Tortilla pie with greens, homemade sauce + pepitas (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

Here’s a simple way to enjoy the taste of enchiladas while using any leftover cooked beans or cooked or raw vegetables hiding in your fridge (almost any bits work). If you have a round casserole dish about the size of the corn tortillas, the finished product resembles a deep-dish pie. For a milder allium flavor, use green onions or leeks, or sauté the onion and garlic before blending with the other sauce ingredients. To add a hot, smoky flavor, use chipotle chiles with or instead of the dried chiles. For crunch when serving, toast some additional tortillas and break into chips or serve with store-bought tortilla chips. Inspired by recipes from Decolonize Your Diet.

Ingredients
  • dried chiles, such as guajillo or ancho
  • onion, chopped
  • garlic, chopped
  • cilantro, chopped
  • tomatoes, fresh or canned, chopped
  • cauliflower florets, chopped
  • firm tofu, chopped
  • jalapeño chile, chopped
  • cooked beans (optional)
  • cumin powder
  • dried oregano
  • chopped pitted briny olives of choice (optional)
  • kosher salt
  • corn tortillas
  • greens (such as beet greens, chard, kale, or collards), stemmed and slivered
  • raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Method
  1. Toast the chiles whole in a dry pan over medium heat for a minute or so. Transfer to a heatproof container and submerge in hot water until soft, about 10 minutes. Stem, seed, and coarsely tear them, then add to a food processor or blender, reserving the soaking liquid if needed to thin the sauce.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375º. Add the onion, garlic, cilantro, tomatoes, cauliflower, tofu, jalapeño, beans, cumin, oregano, and olives to the food processor. Whirl into a coarse sauce, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl and to add some chile soaking liquid if needed to thin the sauce. Season to taste with salt.
  3. In the bottom of a casserole dish, spread a generous layer of sauce, top with a layer of tortillas, then continue layering with greens, sauce, and tortillas to fill the dish, ending with a layer of tortillas. Cover, place on a baking sheet, and bake until the sauce is bubbling, about 50 minutes. Uncover, flip over the top layer of tortillas, sprinkle a solid layer of pepitas over the soft sides of the tortillas, and bake until the pepitas are toasted, watching carefully that they don’t burn. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.
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Green bean, mushroom + black rice casserole (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

This casserole becomes a vegetable shepherd’s pie when topped with cauliflower-potato mash, but it is good on its own served alongside toasted or warmed corn tortillas. If you have the time, soak the rice in hot water for an hour or two, drain, and rinse before adding.

Ingredients
  • coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, or other vegetable oil
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • onion, chopped
  • sweet pepper, chopped
  • jalapeño chile, sliced
  • kosher salt
  • Romano beans or fillet green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • black rice or rice of choice, soaked and rinsed
  • turmeric powder
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • cumin seeds
  • fennel seeds
  • smoked paprika
  • curry powder
  • chopped fresh tomatoes or a jar of marinara sauce
  • vegetable broth or water
  • chopped parsley, for garnish
Method
  1. Warm the oil in an oven-safe pan with a lid or a dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring only occasionally, until browned. Stir in the onion and cook until softened. Add the sweet pepper and chile and a few pinches of salt, cover, and cook for a few minutes. Add the green beans, rice, and seasonings and stir so the mixture doesn’t stick to the pan.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Add the tomatoes to the mixture, stir, cover, and simmer until the tomatoes soften and give off their juices. Add broth to just cover the mixture, cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for a few minutes. Adjust the seasonings.
  4. Carefully transfer the covered hot pan to the oven and bake, checking after 15 minutes. Add more liquid if dry or uncover the pan to reduce the liquid. Continue cooking until the rice and vegetables are completely soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve warm sprinkled with parsley.

Enchiladas stuffed with mole-inspired mashed potatoes (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

Instead of cheese, these dairy-free enchiladas are stuffed with seasoned mashed potatoes, which can also be used to stuff sweet peppers or cabbage leaves. Dried chiles add an irresistible smoky flavor, and raisins bring a hint of sweetness. Leftover enchiladas are delicious reheated for breakfast or lunch.

Ingredients
  • raisins
  • dried chiles (such as chipotle, ancho, pasilla, guajillo, or New Mexico), stemmed, seeded, and broken into pieces
  • hot water
  • potatoes, quartered
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • red onion, diced
  • mushrooms, chopped
  • sweet peppers, diced
  • jalapeño chiles, minced
  • corn kernels, fresh, canned, or frozen
  • green onions, thinly sliced
  • slivered almonds
  • toasted sunflower seeds
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • homemade enchilada sauce or store-bought sauce
  • corn tortillas
Method
  1. Put the raisins and dried chiles in a heatproof bowl. Cover with hot water and set aside to hydrate.
  2. Put the potatoes in a saucepan with water to cover, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer until easily pierced with a fork. Drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid, cover, and set the potatoes aside in the pan to keep warm.
  3. Meanwhile, warm the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to brown. Lower the heat to medium, add the mushrooms, peppers, and fresh chiles, and cook, covered, until cooked through.
  4. Add the potatoes to a large bowl. Coarsely mash the potatoes with a large fork or potato masher. Stir in the mushroom-pepper mixture. Add the corn and green onions. Mix in the reserved raisins and dried chiles plus their hydrating liquid. Stir in some of the reserved potato cooking liquid if the mixture is too dry. Stir in the almonds, sunflower seeds, and fresh cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Put a layer of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish. Microwave or steam the tortillas in small batches for a few moments to soften. Put a softened tortilla on a work surface, fill with some of the potato mixture (do not overfill), wrap one side of the tortilla over the filling, and roll up. Place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat until the baking dish is full (save any remaining stuffing for another use). Pour the enchilada sauce over the stuffed tortillas, making sure the tortillas are completely covered, including any spaces between them and the sides of the dish. Bake, uncovered, until bubbling and browned on top, about 40 minutes. Let stand about 10 minutes. Top with more cilantro and sunflower seeds and serve.

Spinach-tomato-rice casserole with pine nuts + olives (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

Casseroles make it easy to use the vegetables and cooked grains that are calling your name from the fridge. The trick is to cut all the vegetables about the same size and add some zingy bits (olives and chiles) and richness (nuts and/or seeds).

Ingredients
  • olive oil, for greasing and drizzling
  • cooked brown rice
  • red onion, diced
  • spinach, finely chopped
  • fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • pine nuts
  • green or black olives, sliced, or olive tapenade
  • jalapeño chile, minced, or sweet pepper, finely chopped
  • fresh oregano leaves, chopped
  • green onions, thinly sliced
Method
  1. Heat the oven to 400ºF. Lightly grease a baking dish with oil.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake uncovered until bubbling and vegetables are cooked through, about 30 minutes.
  3. Turn on the broiler and broil until top starts to brown, about 7 minutes. Scoop out and serve.
Variation

Replace the spinach with chopped cauliflower florets, the pine nuts with pumpkin seeds, and the oregano with fresh basil leaves. Bake covered about 45 minutes. Uncover and broil as in the original recipe.

Layered tortilla casserole (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

Corn tortillas replace the noodles in this Mexican-inspired, dairy-free “lasagna.” Mini tortillas might be easier to layer, depending on the size of your baking dish. Consider substituting or adding zucchini, mushrooms, sweet peppers, or other vegetables you have on hand—this dish is an easy way to empty the vegetable drawer in your fridge.

Ingredients
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • spinach or kale, chopped
  • corn tortillas
  • onion, chopped
  • cooked whole beans or refried beans
  • potatoes, chopped
  • salsa or canned tomatoes
  • super-firm tofu, diced (optional)
  • oregano
  • cumin powder
  • chile or chili powder
  • salt
  • pepper
  • hot sauce
Method
  1. Heat a toaster oven or regular oven to 375º F. Lightly oil a glass or ceramic baking dish.
  2. Add spinach to a heatproof colander and pour boiling water over the leaves. Let cool, then wring out as much liquid as possible. Coarsely chop leaves.
  3. Put tortillas in the bottom of the baking dish. Layer onion, beans, potatoes, spinach, salsa, and tofu, if using, with a tortilla layer in the middle. Add oregano, cumin, chile powder, salt, and pepper to the last vegetable layer and top with tortillas.
  4. Cover with foil and bake, checking after 40 minutes and then every 10 minutes or so, until a fork easily pierces through all layers. Uncover and broil to brown the top layer of tortillas. Serve with more salsa and hot sauce.

Festive baked-egg brunch

From my favorite Sunday Brunch Chef: Here’s a way to combine a yolky baked egg with tasty sautéed vegetables and packaged precooked polenta for an impressive weekend breakfast.

Eggs baked with herbed veggies and polenta

You can prepare individual servings in 4-inch ramekins or an all-in-one casserole dish. I enjoyed my baked eggs with corn tortillas and a side dish of garlicky cooked spinach and kale. Yum!

  • olive oil
  • chopped onion or sliced leek
  • sliced mushrooms
  • diced sweet peppers
  • chopped hot chiles, red chile flakes, or chile powder (optional)
  • minced garlic
  • chopped parsley
  • chopped cilantro
  • fresh or dried thyme
  • turmeric
  • packaged precooked polenta cut into ½-in. rounds
  • hard cheese, cut into slices (optional)
  • eggs
  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan. Cook onion, mushrooms, peppers, and chiles if using in olive oil. When vegetables are soft, move them to one side of the pan. Add more oil to the pan, and cook garlic in oil until translucent but not browned, about 1 minute. Stir in herbs and spices. Set aside.
  2. Oil ramekins or casserole dish. Set polenta slices on the bottom of ramekins or casserole. Put under broiler to brown a bit, then turn oven to 350º.
  3. Layer vegetable mixture on top of polenta. Create a well in the vegetables. Add cheese if using. Crack an egg into each well.
  4. Put ramekins or casserole in oven and bake until eggs are set but loose, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with more fresh herbs. Turn oven to broil to finish cooking the eggs the way you like them.

Noodling with noodles

As you might know, I enjoy cooking easy one-dish meals baked in my toaster oven (previous posts include Casserole Season Is Here and Crazy Mixed-Up Casseroles). What I love about this preparation process is that all of the active time is up front, and I can relax or do something else while the dish is cooking.

With autumn in the air, I’ve been drawn to whole-wheat lasagna noodles. My noodle creations are simple because I add uncooked, regular (not no-boil) lasagna noodles to my casseroles. As long as I add a small amount of liquid (wine, broth, vinegar, water, etc.) or choose vegetables that give off juices (tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach or other greens, etc.), the noodles cook just fine with the rest of the ingredients.

My recent creations with layers of wide whole-wheat lasagna noodles:

  • Slices of potato, onion, shallot, cauliflower, and mushrooms; sunflower seeds; plenty of black pepper, ground chipotle chiles, and fresh parsley; with shaved Manchego cheese on top
  • Chopped green onions, zucchini, green pitted olives, sweet peppers, jalapeño chiles, golden beets, home-canned tomatoes with their juice, and fresh mozzarella on top

My usual process:

  • Slice and layer vegetables by type between the noodles -OR- chop vegetables into similar size pieces, mix together in a big bowl, and layer with the noodles.
  • Add flavorings:  pitted olives, capers, seeds, nuts, chiles, fresh and/or dried herbs, ground spices, and so on.
  • Make the top layer either noodles or potato slices.
  • Cover and bake at 375 for 35–45 minutes. Test with a fork to see if ingredients are soft. If not, return covered for 15 minutes and check again. If soft, uncover.
  • Add shredded cheese (or breadcrumbs for vegan) and return to oven until browned, about 10 minutes.
  • Let cool 10 minutes or so before serving.

Summer’s song: eggplant, squash, and peppers

A variation on my summer casseroles, this dish roasts summer’s prolific vegetables in layers, which when served looks a bit like lasagna without the noodles. The eggplant, the first layer on the bottom of the pan, softens and then browns while the red onion caramelizes and the potatoes crisp on top.

Ron Borba of Borba Farms, a family farm in Aromas that produces glorious organically grown produce sold at many San Francisco Bay Area farmers’ markets and beyond, shared this recipe with me.

Summer vegetable “lasagna”

  • Olive oil
  • Eggplant, sliced 1/2-in. thick
  • Sweet red onion, sliced 1/4-in. thick
  • Summer squash, such as zucchini, patty pan, or Mediterranean, sliced 1/4-in. thick
  • Spicy or sweet peppers, sliced into rounds
  • Yellow-flesh potatoes, sliced 1/4-in. thick or in half if small
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Heat oven to 400° F. Oil a baking pan that has sides about 2 in. high.
  2. Layer sliced vegetables: eggplant, onion, squash, pepper, and potato. Drizzle olive oil on potato slices if you like. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake uncovered until soft all the way through and eggplant bottoms and potato tops are browned.

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.

Crazy mixed-up casseroles

Very late summer is my favorite time at the farmers’ market because we get to enjoy summer’s bounty—corn, summer squash, tomatoes, basil—and fall vegetables—winter squash, cauliflower, potatoes, greens.  Add to that my interest in not slaving too often or too long in the kitchen, and I’ve been motivated to create some fun casseroles big enough for several meals (you can reheat the casserole to eat by itself or to add to cooked vegetables, cooked rice, or salad fixings).  These casseroles help me clean out the week’s greenery from the fridge, which is another bonus.

No rules—just vegetables, pasta, and cheese layered with herbs and liquid in a casserole dish:

  • Vegetables (some or all on the list), cut to a small size to cook faster: corn kernels, beet, green beans, potato, eggplant, cauliflower, zucchini, pattypan squash, sweet pepper, chile, tomato, fennel bulb, fresh tomato, white salad turnip, winter squash, greens (chard, spinach, kale in strips), tofu
  • Liquid (one or more): fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce, pasta sauce, salsa, wine, water, broth
  • Herbs, fresh or dried: basil, herbes de Provence, thyme, fennel seed, rosemary, or any combination that you enjoy
  • Uncooked dried pasta:  lasagna, penne, orzo, or fusilli (usually one type per casserole)
  • Cheese (one or more), grated or in small pieces: fresh or aged mozzarella, cheddar, gruyère, chèvre, parmesan, asiago, or whatever you like
  • Pine nuts or sunflower seeds and/or fresh herbs (optional)

Here’s how I have been making these crazy casseroles, but I’d love to get your input!

  1. In a large bowl, mix the vegetables with liquid (enough to cook the dried pasta and braise the vegetables), herbs, and salt.  Put a thick layer of vegetables in the bottom of a casserole dish.
  2. Layer the dried pasta, cheese, and vegetables, ending with a layer of vegetables. Cover the casserole and put in an unheated regular or toaster oven at 350°F/convection or 375°F/regular.
  3. Check after about 35–40 min. to see if there’s enough liquid (if not, add more). Cook until pasta is soft, then uncover (add some cheese on top if you like) and cook for 15 min. more until top is browned a bit.  Let sit for 10 min. before serving so pasta absorbs any liquid.
  4. Add pine nuts or sunflower seeds on top and/or additional fresh herbs if you like.