Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Grandma's Summer Vegetable Rice Casserole

I love my paternal grandmother.  Love her.  But to be perfectly honest, from what I remember she wasn't much of a cook.  For Thanksgiving we got Publix pumpkin pies.  A dinner at her house generally involved just putting a steak on the grill.  Cooking did not happen.  So imagine my surprise when my mother told me that when my grandmother was young, she would give lavish dinner parties.  She even had some recipes printed as part of a feature in the local paper.  Shock is not a strong enough word for my reaction.  And imagine my reaction when I actually try one of these recipes, and it's good.  Not sure what alternate universe this all came from, but I'm certainly happy it did.

Grandma's Summer Vegetable Rice Casserole

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 teaspoons salt, divided
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried basil
1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 small eggplant (about 1 pound), several strips peeled from the skin and flesh cubed
½ cup chopped yellow onion
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 large green pepper, cored and chopped
1 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stem removed, and sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large zucchini (about ¾ pound), thinly sliced
4 ripe tomatoes (about 1¼ pounds), chopped
8 ounces Emmentaler cheese, shredded
12 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium saucepan, heat the broth to boiling, then add 1 teaspoon salt, and the thyme, basil, and rice. Turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the rice is tender and the broth has been absorbed.

In a large sauté pan, melt three tablespoons of the butter. Sauté the celery, eggplant, onions, garlic, and green pepper until tender.  Set aside in a large bowl.  In the same pan, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and sauté the mushrooms until they release their juices and the liquid cooks off. Add the mushrooms to the vegetables in the bowl.  Mix the rice with the sautéed vegetables in the bowl.  Add the remaining salt and some pepper and mix well.

Grease a large casserole dish. Scoop half of the vegetable-rice mixture into the bottom of the dish and smooth slightly. Sprinkle with half of the chopped tomatoes and half of the sliced zucchini.  Top with half of the Emmentaler and Monterey Jack cheeses. Scoop the remainder of the vegetable-rice mixture on top of the cheese. Sprinkle with the remaining tomatoes and zucchini slices.  Top with the remaining cheeses.

Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 1 hour, then remove the foil and bake for another ½ hour so that the cheese browns.

Makes 10 servings

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