Mothers Day in particular is special for me, because I have the best mother in the world. Seriously, I know a lot of people say that, but it’s true in my case. (Actually, scratch that…I don’t know a lot of people who say that.)
To celebrate my mother and the other mothers at our motherloving party, I cooked an epic vegan feast. One of my favorite things about family gatherings is that I can introduce free and delicious vegan food to my very suspicious relatives. There’s nothing more rewarding to a vegan cook than to have a staunchly carnivorous grandfather not only eat your food, but enjoy it.
Given my maternal family’s Italian heritage, I decided that lasagna would be the focus of the meal. I rarely make lasagna, because I prefer to make dishes that lend themselves more naturally to veganizing, rather than mold a traditionally non-vegetarian dish into something that just seems fake, and thus unsatisfying. However, I remembered two things: 1) Sometimes faux meats and cheeses are delicious; and 2) Lasagna really isn't in that category anyway! It’s so easy to veganize! What was I thinking, avoiding it for so long? (Maybe the real reason is that I usually am cooking only for myself. Womp woooomp.)
I always try to cram as many vegetables into a dish as possible, often sacrificing the essence of the dish in the process. (Essence = taste). To avoid this common pitfall, I decided to make a straightforward cheese lasagna, white noodles, no extra vegetables. Living dangerously. I used two homemade cheeses: tofu ricotta and cashew cheese.
- 1 recipe Tofu Ricotta
- 1 recipe Cashew Cream
- 1 box egg-free lasagna noodles
- 4-5C your favorite marinara sauce (there’s no way I could post my family’s ‘gravy’ recipe, or I’d lose a finger)
- NO VEGETABLES
- (Just kidding)
- 1 package water-packed firm tofu
- 1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
- juice from one lemon
- 1/4C nutritional yeast (I tend to go overboard with the nooch)
- salt and pepper to taste
Cashew Cream (adapted from VegNews recipe)
- 1 1/4 C raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
- 1/4C water (more as needed)
- 2-4 T lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2t rice vinegar
Preheat oven to 350°. Get yourself a big azz baking dish (preferably glass so you can see it bubbling as it cooks). Spoon enough marinara to cover the bottom of the dish. Lay down a layer of your lasagna noodles. Spread a generous amount of the tofu ricotta over those noodles, then a layer of the cashew cream, then top with marinara. Top that with another layer of noodles. Repeat until out of ingredients/room in the dish. Cover with aluminum foil, pronounce it as ‘aluminium’, and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover, bake for another 10 or so.
I made this the day before our festivities, and then the day of had it heating in the oven for a good hour and a half (on low, of course, like 200°) before serving, and it wasn’t dried out at all. Keep extra marinara on hand, of course, to ensure that it doesn’t dry out.
This was a big hit, as homemade vegan cheese-like concoctions go over much more successfully than store bought cheeses, especially when incorporated into substantial dishes. Also, these two cheesy things aren’t ‘fake’; they stand on their own.
We’re just getting started. Mothers Day also featured Brussels sprouts with coconut bacon, polenta and chorizo, spaghetti squash with pesto, mushroom and asparagus puff pastry, and Isa’s amazing chocolate yogurt bundt cake. After the lasagna, everything else seems unbelievably simple.