While studying abroad in Italy and Israel I’ve noticed that vegetarianism has become prevalent throughout the world. Being vegan hasn’t yet become so popular, but nevertheless my suitemate Rena here in Israel is vegan. You would think that this would be pretty difficult living in a country where dairy products are such a large part of the culture. She wasn’t too worried though, since it seems that the staples of hummus, pita, tahina, and fresh vegetables make it more than easy to survive as a vegan while still adhering to a traditionally Israeli diet.
I didn’t think it was possible, but it turns out your body can only take so much pita and hummus, and after five months of being here we’ve all started to feel a little weighed down. So, Rena invested in a vegan cookbook on her Kindle and we vowed (yes, we were that serious) that we would try and make something from it every week. We hadn’t been very good at sticking to our plan until this week however, when I – feeling the need to take a break from my carb-heavy diet as of late – decided to try going vegan for a week. Needless to say, Rena was very excited, and we agreed to get adventurous and try out the recipe for “live” lasagna.
Our Israeli roommate was rather skeptical as she watched us assemble our “lasagna,” but in the end we were all pretty impressed! This dish is pretty, healthy, and most importantly, delicious! Not only is it gluten and dairy-free, it has all the textures and so many of the flavors of traditional lasagna that you surprisingly don’t even miss the cheese or pasta. In fact, it was so tasty that I think Rena and I might actually stick to our weekly vegan plan from now on!
Sarah McAnaw is a junior at American University where she studies International Studies and Biology. After cooking (and eating!) her way through a semester in Florence, Italy last fall, she’s spending the spring in Haifa, Israel where she is – surprisingly – learning to cook vegan food.
Barely adapted from Candle 79 Cookbook: Modern Vegan Classics from New York’s Premier Sustainable Restaurant
For the cashew cheese:
3 cups raw cashews
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
6 basil leaves, finely sliced
For the tomato sauce:
2 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon chopped shallot
1 fresh basil leaf, julienned
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
salt and pepper, to taste
For the lasagna:
¼ pound button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
3 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 -3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large zucchini, trimmed and halved lengthwise
3-4 large tomatoes, sliced crosswise
about ½ cup pesto
salt and pepper, to taste
Make the cashew cheese the night before. Put cashews in a bowl and add enough cold water to cover them. Cover the bowl and let the nuts soak overnight in the refrigerator.
On the day you will be serving the lasagna, take the cashews out of the fridge and rinse and drain them. Place the cashews in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the nutritional yeast, lemon juice, olive oil and water and process until smooth. Using a spatula, scrape the edges of the food processor to make sure that all the ingredients have been thoroughly puréed. Fold in the basil and parsley, and set aside.
To make the sauce, put the tomatoes, shallot, basil and olive oil in a medium sized bowl, tossing until the ingredients are well combined. Season with salt and pepper.
In a separate, medium sized bowl, begin your lasagna mixture. Place the mushrooms, shallot, and scallions in the bowl. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and toss to coat the vegetables. Season the mixture with salt and pepper, and set aside. Using a vegetable peeler, thinly slice the zucchini halves lengthwise (you can also thinly slice using a knife).
To assemble the lasagna, place a spoonful of the tomato sauce in the middle of a plate, and spread it out slightly. Lay three slices of zucchini side by side on top of the sauce. Spread a generous tablespoon of the cashew cheese over the zucchini; top with a spoonful of the mushroom mixture and spread it out to form an even layer. Lay one slice of tomato on the top of the mushroom mixture, and repeat the layering process one more time. Place two slices of tomato for the top layer, add a dollop of pesto and drizzle the whole creation with some olive oil.