I have been a fan of Julie Hasson’s work for a long time now. If I were to make a top ten list of favorite cookbooks, her comfort food tome, Vegan Diner, would definitely have a place. (The reuben, Smoky Soy Curls, Chicken-style Seitan, and Creamy Sage & Pepper Gravy are just a few of my top picks. My full reviews are here and here.) Now Julie is back again with a cookbook that’s just in time for fall and winter gatherings with a slew of cozy meals in the form of casseroles. It is chockfull of gorgeous photos and tempting recipes.
Vegan Casseroles has recipes that span from appetizers through desserts. There are cheesy indulgences like Nacho Tots Casserole, old standards like Very Veggie Pot Pie, and classics like Green Bean Casserole. (To my mind, it’s not Thanksgiving without green bean casserole. I’ll be giving her recipe a whirl this year.) Unlike casseroles of yore, these recipes don’t use a base of condensed soups that come out of a can with a squishy plop. Instead, the sauces are homemade, often using a base of cashews for creaminess.
One of the most well-known and beloved one-dish meals is lasagna. Truth be told, I’d never made lasagna before. I’m usually just cooking for two, and most lasagna recipes are designed with a small army in mind. Plus, David has always been in the anti-lasagna camp, saying that it was too gooey. (He’s averse to that texture in food.) David is also lukewarm about zucchini, and so he surprised me when he said he was up for trying the Zucchini Basil Lasagna.
The nice thing about the Zucchini Basil Lasagna recipe is that it makes enough for 4 to 6. That’s the perfect amount for our family of two, guaranteeing leftovers for the next day. The lasagna noodles don’t have to be cooked ahead of time and instead soften right in the sauce, erasing concerns over torn noodles. I used handmade lasagna noodles from my favorite local pasta maker.
Julie gives the option of making the sauce from scratch or buying jarred. I made it from scratch with the recipe, Quick Tomato Basil Sauce. I made just one change. I prefer spaghetti sauces not to be sweet, and so I omitted the sugar and added a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar to round it out instead. It worked beautifully.
The tofu cheese inside was addictively good right out of the food processor, and I could see myself making it alone simply for the purpose of spreading it on crackers. We had some Upton’s Italian seitan sausage on hand, and so I added a couple handfuls of that too to the layers of noodles.
The lasagna baked for an hour and came out beautifully. I needn’t have worried about David’s past dislike of lasagna. He not only finished his first helping but went back for seconds. It was an absolutely delicious dish that would be dinner party-worthy, but is easy enough to be weeknight-friendly (especially if one used jarred pasta sauce). I served it with roasted Brussels sprouts.
As I mentioned earlier this week, I took a couple of dishes from Vegan Casseroles to a pumpkin-carving gathering. I brought Baked Tapenade with a crusty baguette and Caramelized Onion Dip with potato chips.
With just 5 ingredients, the Baked Tapenade comes together quickly with ingredients that I always have in my pantry. I liked its inclusion of both olives and capers for their briny flavor. The tapenade is then baked for 15 to 20 minutes and served warm.
After the party, I used leftover tapenade on crackers as a snack and then later added dollops of it to a pizza, which was fantastic. The tapenade was fast and tasty, and would be a great dish to have on hand all the time for slathering on sandwiches, adding interest to wraps, or tossing with pasta.
The Caramelized Onion Dip is like an adult version of the onion dip you grew up eating. It is made with a base of cashews for creamy sweetness, seasoned with onion granules and dried onion, and topped with caramelized onions. The dip is made with white wine, and so there are undertones of wine. (If you’re not a wine fan, I bet it would also be good with vegetable broth instead.)
There are still loads of recipes left that I want to try, and now that the weather is turning colder, I have a feeling this book is going to be seeing a lot of use.
The publisher, Running Press, has allowed me to share the onion dip recipe with you today, and you can try it for yourself. Get your potato chips ready!
This dip is adapted from a recipe by Dan and Annie Shannon in Betty Goes Vegan. No one will ever guess that it’s not full of sour cream, but heart-healthy creamy cashews instead. I doubled the onion-y goodness with dried chopped onion, which will totally remind you of the quintessential French onion dip. Serve this old-school style, with ruffled potato chips on the side. Prepare to be wowed!
- 2 cups raw unsalted cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and drained
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
- 1 tablespoon granulated onion
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Bragg liquid aminos or low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
- Fine sea salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons dried chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 jumbo or 2 small sweet onions, cut into quarters and thinly sliced
- Few pinches granulated sugar
- In a powerful blender, combine the cashews, wine, water, lemon juice, garlic, granulated onion, and Bragg liquid aminos. Blend until the mixture is super-smooth and creamy, and there are no traces of graininess from the nuts. This will take a couple of minutes, and you will need to stop to scrape down the blender jar. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding salt if needed.
- Scoop the cashew mixture into a small glass or ceramic baking dish, such as an 8 x 5 or 81/2 x 6 (or you can use a standard loaf pan). Stir in the dried onions and smooth the top. Cover and chill for several hours.
- While the cashew mixture is chilling, heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, coating the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring as needed, until the onions are caramelized. You may need to lower the heat so that the onions don’t burn. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, sprinkle the onions with a few pinches of sugar and a pinch of salt to help them caramelize. When the onions are soft and nicely browned, remove them from the heat and let cool completely.
- When the dip has chilled and thickened for several hours, top with the caramelized onions and serve.
Tip: If you’re using a high-speed blender, you can skip the soaking step for the cashews and just use them dry. Add a little extra water to blend if needed.
Variation: To add an extra onion flavor to the dip, and a little splash of color, sprinkle a handful of thinly sliced scallions over the caramelized onions.
Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free tamari or gluten-free soy sauce.
Reprinted with permission from VEGAN CASSEROLES © 2014 by Julie Hasson, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.
In conjunction with the release of Vegan Casseroles, the publisher is having a giveaway with a grand prize of 1 Breville Smart Oven. Five runners up with receive a copy of Vegan Casseroles. The giveaway ends on November 12th and is open to U.S. residents only.
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Disclaimer: I received this cookbook from the publisher, Running Press, but the thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.