Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Twisted GF Lasagna

Let's say your best friend phoned this afternoon to confirm that she's coming to your place for dinner this weekend -- and she's bringing along a very hot date! How exciting! She needs just one small favor, though. Her date is gluten free. Can you cover that?

Of course you can. It's not that difficult anymore.

Lasagna is one of those dishes that nearly everyone loves and gluten free folks have longed for, even dreamed about. It looks impressive and is actually very easy to prepare. Over the course of the next twelve months, HypFoods is featuring a specialty lasagna each month. We're kicking off the series with a video covering two lasagnas prepared for one meal: a traditional dish and a small gluten free Twisted GF Lasagna, entirely gluten free with a tangy twist imparted by a goat's milk yogurt modification. The webisode illustrates how easy it is make a family size portion of lasagna with a smaller gluten free preparation for a guest or a single family member who is gluten free. We'll tweet about it when it comes out of post.

First things first. Does your gluten free dinner guest eat cheese? Many people who are clinically allergic to gluten also have trouble with dairy products. If this is the case for your guest, then cancel the whole lasagna plan and switch to steaks or fish and a side salad.

If you get the green light on dairy, then here's what you need for the Twisted GF Lasagna:

1/2 lb ground chemical free beef chuck
1/3 lb ground sausage
(Wellshire sausage products are gluten free & chemical free, available at Whole Foods)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 slices Boar's Head Mozzarella cheese (Boar's Head meats & cheeses are all gluten free)
1 cup of premium organic goat's milk yogurt
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
6-8 leaves of sweet basil, chopped
1 qt gluten free seasoned tomato sauce (Annie's Naturals, Mezzetta's Napa Valley Bistro, etc -- the label will be printed to indicate a gluten free product)
1 pkg of Tinkyada Brown Rice Lasagna Noodles

Begin by bringing a large quantity of water to a boil. Add a little olive oil and some salt, then drop in your lasagna noodles. Cook according to package directions. If you are preparing a small portion to fit into a loaf pan, you will only need 3 or 4 noodles. At HypFoods, we have tried many, many gluten free noodle products and Tinkyada Brown Rice products are by far the best in taste, texture and versatility. They also provide a lower glycemic load than other pasta products because brown rice has a dramatically lower call than other grains upon the insulin response.

Brown the meats in a skillet over medium heat with a little salt. Meat is actually optional in lasagna, but we like it. We try to have one or two meatless dinners per week, but not on lasagna night. When browned to your preference, remove the ground meats to a stainless colander and set aside.

By the time your meats are browned, the noodles will likely be finished as well. When your meat has drained, remove it to a plate or bowl and drain the noodles in the same stainless colander. NOTE: This emphasis on stainless is important because people who are clinically allergic to gluten may suffer a reaction to specks of gluten that have infiltrated plastic or wooden utensils like spoons, colanders, etc. Stainless presents the best option for a home kitchen.

As your noodles are cooling to the point that you can handle them, beat the egg in a glass or ceramic bowl. Add the goat's milk yogurt, xanthan gum and chopped basil. Stir to blend. This will replace the ricotta in your lasagna. It will look thin in the bowl, but will cook up into a sort of custard that resembles ricotta in appearance, but provides the delicious, tangy twist to this dish.

Now you're ready to begin layering. Lay out the noodles on a cookie sheet and coat one side with a shmear of olive oil. This will simply make them easier to handle. Tinkyada's Brown Rice pasta is firm and handles very well in this construction phase, unlike many traditional pastas that want to shred as you handle them.

Place a layer of noodle on the bottom of your baking dish or loaf pan. We like the disposable aluminum pans because there is no laborious clean-up after dinner. Add a layer of sauce, a layer of browned meat, a layer of the yogurt blend, a layer of mozzarella and repeat until you have nearly reached the top of the pan. Finish with a layer of cheese, then cover your pan with a lid or a foil cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for another 5 minutes or until the cheese on top has browned, then remove from the oven and allow the lasagna to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing and service.

This recipe serves 2-4 people, depending on appetite. Double or triple the recipe to serve more people OR to include a freezer portion for a future mealtime. Serve with a side salad of mixed greens and mandarin orange segments. Pair with a Sangiovese or a Pinot Rose. Offer plenty of sparkling water and lemon wedges. Make dessert a simple lemon-lime ice or sorbet

Lasagna photo credit: Susan McKee

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