Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving and the Three Sisters Casserole

I have little doubt that most of you managed to gorge your stomachs out on vegan feastie goodies this past week, and the same was, of course, true for me as well. My mom had Thanksgiving at her place this year, and since she's been eating vegetarian for the past two months (*giving her a much-deserved round of applause*), the only meat-related item in the house was my brother's obligatory stuffing. And I must thank her heartily as she went out of her way to deck us out with some yummy vegan grub as well--a glorious fruit salad, an elaborate greens salad, and an apple crisp for dessert.

You go, girl!

As for me, I decided to whip up a couple items to take over there myself. I originally intended to bring dessert as well, but seeing as I've apparently become the spokesperson as to why us vegans need to go out and buy the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World cookbook (every time I even attempt them, it turns into some elaborate Three-Stooges-esque baking ordeal), that didn't end up panning out.

Thankfully, both the casserole (which I felt almost obligated to pick because it was named the "Three Sisters casserole" and there are three of us sisters (even though one of us was in NYC for the holiday)) and the mashed sweet potatoes I decided to make came out poifect though.

Today the casserole recipe, tomorrow the sweet potatoes.

I snagged the Three Sisters Casserole recipe from the Nov./Dec. 2006 issue of the Vegetarian Times, and I must admit, it is a good one. I recommend their preparation techniques for the polenta in any instance when you're trying to make a good batch of polenta--it is quite a clever one and the polenta comes out perfect and unlumpy. I ended up baking the casserole in a larger pan (maybe 9 x 13 or somewhere thereabouts) which made the top layer of polenta a bit more difficult to deal with, but it still came out really quite tasty. Plus, I think the quantity of veggies the recipe makes seems ridiculously large for a smaller casserole, though perhaps that's just me. Anyways, if you end up wanting to feed larger armies of people, I'd say you can definitely get away with using the larger pan (I've also included a couple other slight variations). Otherwise, just follow the directions. Deviant.


Polenta Topping
  • 1.5 c. yellow cornmeal

  • 1 T. chili powder

  • 1/2 t. salt

  • 4.5 c. water

  • 3 T. olive oil

  • 1 sm. onion, chopped

  • 2 jalapeno peppers, deseeded and diced

  • 1 large red or yellow bell pepper (cut into 1-inch dice)

  • 1 lb. squash (I used butternut--they called for kobacha), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 1 15 oz-can diced tomatoes

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 t. ground coriander

  • 1 t. ground cumin

  • 1/2 c. water

  • 1/2 t. salt

  • 1 15-oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 c. frozen corn kernels, thawed


For the polenta topping
Whisk together the polenta ingredients in either a double boiler or (as I did) in a large metal bowl over barely simmering water. Cook 40 minutes or until polenta is thick and stiff, stirring 3 or 4 times. Remove from heat.

For the filling
Preheat oven to 375. Heat 2 T. of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and cook 7 minutes or so, until softened, stirring frequently. Add the bell pepper and cook another 5. Stir in the squash, tomatoes, garlic, coriander, and cumin. Cook 5 more. (Continue to stir frequently throughout.) Add the water and salt. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for about 10-15 minutes (or until squash is tender). Stir in the beans and corn and cook 5 more minutes (or until slightly-thickened--I ended up having to just drain out some of the excess tomatoey-water at the end).

Coat an 8x11-inch (or 9x13-inch) pan/baking dish with nonstick spray. Spread 2 cups of polenta over the bottom of the dish. (This is kinda tricky as it does not spread too well. My suggestion is to run a little water over your spatula to keep it from sticking and to moreso mash or pat the polenta into shape instead of trying to actually spread it over the bottom. It works much better.) Spoon your squash mixture over the polenta (making sure to drain some of the excess water and whatnot to avoid sogging it up). Smooth the remaining polenta over the top. (If you use the larger pan, it won't cover up your middle layer in its entirety, but that's ok. It still tastes good. Just try to spread it out as much as possible.)

Brush the top of the casserole with the remaining T. of olive oil. Bake 30 minutes or until heated through and top is lightly brown.

Serves 6-10, depending.

(Original recipe from the Nov./Dec. 2006 issue of the Vegetarian Times, p. 60)

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