Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Amazing Vegan Casserole (part 2)

What a delightful 3-day weekend! I took Friday off so we could celebrate our anniversary, but we ended up carting more stuff over to the thrift store - they ought to be making a fortune off of our desire to have nothing in our home. Also, Mister found (bought) some boxes and threw all the miscellaneous bits and pieces littering the floor into them and tucked them away. Suddenly, there's all this space! We're still not done, but we actually have room to get a sofa now! A little one, anyway.
Angst, stretching out in the middle of the floor

In between rainclouds, I managed to get my shopping done today, so I can get to the last of the purging and sorting at my leisure. We're so close to having a liveable space that I'm actually starting to see our home as cozy instead of cramped. Really, to tell the truth, our apartment has been enough to give an agoraphobic claustrophobia.

Anyway, before I share my wonderful dinner story, let me give you this week's menu (including tonight's dinner):

1. Indian-Inspired Lasagna

2. Seitanic Red & White Bean Jambalaya
from Veganomicon.

3. Mandarin Tofu with Peppers & Broccoli

4. Risotto Mexicano

5. Miso-Ginger Red Beans with Broccoli
from Vegan Express.

I have made all of the above at least once before (for more info/stories, follow the helpful links!), except the lasagna. I made that tonight and I could not be happier with how it came out!
I'll grant you that it doesn't look much like lasagna, but that is because
A) it is vegan and therefore has no bubbly cheese topping
B) the only thing that really makes it lasagna is that I used lasagna noodles. It probably ought to be called something else, like Layered Indian Casserole, but that is so uninspired.

Anyway, the reason I am so pleased with the "lasagna" is because it is my very first baked dinner recipe! I'm not sure how it happened, but I got this idea in my head to make a chickpea "ricotta" and have an apple layer for texture and that moment of "Oh! That's different!" As I sat and thought about other components of Indian cooking, the other parts all came together. I'll share the recipe, and if you can think of a better name for my first vegan casserole, that would be great.
Indian-Inspired Lasagna (until something better comes along)
Serves 8-10
3/4 cup red lentils
1 1/2 cups water
two 19 oz cans of chickpeas
1-1 1/2 cups V8 Spicy Hot
two 10 oz packages of frozen chopped spinach
28 oz petite diced tomatoes, well drained
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 Tbsp Garam Masala
1/2 tsp salt
1 apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
8-10 lasagna noodles, oven-ready or cooked

Bring water to boiling and stir in lentils. Lower to a slow simmer and cover. Cook 20-30 minutes, until lentils are mushy and have absorbed all the water. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pot on medium heat. Saute the mustard seeds, covered, until they start popping. Lower the heat and add the Garam Masala and salt - cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute, then add the frozen spinach and turn the heat back up. Cover and cook 5-10 minutes, until spinach is no longer frozen. Add drained tomatoes and stir well. Cook, uncovered, on medium-low heat until most of the liquid has cooked off.
Combine chickpeas and V8 juice in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and of a spreadable consistency, adding more juice if necessary. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and combine with mashed lentils, stirring well.
Spray a 9x13" baking dish with cooking spray and place a layer of 4-5 lasagna noodles on the bottom. Spread half of the chickpea "ricotta" over noodles, then half of the spinach mixture over the "ricotta." Arrange the apple slices in three rows across the spinach layer. Top with 4-5 more noodles, the remaining chickpea ricotta and the remaining spinach mixture. Smooth the top and place in the preheated oven. Cook, uncovered, about 45 minutes. Allow it to set for a few moments before serving and it will look more like this:

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