The Shavuot dinner table:
The Shavuot cheesy baked ziti:
I'm rushing to write this post before the start of Shavuot. Shavuot, for the uninitiated, is the celebration of the Jewish people receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. One of the ways we celebrate is eating dairy meals - Cheesecake, cheese blintzes, pizza. Anything cheesy or milky is fair game for Shavuot. What do Torah and dairy products have to do with one another? There are a variety of explanations for why we eat dairy on this holiday. Some say it is because the Hebrews in the desert ate dairy meals when they received the Torah because they had just been given the laws of kashrut (keeping kosher) and didn't yet have the time or resources to cook meat according to these laws, and dairy meals are less work. Others say it is because of King Solomon's words describing the Torah as "honey and milk are under your tongue" in the Song of Songs. Either way, this is probably the holiday that's least friendly towards the lactose intolerant, but the favorite of those who love all things cheesy.
To celebrate I made a reduced fat, reduced cholesterol gluten-free baked ziti for my parents. My mother ate two servings of it, proclaiming its goodness, when I finally admitted that she had just eaten her least favorite food: tofu. Yes, once again I have convinced my mom to unknowingly eat tofu by disguising it as cheese. The combination of garlic powder, salt, nutritional yeast and silken tofu really do create that believable an imitation of ricotta - And of course cut down on the fat and cholesterol, which was the point. I used real cheese too, of course - Shredded parmesan and reduced fat Sorrento mozzarella, which is kosher and is lower fat than regular part-skim mozzarella. Tinkyada noodles were my pick for the ziti, as they stay firm even when baked. The result was a delicious baked ziti that's plenty cheesy without being overwhelmingly rich. Serve this to your friends and smile smugly as you watch them devour it without realizing it's gluten-free and has tofu in it... I mean, if you are evil like me, that is.
CHEESY REDUCED FAT BAKED ZITI
[Gluten-Free / Vegetarian / Nut-Free / Milchig]
12 oz dry Tinkyada brown rice penne (one package)
One 12.3 oz package of firm silken tofu
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup sliced brown mushrooms (such as crimini mushrooms)
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup shredded parmesan
6 ounces shredded reduced fat mozzarella
16 ounces marinara sauce
Cooking spray or extra olive oil
Bring a pot of water to a boil. When it comes to a boil, add a small amount of salt and all of the noodles. Boil the noodles until al dente - They should not be mushy. Drain and rinse with cold water, set aside.
Preheat oven to 425 F.In a small bowl mash silken tofu with the back of a fork, along with garlic powder, kosher salt and nutritional yeast. In a separate bowl, mix parmesan and mozzarella cheese together. Remove 1/3 of the cheese mixture and add it to the tofu mixture, stirring well to combine.
In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and sautee until golden-brown. Add garlic and sautee for 1-2 minutes. Add mushrooms and sautee until fully cooked. Mix in marinara sauce and simmer over low heat until very hot. Remove from heat.
Stir tofu "ricotta" mixture into the pan with the sauce, then carefully stir in noodles. Pour the entire mixture into a medium baking dish that is coated with olive oil or non-stick spray. Cover with remaining cheese. Place in heated oven and bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Place under broiler (not too close to the flame or heating element) for 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and browned. Serve hot.