Sunday, April 4, 2010

Vegan Pastitsio


At the risk of offending some readers, I really don't get why people go overboard with meat dishes on Easter. Some will claim that they fast before Easter, but clearly, everyone has a different definition of "fasting"... it's one thing to go veg for 40 days or to eat just one meal a day, but skipping meat only on Fridays should be renamed "cop-out." It seems to me that that's not much of a sacrifice or a fast!

Cooking dinner for Greek Easter- normally a day of roasting a lamb on a spit and eating heavy meat dishes like moussaka or pastitsio- required a little extra thought and a little experiment.

Hypothesis: though traditions are hard to break away from, would anyone notice if their pastitsio contained some non-traditional soy ground instead of beef?

Conclusion: After my boyfriend's parents excitedly cleared their plates, I learned that tradition is definitely something that needs to be messed with!

A thick hollow bucatini-like pasta is commonly used in this baked pasta casserole dish- if you can't visit Titan in Astoria, or any other Greek supermarket, you can use elbow macaroni, as I did! For a sweeter surprise to this dish, use regular soy milk to make the bechamel sauce- otherwise, go with unsweetened soy milk.

The Whats:

* 1 1b. bag of whole wheat elbow pasta
* 2 tbsp. soy butter or olive oil
* 3 tbsp. olive oil
* 1 medium yellow onion, diced
* 1 large garlic clove, minced
* 1 tbsp. parsley, chopped
* 2 bags vegan Boca crumbles
* 1 8oz. can tomato sauce
* 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon (plus more to taste if you like cinnamon!)
* salt & black pepper to taste
* 3/4 cup vegan parmesan
* 1/4 cup breadcrumbs

For soy bechamel:
* 4 tbsp. soy butter
* 1/4 cup all purpose flour
* 2 cups unsweetened soy milk, at room temperature
* 1 bay leaf
* 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
* 1/4 tsp. salt
* 1/2 tsp. white pepper

The Hows:

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions or until al dente; drain.  Add the butter or olive oil to the pasta and stir to coat. Set aside.

2) While pasta is cooking, heat the 3 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions, garlic, and parsley and saute until softened. Crumble the veggie ground into the pan and stir. Add the tomato sauce, salt & pepper, and cinnamon, and stir until veggie ground is coated. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3) To make soy bechamel sauce:  Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Reduce heat to low. Whisk in flour until smooth. Gradually whisk in soy milk. Add the bay leaf and cook until thickened, about 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in seasonings and discard bay leaf.

4) Brush a large baking dish with olive oil. Spread half the elbow pasta on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the vegan parmesan over the pasta layer; dust with some extra cinnamon if desired. Cover pasta layer with the veggie ground mixture. Spread the remaining pasta over the veggie ground layer. Pour soy bechamel over the pasta, spreading with a spatula to coat evenly, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and remaining vegan parmesan.

5) Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown on top. Allow pastitsio to stand for ten minutes before slicing.

Serve with a Greek salad and some vino!

No comments: