Daylight Savings Time is here. Or is it over? I can never remember. The thing is, though, it hardly matters – a little manipulation of the clock can’t hide the fact that the day is short. The sun will set just after 5:00 in Albuquerque today, and we’re losing light at the rate of about two minutes a day.
So, what is there to do but gear up for the holidays? It’s time to fill our houses with baked goods and candles, to look forward to holidays that celebrate food and family and keeping the lights on.
I made this casserole for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and my first thought after tasting it – after, of course, “Yum!” – was: This would be perfect for Thanksgiving. When I proposed it to Mom, she reminded me that we already have mashed potatoes, stuffing, and rolls every Thanksgiving (not to mention cake for dessert), and may not need another starch.
It’s hard to imagine taking this back off the menu, though. It’s a hearty delight. Chewy, slightly crunchy grains of wild rice take center stage, backed by the creaminess of brown rice and sour cream, with tang from cottage cheese, rich umami from sauteed mushrooms, and a hint of sweetness from sherry. Served warm from the oven with a thin crust of browned cheese, it’s better than I knew whole grains could be. (And leftovers make a wonderful breakfast with an over-easy egg and a little sharp cheddar.)
The recipe (with, naturally, minor changes) is from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day. A few months ago, this book seemed to be the toast of the food blog world, so I was really excited to try it. And it’s been worth it, for this recipe alone. Unfortunately, the rest of the cookbook hasn’t measured up to this casserole.
The first recipe I tried was White Beans and Cabbage, pictured above. Its ingredient list is extremely simple – the title ingredients plus olive oil, finely diced potato, shallot, and a little Parmesan cheese. I assumed there would be some kind of harmony among the ingredients that would lift them to something greater than the sum of their parts – a kind of alchemy – but the finished dish was just a bowl of beans and cabbage. (Maybe a splash of vinegar or a spice like caraway would have made some magic from the ingredients?) Little Quinoa Patties, though attractively photographed, were similarly bland. The subhead mentioned goat cheese, but none was actually used in the dish. It probably would have helped.
On the other hand, Summer Linguine – a simple dish of shredded zucchini with garlic, Parmesan, and red pepper – was really tasty. I did find the suggestion to use half whole-wheat and half regular pasta (cooked separately because of different cooking times) to be awfully fussy. I went with just whole wheat, and it was great.
Super Natural Every Day is beautiful, with thick matte pages and simple, attractive photography that marry well with the cookbook’s natural-foods concept. All the recipes are vegetarian, though this fact is not mentioned on the cover – a clever and interesting bit of marketing. There are still several recipes I want to try, including Sweet Panzanella, Black Sesame Otsu, and a sort of Indian sparkling limeade called Panakam, but I’m hesitant after my hit-and-miss experience so far.
Anyway, back to the Brown and Wild Rice Casserole! I’ve made it again since I first tried it only a couple of weeks ago. That’s high praise, since I rarely cook any dish more than two or three times a year.
The recipe starts with cooked grains. For information on cooking methods and times, try this page from the Whole Grains Council. (Or print the PDF, here.) As always, this is the recipe as I made it. The only really notable change is the addition of sherry, which loves both wild rice and mushrooms. (I think some chopped pecans would be wonderful in here, as well.)
Brown and Wild Rice Casserole
Serves: 6 Time: 90 minutes Hands-on: 25 minutes
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup sour cream (Kalona SuperNatural brand is amazing)
1 teaspoon Dijon or grainy mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed through a press or minced
2 tablespoons sherry, optional
1.5 cups cooked brown rice
1.5 cups cooked wild rice
1/3 cup grated Asiago, Parmesan, Gruyere, or similar cheese
Heat the oven to 350. Grease a medium baking dish and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, mustard, and salt. Set aside.
Combine the oil or butter and a large pinch of salt in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the mushrooms, then cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes, until they’ve released their liquid and dried out again. Add the onions and cook 2 or 3 minutes, until translucent. Stir in the garlic, saute 30 seconds, then add the sherry (if using) and cook until it evaporates. Remove from the heat and stir in the rices, then the cottage cheese mixture. Stir well and scrape into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese and cover with a lid or lightly greased aluminum foil.
Bake 30 minutes, remove the cover, and bake another 30 minutes, until nicely browned and slightly puffed. Serve warm, as a side or main dish.
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