Monday, April 26, 2010

Moosewood-Inspired Macaroni Russian Style

This is more of an homage than a straight-up veganization of Mollie Katzen's "Whole-Wheat Macaroni, Russian Style," from the classic Moosewood Cookbook. The original was a great favorite back when I was living in my first apartment, learning to cook and experimenting with the goodies I brought home from the local health food store. In those days, I was a skinny little vegetarian, completely unfazed by the fact that, like many dishes in Moosewood and its follow-up, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, this carbtastic standby featured shocking quantities of butter, both cheddar and cottage cheeses, and a hefty dose of sour cream, just to ensure no artery was left unclogged.

Youthful metabolisms being what they are, neither I nor the people to whom I served it took any permanent harm, but while I can't vouch for the recipe's "Russian" street cred - especially since Mollie suggested topping it with sunflower seeds and/or that standby of 1970s hippie cookbooks, wheat germ - I will say that it was extremely filling. Like, "I think I'll go lie down for a while" filling.

In this lighter, more animal-friendly version, the dairy-fest has been replaced with a combination of cashew ricotta and soy yogurt, the mushrooms, onions and seasonings increased, and the caraway seeds eliminated for the simple reason that I don't like them. So there. (If you do like them, add a tsp. or so along with garlic.)

Finally, I eschewed the wheat germ in favor of panko crumbs to give the whole business that crispy, crunchy goodness that is the birthright of all casseroles. Baked to golden perfection and served with a side of sauteed green beans and caramelized shallots, this was a cozy Sunday night dinner as it exists in the mind of God (especially if he happens to be vegan, Russian, and/or a hippie).

Moosewood-Inspired Macaroni Russian Style
The Filling
~ 1 cup raw cashews, soaked and drained
~ 1 package extra-firm tofu, drained and crumbled
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ Juice of one large lemon
~ 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ ½ cup chopped, fresh parsley (or 2 tsp. dried)
~ ¼ cup chopped, fresh dill (or 2 tsp. dried)
~ 2 cups plain, unsweetened soy yogurt

~ In a food processor, combine the first 6 ingredients (cashews through seasonings), and blend until smooth.
~ Transfer the tofu mixture to a large bowl, then stir in the yogurt. Combine thoroughly and set aside.

The Veggies
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 1 large carrot, diced fine
~ 2-3 cups shredded green cabbage
~ 1 lb. mushrooms, thinly sliced (I used baby bellas)
~ 2 tsp. dill
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, paprika, parsley
~ A few generous grinds of fresh, black pepper
~ 1 green bell pepper, diced

~ In a large skillet, saute the onion in the over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, until softened but not brown.
~ Add the carrot and cabbage and cook for 5-7 minutes, then stir in the green pepper, mushrooms, and seasonings. Cook about 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, and remove from heat.

~ 1 lb. whole wheat elbows or similar size pasta, cooked al dente, drained, and tossed with a little oil to prevent sticking.
~ 1/2 cup panko crumbs
~ 1 tbsp. vegan margarine, melted
~ Paprika and dried parsley for garnish

The Assembly
~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit, and coat a large casserole with cooking spray.
~ Combine the filling, sauteed vegetables and cooked pasta, then transfer to the prepared baking dish.
~ Sprinkle the panko on top of the pasta mixture, drizzle on the margarine, and garnish with a little paprika and parsley.
~ Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes.
~ Remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes, until browned and bubbling.
~ Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.