Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Veggie Lasagna

Reposting from how I originally wrote this up in 1999 or so:

Lasanga Recipe

by Joe Morris

My lasangna is more of a set of guidelines than a rule, which makes it annoyingly long, but here goes:


The most important part is to shop right:
These are the same as on the back of most noodle boxes:
1 lb mozzarella
1 lb ricotta
Barilla no-boil noodles (or others, but the no-boiling bit is nice)
Two eggs
Some pasta sauce. Buy good stuff, Classico is good; choose something interesting rather than jut plain marinara.
The most recent one I did a big container of sauce (27 oz, I think) and a little one of alfredo (15 oz?) for two lasagnas, which makes a nice creamy tomato sauce. You'll have to figure out some way to split that for just one. You can leave out the alfredo and it still turns out ok, or you can add in some more parmesean/romano/asiago, some cream/half-and-half, and some butter, which are the main ingredients in alfredo.
The rest is different from the back of the lasagna box.
5-10 oz or more of parmesan, romano, asiago or a mix -- hereafter referred to as just "the parmesan".
Bulb to a bulb and a half of garlic (that's not clove, it's bulb, the big thing)
Pine nuts
Sun dried tomato: either in oil, or it's cheaper to get dried, which you then blanch (put in boiling for a minute or two) before chopping.
Tofu: baked is best, "firm" will do. One package of either, I forget how much the ones I used weighed.
Olive oil, extra virgin
Some wine, maybe half a glass. Use something you would drink. I'd go with red, but white will do.
Fresh spices, or dried ones if you must, choose three or four (I recently discovered a "poultry rub" consisting of the last three, which is nice):
Basil (required, really should be fresh)
Oregano (less important than basil, more important than the rest)
Assorted vegetables, pick what you like. I've put them in descending order of importance:
Green and/or yellow zucchini
Regular onions
Green onions
Red bell pepper (I'd veto green)
I had all but shallots (they're a touch expensive) in the most recent batch.


Preheat the oven to 375
Super sauce: Dice the tofu, set it aside. Chop all of the vegetables down into less-than-bite-size pieces, putting them in the largest frying pan or wok you've got. Chop down the fresh/dried spices (leaving out the little woody stems where appropriate, of course), and put half of them in the frying pan, half aside. Dice the garlic, pine nuts, and sun-dried tomatoes, add them to the pan. Dump on a good amount of olive oil, enough to coat everything and then some. Add salt, maybe a teaspoon or two, and pepper. Turn on the heat and sautee until the onions are translucent. (Optional: the portobellos and pine nuts can use a bit more cooking, so you can throw them in first and cook for a minute or two, with a bit of olive oil; the red pepper can use a minute or two less). Add the wine -- enough that everything gets a little wine on it, but not so much that it gets soaked. Let it simmer for a minute or two.
Flip off the heat, and you now want to mix in the remaining spices, the tofu, and whatever sauce (pasta sauce or pasta + alfredo) together; you may need another vessel than the frying pan.
At this point you can pack the super sauce with the remaining ingredients into tupperware and haul it places in a cooler (like to a cabin at Tahoe, which I've done) and prepare the rest within a half hour -- plus hour for baking, and 30-60 mins for cooling back down.
Cheese sauce: Mix the ricotta, eggs, the remaining spices, and two thirds of the parmesan together.
The mozzarella: Slice it; I usually do so the short way, so you get many small pieces.
The layering
You want to layer the four groups: sauce, noodles, cheese, mozz; that's the order I do it in. End with mozzarella and sprinkle with parmesan. Pyrex dishes are really good for seeing how cooked it is and for cleaning up, so I highly recommend them over aluminum or other materials. Cover with Bake at 375 deg for fifty minutes, pull the foil, bake ten more. Pull from oven, leave sitting for at least half an hour; it will still be pretty hot at that point, it will still be a good eating temperature after an hour.
You can improvise with other ingredients that look tasty; I was thinking of putting sun-dried tomato spread in the ricotta last time, but forgot. Use mozzarella di bufola (the italian stuff, in water; you need a fancy store to get it, like Berkeley Bowl). Stuff like that. Italian Cooking for Dummies is a good way to learn how to think like an Italian chef.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

There are amazing potatoes out there.

I got some dry-farmed potatoes from Little Organic Farm at  Berkeley Bowl and they were mind-blowingly good, altering the my view of the potato's capacity to be flavorful.  I previously thought of potatoes as just a bland starch to be used as a palette for other flavors. But these have a vivid earthy flavor that is amazing even without salt, pepper, or butter (although they are still a welcome addition).

High-end Bachelor Food: Grld Chz & Lentils

I'm cooking quickly for myself this evening, and so I made an Emmental grilled cheese.  I also had some lentils and mixed vegetables that I cooked earlier as described in my cooking for BVI post, with a big dollop of sour cream.

Grilled cheese is a standard item that's taken off recently, with whole restaurants specializing in them. Having done a few dozen in my time, I got my own method.  The important thing, as always, is having good ingredients.  My favorite is Emmetaler cheese, with Alvarado sprouted bread (or Ezekiel Bread).  I have been experimenting with ketchups and went with spicy Australian Ketchup For Grownups on this one.  

The technique is this:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bean and cheese burrito (ultra-deluxe edition)


  • spinach
  • tortillas
  • butter
  • cabot extra sharp cheddar
  • onion
  • bell pepper, orange (red also ok)
  • adzuki beans
  • sour cream
  • cilantro


  1. Cook and season the adzuki beans (some mix of turmeric, coriander, and cumin would be good; don't over-do it).  You can also cheat by heating canned beans in a covered bowl in the microwave.  Trader Joe's Cuban Black Beans would work well here.

Basic Equipment

There's about five tools that I use to cook just about everything.  They are:

8" chef's knife.  It's worth spending $100 on this, since they last a long while and get daily use.

I've had my J.A. Henckels Zwillingswerk knife for . . . gosh, 14 years?  I love it.  Wustof and Global are also good choices.  I've used a 6-inch Henckel's chef's knife for a while at my parent's house and might even prefer it to the eight inch; when I get another knife that'll be the one.  A lot of people will tell you that a paring knife is important to have.  I have one, but I only use it when the chef's knife needs to be cleaned and I'm lazy.

Twelve inch stainless steel skillet or sauté pan.  It should be silver, because that's the color that stainless steel is.  Not black or nonstick.  I have an All-Clad; if I was on a budget I'd get the Sur La Table house brand.

Cheesy Potatoes

The last say of sailing in the BVI I had a bag of potatoes, an onion, and a half-pound of cheese left, and we were returning the boat by 11am.  Therefore, we had cheesy potatoes for breakfast.  It goes like this:

I was working with small red potatoes (often called "creamers").  Boil the potatoes in water for about 15 minutes until you can get a skewer through them kind of easily, but not really easily.  You want them "par-boiled" or almost-cooked.  Drain the water and cut them into quarters.

Cooking For a Boatload of Vegetarians

To cook for four people on a sailboat for a week in the British Virgin Islands, three of whom were vegetarians, I walked the bulk aisle of Berkeley Bowl to look for dried goods that I could bring along with me and that would be versatile in making lunches and dinners.  In particular, I was looking for protein sources, which can be hard to find for vegetarians when you're shopping in the islands.

I compiled this list of directions for those staples, and since I already had it typed out I thought I would share along with notes on how they worked out.  I hadn't been very conscious  of Fantastic Foods as a brand before this trip, but my friend Alex -- a fairly dedicated meat-eater -- said the veggie burger from their mix was the best one he'd ever eaten.  The hummus and falafel were both also very good and convenient.

Directions for cooking things for BVI

Fantastic Foods Falafel

(1) In a large bowl add 1.25 c water to bag of falafel mix
(2) Let stand 15 mins [I only waited about 5 minutes and it was fine]
(3) Form mix into 1” balls, add 1tbsp water if feels too dry [I had to add several more tablespoons]
(4) Heat ½” of oil to ~375 deg [not really necessary to have a thermometer . . . about medium-high heat, watch how fast they are cooking, and if the oil starts to smoke pick up the pot or turn it off until it stops]
(5) Fry falafel balls for about 3 mins

Fantastic Foods Nature Burger

(1) Mix equal amounts of veg burger mix and boiling water in a bowl; ¼ c for each 3” veg patty
(2) Let stand for 10-15 mins until cooled and stiff
(3) Form into ½” thick by 3” diameter patty
(4) Pan-fry on medium heat [if you made thicker patties you may want to cover while doing so to ensure the center gets hot]

Fantastic Foods Powdered Hummus

I've taken this stuff camping before, and it worked well on the boat also.  Only marginally less good than store bought hummus and much easier to transport.  Add pine nuts, more olive oil, salt/pepper, and/or paprika to the top to make it fancier.

(1) Mix 1 cup dry hummus in bowl with 1-1/2 cups warm water
(2) Add 3 tbsp olive oil
(3) Stir with fork
(4) Chill for five minutes


(1) Soak ahead of time for a few hours (optional for Adzukis)
(2) Cover beans in pot with water plus an inch or so
(3) Bring to boil
(4) Simmer for 40 mins to an hour for Adzukis, 2 hours for black beans
(5) Season to taste


The most ridiculously-easy to cook grain.

(1) Add 1.25 c boiling water to 1c couscous in a bowl
(2) Let sit five minutes


I make lots of this at home and freeze it in small tupperwares to have as a side.

(1) Sauté onions and carrots in olive oil. That means medium-high heat for about five minutes. You can put the onions in five minutes before the carrots so they get more time to carmelize if you want.
(2) Add twice as much water as you have lentils to the sautéed stuff, and add bullion (or I prefer "Better Than Bullion" brand, which comes in a jar).
(3) Add the lentils. "French" lentils (not actually from France) are my favorites.
(4) Bring to boil
(5) Simmer partly covered until lentils are al dente, about 25 minutes. I like mashing it partly with a stick blender or a hand potato masher.

Forbidden Black Rice (Lotus Foods)

(1) Add 1.25c water to 1 c rice
(2) Bring to boil
(3) Cover and simmer for 25 minutes