Monday, July 11, 2011

Vegan Lasagna Rolls with Tofu "Ricotta"

In May I was contacted by Much and House Public Relations to see if I would participate in a blog tour for a new vegan cookbook by LA-based celebrity chef Ann Gentry.

(I just had a mini-nightmare about diagramming that sentence.)

Um.  Sure I will!

The firm sent a copy of Ann's cookbook, "Vegan Family Meals:  Real Food for Everyone".   A sucker for great recipes and gorgeous photography, I was instantly smitten.

A few weeks later I attended the IACP meeting in Austin.

A woman sat down next to me during the roundtable discussion on "Ethics in New Media."  

"I KNOW her," I thought as she began applying her hand creme.  "Where have I seen her before?"

*Ding, ding* said the connection-maker in my brain.  "That's the cookbook author!" 

I introduced myself.  She was very sweet and gracious as I prattled on about how I "knew" her.  Then, during our roundtable, she expressed genuine disgust as I shared my story with the group about how I found one of my (uncredited) photos in a magazine.

That made me like her even more. 

It's swell to have a human connection with a cookbook I'm reviewing.  And the next time I'm in LA, I'll definitely be making a bee-line to her restaurant, Real Food Daily, for a delicious meal.

Take heed:  if you have any desire to jump into the vegan world or if you are a non-vegan cooking for vegan friends or family members, you should buy this book.  It is brimming with helpful hints, definitions, and instructions.

Because, seriously.  Do you know what nama shoyu is?  Neither did I, until I learned about it on page 67.


For the blog tour, I decided to prepare Ann's Lasagna Rolls. Instead of the layers of noodles, cheese, and tomato sauce that we are all used to, Ann mixes it up a bit by topping individual noodles with veggies and her vegan version of ricotta cheese.  Then she rolls each of the 12 noodles and tops them with a lovely homemade tomato sauce.    

In total, this recipe contains 14 cloves of garlic.  Since garlic has natural antibiotic properties, you can bet all 14 of them will be gearing up to fight off something --anything-- that might be secretly stalking your family.  

And I'll say two more things before I begin the recipe:  #1 - I did not get paid to review this cookbook.  While I did receive the book for free, if I thought it was something unworthy of a recommendation to my readers, I would have politely returned it.  And #2:  this recipe takes a while to make.  But if you are already living a vegan lifestyle, you are used to spending time in the kitchen making things "your way."  And even if you DON'T regularly eat vegan, I do encourage you to try this recipe.  It will open the culinary door to the super-healthy and incredibly delicious world of vegan food.

Let's get started with the sauteed veggie mixture:

Saute the onions, fresh basil, and garlic for about 10 minutes in olive oil. 
Then add the carrots, zucchini, and broccoli.  Saute for 12 additional minutes.

Now the real fun begins. 
I made a trip to the health food store.
And proudly made my first purchase of tahini and miso. 

When I opened the miso container, I was greeted with this fact.
After the junk I battled this spring,
you can bet I'll be eating miso soup often!

This is what we need to make the "ricotta" mixture.

Place the ingredients in a food processor,

and give it a whirl.

Holy Guacamole.  This is so good.

Grab the veggie mixture, which should be cooled by now,

and mix it with the "ricotta."

Cook your egg-free noodles according to package instructions.
I like to drape the noodles over the side of a colander for ease of use.

Spread the lucky first noodle with the ricotta/veggie mixture, 
leaving about a 1/2-inch on each end bare.
And roll it up.  
There is a beautiful demonstration of this process on page 168 of the book.  
Unlike mine, Ann's hands do not look like they have belonged to a scullery maid 
for approximately 150 years.

Grease a large baking dish and ladle in 1 cup of tomato sauce (recipe follows).
Add in the little noodle darlings as you roll them.

Top with remaining sauce and bake for about 55 minutes.
I had to hold myself back from added grated Parmesan at this point.

But I was rewarded for my constraint.

The absence of animal products was stellar.


To underscore the detectability of the recipe, 
Timothy did not even notice the pink plate.

You can purchase Ann's book here
To learn more about Ann and her vegan lifestyle, please visit her blog

Lasagna Rolls with Tofu Ricotta and Everyday Tomato Sauce
Serves 6 (Makes 12 rolls)

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (G's note:  that's 10-12 large leaves)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 head broccoli, stems removed, and florets finely chopped
2 cups Tofu Ricotta Cheese (recipe follows)
12 eggless lasagna noodles
3 cups Everyday Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, heavy frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, garlic, basil, salt, and pepper.  Saute until the onions are tender, about 10 minutes.  Add the carrots, zucchini, and broccoli and saute until the carrots are crisp-tender, about 12 minutes.  Let cool completely.  

Mix the vegetable mixture into the tofu ricotta cheese.

Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring often, until tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain and rinse the noodles, then toss them with 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil to prevent the noodles from sticking together.

Coat a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil.  Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish.  Using a spatula, spread about 1/2 cup of the vegetable mixture over each lasagna sheet, leaving about 1/2 inch of each end uncovered.  Roll up each sheet tightly and place it seam-side-down in the baking dish.  Pour the remaining 2 cups tomato sauce over the lasagna rolls.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil.  Bake until the sauce bubbles, about 55 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking for 15 minutes.  

Tofu Ricotta Cheese 
(Makes about 3 cups)
1 (14-ounce) container water-packed firm tofu, drained and cut into quarters
2/3 cup yellow miso
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
5 large garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon sea salt

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

The "cheese" will keep for 2 days, covered and refrigerated.

Everyday Tomato Sauce
(Makes about 4 cups)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 shallots, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots, garlic, and salt and saute until fragrant, about 20 seconds.  Stir in the tomatoes and the 1 cup water.  Bring to a gentle simmer, then decrease the heat to low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, to allow the flavors to blend.  Stir in the basil and oregano.  Remove from heat.


Dianne Jacob said...

Hi Ginny, I was at that roundtable discussion as well, but I had to leave early. A friend in LA LOVES Anne's restaurant. One day I'll have to go there.

I love the idea of that tofu sauce for the veggies. It looks like it is very flavorful.