Kale, glorious kale - FamilyEducation

Kale, glorious kale

February 07,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

We had a busy, fun-packed weekend, but all that work I put off all weekend long (stacks of papers to grade) hasn't gone away--even if the rain did. Sunday was sunny and gorgeous, again--we've had two weeks in a row now of great Sunday weather. This week promises to be a pretty busy one, though, with several middle school tours and visits scheduled and work meetings, too. I've been trying to mentally prepare myself for all the juggling and tag-team parenting we have in store this week, and for the roller coaster of emotions that seems to accompany anything related to middle school visits.

My camera is broken, too--this isn't really related to the busyness of the upcoming week, except that I need to find somewhere to take it, in the hopes that what's wrong with it turns out to be a cheap and quick fix. I hate being without a camera, and I miss it. This is also why I couldn't take any pictures of the fabulous lasagna ('lasagne' I guess is the official plural form, but I'll just use the americanized 'lasagna') I made on Friday.

Friday was the first Friday of the month, so we spent the evening with neighbors, sharing food, swapping tales from the week, and watching our kids play together. I made a vegan lasagna to bring over--a sort of last-minute decision, since I had entertained some grand plans of throwing together a vegetarian Shepherd's Pie in the 1 and 1/2 hour I had before we had to leave the house. I have wanted to try and make a vegan lasagna for some time now, but I think I've been nervous, since for me lasagna is synonymous with gooey melted cheese inside, and sharp parmesan and/or asiago cheese on top and I didn't want to be disappointed by a vegan version. But I've also wanted to try my hand at making tofu ricotta, too, since the possibilities  of what you can do with it are endless. I never used ricotta in my own lasagna recipe, but I thought adding the tofu ricotta would compensate for the absence of cheese. 

The results: absolutely delicious! I used cooked purple kale in my vegan lasagna and the flavors blended well with the tofu ricotta. You could probably use any kind of kale. I've been deep in the throes of a love affair with kale recently. I can't seem to get enough of it.  I've been cooking it up with oil and lemon, throwing it into lentil soup dishes for a green kick, and eating it raw in salads (I've recently discovered dino kale--it's great shredded into strips, and tossed with tahini dressing and a ripe tomato) so adding it into a lasagna seemed like the next best thing.

Some recipes for tofu ricotta call for adding sugar, but this didn't seem right to me, so I left it out. But I imagine that if you're going to use the ricotta in a sweet recipe--vegan blintzes, for instance, you would put the sugar in.

I loved this lasagna, and it was a hit at our neighborhood Supper Club on Friday. I definitely think I'll use kale again, since it added a hearty taste and texture to the dish. But I think spinach, which I usually use in my vegetarian lasagna, would work just fine with the ricotta.

 

Kale Lasagna with Tofu-Ricotta

Barilla no-cook lasagna noodles (enough to layer whatever size pan you're using)

1 large bunch purple kale, hard stems removed

1-2 jars of your favorite tomato sauce

Fresh basil or oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil (to cook the kale)

Up to 1/2 cup of water (to add to the kale while it's cooking)

 

For the tofu ricotta:

1 package firm or extra firm tofu--I used extra firm because it's what I always have on hand

1/4 cup non-dairy milk. I used plain soy milk. If you're making tofu ricotta for a sweet dessert, I think using vanilla soy milk would work really well 

2 peeled and diced garlic cloves

 

Preheat oven to 425

Cook the kale in a saucepan with a little olive oil and coarse salt, and up to1/2 cup of water. Stir to make sure the kale doesn't burn--it will cook quickly! Drain the kale and set aside.

Place tofu, garlic, soy milk, basil, and salt into a blender. Blend until smooth and creamy. It will be fairly thick. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the kale. Taste a bit of the tofu-ricotta and add more salt, and pepper to taste.

Cover the bottom of your lasagna pan (I used a 3 quart pan) with a layer of tomato sauce. Layer the Barilla noodles. Top with tofu-ricotta-kale mixture and more sauce. Add another layer of noodles. Top with tofu-ricotta-kale and more sauce. FInish up with a layer of noodles topped with sauce. If you use a smaller Pyrex pan (like the 2 quart I would use when making this for just my family) you'll probably end up with more layers.

Bake for about 30-45 minutes until bubbling. Garnish with fresh basil and dig in!

 

(Here's where I would usually insert a picture--imagine the top pasta layer golden and curling at the edges, the kale peeking out from underneath a bed of garlicky tomato sauce, and the basil sprig green and fragrant on the top.

Any recommendations on an inexpensive but great-photos-for-the-money digital camera?)