pasta test kitchen no. 2

what do you do when you find yourself with an overabundance of just-ripe artichokes, fresh dill, and a snow day?

make a gigantic lasagna!

this dish started with a lot of good intentions, but, unfortunately, it didn’t end up as well as i had hoped. however, i do have a new camera, so at least the pictures are better, regardless of the taste.

crispy noodles.
crispy noodles.

i found myself the proud owner of about 10 pounds of artichokes that needed to be cooked RIGHT NOW. so i roasted them all with some garlic, lemon juice, salt and olive oil for about an hour at 350F.

arty-chokes
arty-chokes

(mistake number one – while they were good roasted, they were still very woody. i should have braised them for lasagna purposes)

i also had quite a bit of dill on hand, a consequence one usually finds oneself in when one buys dill. dill keeps pretty well, standing upright in a loosely-covered mason jar with a bit of water and put in the fridge. but dill does not keep forever, so i blended it up with some chinese chives, capers and cashews and made a bit of dill pesto. it was probably the best part about the lasagna.

dill in a jar.
dill in a jar.

i also blended some silken tofu with a dollop of miso paste and lemon juice to act as a quick ricotta. this is a classic trick, and also works well with firm tofu, which provides a bit more ricotta-like texture.

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because the lasagna turned out to be rather large, i supplemented the tofu/ricotta with a white cheezy sauce made from a boiled potato, soaked sunflower seeds and tahini. i’ve only recently begun experimenting with potato-based cheezy sauces, and while this one is promising, it needs some work before i feel confident in sharing a recipe.

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i made a big batch of pasta dough like i did previously, this time replacing culinary lye with about a teaspoon kansui water. the lye smell was noticeably lowered with the kansui, but the dough was still very difficult to knead and roll out. next time i will try using more water to begin with, as it is rather tricky to add moisture to a seized dough ball when mixing by hand.

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this lasagna is embarrassingly large, but fits perfectly into my 12-inch springform pan. i layered everything, including a sliced red onion, covered it with some biscuit crumbs and baked it for an hour at 375F.

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the bottom layer of fresh noodles became too crisp and were difficult to eat. next time i will add more oil to the bottom of the pan before layering if i am not making a saucy lasagna. the middle layers of noodles nearly disappeared completely, texturally speaking, between layers of tofu/ricotta and dill pesto. that was unfortunate, as i do enjoy toothy noodles in my lasagna for textural variance. the dill pesto was bright, the white cheezy sauce was thick, and the tofu/ricotta was creamy, but there were simply too many artichokes for them to stand a chance. i like artichokes, but as they are not often a vegetable i experience en masse, the sheer quantity present in this lasagna might be too much to handle, as the lasagna is so very big. they also, unfortunately, have some woody bits, which makes chewing an adventure. i would have been wiser if i had made a purée of half of them and used it as a creamy layer and simply frozen the other half. oh well, maybe i’ll remember that the next time i have ten pounds of ripe artichokes on my hands…

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i served this monstrosity of a lasagna with an equally monstrous chopped salad filled with more vegetables that were nearing the end of their freshness. the chopped salad, a dependable side, was delicious.

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my resolve to make good, easy, eggless pasta does not waver, and i shall be victorious, one day.

dill pesto
better than you might think

1 bunch dill, chopped, about 1 cup
1/2 c spring onion or chinese chives, chopped
2 clove garlic, smashed
1 shallot, smashed
1 tbl capers
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 c cashews, sunflower seeds, or pine nuts

– place all ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth. salt to taste, if necessary. keeps in the fridge for a day or two, not much longer.

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