Sunday, March 10, 2013

Zucchini Casserole with Red-Pepper Aioli

This layered dish is somewhat like a French onion soup, except loaded with extra veggies like tomato and zucchini. Somewhere between a soup and a casserole, it's a perfect side dish or a meal in itself.  Start with the Red-Pepper Aioli, which is the perfect condiment to drizzle on top.

For the Red-Pepper Aioli:
  • 3 peeled garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup light vegan mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 (7-ounce) drained bottle roasted red bell peppers
1. Drop the garlic cloves through the chute of a food processor while the processor is on.  Continue to process until finely minced.

2. Add the mayonnaise, salt, crushed red pepper, and bottled red peppers; process until combined.

Note: You'll have extra aioli after making the casserole recipe below; leftovers are fantastic as a sandwich spread.

Nutrition Info:
16 servings (1 tablespoon), Calories 10

Stop reading now if this vegan aioli spread is all you want. For the casserole, keep on going...

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 cups sliced onion
  • 6 (1/2-inch thick) slices diagonally cut toasted Italian bread*
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound zucchini
  • 2 cups shredded Daiya mozzarella
  • 2 cups vegan chicken broth (such as Imagine)
  • 1/4 cup Red-Pepper Aioli
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and saute for 15 minutes, until golden brown.

2. Cut 2 of the bread slices into 1-inch cubes.  Set aside.  Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and thinly slice; set aside.  Drain the tomatoes through a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup liquid; discard the remaining liquid.  Combing the tomatoes in a bowl with the basil, thyme, black pepper, and minced garlic.

3. Arrange 1/2 cup of the onion in the bottom of a 3-quart casserole dish coated with cooking spray.  Arrange 2 bread slices over the onion.

4. Top with half of the remaining onion (about 1/2 cup), half of the tomato mixture (about 1 cup), half of the zucchini slices (about 1 and 1/2 cups), and 1 cup cheese.  Repeat the layers - 2 bread slices, the remaining onion, the remaining tomato mixture, the remaining zucchini, and 1 cup cheese.  Top with the bread slices that you have cut into 1-inch cubes.

5. Pour the reserved 1/2 cup tomato liquid and the broth over the casserole, then cover and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 25 minutes - the top should be starting to brown.

6. Spoon 2 cups casserole into each of 4 shallow bowls.  Top each serving with 1 tablespoon Red-Pepper Aioli.

*Toast the bread slices first under the broiler for about 2 minutes on each side. Your 6 slices should total about 6 ounces.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (2 cups casserole, 1 tablespoon aioli), Calories 397 

Tasting Notes:
This might be my favorite thing I've ever eaten. No, I'm not kidding, and I need to collect myself a moment before putting together these tasting notes. The aioli is, my goodness, garlic... But what garlic. Raw and sharp but tamed by the creamy mayo and the sweet bell peppers. The casserole itself is one gooey, warm, awesome jumble of soft bread, melted cheese, and savory tomato. The zucchini makes you even feel healthy while spooning into this awesome mix. The sharpness of the aioli accentuates the casserole, but the zucchini mixture would be just as good without it. I recommend a garnish of fresh basil leaves and a glass of vegan white wine, and a perfect dinner awaits. I'll leave you with this one piece of advice: make this dish.


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