I was surfing around online recently when I heard two words combined that thrilled me to the core: "Quinoa Casserole". What the what?! That's pure genius if you ask me. Quinoa is generally more toothsome than rice or noodles, so it makes a fantastic casserole base. Plus, I just love the stuff. It has this slightly nutty taste and perfectly al dente texture that makes me want to shovel the stuff into my mouth. Give me a big bowl of quinoa seasoned with a touch of salt & pepper any day of the week.
Determined to invent my own quinoa casserole, I perused the farmers market with quinoa in mind. When I came across a bag of sweet potatoes I was thrilled. It was all coming together. That night, I whipped up this recipe for the first time, a deliciously layered cast iron vegetarian casserole that sticks to your ribs, and fills your belly.
If you choose to ignore all the cream and cheese (which I totally do) this recipe is pretty dang nutritious. Quinoa is packed with fiber and protein, both of which are amped up by the inclusion of black beans. You've also got jalapeno, tomato, and nutrient packed, low GI sweet potato at the party. It's a beta carotene carnival. Serve this dish with a hearty green salad (perhaps including some spinach or kale) or a green veggie like string beans or chard, and you've got a very well rounded meal. If you can't live without meat, try serving it with some sausage on the side. They go really well together.
Sweet Potato & Quinoa Casserole
Makes 8 - 10 servings
For the quinoa layer:
- 1 1/2 cups quinoa
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 jalapeno, minced
- 1 can black beans, rinsed
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced and seeded
- the juice of 1 lime
- salt & pepper
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
For the sweet potato layer:
- 2 pounds sweet potato, sliced thin
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella (1 for sauce, 1 for topping)
- salt & pepper
Bring 3 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a rapid boil. Stir in quinoa, bring back to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, or until quinoa is al dente, and has absorbed the water. Mix the quinoa with the diced tomato, jalapeno, black beans, and lime juice. Add salt & pepper to taste. Pack the mixture down firmly into the casserole dish, then top with one cup of shredded mozzarella.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Slice the sweet potatoes thinly using a knife or a mandolin. In a small bowl, combine the mayo, cream, and chipotle. You can add a little more or a little less chipotle based on your taste and spice tolerance. Add a little salt & pepper to taste.
In a large mixing bowl, toss together the sauce, sweet potato slices, and 1 cup of shredded cheese. Don't worry about getting every slice coated evenly. They'll get more sauce when they are added to the casserole.
Spread the coated sweet potatoes over the layer of qunioa in your casserole dish, one slice at a time. Try to overlap each slice just a little to form a tight seal out of the sweet potatoes. When they have all been laid down, pour the remaining sauce over the top. Sprinkle the top with one cup of mozzarella. If you like, you can sprinkle a little black pepper or dried parsley on top to make it more attractive.
Bake the casserole in the oven for 60 minutes. The casserole will be done when the sweet potatoes have become fork tender, and the top has melted and browned. Let the casserole sit for about 10 minutes after removing it from the oven, then serve right away.