Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Roasted Fennel and 'Ricotta' Gratins with Tarragon

The first thing about this recipe, of course, is that ricotta is not vegan. The best substitute, I've found, is not a soy cheese but rather crumbled tofu. The texture holds up perfectly.

This was a straight-forward side-dish recipe, time consuming only because it requires a fair amount of cooking in the oven, but not involving much effort. I cut up 2 fennel bulbs to equal three cups (if anyone knows the proper way to slice fennel, please let me know! Every time a recipe instructs me to do so, I hack away at the bulb in a different manner, and I've never found one that leaves me satisfied...) and let the fennel roast in a pan (coat with cooking spray) at 450 degrees for 40 minutes. While it's in the oven, pulse half a slice of white bread until it becomes crumbs, then toss it with half a teaspoon of dried tarragon and a little dash of pepper.

White bread can be tricky as a vegan. You have to read ingredient lists carefully because, all too often, they contain sneaky ingredients like whey (from milk), milk powder, nonfat milk, you name it. I've found that the organic bread companies are far less likely to include these sneaky, non-vegan ingredients and Whole Foods house brand has become my go-to for sliced bread. Little did I realize that the loaf I brought home contained honey (which I finally gave up only a few weeks ago; I had held off on this last vegan no-no but it seemed time. Note: agave nectar is a perfect substitute). So here I was at home, having purchased my loaf of bread, and only then realizing honey was in it. I decided to use it, rather than waste the loaf, but note to self to buy a different brand of white bread next time.

Once the fennel stops roasting, toss it with a quarter cup of your crumbled tofu, a quarter tsp. of salt, and spoon it into three (cooking spray coated) 4-oz ramekins. Add two tablespoons of your bread crumb mixture to the top and cook them at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.


Three servings, at 110 calories each. Since this is a side-dish, add whatever other vegan fare you like to make the meal more substantial. I had some whole wheat pasta sprinkled with herbs de provence.

fennel $2.83
tofu $2.19
white bread $3.29

The rest was already in my pantry.

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The Vegan Pantry

  • Vegan yogurt - Whole Soy http://www.wholesoyco.com/
  • Vegan milk - Silk http://www.silksoymilk.com/
  • Vegan Feta - Sunergia http://www.sunergiasoyfoods.com/
  • Vegan Cheese - Galaxy Foods http://www.galaxyfoods.com/
  • Vegan Eggs - Ener-G http://www.ener-g.com/
  • Vegan Butter - Earth Balance http://www.earthbalance.net/product.html