Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Green Kitchen: Noodleless Veggie Lasagna

Green Kitchen is a bi-weekly column about nutritious, inexpensive, and ethical food and cooking. It's penned by the lovely Jaime Green.

I never made lasagna until this winter.

I don’t remember the order of events – it had something to do with me coming across a delicious tofu ricotta recipe. It had even more to do with looking for meal ideas that were healthy, easy, cheap, and leftover-friendly for kitchen adventures with my cooking-averse guy. (This path of making cooking less scary, it is a long one.) Ultimately, we ended up with no-boil noodles, jarred sauce, a bowlful of tofu, and a lot of deliciousness.

Lasagna! It’s amazing! Even for cooking-averse boyfriend and lactose-averse me!

Even in the island of warmth that is wintertime kitchen, I was thinking ahead to summer. Wouldn’t it be awesome, I gushed to my probably not-as-excited-about-this boyfriend, if we replaced the noodles with slices of grilled vegetables?! Like, eggplant and zucchini? Sliced real thin ,like noodles, and broiled? I don’t even love eggplant, but OMG, that would be so good!

I was probably met with an Uh huh… sure. But I would not be daunted. I held to my dream through the end of winter, through the veggie-less early warmth of spring, through the first months at the farmers market, the lettuce and berries and asparagus. Ramps? Whatever. Give me midsummer vegetables and long-dreamed of lasagna!

Finally, a few weeks ago, piles of zucchini started showing up at the greenmarket. We’ll be sick of them by the end of summer, but those first green squash meant I was almost there.

A couple of weeks later came the eggplants. Finally! I filled my bag, hit the supermarket, and turned on my oven.

This was a few weeks ago. Remember, in the middle of that month-long heat wave? Yeah, that was awesome. But I did not care because, A) I had become a little consumed by my dream of a delectable, noodleless lasagna, and B) it was DELICIOUS.

Sure, I burned some zucchini. And sure, my apartment was just about as hot as my oven, but there it was: a scrumptious, saucy, rich and satisfying lasagna. No grains. No gluten. No dairy. Just veggies and tofu and some alchemy.

(When I set out to recreate it this weekend, my oven stopped sparking, and they’re coming to fix it tomorrow, so I don’t have a picture, but I promise it’s pretty. What I do have is three pounds of sliced, prepped eggplant wrapped up in my fridge. I should probably sauté them tonight or something. Also, the weather’s calmed down so this isn’t quite such a crazy-person endeavor anymore.)

The recipe isn’t nearly as labor-intensive as the number of steps implies. The tofu ricotta takes just a few minutes to put together, and it and the grilled veggies can be prepped in advance. The rest of the work is just layering sauce, veggies, and tofu, and you’ll be done with that before the oven’s even preheated. Plus, this makes delicious office leftovers, and can easily be doubled for a larger pan.

When you put it in the oven, hide out in a cooler room while it bakes. Trust me, it is very, very worth it. Even my carnivore boyfriend agrees. Tofu and all.


If this recipe appeals to you, you might also enjoy:

Noodleless Veggie Lasagna
Serves 4
Note: Unfortunately, we don’t have a picture for this one. The following photo is from a site called Living in the Real World (which you should visit!), because it’s the closest we could find. We hope they forgive us.

For the Tofu Basil Ricotta:
1 lb firm tofu, pressed
2 T lemon juice
2 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
¼ t salt
¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
Large handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
Dash black pepper
Dash red pepper (optional, but tasty)

For the lasagna:
1 24 oz jar (~ 3 cups) of your favorite pasta sauce
1 large eggplant
3 medium zucchini
Olive oil or cooking spray

1) Make a batch of tofu basil ricotta. Stash that in the fridge.

2) Slice eggplant and zucchini lengthwise in thin, even strips. 1/4”-1/2” thick is good. (This is a great time to own a mandolin.)

3) Salt the eggplant and let sit in a colander for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry.

4) If you have a grill, lightly coat the slices with oil, sprinkle with salt, and grill.

4a) If you don’t have a grill, crank up your broiler. Cover your broiler tray or a cookie sheet with aluminum foil; spray with cooking spray or spread a little olive oil. Lay out your veggie strips in a single layer; spray with oil and sprinkle with salt. Broil until browned but not burned, flipping midway. 5-30 minutes, depending on your oven. (NOTE: This will vary WIDELY from oven to oven, so it's best to keep an eye on things.) Repeat until all the veggies are cooked. Let cool a bit, at least so you can handle them. Or refrigerate until you’re ready for the next bit.

5) Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease an 8x8 (or so) baking dish with olive oil.

6) Assemble:
  • Pour a thin layer of tomato sauce over the dish, spreading evenly.
  • Lay strips of zucchini to make an even layer on top off the sauce.
  • Add another thin layer of sauce.
  • Spoon in half of tofu ricotta mixture, using your fingers to spread it in an even layer.
  • Top with sauce.
  • Lay down a layer of eggplant.
  • Another layer of sauce.
  • Spoon in the rest of the ricotta, spreading into a layer.
  • Top with sauce.
  • Top with a layer of zucchini (add any eggplant you have left).
  • Cover with the last of the sauce.
7) Bake 20-30 minutes, until heated through and the sauce is looking thicker. If the top starts to get dark, cover with aluminum foil.

8) Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
327 calories, 17.4g fat, 10.4g fiber, 19.6g protein, $1.90

1 lb firm tofu: 365 calories, 22g fat, 5.8g fiber, 39.8g protein, $1.69
2 T lemon juice: 8 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.33
2 T olive oil, plus for greasing pan: 315 calories, 35g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.10
1 clove garlic: 4 calories, 0g fat, 0.1g fiber, 0.2g protein, $0.02
¼ t salt: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01
¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes: 107 calories, 1.3g fat, 6.7g fiber, 12g protein, $0.74
large handful fresh basil leaves: 9 calories, 0.3g fat, 0.6g fiber, 1.3g protein, $0.50
dash black pepper: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.02
dash red pepper: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01
1 24 oz jar of pasta sauce (~3 c): 270 calories, 9g fat, 3g fiber, 12g protein, $2.15
1 large eggplant: 132 calories, 1g fat, 18.5g fiber, 5.5g protein, $0.75
3 medium zucchini: 94 calories, 1.1g fat, 6.5g fiber, 7.1g protein, $1.25
TOTAL: 1307 calories, 69.8g fat, 41.4g fiber, 78.4g protein, $7.59
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 327 calories, 17.4g fat, 10.4g fiber, 19.6g protein, $1.90

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