Thursday, August 4, 2011

Black Bean and Squash Casserole with Cilantro Rice

As promised, I did dispense with the large amount of spinach mentioned in my last post by replaying the spinach kootu from a couple of weeks ago.  It came out great, as always, but my plan to make it into a vegetarian alternative to the tuna/bacon/spinach pasta went up in smoke when I realized that I was all pasta'd out after my last big batch of pasta salad.  So, I just made some brown rice to go with it and that was just as good.

Tuesday was a day off, so I addressed my anxiety about the three yellow squashes that had been in the fridge for at least a week by making this casserole. 

Black Bean and Squash Casserole with Cilantro Rice:
2 cups water
2 Knorr cilantro cubes
1.5 cups basmati rice (jasmine or another long-grain works too), rinsed
3 yellow squash, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
2 tbsp canola or olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 cans black beans, drained
cayenne pepper to taste
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
2 cloves garlic
8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring the water to a boil and add the cilantro cubes. 

Toss the squash and jalapenos in a mixing bowl with the oil, salt and pepper.

In a separate bowl, combine the black beans with the next four ingredients.

In a 10 x 13" baking dish, spread the uncooked rice evenly across the bottom of the pan.  Layer the squash and jalapenos evenly across the rice, then pour the cilantro broth over both.  Layer the black beans evenly over the squash.

Bake, covered, for 45 minutes or until rice has absorbed all liquid.  Remove from oven (heat may be turned off at this point), cover evenly with cheddar cheese and put the dish back in the oven uncovered until the cheese has melted, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Serve warm.

I don't normally experiment with casserole dishes without having a recipe to tweak, but this came out okay all things considered.  My only regret is that the rice didn't really make itself a part of the casserole because of the barrier formed by the squash.  It would have been nice for some of the cheese to reach down and mix with the rice, but alas...maybe someday I'll try it again. 

Here's what it looked like on Steve's plate:

As for the squash, it neither helped nor hindered, but it was nice to have a veggie figure prominently in the mix, unlike the standard rice-and-beans plate you can get at any of the Mexican restaurants around here.  And I normally use a 1.5 to 1 ratio of water to uncooked rice, but I made it 4:3 this time figuring that any liquid coming out of the squash would make up the difference.  I was right, and the rice came out perfectly!  So the moral of the story is...maybe don't bother making this as a casserole, and just cook everything, put it on a heatproof plate and put that in the oven just long enough for the cheese to melt over the rice?...
Except for some tomatoes that Steve picked from the plant yesterday, we really don't have anything that needs to be used up right now.  If I had to guess, my next recipe will involve pesto made from parsley, basil and/or lemon balm.  Another pizza?  Stay tuned...

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