...Hope Romero (p.194)
Vegannomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook (A BIG thanks, SW, for helping me to troubleshoot linking websites! GENIUS!)
Thanks to JL and SW for getting me this cookbook for my birthday! This is the first of many recipes from this book that I will be experimenting with. Thanks again! You guys are phenomenal friends. And your vegan wedding will be out of this world :)
P.S. If you are reading this, when are we going to do our vegan dinner???
Just the name of this dish gives me goosebumps. MD, myself, and Lady GaGa collaborated on Saturday night to make this baked ziti dish.
THE RECIPE (COURTESY OF THE ABOVE REFERENCED BOOK):
3/4 lb. uncooked ziti or penne pasta [We used whole wheat ziti and guesstimated the amount of pasta. We used a full 13.25 oz box plus 3 large handful of zitis from a second box. If you were concerned, the pasta did all fit into the cooking pot, hahah MD!)
2 onions thinly sliced
3 TBL. olive oil
1 recipe Cashew Ricotta (recipe to follow)
1 TBL. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
white pepper and cayenne [We didn't have white so we omitted it, we aren't pepper racists, we swear!]
2 c. pumpkin puree or one 15 oz. canned pumpkin puree
1/4 c. veggie broth
SAGE BREAD CRUMBS:
2.5 c. breadcrumbs [The authors strongly advised using homemade bread crumbs, but we used unsalted breadcrumbs straight from the canister]
1/3 c. walnut pieces, chopped in a food processor until resembling coarse crumbs [I am pretty sure MD just chopped the nuts by hand.]
1/4 c. non-hydrogenated vegan marg. [We used either Earth Balance or Smart Balance, whatever is currently in my fridge]
2 tsp. dried rubbed sage [rubbed? haha]
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp. ground paprika
salt and freshly ground black pepper [Lunchtime poll: Can you really detect a difference from regular black pepper and fresh ground pepper?"
[The bolded parts are quotes from two of my favorite movies. Hint: the first is straight up 80's and the second is classic 90's...Can you name those films?]
1) Preheat the oven to 375. Lightly grease an 9 x 11 inch lasagne-type baking pan (ours was glass) with olive oil.
2) Prepare ziti according to package directions. Drain then rinse with cool water to stop cooking. Set aside.
3) While the pasta is cooking, caramelize the onions. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and saute the onions until brown and caramelized. Set aside. See Notes.
4) Prepare Cashew Ricotta:
1/2 c. raw cashew pieces
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 TBL. olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 lb. firm tofu, drained.
1.5 tsp. dried basil
1.5 tsp. salt
1a) In a food processor, blend cashews, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic until thick, creamy paste forms. Add crumbled tofu and blend. Blend in basil and salt.
BACK TO THE MAIN RECIPE:
5) Place the Cashew Ricotta in a large bowl and fold in pumpkin, brown sugar, nutmeg, white pepper, cayenne, and vegetable broth. Add the cooked ziti and caramelized onions, stirring to coat the pasta. Pour the mixture into the baking pan and spread it out evenly.
SAGE BREADCRUMB PREPARATION:
1a) Melt the marg. in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs, walnuts, dried herbs, paprika, and season with salt and pepper. Stir constantly until the mixture is lightly coated, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle evenly over the ziti.
BACK TO THE MAIN RECIPE (YOU'RE ALMOST DONE!)
6) Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Let dish cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
WHOA! What a dish! This is delicious for the fall. The pumpkin flavor was subtle and lent a nice creaminess to the dish. The mushiness of the ziti contrasted well with the dry, crunchiness of the breadcrumbs. The sweetness of the pumpkin was a phenomenal compliment to the zing of the pepper. Both MD and I were ecstatic with the results of this recipe. This is a 5-star recipe. [Note: Going forward, I will be tagging certain entries as being 5-star.]
As far as caramelizing onions, the onions were caramelized to perfection. I used a bronze-y/ copper colored pan from our kitchen, and I do believe that the specific pan really helped to make a difference. I seem to remember that I used a standard, dark non-stick pan to make the caramelized onions for the Onion Tart Recipe, and the results were not as impressive. LESSON LEARNED: When caramelizing onions, go for the bronze cookware! In addition to the olive oil, I added a few small scoops of the marg. to coat the onions in the pan and at one point, I added in a small scoop or two of sugar, to really get the caramelization process rolling. PERFECTION.
One thing I might do differently is to initially under cook the ziti in the pot since the ziti presumably continues to cook in the oven. This might give the dish an even better, al dente texture.
Health-conscious MD made a great substitution in the recipe. In place of about 1/2 c. of the bread crumbs, she subbed in wheat germ! MD also dazzled me and Lady G with her knowledge of the health benefits of wheat-germ. And she also took advantage of her "cooking license" [much akin to poetic license, obviously] by adding in fresh parsley to the sage breadcrumb recipe.
Again, this is a definite 5-star recipe. I cannot wait to experiment with the other recipes in this particular cookbook!