Tis the season for casseroles, folks. And there’s no one better than a Midwesterner to tell you so. Broccoli, tater tots, containers of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, and, of course, french-fried onions – everything is pretty much fair game in the casserole world. Memories of Grandma Lavern’s hot dog and egg noodle casserole still warm my heart, even though my hotdog days are thankfully long behind me. Hotdogs or no, casseroles are the quintessential comfort food. Cheesy, starchy, fresh out of the oven – delicious!
Really, a casserole (or hot dish, as some like to call it) is just a word for something baked in a casserole dish. So it’s like calling something a “crock pot meal,” pretty open for interpretation. And just like whatever you put in your crock or your soup pot, there’s a wide range of ingredients (and ingredient quality, nutritional value, etc) you can use – that’s up to you.
This is the dish to make when you’re craving the comfort of a casserole, but don’t seem to have any tater tots on hand. I’ve used the following recipe (or some derivation) for quite some time now. It’s perfect for when I’ve made extra quinoa (sometimes intentionally, sometimes by accident). Quinoa is relatively new on the scene and is touted by some as being a “super food.” I think a lot of foods are pretty super, but quinoa does have protein in amounts impressive to a vegetarian like me. It cooks quickly (comparable to white rice) and has a texture and flavor that lend itself to a lot of different dishes. For those of you who aren’t sold on quinoa, give this recipe a try. Let me know what you think.
4 Cups cooked quinoa (about 1 cup uncooked) 1 bunch greens other veggies* Olive Oil (2Tbs or so) 1 medium onion, chopped 3+ cloves garlic, minced 1/2 – 3/4 C cheese, grated (Gruyere and Feta have both been delicious) 2 eggs salt and pepper Herbs (sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme) Parmesan cheese (optional) * There’s a lot of room to experiment in this recipe. I like to make the dish more about the veggies: I’ve added sweet peppers and zucchini (one each) in the summertime, tons of extra kale in the spring. The creaminess of winter squash or sweet potato would compliment the cheesiness I think. The eggs and cheese act as binders in this recipe, so you can always add more of either of those if you feel like you’re getting veggie-heavy – particularly if you’d like a casserole you can slice up instead of scoop out. ** This time around I used 3 eggs from our chickies, all kinds of greens (and the pinks, yellows and reds of chard), broccoli, a sprig each of rosemary.thyme.oregano, and a Jalapeño Queso Fresco from Samish Bay Cheese in Bow, Washington.
THE HOW TO
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly oil a 9×13 baking dish, I mean … casserole.
- Heat olive oil in a pan and saute onions and garlic until onions are translucent. Add other veggies and saute until close to soft, definitely not mushy. They’ll finish baking in the oven. Saute greens too; if they lose a lot of liquid, drain most of it off. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
- Beat the eggs in a large bowl, adding a pinch of salt and some black pepper. Stir in the quinoa, cheese (reserve a little cheese for the topping if you like), the veggie mixture and the herbs. I go pretty heavy on the herbs (a few tablespoons, depending on what I’m using) – fresh herbs are so tasty! Sometimes I’ll add crushed red pepper here too.
- Scrape the mixture into your oiled baking dish. Add some of your reserved cheese or some parmesan for a topping if you want; it’s perfectly delicious without. A little drizzling of olive oil over the top will give it just a little crispiness too.
- Put on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese has browned just a bit.
- Ignore the rumors of impending snow flurries and warm yourself from the inside out – enjoy!