Casserole season is here

I think most people make casseroles in the winter, but my season for casseroles begins in the summer. The reason?  In the summer, my fridge is completely full of farm-fresh vegetables and making a casserole is the easiest way to empty the fridge to make room for my next farmers’ market trip.

You might ask, Who wants to turn on the oven in the summer? My secrets: I use my toaster oven, and I precook the sturdier veggies (steam, blanch, or microwave) so that baking time is shorter.

Here is my easy process for using the summer bounty:

  1. Chop the vegetables you’ve chosen so they are all about the same size. Include some that give off liquid during cooking (tomato, mushrooms, greens, zucchini or other summer squash) or add a little liquid (water, wine, vinegar, soy milk, etc.) right before baking.
  2. Add savory ingredients, such as herbs, spices, leftovers, pesto, hummus, salsa, beans, nuts, seeds, cheeses, soy products, and so on.
  3. Oil a casserole dish, pour ingredients into the dish, and cover.
  4. Bake at 375° until soft and bubbling, up to 1 hour. Uncover and bake 10–15 minutes to toast the top.

A few recent summer casseroles:

  • Spinach, fresh tomato, cooked rice, leftover grilled vegetables, fresh basil, scallions, jalapeño, goat cheese, pesto on top
  • Shredded potato, shredded zucchini, broccoli, chard, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, spring onion, salsa
  • Romano beans, corn, mushrooms, cauliflower, fresh tomato, pumpkin seeds, olives, herbes de Provence, pesto mashed potatoes on top

I’d love to hear what casseroles you dream up.

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4 thoughts on “Casserole season is here

  1. Love your idea of a “summer” casserole! Not too different from what I do…. I think of mine more like a summer smorgasbord. I bake vegetables mostly separately, also in toaster over, seasoned, with herbs, spices, drizzled with oil, etc. Keep them in their separate containers in the fridge and then eat them the following days, helping myself to different combinations of vegetables, sometimes adding condiments for of “ethnic” flavor. I like to have them with different grains, cracked wheat, quinoa, brown rice, cold, and sometimes I add something leafy. Like them also with cold noodles….. And if the evening is cold, unexpectedly, which happens often in California, I put vegetables, grain etc. a few minutes in the microwave, for a comforting dinner.

    • Thanks for your great idea to have an on-the-spot “casserole” from separate ready-to-go ingredients mixed at the table.

  2. The last 6 months I have made a hard turn toward a plant-based, wheatless, low-dairy diet. I’m not completely vegetarian and not completely gluten- and lactose-free, but that is my preferred diet when I am not indulging myself. I feel more energetic, and I lose weight with ease.

    Still, I find vegetarian cooking a challenge, so I was excited to read this blog entry. After work today, I stopped at The Fresh Market in Palo Alto and bought a ton of vegetables and made the vegetable casserole. (Well, I added some ham because my brother made it and it’s been in the fridge for almost a year and I hate to waste food.) For the first casserole of my whole life, it was really quite good. It definitely demonstrates potential as I move towards a more plant-based diet. We (my daughter and I) put in broccoli, swiss chard, cauliflower, eggplant, zucchini, tomato, onion, potatoes on top, basil aioli, carrots and chopped basil. A lot of it came from a fridge clean out as well as the new store-bought food. Oh, and no added salt.

    I also added a few rice noodles on top that had spilled out on the floor as I searched a cupboard for sunflower seeds. And my daughter added vegetable broth, when she checked on the casserole after 35 minutes. We covered the dish with foil for all but the last 10 minutes.

    Here’s how I’d improve it: put the broth in at the beginning, and line the bottom with the floor-spilled rice noodles in that wetness. Maybe add the chard or other greens on top of it. We had some chard on top, and it just got a little dry. Seal the dish with a little more foil so it steams a bit more. Or not if we prefer a drier casserole. I guess I’ll experiment.

    I added a little garlic salt and pepper after serving. My daughter added some parmesan cheese. It was good! And I didn’t have my usual desire to overeat the way I do with carbs and meat.

    Good stuff!

    • GK: Thanks for taking this big leap into the Land of Casseroles and for telling us your story. About the ham: Adding small bits of flavoring like that is a great way to transition to more plant-based eating. I love to add tofu: Wildwood super-firm high-protein is our favorite (Trader Joe’s sells it too but under its own brand). Tofu and mushrooms add a “meaty” chewiness to the mixture, which adds a nice dimension to a casserole. I can see you with your arms reaching into the fridge to do the “clean out”—nice image.

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