Sunday, February 9, 2014

Vegetable Mélange

This dish of layered vegetables baked in a rich, savory sauce is like a comfortable stew that got dressed up for company. I serve this on chilly winter days when fresh produce is harder to come by and I can whip it together from things already in my pantry. The leftovers are homely, but even more delicious than the original version.

To make this vegetarian meal gluten-free, just skip the bread crumbs and thicken the sauce with cornstarch instead of flour.

Vegetable Mélange 
  • 3 cans green beans (drained, reserve liquid)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (reserve juice)
  • 1 can whole-kernel corn (drained, reserve liquid)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped

  • 4 T. butter (1/2 stick)
  • 2-3 T. flour
  • 1 1/2 cups reserved vegetable juice
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. basil
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

  • shredded cheese (cheddar, colby, or swiss)
  • about a cup of fine soft bread crumbs (2 slices of bread in the blender!)
  • (2 T. melted butter, optional)

Drain the tomato juice into a large measuring cup. Add liquid from the beans/corn to make 1 1/2 cups. Discard the rest.

Melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook over low heat for a minute. Gradually whisk in vegetable juice, as you would for a white sauce. Cook over medium heat till "gravy" thickens. Add seasonings.

Layer drained vegetables in a 9 x 13 pan in order given. Pour sauce evenly over the whole pan and cover with shredded cheese up to an inch from the edges.* If desired, stir the melted butter into the bread crumbs. Sprinkle crumbs around the edge of the casserole, creating a border around the cheese.

Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour at 350 F.

*Note: To keep the cheese from drying out, you can wait and top the casserole with cheese and bread crumbs after the first 45 minutes of baking. But I am usually too busy or lazy to do that. And I kind of like the texture of toasty cheese.

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