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Hearty and Aromatic Vegetable Casserole

Plenty of Time to Get Cooking and Feed Body and Soul

Like so many others, I've had a little too much time at home these past few months, what with a pandemic raging around the world and everyone pretty much quarantined in place. What better time than to sharpen culinary skills and infuse the house with the smells of home cooking? OK, maybe that's not your cup of tea, but I had a field day!

I've been a vegetarian cook for most of my life. Not that you would have expected it from my childhood kitchen table, where it was pretty much meat and potatoes most nights. But after four years of college dining featuring some sort of questionable "mystery meat" and the sudden responsibility to fend for myself, I discovered something about myself. I didn't really like meat. Never did. Didn't crave it, didn't miss it. Instead, I found myself wandering through these amazing farmer's markets, admiring incredibly fresh local produce and discovering wonderful, unusual international foods. And I loved it! I began acquiring spices from around the world and cookbooks with easy-to-follow vegetarian recipes from Mediterranean, middle Eastern, Indian, and Asian cuisines, and was soon cranking out the most yummy smelling and tasting dinners.

This Armenian vegetable casserole is one of my favorites. It's relatively easy to make: just chop up the veggies and bake for a few hours. The aroma fills the house and smells as good as it tastes. Both meat eaters and vegetarians love it - it's terrific as a main course and works beautifully the next day as a side dish for burgers, fish, or other entree. I make it year-round. Wintertime, I pair it with my herbed tomato-vegetable soup (shared in an earlier post). In summer, it's great with corn-on-the-cob and watermelon. Anytime of the year, it's fantastic when preceded with a glass of wine and followed up with something chocolate! Makes staying at home a bit more pleasant. I hope you enjoy my casserole as much as I do.

Armenian Vegetable Casserole

Serve in wide soup bowls with a mound of yogurt on top to melt down into the marvelous juices!

1/2 pound green beans

1 medium size (about 1 lb) eggplant, unpeeled, and cut into 1 inch cubes

2 large onions, cut into 1 inch cubes

3 medium size carrots, cut into 3/4 inch thick slanting slices

2 large stalks celery, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices

1 large red or green bell pepper , seeded, cut into 1 inch squares

2 large thin-skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes

1 can (about 1 lb) pear-shaped tomatoes

1/4 cup olive oil or salad oil

1/2 cup catsup

About 2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons each sugar and dry basil

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 small zucchini

1 cup plain yogurt

Snap off ends of green beans and cut into 2 inch lengths. Combine in a 5 quart or larger casserole (I use a Dutch oven) with eggplant, onions, carrots, celery, bell pepper, and potatoes.

Drain juice from tomatoes into casserole. Chop tomatoes and add to casserole. Chop tomatoes and add to casserole, along with olive oil, catsup, salt, sugar, basil, and pepper. Stir gently.

Cover casserole and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours or until vegetables are almost tender, removing lid and basting vegetables with juices about every 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove ends of zucchini and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Remove casserole from oven and gently mix in the zucchini. Return to over and bake uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Serve hot or at room temperature with a generous spoonful of yogurt on each serving. Makes 8 servings.


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