I do miss cheese sometimes. That is why, last night as I was fantasizing about making some sort of a vegetable casserole for dinner, I held a brief discussion with the guardian of my health (my alter ego). We agreed that the following recipe would be as salubrious as it would be healthy — even with a small amount of cheese (thus, mostly vegan).
It was preceded to the table with a small antipasto, consisting of:
- thinly-sliced kohlrabi in a celery seed rice wine vinaigrette
- diced red and choggia beets
- homemade cucumber pickles
- Gaeta and Castelvetrano olives
While the content is almost all vegetables, the dish packs a lot of flavor. The long cooking plus the natural sweetness of the corn water concentrates those flavors, so it was well-accompanied by a medium-bodied red wine from Tuscany. My choice was a 2010 Morellino di Scansano — “Passera” — made from Sangiovese grapes. It was a superb match and only $16 retail – before my 10% discount.
Variations and substitutions: this dish provides broad flexibility in choice of ingredients, based on product availability and your tastes. I actually added a handful of cooked cremini and dried Chinese mushrooms which I scooped out of some leftover mushroom and barley soup from the night before. If I had celery in the refrigerator, that would have gone in, too. Red, yellow or orange peppers would also go well, as would yellow squash, chickpeas, fava beans — whatever you like.
Another variation to consider would be to serve the cooked vegetables on top of pasta, rice, farro, couscous, or other grains. The key to success is high-quality produce, combined with proper braising and baking technique — mostly trial and error — but also a process that seems quite forgiving, which is why mine came out fine and yours probably will too. Buon appetito.