glUtEn frEE / vEgAn lAsAgnA

    This recipe is for my friend, Dayna who is going to make this on Thanksgiving. I set out to make an ultimate lasagna for someone who is both vegan and gluten free. The first time I made it I honestly believed I had made it both GF and Vegan (it was off the hook, amazing) but I used noodles that had egg in them (someone had recommended them as being vegan and GF and I should’ve read the package with more care before flinging them into my cart on my hurried shop). When she realized it tasted to too good to be true she found the noodles had egg in them, arrrgggg…. and there I was having just served one of the kindest and most devout vegan’s egg on her birthday, ewww. She was extremely gracious about the whole thing. That being said, Manini’s noodles were fantastic if you are GF but not vegan. Here is a little noodle comparison on my search for the perfect noodle. I have zero affiliations to any of the reviews listed here, just giving some opinions.
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    If you do happen to be vegan, these Pasta Joy noodles were also too good to be true and totally vegan for sure! I was searching for “fresh” noodles, even though these weren’t in the refrigerated section, they still kicked butt and really I wouldn’t have known they weren’t “fresh”.
    In the art of keeping things vegan (I’m almost there) I will use these in the future.

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    I tried these from De Boles as well, but didn’t like them. They aren’t meant to be boiled at all first and I just didn’t like the overall texture of them. Again, personal preference but since we are talking noodles I thought I would mention it as the search for really good vegan and gluten free noodles can prove to be almost impossible without some trial and error.

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    Ok, so now that we have the noodles out of the way…

    My lasagna was based on LA’s, Crossroad’s Kitchen, Chef Tal Ronnin’s Garden Vegetable Lasagna with Puttanesca Sauce. I have the book and if you are vegan, you probably should too. I absolutely detest few things in life, but olives are on the top of that list so I had to go and modify (I can never follow a recipe fully). If you are anywhere near LA and haven’t been to Crossroad’s Kitchen GO THERE. Take your favorite meat eaters’ and watch them have their ever loving minds’ blown by such fine cuisine.

    Ok, another short review, if you live in (or are planning a visit to) LA and are vegan or vegan curious here are a few places to try.

    #1 Crossroad’s Kitchen – Located in West Hollywood. A few things to try (I have liked everything I have tried, but so far these are my favorites):
    ~ Bloomsdale Salad
    ~ Crab Cakes (#1 most favorite of all)
    ~ Tagliatelle Bolognese
    ~ “Chicken and Waffles” (brunch)
    ~ The Incredible “Burger” (brunch)

    The Artichoke Oysters were good, but didn’t resemble oysters at all, where as the crab cakes could fool anyone as well as the Bolognese. Since we bought the cookbook, my husband has been on a mission to recreate everything in it. It’s nice having a man who likes to cook as much as I do.

    #2  Little Pine Restaurant
    Moby started this restaurant and it rocks. I don’t think the location does it any favors. It’s never an issue getting reservations here whereas at Crossroad’s you often have to book it a week or more in advance. If it were in Venice rather than on a lonely road in Silverlake I could see it being a hugely popular place (the prices are great).
    My favorites:
    ~ Mac n’ Cheese (#1 most favorite of all, it is sooooo convincing and amazing. We love mac and cheese and have tried vegan versions at so many places and have always been left feeling disappointed… not the case at Little Pine!
    ~ Crispy Smashed Potatoes
    ~ Mushroom Bourguignon

    We tried the broccoli arancini too, it was good, but not very flavorful, probably great for kiddos.

    #3 Ereven
    Located in Santa Monica. We liked it a lot, so far we have only been once.
    My Favorites:
    ~ Black Garlic Chickpea Fritter (#1 favorite and how in the hell do they do that… must learn)
    ~ Farro and Black Eyed Pea hotpot (perfect winter meal)

    We tried the “Beer Battered Tofu Sandwich” too. I’m not a huge fan of tofu but do love it as a guilty pleasure when fried. The first couple of steaming hot bites were great and resembled a fish sandwich, but it got kind of boring and soggy as it cooled off.

    We also tried the vegan restaurant Plant Food and Wine located in Venice. It was OK but honestly I wouldn’t recommend it and it is more expensive than the rest of them (Crossroads included). The atmosphere is rocking though! Maybe try it for hipster drinks and appetizers.

    Done with the reviews.
    Here is the Vegan and Gluten Free Lasagna recipe! Please excuse the photos in this blog, I am without my professional camera so these are from the phone.
    So good and the meat eaters will be impressed too.
    Thanks to Chef Tal Ronnen for the inspiration.

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    I jokingly call this my 3 day lasagna! It takes some time and effort but is well worth it and if you plan ahead just a little it goes a long way on the day of as all you will have to do is layer and bake!

    Ingredients: (if making with Scoty’s sauce see below for additional ingredients, also see below for additional ingredients if making Tal Ronnin’s Basil Pesto sauce… it’s a nice addition)
    5 Roasted red peppers
    2 Zucchini
    2 Japanese eggplant (optional)
    1/2 cup extra virgin Olive Oil, divided
    6 garlic cloves
    1/4 cup dry white wine
    1 big bunch large basil leaves, divided
    4 fresh thyme sprigs
    3 Shallots Minced
    4 flat leaf parsley leafs
    4 cups herbed Ricotta (Chef Tal Ronnin’s recipe is perfect, follows)
    1 pound lasagna noodles
    6 cups Scoty’s marina (directly from Crossroad’s cookbook) or
    store bought (I recommend Scoty’s) recipe follows.
    2 packages of Miyokos Mozzarella cheese (in my opinion the only one that will do it can be found at Whole Foods, Chef Tal Ronnin recommends “Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet, but I humbly disagree and suggest Miyokos).

    The make ahead parts: Seriously, if you break it up over a couple of days it’s not as involved as it sounds.

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    Roasted Red Peppers: Can be made up to 5 days in advance
    28 minutes cook time plus 10 more for peeling.
    I love making even more than the recipe calls for and saving some for salads or goat cheese roll-ups.

    Use a roasting pan. Roast peppers on high for about 7 minutes per side (turn about 4 times to get all sides), skins should be bubbly and somewhat black. Take out of pan and place in a paper bag, let cool a few minutes and peel skins and deseed. Cut each pepper into about 8 pieces following the natural vertical lines of the pepper as much as possible.

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    Crossroad’s Kitchen – Scoty’s Marinara:
    I make this a day or two in advance and double the recipe so I can freeze half of it for the next time I want a great base for any pasta sauce. It actually even tastes better after chilling for a day or two.
    Additional Ingredients (not needed if you are using store bought sauce… don’t do it, use Scoty’s)

    *To save time on this part I use canned diced tomatoes instead of whole ones and forgo the blender). I also add 1/4 cup white wine, 3 cloves of garlic, and about 10 more large basil leaves.

    Here is Scoti’s recipe as stated in the cookbook.

    “Two 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
    3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1 onion, finely chopped
    4 garlic cloves minced
    1 carrot, finely grated (about ½ cup)
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
    Pinch of baking soda
    4 fresh basil leaves chopped
    1 tablespoon Earth Balance butter stick”

    “Working in batches, put the tomatoes, along with their juice, in a food processor or blender and puree just until semi-smooth; you want a little bit of chunky texture. Put a medium pot over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, and carrot,

    season with salt, black pepper, and the red pepper flakes, and sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the pureed tomatoes, stirring to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens, about 45 minutes. Season the sauce with more salt and black pepper, to taste. Remove from the heat, stir in the baking soda, making sure it dissolves, and add the basil and butter substitute. Once cooled, the sauce can be refrigerated covered for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.”

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    Chef Tal Ronnin’s Herbed Ricotta (ingredients included above but mentioned here again to keep things as simple as possible.

    “4 cups Kite Hill almond ricotta
    6 fresh basil leaves finely chopped
    4 fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
    3 garlic cloves,
    minced 1 shallot, minced
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Mash together the almond ricotta, basil, parsley, garlic, and shallot in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. The ricotta can be prepared in advance, covered, and refrigerated for up to 5 days before using it as a pasta filling; leftovers keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.”

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    Zucchini (shown above with eggplant in marinade, it was a good addition)
    Preheat oven to 425
    Cut Zucchini (and eggplant if you want to use) into 1/4 inch rounds
    brush with canola oil and salt and pepper on both sides
    Bake for 20-25 minutes (I do it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper).

    Zucchini and Red Pepper marinade
    Once Zucchini (eggplant if using) and Red Pepper have been made, place them in a bowl together.
    In a separate small bowl combine the 1/4 cup olive oil, 8 large basil leafs, thyme, 3 cloves garlic, and shallot and pour over red peppers and zucchini. Leave covered in fridge until ready to make.

    Chef Tal Ronnin’s Basil Pesto (optional)

    “2 cups fresh basil leaves
    ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
    ¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
    ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
    4 garlic cloves, smashed
    ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
    ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

    Combine the basil, parsley, nutritional yeast flakes, nuts, garlic, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes in a food processor and pulse until a paste forms, pushing down the basil and parsley as needed. With the motor running, pour in the oil in a steady stream, making sure it directly hits the blade (this is the best way to distribute the oil and emulsify it evenly and quickly). Transfer to a container. If you’re not going to use the pesto immediately, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to keep it from oxidizing.”

    To Prepare Lasagna: Preheat oven to 385 degrees F
    Boil Lasagna according to package directions (usually about 2 minutes to soften)
    If using “basil pesto” combine 1 cup of it with herbed ricotta mixture.

    ~ Layer 1 cup sauce into 9X 13 baking pan
    lasagna-0766 ~ Completely cover bottom of dish with lasagna noodles
    lasagna-0773~ Top noodles with 1/3 ricotta mixture and a layer of mozzarella spread out (doesn’t need to cover as much as ricotta)
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    ~ Coat with red peppers (for the first layer I cover the pan with red peppers and spread out the zucchini pieces leaving more space on following layers spread out red peppers and zucchini more).
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    ~ Repeat the process 1-2 more times

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    ~ Top with remaining lasagna noodles and sauce
    Cook for 45 minutes
    ~ Add the rest of the mozzarella to the top (covering as much as possible)

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    Cook an additional 15 minutes, turning to broil at the very end for a few minutes until mozzarella gets melty and bubbly (about 3-6 minutes depending on your oven, watch it closely as not to burn).

    That’s about it! Enjoy 🙂

     

     

     

     

     

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