This afternoon, I took on my biggest cooking task yet, and included 2 new-to-me foods: spinach and tofu. My mother insists I liked spinach when I was a kid, but I certainly can’t imagine that ever being the case. But, with my recent discovery that baby spinach can go rogue-like-ninja in my smoothies, I figured I’d give grown-up spinach a try.
The recipe: Spinach stuffed shells with tofu ricotta. I got this recipe from the book, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, but modified it to remain vegetarian but not vegan. (Hey, I like real cheese – what can I say?)
Now, I went all-out on this one – making the entire thing from scratch, including the sauce – but came to the conclusion that the sauce just wasn’t all that good. Good thing I had enough shells to make a second batch with my favorite organic pasta sauce in a jar. So, for this recipe, I left the sauce out of the instructions and recommended a premade sauce instead.
Alrighty, so let’s get cooking!
The only ingredients I used that were not organic were the pasta shells, the Parmesan cheese, and the bread crumbs. Everything else (the tofu, spinach, onions, garlic, etc) was organic.
I ran into trouble right out of the gate, when my rarely-used food processor (it may have been used once in its life) showed up dead on arrival. The original recipe said that the ricotta mixture needed to be pureed, so I tried the blender. Epic fail. The mixture was too thick, and nothing blended – except my wooden spoon when I stuck it too far down while trying to get the stuff moving. There goes half an hour picking wood chips out of my tofu ricotta.
I almost gave up right there, but decided to forge on (praying I wouldn’t be eating tiny wood splinters later). I mashed up the tofu mixture with a fork and added the spinach.
In the meantime, I was also making the white cream sauce. I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be my favorite thing in the world. The consistency was bizarre, like jiggly pudding. My gut told me I probably should have used regular milk instead of the soy milk required by the recipe, but I’d never cooked with soy milk before (only drank it in smoothies), so I figured I’d step outside the box.
When the shells were done boiling, I rinsed and cooled them, then stuffed them with the tofu ricotta mixture and covered them with sauce. I had 8 or so more shells than I had sauce, so I put together a second smaller pan of stuffed shells with organic red pasta sauce from a jar. I baked them for 30 minutes and…
At last, the stuffed shells were done, and the moment of truth was upon me.
Feeling completely terrified of the spinach, I conjured up some bravery and took a bite. It was… OK. I might even say it was good, if it hadn’t taken me so long to make. (I was well over an hour of prep with my blender snafu). The sauce was really… not so good. But the tofu ricotta mixture was quite good. I pushed the sauce aside and ate the shells without it. (It was easy to push aside… it kind of had a life of its own, like a blob of goo).
So, while this meal was a little disappointing, I believe I will enjoy the few shells I’ve got in the fridge with the red sauce instead. And I learned a couple valuable lessons: tofu really does take on the flavor of whatever you cook it with (mmm, garlic!), and never stick wooden spoons in the blender. (That probably goes for non-wooden spoons or any other foreign objects as well).