Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vegan MoFo: Creamy Baked Dill Mac'n'Cheez (D is for Dill)

Ever have one of those colds that just won't go away? You think it's gone, you're starting to celebrate feeling better and being able to half breathe again, and then bam! it's back! Yeah, I'm having one of those. I was feeling much recovered over the weekend, then I biked home from work in the rain on Monday and have been feeling crummy every since. Today I actually ended up feeling so gross that I left work a bit early and came home and slept on the couch for a while before getting up to make dinner.

I had planned on making something with dill from the beginning, because I just can't think of that many d foods. There's daikon, which I'd have to go up to San Jose to get, which just wasn't happening with all my other current time commitment. And of course, demerara sugar and dark chocolate... but I probably don't need a dessert-dinner right now. So I settled on dill and had planned on doing fancy savory crepes with dill and blah blah blah.

But like I said, I feel crummy. And who wants to eat crepes when feeling under the weather? Maybe you do, you nut, but I needed something a little more comfort food-y!

I realized early this afternoon that what I really wanted was mac'n'cheez. But I needed to use dill! Dill! Dill... mac and cheez? A quick google search assured me that I wasn't the first person to ever have this idea/that it couldn't really be that bad. So I plunged forward with the idea and ended up with a pretty good baked dill mac'n'cheez. Since it turned out pretty good, and since I pulled it out of my butt, I'm including the rough recipe here.

Baked dill mac'n'cheez

Creamy Baked Dill Mac'n'Cheez
serves 6+ (with 2 adults eating, we had copious leftovers)

1 lb whole wheat shells or other sauce-friendly noodle

Tofu ricotta:
1 lb firm tofu
juice of 1 large lemon
1 bunch fresh dill, minced
2 tsps olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Cheezy sauce:
1/4c earth balance
3 tbsps whole wheat flour
2c unsweetened soy milk (divided into two 1c portions)
1 tbsp sweet paprika
8 oz mozzarella daiya

1c whole wheat panko or other bread crumbs
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsps olive oil
olive oil spray

1. Prepare noodles according to package, then give them a rinse and set them aside to drain.

2. Crumble the tofu into a bowl. Add in all the other ricotta ingredients (lemon juice, dill, salt, olive oil) and mash together with a potato masher or other implement of squishing. Set tofu ricotta aside.

Dill-lemon tofu ricotta

(I'm sure you've seen dill ricotta before but here's mine... mmm.... dill...)

3. Preheat oven to 375 and lightly spray a big casserole pan with cooking spray.
4. Melt 1/4c earth balance over low heat in a large sauce pan. (Everything is going to end up in this pan at one point, so really, bigger = better here.)
5. Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently, til it smells toasty and good. Mine took about 4 minutes.
6. Add 1c of soy milk, whisking as you pour. Whisk/stir until absolutely smooth. Reserve the rest of the soy milk for the time being.
7. Stir in the sweet paprika. This will probably make your mixture a startling color, but don't worry, it will mellow out.
8. Increase heat to medium and watch for the roux/milk mixture to approach a simmer.
9. Dump in the Daiya and stir, stir, stir. You need to stir a ton to get that stuff melting. As it begins melting, you will need to add more soy milk-- up to another cup-- in order to get this nice and creamy. Keep stirring and adding milk to that sucker is smooooooth.

10. Turn off heat and mix in your cooked noodles.
11. Fold in the dill ricotta.
12. Pour/scoop mixture into your prepared casserole dish and smooth out the top with a spatula.

13. Mix together the topping ingredients (bread crumbs, salt, pepper, olive oil) in a small bowl. Then sprinkle evenly over the top of the noodles in the casserole dish.
14. For extra crispy yumness, lightly spray the top of the casserole-- the breadcrumb topping layer-- with olive oil spray.

15. Pop that bad boy in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, til the topping is golden and crunchy.

Whew. Sounds like a lot of steps but it took me less than an hour... and I bet it'd be less on a second go. I'm sure there are ways to streamline it.

I was surprised by how much I liked the combo of dill + mac and cheez. Really yummy. Not pickle-y at all, which is what I was afraid of. The whole thing would have been a little on the bland side without the dill, which kicked it up a bit.

Also, I think I finally understand crunchy topping... I hated that stuff as a kid but now I'm like crunchy mac? YES YES. It seems like all the crumb toppings I ever had on mac as a kid were kind of um, mushy. This one was so good tonight though. Look at it:

Crispy crumb topping

Crispy crunchy yummy good. Definitely helped bring me out of my cold-induced funk.

Oh, you know who else is in a funk today? The Emperor. He didn't nap at preschool and he was in a BAD mood. We had a big to-do over dinner-- which he would not even try. I eventually cut up a leftover seitan cutlet for him because I don't want to deal with him waking up at 2 a.m. because he's starving (nor do I really want him to go through that either) which was our compromise. It just slays me when I make something I know he likes (mac and cheez) and he won't even try it. Oh, 2 year olds.

Here he is looking adorable amid his sea of tantrums, though:

Boy with crackers


Anonymous said...

Neat! I've never had dill in mac and 'cheese' before.

I hope you feel better!

Jeni Treehugger said...

That looks so crunchy and saucey and can you believe I've never had Mac and Cheese before!!
Hope you're better soon.

January J. Johnson "JJ" said...

Ok this looks waaaaaaaaaaaaaay better than any other mac and cheese. MMMMMMMMM!

Johanna GGG said...

Sounds good to me - I tried dill in mac and cheese a few years back - loved it but used cottage cheese and I think I would prefer this tofu ricotta

JL Goes Vegan said...

This looks fantastic. I have yet to try a vegan ricotta and love your take on it! I'm going to tweet this post...YUM!

Anonymous said...

Bahahaha!! You are way too funny! I got some good chuckles from the post. Not to mention the fact that I was WOWED by your creativity to make ricotta cheese from tofu. I cannot wait to try this! xo, Cara

Anonymous said...

Why have I never thought of this before? I love dill and I love mac n cheese! You've definitely mastered the topping, it looks so crunchy and perfect.

Anonymous said...

That looks so tasty! I haven't made a mac&cheese with tofu yet so I'll have to try that soon. I like the addition of dill too!
and I love the cute pictures at the end of your posts!

Anonymous said...

I've never thought to put dill in mac and cheez. I think this will be a great flavor combination and it looks delicious! Thank you for sharing!

Amey said...

oh no, a cold and a tantrum Emperor! Ugh!

I love the idea for dill in the mac and cheeze though. Dill is Musty's #1 favorite spice, he is always asking me to put dill in things! :)

Monique a.k.a. Mo said...

Dill mac n cheez? What a novel idea!

Kristen said...

I am making this tonight! Just have to run to the store for Daiya. Thanks for sharing!

k said...

I can't wait to make this! So many appealing mac and cheeses have cashews, which are great for me but not for the other two allergy- ridden vegans in my life. I never thought of doing ricotta style mac before, much less adding dill.