During Vegan MoFo 2013, one of the recurring prompts was retro cooking. So I created some retro casseroles, trying as best as I could to follow the guidelines of Dr. McDougall. I remember a lot of casseroles as a kid. My mom still likes them because you do the prep, stick it in the oven and sit down and relax while it cooks. Then it’s done, yay!
So this year I had to up the challenge a bit.
I remember this one a lot. My mom still makes it regularly, but with all the eggs, milk, cheese, and oil, not healthy at all. It dupes people because of the spinach. They think it’s heathy because hey, it’s got leafy greens! And loads of fat, cholesterol, and animal protein, no bueno. Plus, it has no starch. Extra no bueno. Grande no bueno.
So What To Do?
I recalled from my previous vegan casserole experiments that tofu bakes up custard like and is somewhat similar to eggs in that regard. So I consulted Chef Google and found a few examples of what I’m trying to achieve. But it is still not a starch based dish. A tofu and cashew based sauce is very rich. A separate potato dish would compliment this nicely, like a gratin. But is there a way to make a one dish casserole meal?
I decided to try.
I cooked some red potatoes and let them cool. If you’re a real McDougaller, you might already have these on hand. I didn’t have enough, so I cooked some more. When they were cool enough to handle, I chunked them and spread them in a layer on the bottom of a casserole dish.
Meanwhile I cooked a package of frozen spinach with about 1/2 lb of mushrooms. It’s best to thaw the spinach first as my mom always did, but I faked it this time.
To make the sauce, I soaked some cashews in water in the Vitamix, then blended them. Then I added tofu and the seasonings I use to get a “cheesy” taste. Blended some more. Added the spinach/mushroom mixture and blended some more …
Blended it way too much! Spinach soufflé is supposed to be chunky. Mine was not. I got green tofu sauce. Oh well. Poured it over the potatoes and baked them in the oven until done.
Well, it looks wrong, and the texture is wrong, but that’s because the silly Vitamix has more horsepower than my VW bus, and I overdid it. But, the taste works. I may or may not try to repeat it. Due to the cashews and tofu, this is a rich dish not really appropriate very often. But it might appeal to SAD eaters, or be fun once in a while. The addition of potatoes was a big chance, but it worked well. Kind of like an aloo saag in Indian cooking, and much better as a main dish than straight tofu and spinach.
1 pakcage frozen spinach, thawed
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms
3/4 lb cooked, chunked red potatoes
1 block firm tofu
1/2 C cashews
1 C water
1 T lemon juice
1-2 t white miso
1-2 t mustard, any kind
2 t onion powder
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425.
Saute mushrooms with salt and pepper until they release their juices. Add spinach and cook for a few minutes more. Remove from heat. Spread potatoes in an even layer in a casserole dish. Season if you like with salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder, or another seasoning blend.
Meanwhile, in a high speed blender or food processor, blend cashews and water until smooth. Add tofu and remaining ingredients except spinach mixture and blend again. Add the spinach/mushroom mixture and CAREFULLY blend so that veggies are incorporated, but still a bit chunky. Do not make a green sauce like I did!
Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 350 and bake 30-45 minutes until done.