When company comes or for a special holiday dinner, i always think of layers. Creating the delicious lasagna that this article highlights, or a Filo Vegetable pie, or a savory puff pastry whose layers emerge after baking or a French type terrine of various creamy vegetables, it all comes down to layers. I feel that fussing over a more complicated dish, shows off culinary acumen as well as the rewards of a well prepared and planned treat of a dish. This makes the company feel special and well cared for. It also highlights the magic that Vegan dishes can satisfy as well as titillate the palate.
The best part of all these types of dishes is that you can prepare a lot of the ingredients ahead of time and have them oven-ready, leaving valuable time to enjoy your guests when they arrive. Early preparation is a must for a “fancy” dish so organizing the shopping list is good kitchen planning. Thinking of the recipe in sections, helps the cook stay cool and have a realistic plan for the endeavor. Unlike the character Peg, in the “Married with Children” series who comically said, “I’ll take the house without the kitchen”!, my food preparation area is so important to me, that i keep it meticulously clean and well stocked.
So in thinking of a layered lasagna, the first step is to know your ingredients, have them on hand and start separating them into categories. For example, Noodles, tomato sauce, vegetables, cheesy type filling, and seasonings, breaks the recipe into sections and makes it easier to plan the “assembly” line of ingredients for the final work of edible art.
Luscious Layered Lasagna
- Noodles: So many varieties to chose from: whole wheat, artichoke flour, rice/ gluten free, even organic green lentil or bean pasta. Use one or a combination of these, usually 1 box is adequate for a good size lasagna and should yield about 16 noodles.
Prepare as per box instructions, usually about 10 min. Cook till pliable but not tearing apart. Use a large sheet of aluminum foil (to be recycled later to cover the top) and place on counter on a large cookie sheet. This facilitates moving the noodles later on. Drain and separate noodles when done placing on plastic wrap, 4 to a sheet. Cover with more plastic between sections and finish the entire batch, put aside to cool. This can even be made a day earlier and refrigerated.
- Tomato sauce: Use your favorite Organic Vegan jar of sauce (which should not contain Parmesan cheese) as a base. Sauté some (your choice how much) onions, mushrooms, peppers and fresh garlic in a little pure olive oil, plus any fresh spices like oregano. parsley, basil, until slightly soft. Add jar of tomato sauce and small jar of diced tomatoes and/or paste, stir and cook for 20-30 minutes on low heat.
- Vegetables: Sauté in olive oil (i use the spray to minimize the oil because there is plenty in the sauce already) until the colors are bright, about 5-10 min. Adding any desired spices to augment the flavors. Add a little water to help them cook. Set aside.
1/2 cauliflower cut flowers into small pieces
1 stalk broccolini, cut the stem on a diagonal
1 med. onion, cut into “boats”
2 small shallots or scallions cut small (to taste)
1/2 green and 1/2 red pepper (yellow or orange color works well too) diced small
6 medium mushroom, any variety, sliced thin
1 large carrot, sliced thin
Protein: I like to add either TVP or TSP: Textured vegetable or soy protein crumbles. Re-constitute with hot water or broth and layer with the vegetables when ready to assemble. Another suggestion is to use an already prepared “Sloppy Joe” type product for a protein rich texture addition.
“Cheeze” mixture: Combine a variety of:
Vegan ricotta cheese, 1 container
“Miyoko’s” 1 fresh mozzarella (creamy and delicious) cut thinly or 1 package of another Vegan brand already shredded
Rice or soy Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup.
And/or add 1/2 cup nutritional yeast if you want a more cheddar-like flavor
Add any small diced fresh or dried herbs especially basil, parsley or oregano to speckle the white cheese. Reserve some fresh basil for the very top. Mix well to incorporate and set aside.
Assembly. Start with a layer of tomato sauce in casserole, place 4 noodles, layer of vegetables, TVP, cheese sauce, and more tomato sauce. Continue with same order of ingredients starting with noodles, etc. Top layer will be just noodles with sauce and a 1/4 cup Vegan Parmesan cheese sprinkled and garnished with basil leaves.
Bake at 350 degrees for an hour covered with foil, uncover for the last 10 min. Sauce should be bubbling around the edges. Let cool at least 10 minutes before cutting for the layers to settle and cut into mouth watering wedges. Serve with a fresh green salad and garlic bread. A meal to remember!