Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about all things Vegetarian.
Kris and I, as she mentioned in her Serious Eats column this week, participate in a semi-monthly gathering of food-minded friends who love to cook and love to eat. We rotate hosting duties and themes (spicy food, Mediterranean, Feast of St. Maximillian). People mostly take care to consider the food issues of all in attendance and no one could possibly go hungry.
This month, though, there wasn’t really a theme beyond “I’m making a brisket; you guys bring whatever.” In the past, I’ve used potluck to be creative and take risks with varying degrees of success. This time, I decided to make something really “potlucky,” and to me, that means a casserole.
The potlucks of my past have been a vegetarian hell of meatballs, fried chicken, tuna casserole—and if I’m lucky, macaroni and cheese. Some brave church lady (probably my mom) will decide there should be a vegetable and make a green bean casserole. Maude bless her, but Maude help you if you’re vegan.
I wanted my dish to be healthier and dairy-free. Is it possible to have a casserole that isn’t cheesy, creamy, and fatty? CB suggested “something Mexican,” and an idea began to form. I could picture the dish in my mind. I just needed a jumping off point.
Then I remembered the Pan-American Grits and Quinoa recipe I shared with you some time ago. What if I just layered that with beans and vegetables? It sounded good to me, but I needed precedent. To Moosewood.
There was a recipe for Instant Tamale Pie that was essentially what I pictured in my head, only with store-bought ingredients (pre-cooked polenta, jarred salsa). I put the cookbook away and went to the stove. A little while later, my 9” × 13” baking dish, which sees little action, was full (and heavy) and ready to hit the road.
It’s misleading to call what I ended up with a casserole. The only baking necessary was to reheat on arrival. Nonetheless, it was a huge success. Thumbs up from stuffed faces around the room—and there was bacon mac and cheese (only 1/2 bacon—thanks KJ!), homemade foccacia, and brisket on that table.
Cheap, healthy, and vegetarian proves, once again, to be a contender. Take that, church ladies. Actually, here, I’ll make you one for Spring Fling Supper.
If you enjoy this dish, you might also quite appreciate:
*Grits and Quinoa with Spicy Pink Beans
yields approximately 20 servings
8 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup grits
1 cup quinoa
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 red bell peppers, diced
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 cup frozen corn kernels
3 cups pink or pinto beans, soaked and cooked
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
2 jalapeño peppers, diced with seeds
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
2 cups frozen spinach
1 tsp salt
cilantro, chopped for garnish
1) Add water and salt to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil.
2) Whisking constantly, slowly add grits to water. As soon as saucepan comes back up to a boil, add quinoa. Stir.
3) Drop heat to low. Simmer around 25 minutes, stirring frequently.
While the grits are cooking...
4) Spray a large skillet with canola cooking spray and sauté 2 cups of the onion for 7 or so minutes.
5) Add the peppers, cook for a 2–3 minutes; then add spices, cook for 1 minute; then add corn.
When grits/quinoa is ready...
6) Mix sautéed veggies into grains, salt to taste, and pour into a 9”×13” baking dish. Be sure to leave about 2 inches of room at the top.
7) Rinse out your skillet with a little water, but don’t wash it. Spray again with cooking spray and sauté the remaining onion for about 5 minutes.
8) Add garlic and jalapeño and sauté for another 2–3 minutes.
9) Toss in the diced tomato with juice, salt, and frozen spinach, stirring well to combine.
10) Add the cooked beans and a little water if necessary. You don’t want it to be soupy, but wet enough not to scorch. Allow to simmer for about 5–7 minutes.
11) When the beans are done, spread over the grits/quinoa base and top with chopped cilantro. Cheese is optional.
12) Serve warm with a side of this and that and oh Maude THAT for dessert.
Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
142.9 calories, 1g fat, 4.8g fiber, 6.1g protein, $.58
1 1/2 cup grits: 864 calories, 3g fat, 3g fiber, 21g protein, $1.00
1 cup quinoa: 626 calories, 10g fat, 12g fiber, 24g protein, $1.59
2 large onions: 120 calories, 0g fat, 6g fiber, 4g protein, $1.50
cooking spray: 6 calories, 0g fat, 6g fiber, 4g protein, $.02
2 red bell peppers: 102 calories, 0g fat, fiber, protein, $2.99
1 tbsp ground cumin: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $0.02
1 tbsp ground coriander: negligible calories, fat, protein, $0.02
2 tsp salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $0.02
2 cup frozen corn kernels: 240 calories, 2g fat, 6g fiber, 8g protein, $1.25
3 cups pink or pinto beans: 735 calories, 3g fat, 45g fiber, 45g protein, $1.00
6 cloves garlic: 26 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 2g protein, $.07
2 jalapeño peppers: 8 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein $.16
1 cup canned, diced tomatoes: 41 calories, 0g fat, 2g fiber, 2g protein, $.38
2 cups frozen spinach: 90 calories, 1g fat, 10g fiber, 12g protein, $.99
cilantro: negligible calories and fat, $0.50
TOTALS; 2858 calories, 19g fat, 96g fiber, 5.3g fiber, 122g protein, $11.51
PER SERVING (TOTALS/20): 142.9 calories, 1g fat, 4.8g fiber, 6.1g protein, $.58