As trendy lives get busier, the enchantment of all-in-one meals turns into larger. Casseroles are one such dish that has all of the makings of a hearty, comfort dish. And imagine it or not, regardless of the cheese and meat-filled casseroles of previous, you possibly can truly discover a myriad of plant-based and vegan casserole recipes.
Imagine that you simply’re a peasant in Medieval Europe. You toil from daybreak to nightfall, and once you come residence on the finish of the day, you haven’t any power to organize a hearty, filling meal. On high of that, you’re actually poor. And there are not any drive-thrus to cease by in your method residence. You don’t have a microwave or a pizza takeout magnet in your fridge. And you don’t even have an oven. So what do you do?
For many peasants, the reply was easy: take the most affordable meals they might discover (often dried beans of some form, root greens, or previous bread), taste it with herbs and no matter meat they might scrounge up, toss in a hunk of cheese if they’d it, and throw all of it right into a clay or earthenware pan often called a “casserole.” Then, they might deliver it to the city baker, who would pop it within the oven till it was cooked to style.
The trendy casserole fills most of the similar wants. It may be straightforward to make, very forgiving of variance in recipe and substances, an excellent use of leftovers, cheap, and really hearty and filling. And despite the fact that casseroles have been seemed down upon by cooks and foodies for the previous 70 years, they’ve by no means gone out of vogue as a result of they’re so economical and satisfying.
Of course, we’d not wish to make casseroles that includes floor meat, dripping with cheese, and topped by crushed potato chips. Luckily, there are a lot of methods to healthify casseroles and make them plant-rich and nutrient-dense.
What is a Casserole?
Casseroles are so widespread, I by no means stopped to consider an precise definition till I began engaged on this text. But right here’s what I’ve give you: a one-dish, oven-baked meal.
That easy definition signifies that plenty of our hottest heritage dishes are casseroles: lasagna, potato and noodle kugel, stuffed peppers, mac n’ cheese, zucchini gratin. Clearly, there’s one thing very primal and satisfying about tossing a bunch of substances right into a deep-sided pan and letting the magic occur slowly in a scorching oven.
The origin of the phrase “casserole” is without doubt one of the most contentious points within the discipline of gastronomic etymology. I’ll spare you the painstakingly researched and defended opinions of the linguistic consultants who’ve weighed in on the subject, besides to say that they seem like burning a variety of energy asserting and adorning their claims. So I hope they eat as many casseroles as they argue over. For our functions, let’s simply assume that “casserole” is French for saucepan. And the identify of the pan then transferred to the identify of the dish cooked in it. It’s associated to the French phrase cassoulet, which refers to a standard dish consisting of meat and white beans that’s cooked and served in a small dish often called a ramekin.
A Brief History of the Modern Casserole
Casserole historians — sure, that’s an precise career, though admittedly not an enormous job market — level out that whereas casserole dishes have been ready and eaten since people discovered the entire fireproof and waterproof cookware factor, the fashionable historical past of the casserole started with a technological breakthrough within the early 20th century.
The story goes that method again in 1913, Bessy Littleton wished to bake a cake, however couldn’t as a result of she had dropped and damaged her clay casserole pan. Luckily, Bessy’s husband labored as a scientist at Corning Glass Works. She had the intense thought to ask him to deliver residence the sawed-off backside of a battery jar, which turned out to supply an exquisite cake. And that was the origin of the Pyrex firm, which makes casserole pans and lids that many people use to today.
While Pyrex was an enormous leap ahead for casseroles (heat-absorbing, imparting no taste to the meals, straightforward to scrub, and capable of go from oven to freezer and each temperature in between), you would possibly argue that the meals improvements that popularized the American casserole had been much less great. In 1940, Jay’s Potato Chips printed the primary casserole recipe printed on meals packaging, a tuna casserole topped with (in fact) crushed Jay’s Potato Chips.
The greatest casserole recipe marketer was (and nonetheless is) Campbell’s Soup. In 1955, they unleashed the inexperienced bean casserole recipe on cans of Cream of Mushroom soup. While tens of millions loved this and related recipes impressed by industrial meals, the culinary elites seemed on with horror on the debasing of the American palate by what they noticed as “instant leftovers.” The aesthetic of comfort over high quality meant that casseroles had been struggling the identical destiny that was to befall a lot of Western delicacies because the second half of the 20th century: poor-quality substances hidden by the addition of big quantities of salt, fats, and sugar. What had been wholesome “peasant food” was was disease-producing, industrial delicacies for the plenty.
The excellent news is, we will reclaim the casserole as a utilitarian, scrumptious, and nutritious meal. We can ditch the hyper-processed substances in favor of contemporary ones. And even improve the standard of the unique dishes by making them plant-based and nutrient-rich.
To make a casserole, you want a casserole dish. There are a number of widespread dimensions and shapes, which is beneficial as a result of cookbook authors and bloggers can point out a specific dimension for every recipe. You need your casserole to be the “right” depth, which suggests utilizing an applicable casserole dish for the amount you’re making ready.
Typical sizes are 9”x13” rectangles (Pyrex calls them “oblongs” due to their rounded edges), and eight”x8” and 9”x9” squares. Fancier dishes may be totally rectangular, and even spherical.
In addition to the glass dishes invented by Pyrex (and in addition bought by Anchor Hocking), you will get casserole dishes made from ceramic, stoneware, and enameled forged iron. All have completely different benefits and downsides, like weight, evenness of cooking, ease of cleansing, and aesthetics. If you’re simply beginning out exploring the world of casseroles, I like to recommend beginning easy and cheap, with this traditional, glass two-piece set: Pyrex Basics Clear Oblong Glass Baking Dishes, 2 Piece Value Plus Pack Set. When you’re prepared for fancier and better high quality, together with a heavy lid to seal in warmth and juices, and you probably have a bit cash to spend, deal with your self to this one: Staub Ceramics Square Covered Baking Dish, 9×9-inch, Dark Blue.
What’s So Great About Casseroles?
1. They’re time-savers
Just like our medieval counterparts, we make casseroles as we speak as a result of they save us time. Not essentially cooking time, relying on the scale and substances. A family-sized casserole can cook dinner for 45-60 minutes within the oven, and even longer, however prep time, since throwing in all of the substances saves a number of steps.
2. They’re cheap
Casseroles are and have all the time been nice methods to stretch a meals greenback. The base ingredient — beans or a starch — may be very cheap. And when mixed with flavorings and binders, can go a protracted strategy to satisfying a crowd. And they’re an effective way to make use of up leftovers, avoiding meals waste.
three. They’re flavorful
Casseroles usually style a lot better than you’ll predict based mostly solely on their ingredient record. That’s as a result of all that point within the oven turns them right into a literal melting pot, the place all of the flavors can develop, mature, and work together to supply a dish that’s larger than the sum of its elements.
four. You can eat them any time
Casseroles are versatile. In addition to the wealthy and heavy meal sorts, you possibly can serve a casserole as an appetizer or a facet dish. You also can render numerous breakfast and dessert meals in casserole type, which might flip a protracted means of short-order cooking right into a one-and-done affair that everybody can take pleasure in without delay, scorching out of the oven.
5. They permit for creativity
Since casseroles are the last word vacation spot for leftovers, they’re additionally stomping grounds for creativity. You can invent new casserole recipes just by seeing what’s left in your fridge, which most likely gained’t get eaten by itself.
6. They can feed a crowd (or present leftovers)
Another beauty of casseroles is how crowd-friendly they’re. A single 9”x13” rectangular casserole pan holds over three quarts of meals, which might feed lots of people. Even if you happen to aren’t charged with cooking for a bunch, if you happen to make a big casserole, you’ll have scrumptious and easy-to-transport leftovers for the following few days. Nothing like rolling as much as work with a spinach artichoke pasta bake (recipe hyperlink beneath) that you may microwave for 3 minutes and luxuriate in whereas your coworkers are consuming unhappy desk lunches.
7. They’re straightforward to make
Most casseroles are straightforward to make, with just some easy substances. Of course, you will get as fancy as you need, however that’s an possibility, not a requirement. As with any meals of peasant origin, casseroles are right here to make our lives simpler, no more difficult.
The Anatomy of a Casserole
An straightforward method to developing a casserole is to think about three major parts: a base, an extender, and a binder. The base is historically a meat or grain, like beef or tempeh in an enchilada and huge noodles in lasagna. The extender serves so as to add quantity and thicken the dish; potatoes and breadcrumbs are typical examples. Finally, there’s a binder, typically a sauce or a liquid, that holds the entire thing collectively.
To this trinity, I’d like so as to add a fourth staple element: greens! Whether you toss in chunks of summer time squash in a summer time casserole with a tomato-sauce binder, or add broccoli or cauliflower florets to a winter casserole with potatoes and a cashew-cream binder, there’s all the time a strategy to get extra veggies into your casserole for well being and taste.
7 Healthy Plant-Based/Vegan Casserole Recipes
If you’re hankering for a scrumptious plant-based or vegan casserole recipe to strive, you’ve seven completely different ones with very completely different flavors to select from. No matter what you’re within the temper for, certainly one of these vegan casserole recipes are certain to fulfill your longing for a fast, straightforward, and wholesome, all-in-one meal.
Vegan Spinach Artichoke Pasta Bake by It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken
This recipe is what occurs to mac n’ cheese when it grows up. The spinach and artichoke lend vitamin, shade, and class. And the tacky taste will get refined via a combo of lemon juice, dietary yeast, chili powder, and garlic. Plant-based milk and uncooked cashews function a wholesome binder with creaminess to spare.
Vegan Enchilada Casserole with Homemade Sauce by Sweet Simple Vegan
Enchilada casserole seems to be straightforward to make, due to this recipe and tutorial. Tortillas drenched in sauce type the layers, simply as noodles do in lasagna. And corn and beans take part to create a filling base. The enchilada sauce is actually tomato sauce cooked with Mexican spices. The requisite cheesiness comes from their wholesome and dairy-free Chipotle Cheddar Cheese Sauce.
Vegan Shepherd’s Pie by Yup It’s Vegan
If you ever questioned what a plant-based Thanksgiving dinner would appear like as a single casserole, marvel no extra. This shepherd’s pie breaks the mould via the substitution of meat with lentils. And as soon as your serving utensil breaks the crusty high layer of garlic-chive mashed potatoes, you’ll uncover further layers of carrots, apples, shallots combined in with the lentils.
Broccoli Quinoa Casserole by ElaVegan
This is mac n’ cheese’s elegant second cousin, with quinoa serving as the bottom, and a creamy vegan cheese sauce holding all of it collectively. Broccoli and chickpeas add phytonutrients and protein galore, and the gluten-free “bread crumb” combination on high provides enjoyable and crunch.
Layered Eggplant and Zucchini Casserole by Oh She Glows
Oh She Glows created this recipe so as to take care of leftover chili sauce. Eggplant and zucchini be part of forces with spinach and navy beans to create a easy peasant dish that smacks of eggplant parmesan minus the cheeses. The trick to getting the feel proper is to pre-bake the eggplant rounds till they get type of shriveled. That method, they take in all of the tomatoey goodness of the chili or pasta sauce (no matter you’ve left over).
Buffalo Cauliflower & Chickpea Casserole by From My Bowl
This recipe sounds fancy, and it’s, however it’s additionally virtually embarrassingly easy to place collectively. In reality, Caitlin of From My Bowl, touts this characteristic in her description of the dish: “Dump and Bake.” Basically, which means you layer chickpeas, veggies, and raw brown rice one on high of the opposite, after which add the liquid to the entire thing and bake. The buffalo scorching sauce, dietary yeast, and garlic powder give the dish a game-day vibe.
Sweet Potato Green Curry Quinoa Casserole by Fit Foodie Finds
This dish stuffs the essence of Thai meals right into a casserole. The coconut milk anchors the binder, and candy potato serves because the extender for the quinoa. Green and pink peppers, onions, and candy peas are the vegetable stars of this present. Green curry paste and inexperienced dragon or sriracha sauce (form and quantity rely on what number of alarms you wish to set off with this recipe) transport you to Bangkok (or your native Thai restaurant) with each chunk.
Are You Ready to Embrace the Humble Casserole and Give It New Life?
Casseroles are among the many most egalitarian of dishes, offering cheap nourishment in a type that may feed dozens. And when you perceive the essential constructing blocks of a casserole, you possibly can assemble your individual wholesome, plant-based model from no matter you’ve acquired within the kitchen and pantry. Here’s to your subsequent hearty one-dish bake!
Tell us within the feedback:
- Do you want casseroles?
- What’s your favourite casserole from childhood? Have you ever tried making a wholesome model of it?
- What vegan casserole recipe will you strive subsequent? Where will you be serving it?
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