Levana’s Favorite Dairy Dishes
Perfect for Shavuot!
Polenta Casserole au Gratin Recipe
For this polenta casserole and all other polenta dishes, please ignore those insipid cooked polenta rolls you find in the supermarket: Making the polenta base takes minutes, and is the bulk of the work for this delicious dish, which will serve a good dozen guests! Polenta Casserole au Gratin just means it is topped with a crust: Yum!
This is only one of the wonderful polenta possibilities: You will love to explore them, as it is not only delicious but very nutritious, and gluten-free to boot. You can:
- Eat the polenta as is, hot and un-assembled (in other words, only the first step of the recipe) as the grain for a main course.
- Thin it with a little water, garlic and minced basil, maybe a couple diced tomatoes for a great soup
- Cut the cooled polenta in cubes or triangles and put it right under your broiler flame
- Make other fillings: Roasted diced vegetables (mushrooms, eggplant, red pepper, fennel, artichoke hearts, etc…..
- Make it dairy-free. Cook it in water or dairy-free milk, and/or substitute some white wine for some of the water or milk.
- 9 cups milk, low-fat OK
- A few drops olive oil
- Salt to taste (remember the cheese is salty, so very little please)
- 3 cups coarse cornmeal
- 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan or other strong cheese
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 cup basil leaves, packed
- 1 large red onion
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 5 cups canned crushed tomatoes
- Good pinch dried pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup fresh bread crumbs, gluten-free OK
- 3 tablespoons butter
Boil milk, oil, and salt in a large pot. Add the cornmeal and stir until thick. This should take about ten minutes. Stir in the cheese. Pour the mixture into a greased cookie sheet, in a layer no more than half an inch thick. You might fill one and a half cookie sheets. Let the polenta cool.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
While the polenta is cooling, make the sauce: in a food processor, coarsely grind the garlic, basil and onion. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the remaining sauce ingredients.
Grease an 11-by-14-inch lasagna pan. Make one layer polenta, making sure you leave no blank spaces. Add half the sauce. Repeat: one layer polenta, one layer sauce. Bake the casserole for about 45 minutes, or until the dish looks bubbly and hot. Mix the bread crumbs with the butter, and sprinkle over the dish. Bake another 10 minutes. Let cool slightly before cutting into squares.
Makes a dozen servings.
Mushroom-Stuffed Tilapia Rolls Recipe
These stuffed tilapia rolls are beautiful enough to use as main course. The stuffing takes only a few minutes to make and freezes very well, so you might consider doubling the amounts and freezing the unused part for another meal. It will be suitable (minus the cheese) to stuff thinly pounded chicken cutlets too, using the same instructions as in this recipe. For pareve stuffed tilapia rolls, skip the feta cheese, and add another layer of flavor such as toasted pine nuts, diced tomatoes or spinach.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 4 large shallots, peeled
- 1 bunch flat parsley
- 4 cups mushrooms, diced small (use the food processor, pulsing)
- 1/4 cup basil leaves, packed, chopped
- 1 cup fresh bread crumbs, gluten-free OK
- 2/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- Pinch nutmeg
- Ground pepper to taste
- 8 fillets tilapia
- Vegetable spray
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the oil in a large skillet. In a food processor, coarsely grind the onion, shallots and parsley, and add to the skillet. Sauté until translucent. Add the mushrooms, and saute until most of the liquids evaporate. Turn off the flame. Add the remaining stuffing ingredients and mix thoroughly. Put some of the filling in the center of a fillet, and close the fillet around the filling. Place the roll in a baking pan, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining stuffing and fillets. Make sure the pan is not too large for the fish, so the stuffing doesn’t ooze out of the fillets (if necessary, fill some empty spaces with bunched-up foil). Drizzle the oil on top of the fillets, and sprinkle with the paprika. Bake about 30 minutes, or a little longer, until the fish flakes easily. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Dairy-Free (or Dairy) Tiramisu Recipe
Tiramisu is Italian for “pick-me-up”, probably because tiramisu puts together three of our favorite intense robust flavors: rum, chocolate and coffee (please don’t try to substitute any of them!). This tiramisu is so fabulous that I never bother to make the original dairy version. It’s also healthier, thanks to my staunch ally tofu. When you serve it, don’t tell anybody atbout the tofu until they have tasted and raved about it. That said, you can make this dessert dairy by replacing the tofu and tofu cream cheese with an 8 ounce container of cream cheese and a pint of plain yogurt, and proceeding with the recipe exactly as instructed.
It is fine to use good store-bought sponge cake. Although sponge cake is not as pretty as ladyfingers, I prefer it because it maintains its shape better when soaked in the espresso and brandy. Lining the mold with plastic wrap allows very easy unmolding, just pull up the sides and the cake will lift right up. The chocolate must be only the best, meaning, real chocolate, as always! To chop chocolate, scrape the block vertically with a sharp knife: it will fall off in little shards or curls. Once you have all the ingredients in place, the dessert takes only a few minutes to assemble. Try your best to make this dessert a few hours before serving time, or even the day before, in order to give the dessert ample time to soak up all the flavors
Makes 12 generous servings.
- 1 1/4 pounds store-bought sponge cake
- 1 pound silken tofu, thoroughly drained and dried with layers of paper towels
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 container Tofutti brand cream cheese
- 2 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso or coffee powder, dissolved in 2/3 cup hot water
- 1/4 cup brandy, rum or bourbon
- 8 ounces best quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
Preheat the oven to 375 ºF.
Slice the cake in half-inch thick pieces and toast in the oven for about 15 minutes, turning the slices over once, until medium-brown on all sides. Let cool. In a food processor, process the tofu with the oil and sugar until perfectly smooth. Add the cream cheese, and process for a few more seconds. Pour the mixture into a bowl.
Combine the coffee mixture and brandy in a container equipped with a spout, such as a glass measuring cup.
Grease a 2-quart (8 cup) loaf pan and line with plastic wrap, letting the sides overhang. Line the bottom completely with slices of cake, trimmed to fit tightly. Pour half of the coffee mixture evenly and carefully over the cake.
Spread half of the tofu mixture evenly over the cake. Sprinkle half of the grated chocolate over the tofu mixture. Repeat: cake, coffee, tofu mixture, chocolate. Fold the overhanging plastic wrap toward the center of the mold.
Refrigerate a few hours until set. Unmold and slice.
Ricotta Almond Pie Recipe
Anyone looking for a nice departure from the traditional all-American Cheesecake? This Ricotta Almond Pie is for you! Light and ethereal, with a wonderful almond crust and scented with lemon peel.
Almond crust ingredients:
- 1/2 cup almonds
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- Dash salt
- 2 cups flour (any flour, including Gluten-free)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
- 2 tbsp very cold water, or a little more if needed.
- 3 cups ricotta
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons brandy or rum
- 2 tbsp lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Make the crust: finely grind the almonds with the sugar. Add the salt, flour, vanilla and butter and pulse just until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the water and mix just until the dough comes together. Working quickly, spread into an 11inch springform pie plate, coming up the sides.
Whisk all the filling ingredients together. Pour into the pie crust. Bake about 40 minutes, or until set.
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