, so I would add another tablespoon of olive oil and possibly some nuts as well.

If you’re very efficient the prep work will take about 30 minutes, otherwise more like 45 minutes. There’s quite a bit of clean-up as well, as you’ll have a large pot, large skillet, strainer and food processor to wash. I recommend grating some extra cabbage in the food processor, as long as you’re dirtying it, and using it for another dish, perhaps cole slaw. (And that way you’ll get both the benefits of cooked and raw cabbage!)

Rating: B-

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Fusilli with Spinach Puree

February 24, 2008 at 5:28 pm (Dark leafy greens, Italian, Jack Bishop, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches, Tofu, unrated)

This brilliant green vaguely pesto-like sauce is based on a recipe from Jack Bishop’s Italian Vegetarian Cookbook.  If you have a food processor it’s extremely simple and fast to make. Read the rest of this entry »

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Roasted Butternut Squash Sage Lasagne

October 4, 2007 at 9:40 pm (B_, Derek's faves, Italian, Necessarily nonvegan, Other, Pasta, Starches)

Below are two different recipes for butternut squash sage lasagne.  The first one is from Sara Moulton and the second is from Giada De Laurentiis. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pasta Puttanesca

September 13, 2007 at 11:05 pm (B plus, Derek's faves, Italian, Jack Bishop, My brain, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches)

Pasta puttanesca makes a great pantry-only dinner, when you have nothing fresh in the fridge, but want a delicious homemade dinner. Derek claims that the tastiness to work ratio is unusually high. Below I’ve included our current version of this recipe, which is based on a recipe from Jack Bishop’s The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil (original recipe called for 3 Tbs.)
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced (original recipe called for 3 cloves)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 normal-sized (i.e., 14-ounce) cans of whole tomatoes (original recipe called for one 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped)
  • 20 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped (original recipe called for 15 large black and/or green olives, pitted and chopped, about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 Tbs. drained capers, rinsed (original recipe called for 1 Tbs.)
  • 12 ounces whole wheat linguine (original recipe called for 1 pound of spaghetti)

Instructions:

  1. Move anything on or close to the stove further away. (The sauce splatters everything nearby.)
  2. Heat the oil in a large 12-inch stainless steel skillet. Add the garlic and hot red pepper flakes and saute over medium heat until the garlic is golden, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes with their juice. Use a metal spatula to break up the tomatoes into small pieces. Add the olives and capers. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes soften and the sauce thickens, about 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how high you have the heat.
  4. While the sauce is simmering, bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta. When the water comes to a boil, add salt to taste and the pasta. Cook the pasta until just before al dente and then drain.
  5. Toss the pasta with the tomato sauce and mix well. Divide among individual bowls and serve immediately.

My notes:

This recipe makes 4 large dinner servings or 6 medium dinner servings.

This sauce doesn’t need any added salt since the tomatoes, olives, capers, and added pasta are all salted. Bishop says this dish has an “improvised spirit” so he rarely serves with anything else, except maybe a leafy green salad. Personally, I like to serve it with a dark green salad with chickpeas and fresh fruit.

Notes from first attempt: I made the original recipe except I used 2 Tbs. olive oil, 8 ounces whole wheat linguine, and one large can of whole tomatoes, but I forgot to drain them. The sauce was perhaps a bit soupy but not too bad. There was a bit too much sauce for the amount of pasta. The sauce wasn’t quite briny enough for my taste, but was still good. I prepared the sauce while the water was coming to a boil, then while the sauce and pasta cooked I prepared a simple coleslaw and cleaned up a bit. In 30 minutes everything was on the table, then there was another 5-10 minutes of cleanup (but also two days worth of lunches).

Rating: B+

Although I usually make this recipe when I have nothing fresh around, today I made it with fresh tomatoes. I bought some heirloom tomatoes at the market, and a few of them got squished on the way home (one of the risks of buying heirlooms since they’re much softer than hybrids). I didn’t notice til this evening, and they had just a whiff of that rotten tomato smell, but I couldn’t stand throwing them out since they were so expensive. So I decided to try using them to make a simple whore’s pasta.

I filled a 3 quart saucepan with water, covered, and turned the heat to maximum. I cut off the softest bruised parts of the tomatoes (three large), sliced them in half, and seeded them (by sticking my fingers in all the crevices and pulling out the seeds). I cored the tomatoes and diced them up (but didn’t peel them). In a skillet (not a saucepan, a wide skillet), I warmed some olive oil. When it was warm I added a lot of garlic, maybe 5 very large cloves?, and a good sprinkle of red pepper flakes. When the garlic began to turn golden I added the tomato and turned the heat to maximum. When the water was hot I added salt and about 2 servings of orecchiette pasta. I boiled the tomatoes to reduce the liquid, until the pasta was ready. I also threw in about a half Tablespoon of rinsed capers towards the end. I drained the pasta (not too well), and added it to the pan with the now reduced pasta sauce. I then grated in a good helping of parmigianno-reggiano. It made two dinner sized servings, and was delicious.

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Seitan Stroganoff

July 14, 2007 at 5:22 pm (B plus, Isa C. Moskowitz, Pasta, Seitan, Soymilk, Starches)

I just bought Vegan with a Vengeance, and was paging through it deciding what to make. Derek’s mom and I wanted to test out Isa’s seitan recipe, so were trying to decide which seitan main course to make. She thought the stroganoff sounded good, but I was pretty wary. I have a very distinct memory of ordering stroganoff at West Side Cafe in Austin many, many years ago and being totally disgusted. I also tried making some stroganoff recipes from various cookbooks–I think they all ended up in the trash. I even adore gravy, so I don’t know why I found them so unappetizing. I think stroganoff is typically a dairy-rich dish, and trying to make the creamy sauce out of soy just doesn’t cut it. So I was hesitant, but then I read the recipe’s intro, and the first sentence says something like “So, you’ve been disappointed with vegan stroganoffs in the past…” In one sentence she had hooked me, and we decided to make it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna with Homemade Tomato Sauce

March 3, 2007 at 11:23 pm (B plus, Cook's Illustrated, Dark leafy greens, Pasta, Starches, Tofu)

I have always, always loved lasagna, and I have no idea why. But whenever I see a vegetarian lasagna on a menu I always order it…. and I’m always sorely disappointed, if not utterly disgusted. They’re often greasy, or bland, or just taste terrible. Is it that hard to make a vegetable lasagna? I must admit, whenever I tried to wing it in the past I’d never done so well. So when I saw a recipe for vegetable lasagna in Cook’s Illustrated Cooking Light cookbook I had to give it a shot.

They said when using no-boil noodles to leave the tomato sauce a little watery so that the noodles can absorb water without drying out the dish. They also say “One important aspect of cooking lasagne made with either conventional or no-boil noodles is controlling the amount of moisture added by the vegetables. Precooking (usually sautéing or roasting) vegetables is the way to do this, and it boosts the flavor of the final cooked dish as well.” Is it just me, or does it seem a bit strange that they stress leaving the tomato sauce a bit watery, then say to make sure you get all the liquid out of your veggies by pre-cooking them?

The original recipe called for broccoli, mushrooms, and zucchini. I have never liked broccoli in lasagne, and I don’t normally buy zucchini in December. So although Cook’s Illustrated said their taste test with spinach had been less than stellar I decided to make spinach lasagne despite them, or maybe to spite them. (Why do I love to spite Cook’s Illustrated so much? Maybe it’s because they’re so meat and dairy centric? Or because their recipes are so consistently, mind-numbingly, repetitively, American? Of course, here I am making a cheese-based traditional American lasagne, so maybe I shouldn’t be pointing thumbs… or rolling noses… or whatever.)

I recommend making the tomato sauce ahead of time, as otherwise this is quite an endeavor with lots of dirty dishes. It seems less of an undertaking if you already have the sauce done.

Sauce:

  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes (preferably Muir Glen)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (preferably Mui Glen)
  • 1 medium onion, minced (8 ounces)
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed (about 2 Tbs.)
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh basil leaves
  • ground black pepper
  1. Combine the onion, oil, and salt in a 12-inch non-stick skillet. Cover and cook over medium-low until softened, 8 to 10minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and pepper flakes and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth, pureed tomatoes, diced tomatoes with their juices, and bay leaves. Bring to a very low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors are blended and the sauce is thickened, about 45 minutes.

Filling and pasta layer

  • 2 pounds cremini or white mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 pounds frozen spinach (preferably in loose bags, not pressed in boxes)
  • 1 pound firm tofu, pressed
  • 2 ounces parmigiano-reggiano (about 1 cup grated)
  • 12 ounces flavorful and maybe a little pungent hard cheese (such as Parrano, gruyere, sharp cheddar, etc.) (about 3 cups grated)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4-3/4 tsp. salt
  • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles from one 8-ounce package (CI recommends Ronzoni, Skinner, and San Giorgio brands)
  1. Combine the mushrooms, 1 tsp. of the oil, and 1/4 tsp. salt in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Cover over medium-low heat until the mushrooms have released their liquid, about 8 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to cook until all the liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Add the frozen spinach, and cook until the spinach is defrosted and all the liquid evaporates, about 5? more minutes.
  2. Mix together the tofu, 2 cups of the hard cheese, the parmesan, the egg, fresh basil, pepper, the cheese, 1/2 tsp. salt (optional), and pepper in a large bowl. Make sure the tofu is mashed well. You should have about 3 cups of filling.
  3. To assemble and bake: adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Spread 1.5 cups of the sauce evenly over the bottom of the baking dish.
  4. Repeat three times: Lay 3 lasagna noodles on top of the sauce, spaced evenly apart. Place 1/3 cup of the filling on top of each noodle and spread it out evenly over the entire noodle using a rubber spatula. Scatter 1/3 of the vegetables evenly over the filling, then spread 1 cup of the sauce evenly over the vegetables. Repeat this layering twice more.
  5. Lay the remaining 3 noodles over the top, and spread the remaining 1.5 cups sauce evenly over the noodles, making sure to cover the edges. Spray a large piece of foil with vegetable oil spray and cover the lasagna tightly. CI says that the baking dash will be quite full, and the lasagna may rise a bit above the rim of the dish when baking, but as it rest, it will settle back into the dish.
  6. Place the lasagna on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle the lasagna evenly with the 1 remaining cup of grated hard cheese. Continue to bake, uncovered, until the cheese is bubbling and slightly brown, 15 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack at least 15 minutes before serving.

My Notes:

I didn’t quite follow the sauce directions. I only had one can of crushed tomatoes, so I subbed a quart jar of diced tomatoes and basil I had canned two summers ago with tomatoes from my CSA. I’m not sure if I ended up with the right out of tomatoes or liquid, and I certainly didn’t have enough basil, but in the end the sauce tasted quite nice–very fresh and tomato-y I thought. I also upped the red pepper flakes from 1/8 tsp to a whole tsp., because Cook’s Illustrated chefs are writing for average Americans. After sitting in the fridge overnight the sauce was quite thick. It didn’t seem like enough sauce either. I had to really stretch it to make it cover the top layer. It’s probably because of my substitution though. When I was done the lasagna looked too dry though. C.I. says the sauce is supposed to be a bit watery to let the no bake noodles cook completely, so after I had assembled the lasagna I poured in a little of extra juice from some other tomatoes I had opened.

The first time I made this I followed their instructions and used reduced-fat mozzarella, but I didn’t buy enough mozzarella it turns out. I only bought 8 ounces, which makes 2 cups shredded, not three. So I doubled the parmesan and hoped for the best. I defrosted 2 bags of Whole Foods frozen spinach and put them in a sieve to strain, making sure to push as much of the water as I could out. Actually, it made quite a mess in my sieve. Next time maybe I’d use paper towels to wring the spinach out? Or just saute it a bit with the mushrooms at the end? I mixed the spinach with the cheese mixture. I didn’t have any fresh basil, so I left that out.

I was skeptical, but I bought the no-bake lasagne noodles they called for. They’re kind of cool–they come in this tiny little box that didn’t look like it would be enough for a whole lasagne. And they’re really short. They didn’t reach the ends of my pan, even position cross-wise rather than long wise. So I spaced them out evely as C.I. said and just tried to ignore the large canals in my lasagne. In the end it seemed to work out okay. The cooked lasagna filled up the pan pretty well, so it wasn’t too much of an issue, although the corner pieces were almost pasta-free. Although the pieces at the ends didn’t really seem to contain much noodles (if any).

In the final lasagna I didn’t like the noodles that much though. The texture was fine but I found them pretty tasteless. I really prefer whole wheat pasta. Next time I’m just going to make lasagna with regular whole wheat lasagna noodles. Maybe I’ll soak them a bit first to soften them up, but I won’t cook them ahead of time–too much extra work, and not necessary I don’t think. (If any of you have experience using whole wheat lasagna noodles without boiling them first please do let me know how it turned out.)

Okay, finally we get to the tasting part. The lasagna held together reasonably well. Probably if I had the extra cup of mozzarella it would have held together even better. The flavor is good. It still has that fresh tomato taste, and you can taste both the spinach and mushrooms. The browned cheese on top is nice as well. I’d say the recipe works well, but in the end it is a light lasagna. It just doesn’t have that decadent, swimming in cheese personality that I think is what makes me love lasagna. Ah well, it’s probably for the best. Given that it’s not dairy-fat-luscious, I think if I make this again I will substitute blended, seasoned tofu for the ricotta, and 2 cups of a stronger full fat cheese for the low-fat mozzarella. Maybe smoked gruyere would be good? Or fontina? Any other suggestions? I would also increase the mushroom amount a tad I think, to a pound and a half or two pounds. You can’t have too many mushrooms.

Besides using a slightly snappier cheese, and whole wheat noodles, and more mushrooms, I feel like this recipe needs one more thing to perk it up and make it go from fine to exciting. But I’m not sure what it’s missing. Maybe if I had used the fresh basil? Kalamata olives? Capers? I don’t want to turn it into some weird exotic lasagna. I do just want a basic spinach lasagna, but with just a tad more excitement to it. Oh blog readers, I’m relying on you to help me construct that perfect lasagna of my imagination. Help!

Cook’s Illustrated says this makes 10 slices, but I cut mine into 12 smaller pieces or 9 large ones.

One last comment. This lasagna was salty. I’m not sure why exactly. Maybe there was just enough salt in each individual ingredient that it added up to an awful lot. It was restaurant-salty, so not inedible but I definitely noticed it after having a whole piece. I think maybe next time I won’t add the salt in the tofu/cheese mixture, as the cheese is already salted. Or maybe I should leave it out of the sauce, since the Muir Glen tomatoes are salted a bit.

Update from second try: I used a mix of parrano and gruyere, which was very nice. I also added about 20 kalamata olives, which were good as always. I think one reason it didn’t hold together very well is that I upped the vegetable quantity quite a bit, which CI says makes it quite a bit looser. I think maybe the trick to having this lasagna hold together (without adding a lot more cheese) is to let it really cool off quite a bit. Ideally you’d let it cool off completely, then re-heat it even?

Also, CI says to put each vegetable in a separate layer. I was too lazy and just ended up mixing my vegetables together in the same pan, but I might try this next time.

Rating: B+

Derek: B+

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Creamy Fettucine with Squash Sauce

January 21, 2007 at 7:03 pm (B_, Pasta, Ron Pickarski, Soymilk, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

I have fond memories of this creamy vegan squash sauce from my co-op days in college. It was a regular on our menu, and always popular. It’s from the cookbook Friendly Foods by Brother Ron Pickarski. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cabbage greens with pasta

November 27, 2006 at 8:12 pm (Beans, B_, Cruciferous rich, My brain, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

At the last farmer’s market of the year Rick offered me some “cabbage leaves.” He said after he harvests the main cabbage the plants develop loose little heads below the cut–sort of a mini, loose cabbage. He sold me a huge bag of them, which I cooked up and had in the fridge all week. I’ve been enjoying the pre-cooked cabbage greens in this dish.

  • whole wheat penne pasta, 2 ounces measured dry, 4 ounces measured cooked
  • 1.5 cups steamed or boiled cabbage leaves
  • 1 Tbs. reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 heaping Tbs. nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup cannellini beans, rinsed well (optional)

This is obviously another variant of beans and greens, but it’s a simple one since no pan is required once the greens are cooked–just mix and serve. It has a mild but rich and savory gravy from the yeast and oil and soy sauce. Plus by using raw olive oil the omega-3 fatty acids are not destroyed. I also tried using the oil to saute some onions, but the fruity olive flavor disappeared, and the dish didn’t taste as rich. I tried bumping up the seasonings by adding garlic powder and paprika, but it again drowned out the subtle but delicious yeast gravy flavor. The simplest combination is the best I think.

Rating: B

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Pasta with spinach, white beans, and red peppers

November 10, 2006 at 7:50 pm (Beans, Beans and greens, F, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches, Website / blog)

I was looking for a recipe with spinach and red peppers, both of which I have oodles of, and I found this recipe online. It looked suspiciously like one of those “easy but tasteless” recipes, but I figured I had enough produce to spare I could take the chance.

  • 4 ounces whole wheat pasta, measured dry
  • 1 cup raw spinach
  • 1 cup red bell peppers diced
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs. parmesan cheese grated
  • 2/3 cup cooked white beans

Directions:
1. boil water & pasta
2. in pan toss all other ingredients with a little pasta water
3. spice with hot peppers flakes, cumin, oregano, or saffron

The dish looked very pretty–it had that pale red color of typical cream-based red sauces, or maybe a pimento-based sauce. But the mouthfeel was bad: the sauce tasted powdery for some reason? I used canned beans, and rinsed them well, but they were very mealy tasting. Blech. Also, I didn’t think it had nearly enough spinach. I added more oregano and pepper flakes to spice it up and now it’s certainly not bland, but still somewhat unappetizing to me. I took the second half for lunch today and I ate most of it but I really didn’t enjoy it.

Rating: D

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Pasta Primavera (B)

September 22, 2006 at 6:54 am (B_, Cruciferous rich, Pasta, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

Pasta primavera is one of those dishes like spinach lasagna that I remember fondly from my youth, but never seems all that exciting when I try to make it nowadays. This particular attempt came out pretty well however. It doesn’t live up to my memories of course, but it was tasty nonetheless.

Instructions
I started my whole wheat pasta going (6 ounces), then sauted

  • 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 cup broccoli stalks

Once the stalks started to soften and brown I added:

  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • a bit of salted water

Meanwhile I prepared

  • 1 small zucchini, grated
  • 1 small carrot, grated
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced

I then threw these in as well. The pasta was done shortly thereafter, so I drained it and added it to the pan, along with:

  • 2 cups of diced tomatoes
  • 3 Tbs. sliced scallions
  • 3 ounces feta
  • 1/4 cup lowfat monterrey jack cheese (organic)
  • 2 Tbs. grated parmesan
  • a slice of leftover silken tofu
  • 1 Tbs. dijon mustard
  • 1.5 tsp. garlic powder
  • black pepper, freshly ground

I would have added fresh basil and maybe nutritional yeast as well but I didn’t have any. This made 3 large servings, at 500 calories each. The calories are a bit too high, considering that I was hungry a few hours later, but the stats are very good. All the vitamins and minerals are green, fat 25%, protein 22%, and fiber 17g. Saturated fat was 9%.

This was a good dish to use up lots of veggies before I went out of town. It was also good with some leftover tempeh balls. The combination was surprisingly tasty.

I’d still love to learn how to make the primavera from my youth, though. If anyone has a recipe or a suggestion, please let me know!

Rating: B

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