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Make-Ahead Friendly Casseroles

October 9, 2013 By:
Linda Morel
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Once the temperature dips and the last backyard tomatoes are pulled from their vines, summer’s splendid salads fade from menus in favor of warming casseroles. The mainstay of fall and winter, hearty casseroles can round out meals or rise to main-course status.
 
Quite conveniently, casseroles are served straight from the oven in their cookware. The word casserole doubles as both the cookware and its contents. Casseroles are a combination of meat, fish, chopped vegetables, fruit or cheese, held together by flour, potatoes, pasta, rice or eggs. Baked without a lid, these ingredients often nestle beneath a crunchy or cheesy topping.
 
International in scope, casseroles range from macaroni and cheese, moussaka, lasagna, gratins, to noodle pudding, the Jewish contribution to the genre.
 
While casseroles call for considerable prepping, they are make-ahead friendly and lifesavers on busy nights. Cas­se­roles actually taste better a day or two after baking as their mingled ingredients marry, enhancing their flavor.
 
Cauliflower and Chicken Casserole
(Meat)
This new twist on brunch can be served with salad and fresh bread.
1 potato
1 cauliflower head
non-stick vegetable spray
2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. ground chicken (or turkey)
kosher salt to taste
white pepper to taste
6 eggs
1 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. ground tumeric
2 Tbsps. parsley, chopped
 
Peel and dice the potato. Place the potato pieces in a small pot with 2 inches of water. Cover and boil for 15 minutes or until pieces soften, about 15 minutes. Add more water, if needed. Drain potato in a colander. Place in a bowl and mash with a fork. Reserve.
 
Cut the cauliflower head into florets. Slice large florets in half. Place florets in a medium-size pot with 3 inches of water. Cover and boil for 10 minutes, or until florets soften. Add more water, if needed. Drain cauliflower in a colander. Place in a bowl and mash with a fork. Reserve.
 
Preheat oven to 350˚. Coat a 7x11-inch baking pan with non-stick spray.
 
Place the oil in a large pot and heat on a medium flame. Add the onion and garlic and saute until wilted, about 2 minutes. Break up the ground chicken into small pieces and add to the pot, along with the salt and pepper. Saute, stirring often until chicken is cooked through. Remove from flame and bring ingredients to room temperature.
 
In a big bowl, beat eggs till foamy. Add the chicken mixture, cauliflower, potato, flour and tumeric. Stir until combined.
 
Turn mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until eggs are set and firm. Sprinkle parsley on top and serve immediately.
 
Serves 6 as a main course.
 
Broccoli and Cheddar Bake
(Dairy)
This hearty side dish is warming on cold nights.
non-stick vegetable spray
2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets
6 Tbsps. sweet butter, cut into 12 pieces, then brought to room temperature
1 package (8-oz.) of shredded cheddar cheese at room temperature
1⁄3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs, plus 2 Tbsps.
2 tsps. Dijon mustard
kosher salt to taste
paprika for sprinkling
 
Preheat oven to 350˚. Coat an 8-cup souffle dish with non-stick spray.
 
Place the broccoli in a steamer with ample water at the bottom. Bring water to a boil, then steam broccoli for 6 minutes, until florets are sweating but still bright green.
 
While steaming, place softened butter in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Spoon broccoli over the butter and let sit for a couple of minutes until butter melts. Stir in the cheddar, 1⁄3 cup of breadcrumbs and mustard. Blend well. Check for salt. Add salt sparingly, if needed.
 
Pour broccoli mixture into prepared souffle dish. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs over the broccoli. Sprinkle paprika over the top.
 
Bake for 20 minutes, or until casserole bubbles at the edges. Serve immediately.
 
Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.
 
Roasted Zucchini and Tomato Gratin
(Dairy)
Vegetarians call this filling casserole a main course.
non-stick vegetable spray
4 small-medium size zucchini
4 Italian plum tomatoes
6 Tbsps. olive oil, plus 1 Tbsp.
kosher salt to taste
1⁄2 tsp. garlic powder, divided
1⁄2 tsp. oregano, divided
1⁄2 tsp. basil, divided
1 box (7.6 oz.) of couscous
2 eggs, beaten
1 package (8 oz.) of shredded mozzarella
2 Tbsps. ricotta
4 Tbsps. Parmesan cheese, grated
 
Preheat oven to 400˚. Spray three baking pans (10-x-15 inch, 9-x-13 inch and 7-x-11 inch) with non-stick spray.
 
Cut the zucchini and tomatoes into 1⁄4-inch thick circles. Place the zucchini in the prepared 10x15-inch pan and the tomatoes in the 9x13-inch pan. Drizzle 4 tablespoons of olive oil on the zucchini and 2 tablespoons on the tomatoes. Sprinkle half of the salt, garlic powder, oreg­ano and basil over each pan.
 
Place both pans in the oven. Roast the tomatoes for 30 minutes, or until puckered. Roast the zucchini for 60 minutes, or until softened and golden brown. Cool both pans to room temperature and turn off oven.
 
Prepare couscous according to package directions. Cool to warm and move to a mixing bowl. Add the eggs, 4 ounces of the mozzarella, 2 tablespoons of the ricotta, 1 tablespoon of oil and 2 tablespoons of Parmesan. Stir until well combined.
 
Preheat oven to 350˚. Into the 7x11-inch pan, spread half of the couscous mixture. Cover with half of the zucchini. Place half of the tomatoes over the zucchini. Make a second layer of couscous, zucchini and tomatoes. Sprinkle the remaining 4 ounces of mozzarella and the 2 tablespoons of Parmesan on top. Place casserole in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until sizzling. Serve immediately.
 
Serves 4 as a main course or 6 to 8 as a side dish.
 
Spinach and Rice Casserole
(Dairy or Pareve)
2 packages (10 oz. each) of frozen spinach, defrosted
2 Tbsps. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
kosher salt to taste
1⁄3 cup raw rice
non-stick vegetable spray
2 eggs
1⁄4 lb. sweet butter or margarine, melted
2 oz. low-fat cream cheese, optional
1⁄8 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
 
Place defrosted spinach in a colander. With palms, squeeze out most of the excess liquid. Reserve.
 
Heat oil in a medium-sized pot on a medium-low flame. Add the onion and garlic. Saute until sweating and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the salt and uncooked rice and stir for 1 minute. Pour in 3⁄4 cup water and stir to combine. Cover pot and simmer on a low flame, until the rice is soft enough to eat and all the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Cool to warm.
 
Preheat oven to 350˚. Coat a 6 to 8 cup baking dish with non-stick spray.
 
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Add the spinach, rice mixture, butter or margarine and cream cheese (if using). Mix well with a long-handled spoon. Move to the prepared pan. Sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs on top.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges bubble. Serve immediately.
 
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish.

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