When I told Rachel what I was blogging about for today, she said something like “Oh you mean the kind of dish you would have served to torture me as a child?” See, I am a broccoli freak and I serve it at least twice a week — and have for years. And Rachel always said it tasted yucky and she didn’t like it. And I would give my pat answer: “Your taste buds change every 24 hours, so just go ahead and give it another try.” You know, standard mom patter to children showing you less than an enthusiastic response.
And then I read somewhere — or maybe Rachel read it somewhere and shoved it in front of my nose — about how some people have taste buds that actually taste things more bitterly than others, and that broccoli and cauliflower are in the group of veggies that some people can find especially bitter. In other words, Rachel was right about how broccoli tastes to her. So sorry, Rachel. I won’t serve broccoli when you’re around ever again. But for the rest of you, trust me, you’ll like this tasty casserole.
Broccoli and Cauliflower Casserole
3-4 cups of chopped broccoli florets
1 small head cauliflower, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried chives
1 1/2 cups grated cheese–cheddar? Gouda? Gruyere? Experiment to see what you like. I used Gouda.
pepper to taste
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup olive oil for drizzling
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the broccoli and cauliflower in the pot for about 10 minutes until tender. Drain and mash them together in a large pot.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9X13-inch baking pan with olive oil.
Heat the butter in a large skillet and saute the onions with some salt. Cook about 10 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the chives.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs in a small bowl. Then stir into the veggie mash. Add the cheese and onion mix and stir. Salt and pepper to taste. Place in the baking pan.
Place the bread crumbs on top and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 40 minutes until brown on top.
I grew up in a family (and an era) when pasta pretty much meant spaghetti. My best friend across the street was Italian and her family was “exotic” because they had lasagne and jumbo shells and manicotti. I tried every chance I could to eat at their house for dinner when this wonderfulness was being served.
So it is no surprise that I was, oh, in my 50s when I learned about orzo — and immediately fell in love, determined to find as many recipes as I could to use this delightful mini-pasta. This casserole is a winner in my book. I’ve served it as a main dish and as a side. Your choice. Either way works.
For reasons that remain a mystery to me, I didn’t really get the casserole idea while my kids were growing up. Yes, I made a few, but they were irregular rather than a staple, and I don’t know why I didn’t realize these could be my saving grace. I mean we are talking about a foodstuff that by its very definition rarely involves multiple dishes and often involves cheese (a child-friendly foodstuff if ever there was one), and can be plopped on the table with minimal fuss. Why didn’t I make these at least 3 nights every week? Why did I make my life so hard?
My go-to comfort food is Mexican or at least the Americanized version of it because I’ve never actually been to Mexico so I would never presume to suggest I actually know “Mexican” food. But when I’m in the dumps, Mexican is what I want. Burritos, tacos, enchiladas — any and all of the above would work just find thank you very much.
The casserole I’m sharing today may be six or nine degrees of separation from “real” Mexican food, but I can guarantee you will find it A) tasty and B) comforting. The recipe is inspired by The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, one of my two most-thumbed, splattered cookbooks from the famous Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, NY. In the cookbook the recipe is called Frijoles Con Cueso Etc Casserole. I made their recipe regularly BK (Before Kids) and completely gave up on it AK (After Kids) because it contained beans (not happening) and stuff mixed together (and I had one child who did not like when any of his food groups touched).
I had some leftover rice and was flipping through the cookbook because I remembered (or I thought I did anyway) a recipe for using up leftover rice. I didn’t find that recipe but the flipping was a walk down memory lane to a time when the only person I had to cook for (and please) was Peter (who is probably the easiest person to cook for ever because he loves everything). So many recipes we had eaten together when dinner was just about when we were hungry and what would I make. Flipping through that cookbook instantly transported me to that time. I decided to forget the rice issue and make my version of this casserole. As Peter and I ate, we were transported back to our 20s. Yeah, it was that good.
First and foremost, I am coming off a week-long visit with Miss M and her caretakers and I am officially in mourning. Despite the fact that they all had colds, it was wonderful on every level possible and I am counting the days until we are all together again. (Anything longer than a month is too long in case anyone is wondering.)
But on to the food. Best part: Rachel and I got to cook together AND the Divine Miss M joined us. Best. Thing. Ever.
I made a mistake as a parent I would suggest anyone reading this with young kids avoid: for a while — and waaaaayyy longer than I should have — I made separate meals for certain kids who did not like (maybe even refused to put one bite in his mouth) of the general dinner. On a given night that could mean I made four dinners. I know, I know, I know! This is CRAZY and goes against every parenting book out there. I took the path of least resistance, what can I tell you? (And I know I’m not the only one out there.)
Need to cook for a crowd and want to make something ahead of time? That’s the way I prefer to cook when I have people over. That way I can actually enjoy my own gathering. I visit so many homes where the woman (because let’s face it that is more often the case than not) disappears into the kitchen so much it’s as if she’s not there.
Not fair, say I. So cook ahead and sit right down to enjoy a festive holiday drink. (And if you’re still seeking a special drink for this time of year, do check out our post last year on my husband’s Cranberry Corker. It is killer good.)
Janet here: No this isn’t a homonym lesson. I’m just noting an interesting concurrence: the week in which I make a fantastic leek dish was also the week the light fixture in the bathroom at Casa de Roomie (I live in two places if you’re not a regular reader) decided to become an unofficial shower as water streamed out of it one day just as I was about to head out the door to work. It was, obviously, an awesome moment.
Janet here: I love brunch. It just seems so decadent to eat a nice meal in the middle of the day, maybe with a mimosa or Bloody Mary, and relax around the table. As someone who wakes up each morning with an agenda (yes, even on the weekends), I need the excuse of being invited to or hosting a brunch to allow myself the time. Revealing I know.
Anyway we had a little family gathering over the weekend and I whipped up this little hash wonder, which was inspired by my favorite cookbook of 2011, Not Your Mother’s Casseroles by Faith Durand. The beauty here is using sweet potatoes instead of regular poatoes. It’s add a little sweetness and give the hash depth it normally doesn’t have.
Janet here: First THANK YOU Alecia for passing on this fabulous squash dish that can stand alone (I’m adding couscous to the leftovers to make a veggie meal) or act as a side dish. If you’re still looking for something for Thanksgiving, look no further. This one is a keeper.
Butternut Squash Gratin
serves at 6-9
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cups sliced onions
4 thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
6 cups squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated gruyere (or so — I probably did closer to a cup)
1/2 cup milk plus 2 tablespoons
1 cup breadcrumbs (or in my case, panko because I didn’t have breadcrumbs or bread to make them from scratch)
Heat 1/2 the olive oil and saute the onion, sage, thyme with salt and pepper to taste. Saute until the onions are carmelized into deliciousness.
Spread this in the bottom of a gratin dish.
Place the remaining oil in the pan to heat it up. Toss the squash in the flour and cook in the pan, stirring occasionally, until brown on all sides, about 7 minutes. Add the parsley and cook for one minute.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Layer squash over the onion mix. Cover the mixture with the cheese and then breadcrumbs. Add the milk.
Bake covered for 25 minutes. Uncover and cook an additional 25 minutes. Serve and enjoy.