Sunday, September 30, 2012

Skakin' It Up with Tomato and Squash Casserole

Curse you autumn. You seduce my American Express card each season with chic accessories, and you know darn well no one loves to cover up their body more than I do in scarves, hats and jackets. We have to put an end to this dysfunctional relationship. It’s not you. It’s me. Hopefully when I learn some self control, we can be friends again.

Autumn is the one time of year where I’m just as captivated by its fashions as I am by its foods. Judging by my wardrobe and my pantry this season, I apparently want to be something in between a hipster and a hippie. For example, I have 20/20 vision. I wore glasses for a year in the 3rd grade and haven’t needed them since. So explain to me why I just ordered a pair of black, thick-rimmed frames by the name of “Sinclair”. I also have my eye on a cable knit beret from Urban Outfitters, a rucksack backpack and a graphic t-shirt of Brooklyn, NY.  It’s a good thing I’m not prone to facial hair, otherwise I might try to grow a handle bar mustache.

On the flip side, I have become fixated on eating local, organic produce and meats as much as I can. It all started when I friend of mine told me about two classes on Coursera through John’s Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health that offered an introduction to the US food system and obesity economics. Since registering for these classes, I have read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and David Kessler’s The End of Overeating. I’ve also watched several documentaries including:  Food, Inc., Forks Over Knives, and Food Matters. And now I’ve hopped on board the local food movement bandwagon. 

Let me keep this short and sweet, because I could easily preach you a sermon on this topic.  Know what you’re eating folks. I won’t go into the disturbing details of what happens in meat packing plants, how chickens are genetically altered to grow fatter in shorter periods of time and never see the sunlight, or how our typical supermarket produce is loaded with pesticides, fungicides and insecticides.  Let’s get back to the basics. Let’s support our local farmers and ranchers. Let’s be conscious of what we’re feeding our bodies. You know it’s coming…I have to say it…you are what you eat!

I’m stepping down from the pulpit now. Yesterday I went to Nashville’s farmers market where the baskets were overflowing with tomatoes, squash, zucchini, peppers, and apples…not to mention the crowds of people. I tend to get sensory overload in situations like this where I’m in the thick of mounds of fresh produce. It’s kind of like being in my favorite clothing store on the day where everything is an additional 40% off. My hands can’t grab things fast enough. Did you just say five pounds of zucchini and squash for $5? Yes, please! I probably spent about $30 and walked away with enough meat and produce to feed my face for a solid week.

So for dinner last night, I made one of my favorite recipes from my mom’s kitchen. It’s a tomato, squash and zucchini casserole. Served over a small bed of pasta, tossed in a little olive oil and basil, this meal is veggie-tastic. The caramelized yellow onions give it a hint of sweetness, and the squash/zucchini have a great crisp texture to them. Forget the pasta. Just hand me a fork, and I’ll eat it right out of the casserole dish. I made enough for two people last night, and there were no leftovers. So, I’ll give you the recipe that will feed 4-5. You can always cut back on the size if needed.

On the music scene, my latest love is Alabama Shakes. Brittany Howard, the band’s lead singer and guitarist, is the coolest chick in music right now - not to mention her voice is incredible. I love their sound.

Tomato and Squash Casserole Recipe:
NOTE: After you chop the tomatoes, squash and zucchini, leave them out to dry on paper towels for a few hours. Sprinkle a little salt over them and let it suck all the water out. This will help ensure that your vegetables are crisp and the casserole is not watery when you cook it. I left mine out to dry for about 2-3 hours. Just keep drying them off with paper towels and adding a little more salt as needed.

1/4 Cup of EVOO
3 cups chopped yellow onions (about 3 medium onions)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tsp)
1 lb yellow squash, sliced
1 lb zucchini, sliced
1 lb plum tomatoes, sliced
teaspoon fresh basil and/or thyme
ground salt and pepper
1/2-1 Cup of Gruyere or Parmesan cheese

 - Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour the olive oil in a pan over medium heat, and add the chopped onions. Let the onions caramelize until they start to turn brown (12-15 min). Within the last minute, add the minced garlic.
- Lay the onions and garlic on the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish. Top your dried vegetables with fresh cracked pepper. Layer the sliced vegetables in the dish, overlapping each other a bit. Cover the dish with tinfoil and bake for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove the tinfoil. Sprinkle on the fresh basil/thyme and continue to bake (uncovered) for another 30 minutes. Within the last 10 minutes, add your freshly grated cheese so it can melt.

1 comment:

Beka Roberts Johnson said...

This looks delish! Love Fall food. (Also, the Alabama Shakes just came to Memphis.) Def going to have to try this one!