Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Eat your vegetables


7 years ago, when I first started my vegetarian ways, I started learning how to cook. I wanted things a certain way, with certain ingredients, in a certain amount of time with a certain cost. Sometimes those wishes are hard to fulfil all at once. Sometimes, what I succeed with in the ingredient list fails miserably in flavor. Sometimes? I'm just too damn picky. Nowadays I can usually see a train wreck coming. But sometimes, I expect a recipe to go very, very wrong, and I make it anyways.

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Tonight's dinner was a lofty goal. It was to be comfort food, a dairy-free lasagna, and it and couldn't involve tofu, nuts or tomato sauce. I wanted to the first thing because it's below 30 outside. I wanted the second thing because, well, otherwise I'd regret it. And I wanted the third thing... just because I was feeling picky. I also needed to use up a pound of mushrooms. I mean, aren't they cute? Though, seriously folks, please wash your mushrooms. It might be pasteurized manure, but it's still manure! Flavor be damned - I choose not to knowingly eat dirt.

Er, anyway, traditional lasagna relies on a Bechemel sauce to add moisture between layers. It's a clever trick, because the creamy fat in the bechemel tames and binds together the other flavors without stealing the show itself. For a while now, I've been imagining a dairy-free lasagna that utilizes a Veloute sauce instead of a Bechemel. They both start with a roux (equal volume flour and fat - aka butter - cooked together); to make a Bechemel, add milk, and to make a Veloute, add stock. The Veloute would have a heartier but sharper flavor than a Bechemel would.

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I struggled with the mushroom part. It's easy to overpower or cover up a mushroom flavor; it is harder to balance it, especially without cheese. Here, I used half of the Veloute for layering with mushrooms, and I pureed the other half with an equal volume of frozen peas. I reduced the puree on the stove, to give the lasagna a bit of structure, and assembled the whole thing with no-bake noodles.


I know: mushrooms, peas and no-bake noodles. You're expecting this to bomb, too, right? In fact, until the first bite, I assumed it had bombed. And then I took a taste of melt-in-my-mouth goodness: balanced, filling, structured, flavorful, all of it, this lasagna rocked. Greg, who is often skeptical of my vegan-style or dairy-free creations, raved. He called it Steak Lastunia. Meaty like a steak. Looks like a lasagna. Fills ya' up like a stew. Inventive name, no?

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The whole thing wasn't super photogenic, but it actually looks lovely, delicate and very green in person. Served with a good salad and a grain or lentil based side, this is definite dinner-party material.


Okay, like, I just got up (at 11pm) and had a second helping. Greg says it was my third. Oh that's good.

Mushroom Lasagna with Pureed Peas

Serves: 4, if you have willpower


About 1 pound assorted mushrooms, sliced to 1/4" *

1 small onion, chopped (~1/2 cup)

8 no-bake Barilla lasagna noodles**

3 cups stock

4 tbsp butter***

4 tbsp flour

1.5 cups frozen peas

1 tsp oregano

2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

Salt and Pepper

*I used 2 medium portabella's, about 10 oz baby bellas, and several oz shitakes. The one pound total was already sliced and minus the stems (the portabella stems miraculously disappeared when I turned my back - err, Tori - and shitake stems aren't very good to eat)

**Or however many will make 4 layers in an 8x8" pan

***I could taste the butter in the final dish. If you want to go with less fat, reduce this to 2-3 tbsp and just cook the roux a little more carefully. It'll thicken the same.

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Add 2 tbsp olive oil to large pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms start to caramelize (about 10 minutes). Add onion and cook until translucent (~5 minutes)
  3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucier on medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth, and cook the roux to a light, nutty brown color, whisking occasionally (5-10 minutes).
  4. Add stock to the cooked roux 1/2 cup at a time, whisking thoroughly between each step to prevent lumps.
  5. Splash the last tablespoon or so of stock into the mushroom pan to deglaze (scrape up the bottom to get all of the good bits).
  6. Reserve 1.5 cups of Veloute. Add peas to remaining sauce. Puree in the pan with an immersion blender or a transfer to a blender/food processor for this step and return to saucier. Cook over medium-high heat until the puree has reduced by ~1/2 (10-15 minutes).
  7. Layer the lasagna:
    • 1/2 cup Veloute
    • 2 noodles
    • 1/2 cup Veloute
    • 1/2 mushroom mixture
    • 2 noodles
    • Remaining Veloute
    • Remaining mushrooms
    • 2 noodles
    • 1/2 pea puree
    • 2 noodles
    • 1/2 pea puree
    • Parsley

7. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and broil until lightly browned. Serve immediately.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's not 'dairy free' is it? It has butter in it.