Monday, January 20, 2014

Brown Rice Casserole

Submitted by Michelle
I started teaching in the early 1990's and at that time my cousin Kathy was in college.  She did her undergraduate course work at Ithaca College in New York.  I visited her there once, and found Ithaca to be one of those towns that my LA friends would label as "crunchy granola." You know, the kind of place where people recycle, eat organic foods, have long hair, wear tye-die t-shirts and are referred to as tree huggers.  This was long before recycling and eating organic was in vogue.  Gluten allergies hadn't yet been discovered, and vegetarian eating habits such as Mario Batali's Meatless Mondays and Mark Bittman's vb6 (eat vegan before 6pm) were unheard of.  Kathy always has been a sort of trail blazer in our family, and during her Ithaca years she became interested in eating and cooking vegetarian.  Kathy passed on her love of vegetarian cooking to me by giving me several cookbooks, including the one pictured above.  

Now that the holidays are over, I've been attempting to eat more healthfully and trying to incorporate more meals centered around vegetables.  (Neither Kathy or I could ever be full blown vegetarians -- we love a good hamburger or steak just like the rest of the carnivores in the world. ) In my quest to eat vegetarian 3-4 days a week, I dug into Deborah Madison's Greens Cookbook and tired a few new recipes, including a brown rice casserole.
Clockwise from top:
Italian parsley, cilantro, tofu, zucchini, mushrooms, garlic, red bell pepper, celery, carrots, and onions.
The recipe was intriguing because it had so many vegetables in it, as well as tofu.  I've not been very successful with cooking tofu but a casserole seemed like a good place to give it a try again.  
I began by sautéing the onions in olive oil and butter until they were brown.  
I then added the cumin, garlic, celery, carrot and red bell pepper, along with some vegetable stock.  I covered the pan so the vegetables would braise and soften.
The mushrooms and zucchini went in next.  
I had some left over brown rice that I had cooked a few days prior, though you could use freshly cooked rice.  I added cheddar cheese to it.
Finally, I mixed the cooked veggies in with rice and then folded in the tofu.  The entire thing baked for about 45 minutes, and though not the most glamorous of dishes, it was quite tasty. You could definitely substitute in other vegetables like butternut squash, yams, eggplant or cauliflower, and if you had to have meat, chicken would be a nice alternative to the tofu.
Though it doesn't look much different than the previous picture, this is a photo of the casserole after it is baked.  Both David and I enjoyed it as a main course for dinner, and I took the left overs for my lunch several days in a row.  David came up with the bright idea of sprinkling some feta cheese on top as a garnish.  The recipe calls for cilantro or parsley as a garnish, but I think the cheese was pretty good too.

Brown Rice Casserole from The Greens Cookbook

4 cups cooked brown rice 
1/2 block of tofu (8-9 ounces)
1 large onion
2 medium carrots

2 celery stalks
1 green pepper
2 medium zucchini or 
other summer squash 
6 oz mushrooms (I used crimini)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
3 minced garlic cloves 

1 tsp nutritional yeast (optional) {I opted out.}
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 cup mushroom broth 
or vegetable stock or water
6 ounces grated cheese (jack, muenster, cheddar, Gouda, etc.)
Fresh herbs: parsley or cilantro, thyme, majoram, for garnish

If you don't have left over rice, cook some brown rice. Set the tofu on a slanted board or pan to drain, and prepare the vegetables. Chop the onion, carrots, celery, pepper, and zucchini into pieces about 1/2-inch square. Quarter mushrooms if they are small, and cut them into sixths or eighths if they are large. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes. 

Heat the olive oil and the butter and fry the onion over medium heat until it is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, nutritional yeast (if using), cumin and salt. Stir until blended and cook for 1 minute. Add the carrots, celery, green pepper and 1/2 cup of the liquid, cover pan, and braise the vegetables until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and mushrooms and cook 7 to 10 minutes. The vegetables should be nearly, but not completely, cooked. If the pan gets dry while they cook, add a little more liquid. 

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine the vegetables with rice and cheese. Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Gently mix in the tofu, and put mixture into lightly oiled casserole. Add a little more liquid to moisten. Cover with foil and bake 1/2 hour. Remove foil and bake 15 minutes. Garnish with fresh herbs. 

1 comment:

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