Beloved plant-based chef Terry Hope Romero’s latest cookbook, Vegan Eats World: 300 International Recipes For Savoring The Planet arrived at BUST HQ at the perfect time. I’m gearing up for my third Thanksgiving as a vegan, and though I usually can get very elaborate, preparing multiple cruelty-free offerings to share with my family from the comfort of my mom’s kitchen, this year I need to find a dish that can be made ahead of time, travels well, doesn’t require much additional prep on the big day, and isn’t “too weird” before I hit the road to share the holiday with some totally carnivorous relatives.
Vegan Eats World is an incredible compendium of tastes from virtually every culture on the planet, and I had a blast trying out new spices and flavor profiles on my quest for the perfect holiday entrée. Pistachio Date Quinoa Salad from the Middle East, Whole Cashew Curry from Sri Lanka, and Sweet and Savory Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos (a genius fusion of South Asian and Mexican cuisine) all made my palate sing. But once I tried Romero’s Greek Eggplant Lasagna (Pastichio “Vegani”), I knew I’d hit the jackpot. Casseroles almost always make it from point A to B intact, all they require is a little lovin’ from the oven before they’re ready to serve, and this one can do double duty as my main meal and as a savory starchy side to accompany the hosts’ turkey. Most importantly, it’s freakin’ delicious. When I got home the night after making it and discovered the leftover pastichio I had planned to eat for dinner had already been completely devoured by my omnivorous boyfriend, this recipe sealed the deal.
Greek Eggplant Lasagna
Makes a large casserole serving 6 to 8
*See end of recipe for eggplant directions
Pastichio is the Greek answer to lasagna: a tomato-kissed
filling is sandwiched between two layers
of chewy, tube-shaped pasta, then topped with a
creamy bechamel-like sauce and baked to golden
brown perfection. Pastichio is Greek holiday or party
food, great for sharing or hoarding the tasty leftovers
all to yourself. This “vegani” version is bursting
with mushrooms, roasted eggplant, and a luscious,
creamy cashew topping.
The pasta traditionally for pastichio is a long,
smooth, hollow, tube-shaped pasta. This Greek pasta
may be tricky to locate outside of specialty markets;
look for the Misko brand and grab a bag of “Macaroni
#2.” Beyond that, Italian bucatini-style pasta is
a close second, with smoothly textured penne tubes
at third place.
Like the original pastichio, this dish is prepared in
stages and best reserved for weekends or a luxurious
evening in the kitchen; but if you like to unwind after
a workday in the kitchen (you know who you are), this
project is for you. Comforting, filling pastichio is best
served with a simple green salad.
Silken Almost-Bechamel Topping
1 cup unroasted, unsalted cashews
1 pound silken tofu, drained
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus additional
nutmeg for sprinkling
10 ounces brown (cremini) mushrooms
1 large onion, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 pound roma tomatoes, cores and seeds
removed, diced fine, or two 14-ounce
cans diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt (use 1/2 teaspoon if using
a few twists of freshly cracked pepper
1 pound uncooked greek tube-shaped pasta,
italian bucatini, or smooth penne pasta
3 quarts (12 cups) water
3 tablespoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons nonhydrogenated vegan
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup plain soy milk
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
olive oil to grease pan
1. Prepare the topping first: cover the cashews with
hot water and soak for 1 hour or overnight until
soft and plump and then drain away the water. Puree
the cashews with the remaining topping ingredients
in a blender or food processor until creamy, scraping
the sides of the blender jar occasionally with a rubber
spatula. Depending on how powerful the blender
is this may take 1 to 4 minutes. Set topping aside
while you prepare the other ingredients.
2. To make the filling, remove the stems from the
mushrooms and dice the caps into small, 1/2-
inch pieces. In a 12-inch stainless-steel skillet over
medium heat, fry the onion in the olive oil for 4 minutes
or until soft, then stir in the garlic and fry for
30 seconds. Stir in the mushrooms and cook for 6
minutes, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms
have reduced in bulk and most of their liquid has
been absorbed. Pour in the red wine and add the
tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, and
salt; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover and
remove and discard the bay leaf. Cook for 2 minutes
and taste the filling; add more salt if desired and a
few twists of freshly cracked black pepper. Turn off
the heat and set aside.
3. While the mushroom mixture cooks, boil 3
quarts of water and stir in 3 tablespoons of kosher
salt. Stir in the pasta and cook according to package
directions to an al dente consistency (firm and tender
to the bite but not mushy), about 7 to 9 minutes.
Drain in a large colander and rinse with plenty of
cold water, then set the colander above the sink or a
large bowl and drain while making the sauce.
4. Preheat the oven the 375°F and generously rub
the insides of a 9 x 13 x 2-inch metal or ceramic
lasagna pan with olive oil. In the pot you cooked
the pasta in, melt the margarine over medium heat,
then sprinkle in the flour. Cook the flour roux mixture
until it’s bubbling and a pale golden color, about
4 to 6 minutes; stir constantly. Whisk in half of the
soy milk and continue 1 to 2 minutes until the sauce
thickens, then turn off the heat. Stir in the nutritional
yeast, lemon juice, and salt. In a cup whisk
together the remaining half of the soy milk with the
cornstarch and whisk into the sauce until smooth.
Add the drained pasta and stir vigorously to coat
every piece with the sauce.
5. Firmly press two-thirds of the pasta evenly on
the bottom of the lasagna pan, then top with the
mushroom filling. Spread the remaining pasta over
the mushrooms. The pasta will not completely cover
the filling; don’t worry, you’ll be covering everything
with the cashew topping. Use a rubber spatula and
spread the cashew topping over the pasta completely
to the edges of the pan. Sprinkle the top with a big
pinch of grated nutmeg and bake uncovered for 26
to 28 minutes or until the top feels somewhat firm.
Now heat the oven broiler on high and broil the pastichio
for 3 to 4 minutes or until browned in spots—
that authentic Greek casserole touch!
6. Let the pastichio cool for 10 minutes, then slice it
into big squares with a thin sharp knife and use a
bent spatula to lift out individual servings. Pastichio
is the ideal dish to prepare the day before serving; to
reheat cover with foil and bake at 350°F for 20 to 25
minutes or until the center is hot.
Mushroom Eggplant Pastichio: Roasted eggplant
in the mushroom filling is doubly delicious and I’ll
admit this is an extra step in an already involved process.
But if you love eggplant, you must try this!
Between making the topping and preparing the
filling, preheat the oven to 375°F and line a large baking
sheet with parchment paper.
Remove the stems from 1 1/2 pounds of purple
globe eggplant and dice it into 1-inch cubes. Toss
the eggplant with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle
with a little sea salt, and roast it for 25 minutes, stirring
occasionally until the edges of the eggplant are
browned and the cubes have softened. Turn off the
oven, remove the eggplant, and let cool.
Stir the roasted eggplant into the mushroom
filling after the final simmer, stirring thoroughly to
coat the eggplant with the sauce.
From Vegan Eats World: 300 International Recipes for Savoring the Planet by Terry Hope Romero. Reprinted courtesy of Da Capo Lifelong Books.
Emily Rems is a feminist writer, editor, rock star, playwright, and occasional plus-size model living in New York’s East Village. Best known as managing editor of BUST magazine, Emily is also a music and film commentator for New York’s NPR affiliate WNYC, and is the drummer for the horror-punk band the Grasshoppers. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in the anthologies Cassette from my Ex and Zinester’s Guide to NYC, and her short stories have been published in Rum Punch Press, Lumen, Prose ‘N Cons Mystery Magazine, Writing Raw, and PoemMemoirStory. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for fiction in 2015 and is working on a novel. Follow her on Twitter @emilyrems.