Lasagna A La Tofu

I have a friend who writes for a magazine in Seoul.  She has asked me to incorporate some “Korean-y” foods into my diet, and write a journal about a westerner trying to loose weight in Korea.  Well, I agreed to throw in one new ingredient every week, while I am on this 100 day journey (for the article).  Since I really don’t know about cooking Korean food, or what she might consider “Korean-y”.   She came back with a small list, and on it was tofu.  The first thing I did was call the one vegan I know  and ask for help!  I need tofu school because I have always been pretty scared of the stuff, but also intrigued and wanting to learn how to use it.  The only way I have ever liked it was in spaghetti sauce at a daycare I worked for in college.  She was happy to share her knowledge of both Korean food, and tofu with me, and set out quite the spread to give me a variety of foods to try made with tofu, or soy meat.

Here is the amazing Tofu Meal that My friend Emily of Justwhatgrows.com made for me last weekend.

It was quite the spread, and just about everything was made with tofu or soy.  I was very impressed.  I think the doenjang soup was my favorite part of the main course, and I will be making her dessert sometime!  She made tofu banana bread!

Anyway, she sent me home with a block of fresh firm tofu to use how I pleased.  I have been craving lasagna for the past several weeks, and since I knew that I was okay with tofu in spaghetti sauce, I decided this would be the perfect place to try my first tofu recipe!  I don’t have any ground beef right now, which is very expensive in Korea anyway, so the timing is perfect.

I started out with a tomato base, using a can of ready cut S&W chopped tomatoes.  I pureed them, added 2 small white onions, one red bell pepper, and one yellow bell pepper.

Next I cubed up the entire block of tofu, and added two more cans of chopped tomatoes to the mix along with maybe a tablespoon of both thyme and basil, and maybe three tablespoons of minced garlic.  I put the lid on the crock pot and turned it on low.  I let it cook for about seven hours.

When I came home from work, my house smelled great, and my sauce looked like this:

I added salt and pepper to taste (my husband said there was not enough salt, but he likes more than I do).  I did wind up adding a 12 oz can of Hunt’s tomato paste to the mix because the sauce was a lot thinner than I wanted it.  I started adding a little at a time, but I do like a thick sauce, so I wound up using the entire can.

Next I made Homemade nonfat ricotta again.  This time, I strained it differently  and the texture turned out very dry.  See the other blog for detailed instructions, but her are a few photos of it being made this time.

Heating milk and lemon juice to 185 degrees F.

Filter Paper over a strainer (used instead of the bag I normally use, and in place of cheese cloth)

The cheese separating from the whey.

The cheese straining, and being separated from the way. This strained a lot faster than the bag I had used, and the cheese dried and became crumbly very quickly.

The cheese still draining, and actually drying out quite a bit. I am used to it more creamy than dry.

Next, on to the noodles.  I mixed two cup of Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup of dried spinach with a teaspoon of salt

I added 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and slowly added 3/4 of a cup of water.  Only add water as needed to wet the ingredients and make a stiff/not sticky dough.

Next, roll out the dough, either by hand or machine until you get thin sheets 1/4 inch thick at the most, and as wide and long as your pan.  I have small glass pans, and a pasta roller, so I went down to 5 on my roller, and got sheets looking like this:

Here is a closeup, you can really see the spinach, and the noodles tend to turn green when they are cooked.

Next, you start layering in your pan.  I start with a thin layer of sauce so the lasagna does not stick, then line the pan with a sheet of pasta.  Since it is fresh (and I don’t use eggs), I don’t cook my pasta first.  the oven will do that part for me.

After your first layer of noodles,

add more sauce, then I add spinach,

ricotta cheese, and a tiny bit more sauce.  Add another sheet of noodle, and more sauce.  Add another layer of spinach (fresh or frozen and well drained) and another layer of nonfat ricotta cheese.  I would love to do more  layers, however I don’t have the pan for it, so after a second layer, top with another noodle sheet.  On the top, put more sauce, then a layer of ricotta, and top with part skim mozzarella cheese (this is the first time I have seen DRY, Part SKIM mozzarella at E-mart).

Next I baked it on 175 degrees Celsius (350 F) for about 30 minutes, until the top looked amazingly crunchy and brown!

You have to admit, the top of this lasagna looks picture perfect!

Now, I know when I make a full pot of sauce, I have enough for at least three of these lasagnas, so I got some foil containers from E-mart, and made two mini lasagnas to freeze for another time.  We now have a TV dinner for a night when I am unbelevably sleepy (probably tonight!)

Still having 1/3 of my pasta dough, and extra sauce, cheese and spinach, I also finally used inspiration from pinterest and made petite lasagnas.   This is one of the first things I ever pinned on pinterest, but had not gotten around to making yet.  I did not actually layer these.  The muffin tin was oiled, and then covered in the noodle, which was rolled out as thin as my machine rolls (#6).  On the bottom there is a layer of ricotta.  Then over that is sauce, and spinach.  Above that is more sauce, and then it is filled to the brim with mozzarella cheese.

They hold their shape pretty well, and look amazing.  I am taking one to my co-worker today who heard I was making lasagna for dinner last night and she commented on all the cheesy goodness and about drooled..

Honestly, I can’t blame her!

This finally used up all of my sauce.  The pan made 4 generous helpings, between the two frozen trays, I have 4 more, and 2 cups should be a serving as well, so this recipe made about 11 servings, and even with all the cheese, was only 8 weight watchers plus point per serving.  Now, what I am really impressed with; the tofu and the ricotta both had about the same texture, and because I cubed it and didn’t crumble it, I could tell the difference, but in my mouth, it all tasted about the same.  I did miss the flavor of the ground beef, but overall, my first experiment with tofu was a huge success!

Pasta sheets (the noodles)

2 cups whole wheat flour,

2 tablespoons olive oil,

¼ cup dried spinach (optional if you want green noodles)

1/8 teaspoon salt

Just enough water to make the dough stiff and forming a ball…not enough to be sticky.
Whisk together the flour, salt and dried spinach powder.  Add the oil, and mix with your hands to distribute it through the entire bowl.  Slowly add flour 1 tablespoon at a time and keep mixing with your hands letting the dry flour soak up the water before mixing too hard.  Add water just until all of the flour forms a ball, but is still very dry feeling.  Knead for several minutes. Until it has a pretty even texture.  Add in extra water or flour if you need to to keep the fairly dry consistency. I used a total of ¾ cup of water.   Roll out to the thickness you want your noodles to be.  Mine was about 1/8 of an inch, but I have done them as thick as ¼ inch (when they are that thick I recommend boiling them for a minute or two before cooking, the thinner they are, the less likely you need to do this).

Cut to size and use in lasagna pan.

Ricotta Cheese:

1tsp/5mL citric acid  (I use lemon juice for this, 5-6 tablespoons this time and it separated great)
2fl oz/60mL water
1gal/3.84L whole milk
2tsp/10 g salt

Dissolve the citric acid in the water.

Heat the milk, citric acid solution and salt to 185 F or 85 C stirring often to prevent scorching. Skim away the scum as it rises to the surface.

When the milk reaches 185 F remove from the heat and allow it to set for ten minutes.

Drain the curd for at least 1 and up to 3 hours under refrigeration in a cheesecloth lined colander or a muslin bag set over a towel.

The cheese is now ready to use. Alternatively, transfer to a storage container and hold covered under refrigeration for up to one week.

Tomato/tofu sauce:

3 cans of ready cut S&W chopped tomatoes

2 bell peppers (any color)

1 large or 2 small onions

3 tablespoons garlic

1 can of hunt’s tomato paste

1 loaf of firm tofu crumbled

Seasonings you like, I used salt, pepper, basil and thyme

Puree one can of tomatoes, then chop up all veggies and put everything except for the tomato paste into a crock pot.  Let it simmer on low in the crock pot for probably 4+ hours (I had it on for 8) and see how it is doing.  If it is thin, add some tomato paste, and let it thicken a little.  If it is really thin, add up the whole 12 oz. can, like I did.

Lasagna:

Put a layer of sauce down in the pan. Cover it with a sheet of pasta.  Next add a layer more of sauce, then sprinkle some crumbled ricotta cheese, and a layer of spinach.  Put a little more sauce, and then another layer of pasta.  Next do the same thing over again one more time.  Make as many layers this way or by changing up what you put into the layers as well, as your pan will let you.  I put one a little more sauce, one last pasta sheet, more sauce, the ricotta, and instead of spinach this time, I covered the top with part skim mozzarella cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes or so at 175 degrees C, or at least until the cheese is brown and delicious on top.  This recipe actually could make 16 generous sized portions.  I wound up making one small pan for dinner/lunch, 2 smaller pans (individual tv dinner size) for the freezer to eat another night, and a little extra for lunch for me today.  Portion wise, without any side dishes, Each my husband and I got 8 meals out of it, and I still did not wind up using all of the pasta dough.  So if you make my recipe exactly, be prepared to make a lot.

 

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