Friday, May 18, 2007

Vegan Gluten-free Butternut-squash Lasanga Rolls

Okay, this is not a normal Simple Veggie recipe.

Friday night I went to a Vegan potluck with catgirl, who is also gluten-free. So, I had a challenge, to make a yummy vegan, gluten-free recipe.

On Valentines day, my present to my physicist was a house plant (his old one which he loved had not survived winter break), and an elaborately cooked dinner - which was also way fun for me! I made Blissinis, Tuscan Salad, Rolls, Asparagus Al Forni (a recipe from a cookbook I have), Butternut Squash Tortellini, and Chocolate Bundles. Okay - so I went a bit overboard for 2 people. But the butternut squash tortellinis were amazing (I used fresh pasta sheets instead of wanton wrappers). Sometime since then I was watching an Everyday Italian where Giada made Lasagna rolls. And I realized that the squash tortellini filling would be interesting in lasagna, and specifically lasagna rolls.

And this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I know you may be thinking - how on earth is lasagna perfect for a gluten-free, vegan dish? I can answer easily - gluten free lasagna sheets, and tofu. Tofu, crumbled and seasoned properly works well for a ricotta substitute.

So Thursday, the day before the potluck, I go to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods to get my ingredients. Except there is a problem. No butternut squash. A mildly crucial ingredient. So I call my physicist and ask him to run by Meijer on his way home from work. He does, but - no such luck. Buttercup squash? Yes. Butternut? No.

So today I go to more grocery stores to try and find it. 1 Meijer and 3 Krogers later - success! Oy.

It is at this point I start cooking. I was a little nervous. I had bought DeBoles brown Rice Lasagna, which is a no-boil lasagna noodle. Yet, in order to be able to make lasagna rolls, you have to roll the filling in the noodles, requiring it to be at least partially cooked.

So, as I made the filling, I painstakingly boiled the noodles, 1-2 at a time, in a large pan and a large pot. I made sure to salt the water. I even put olive oil in the first few, but it didn't seem to make a different, so I stopped. After every 3 or four lasagna noodles, I changed the water because it started to get a starchy-cloudy look, and I was afraid that that would make a difference some how. When I took each noodle out, I rinsed them with cold water, and laid them out on a cutting board lined with paper towel.

I would let each rest noodle for a minute or two (or longer if I got distracted with something else, it didn't seem to matter) before spooning filling down the center in a thin spread, and rolling the noodle length wise. I then set them seam side down in a clean baking dish (really just to hold them until they were all made and I could make the sauce) and put a damp paper towel over them to keep them moist.

When I had rolled all of the lasanga sheets, I made the 2 sacuses. The first was a Béchamel sauce. To make a Béchamel sauce you melt butter in a pan (I used Earth Balence) and then add flour (I used Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour) and wisk it together I let it brown slightly, and then stirred in the Soy milk, and other ingrediants. by this time, Catgirl had come over and was helping. Or, eating the dried cranberries as the case may be. In anycase, it was good to have company.

Ingredients

Filling
1 butternut squash, approximately 2 pounds, cubed (about 3 cups)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
1 1/2 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 large shallots, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pkg Silken Tofu (I used soft, but I think firm would work even better)
Nutritional yeast
2 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg


Noodles
2 boxes rice lasagna noodles
2 pots water
salt
olive oil
paper towel

Béchamel Sauce
2 tablespoons Earth Balance Natural Buttery Sticks
4 teaspoons Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour
1 1/4 cups Soy Milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch ground nutmeg



Brown Butter Sauce
3/4 cup butter Earth Balance Natural Buttery Sticks
2 tablespoons torn fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, or chopped dried cherries, or mixture of both
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

Instructions

Toss the the butternut squash, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper together, and bake at 350 for 25 minutes until squash is soft.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Cook the shallots and garlic until lightly golden, about 3 minutes.

Break up the tofu with a rubber scraper, and stir salt, and nutritional yeast.

In a food processor, combine the butternut squash mixture, the shallot mixture, and tofu mixture and pulse a few times to blend. , the nutmeg, and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pulse until smooth.

Boil 2 large pots of water, and add salt and Olive oil. Put Lasagna sheets in boiling water 1 or 2 at a time, wait until they are nearly al dente, and take them out and dry them off with paper towel.

As you are doing this, you can start filling and rolling the lasagna sheets. Lay out lasagna noodles on a work surface, then spread about 3 tablespoons of squash mixture evenly over each noodle. Starting at 1 end, roll each noodle like a jelly roll. Place seam side down in a holding tray, and lay a damp paper towel over them to keep them moist. Repeat until all Lasagna sheets are rolled and filling is gone.

Melt the Earth Balance in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the Gluten Free flour and whisk for 3 minutes. Whisk in the soy milk. Increase the heat to medium-high. Whisk the sauce until it comes to a simmer and is thick and smooth, about 3 minutes. Whisk the salt, pepper, and nutmeg into the bechamel sauce.

Spread the sauce at the bottom of a glass baking dish, and place lasagna rolls, not touching, seam side down atop the sauce.

Brown Butter Sauce
Melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the sage, walnuts and cranberries and let cook until the butter starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat off and season with salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.

Pour evenly over Lasagna rolls.

Cover tightly with foil. Bake at 350 until heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 20-35 minutes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cooking challenge!

I love a good challenge. At least when it comes to food. And earlier this week, one presented itself.

On Friday, I am going to a vegan potluck (^_^) with cat girl and my physicist. So I have to figure out a good potluck dish to make. The requirements are:
  • It must be vegan (no meat, dairy, eggs, or honey)
  • It must be gluten free (I want cat girl to be able to eat it too)
  • It must not have mushrooms (I just don't like them)
  • It must be tasty! (enough that my omnivorous boyfriend doesn't miss non-vegan stuff)
Cat girl and I are getting together this afternoon and brainstorming. It should be fun. If the two of us can come up with a vegan, gluten free meal for her and her omnivorous atkins-stupid boyfriend - there's nothing we can't do!

I'm considering Baked Spelt Macaroni with Cashew Cheddar Cheese from 101 Cookbooks...

Friday, May 11, 2007

How I got here.

A year ago today I fell. And in someways, it was the best thing that ever happened. I had been falling for awhile. That year I had fallen apart in more ways than one. I was falling apart with school, relationships, with me. I was getting to the point where I wasn't recognizing myself anymore. I was going out almost every night. Getting drunk, not sleeping, not going to class, not thinking. That was the most important part. Not thinking. I did anything I could not to be alone, so I wouldn't have to think. In part, about being alone, or that I was falling apart. I was falling apart, and showing no signs of coming up for air.

But then I fell - literally.

I was doing laundry in my apartment, and I fell down the stairs, and my life got better. Not immediately. No, true to form, I went upstairs, ace-wrapped my wrist, and went to the bar. It wasn't until the next day at work when everything was painful, and driving home hurt so bad I could barely stay on the road that I let my friends, whom I had been neglecting, talk me into going to the hospital. A few hours of waiting, x-rays and poking and prodding later, we discovered that I had 2 cracked ribs (one on each side in back, right where a bra strap goes across - ouch!) and had done something funky to my wrist. Even after casts, months of physical therapy, and surgery, we're not really sure what.

After I fell, I couldn't do a lot of things. I was a mess. But, I had to find something new. I couldn't go to the bar, I couldn't stay out all night, I couldn't even really drive. But I rediscovered what I loved. My friends, including my best friend catgirl, a crazy vegan (two separate thoughts, she is crazy, and she's vegan, not crazy because she's vegan - and I love that she's both - hi K ^_~) who helped keep me sane, and my love who took care of me and put me back together in every way possible. We had broken up 6 months before the fall, which was not a cause of the falling apart, but probably a result. And, given the lots of time I had on my hands, I also took up cooking, which I had long loved, but hadn't really had time for. My cooking was also helped by moving out of my tiny apartment, into one with a much nicer kitchen, including dishwasher. This led to my squash enchilada's, and this blog.

You'd think today I'd celebrate with cooking up a storm, but I did something to my shoulder, and it hurts like hell. I tried to lift a frying pan with that hand earlier, and ick. The boy and I made nachos, and I have been cooking a bunch lately.

Recently I discovered quinoa, in all it's yummy goodness. But that's a story for another day.

Really what I was thinking with this was that I'm a completely different person than I was a year ago. And part of that major change had been this. Rather than going out, rather than wallow, I discovered cooking. The joy of making something myself, either for myself, or for others. It's productive, it's healthy, and it allows me to do something for me, and, by not using any animal products, I can do something for them, and hopefully convince more people that being vegetarian is completely normal healthy, and tasty. And that's really what this is all about.