Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mushroom Lasagna

Everyone has a go-to recipe (or twelve). You know, the kind you get to know like the back of your hand and can usually prepare without consulting a cookbook or recipe. I'm usually tinkering with it, substituting and customizing it and making it my own. When it comes to lasagna, my go-to has long been Ina Garten's recipe.  It's a delicious white lasagna. The difference with this one, though, is that I never had to change a thing. It needed no tweaking or additions or substitutions. It's perfect as-is. It's a simple recipe, which is why it's so good. The bechamel is rich and tangy and a perfect complement to the mushrooms and cheese. It's also chock full of non-vegan dairy ingredients. It became my mission to figure out how to make a vegan version of it.

Luckily, vegan cookbook author Dynise Balcavage seems to have faced the same challenge. Her bechamel is about as close as you can possibly get to Ina Garten's. Like Ina's, her recipe is simple, straightforward and delicious.

Based on recipes from Ina Garten and Dynise Balcavage.

3/4 lb. lasagna noodles
1 1/2 lbs. brown crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 cups vegan mozzarella cheese, shredded (Follow Your Heart or Daiya is best)
2 tbsp Earth Balance vegan butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the sauce:
6 tbsp Earth Balance butter
3 tbsp flour
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
3 cups soy or rice milk
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
dash tumeric
freshly ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Put a large pot of salted water on high heat. A splash of olive oil will help keep your noodles from sticking together once they're drained, so add that now. Add the noodles and cook about 10 minutes (or about a minute or so if you're using a fresh pasta). Drain and set aside.

Prepare the mushrooms: Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet and add the mushrooms. Stir them up well to get them coated. Add a pinch of salt and saute them for about 5 minutes, tossing them frequently to ensure they cook evenly. They should end up looking like this:

Prepare the bechamel: Melt the Earth Balance in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the flour and nutritional yeast to make a roux. Stir it constantly while it browns, for about 5 minutes. It'll be dry and kind of pasty/crumbly:

Slowly whisk in the milk, a bit at a time, until it's smooth. Add the nutmeg, salt, tumeric and garlic and pepper. Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower the heat and simmer, whisking frequently, until thickened. Once it's thickened, remove it from the heat and set it aside.

Assemble the lasagna: Put a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Top it with noodles, sauce, mushrooms and cheese, then repeat two more times. Put a little more cheese on the top layer. Usually, I end with a layer of noodles on top with cheese on top of that. This time, I dispensed with that last layer of noodles and just piled the cheese on top of that last layer of mushrooms and sauce.

Put it into the oven for about 40-45 minutes, until it's browned a little and the cheese is melted.

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