Everything I read lately, from blogs to magazine articles, proclaims that summer is almost over and fall is in the air. Really? Where? Here in Mississippi, daytime temps are still in the mid-90’s and the only thing in the air is dust. Nevertheless, maybe because I’m wishing for fall or maybe because I’m just getting sick of salads, I’ve been craving casseroles–hot, starchy, comfort-food concoctions that fill the whole house with the warmth and aroma of savory herbs and vegetables. So this week I just decided to go with the craving, pretend that the leaves are turning to gold and the wind is nippy instead of balmy, and bake my family a casserole. This casserole.
If I’m going to turn on the oven in this kind of weather, I want to make sure that what goes into the casserole dish is filling and complete enough to be a whole meal (with, maybe, a slice of whole-grain bread or a salad on the side). In other words, it must include vegetables as well as beans and starch. In this Asparagus and Chickpea Casserole, my starchy element doubles as an easy, crispy topping: Frozen, oil-free hash browns, the shredded kind sold as “Country-Style.” If you can’t find them in your supermarket, simply run a medium-sized gold or red-skinned potato through the shredding disk of your food processor. Sprinkle on top of the casserole for crunchy topping that, unlike traditional breadcrumb crusts, is fat-free and refined-flour-free.
And parents, if your children are like mine, they’ll devour anything with shredded potatoes on top. My daughter E gave this dish four and a half crumbs on her 5-point Num-CrumbTM scale (5 crumbs being limited to lasagna and desserts). I guess she was ready for casserole season, too.
Asparagus and Chickpea Casserole
To make this gluten-free, substitute 1 tablespoon cornstarch or potato starch for the flour.
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 rib celery, diced
- 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 12 ounces asparagus, ends trimmed and stalks cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons vegetable broth or “no-chicken” broth
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup vegetable broth or “no-chicken” broth
- 3/4 cup unsweetened soymilk or other non-dairy milk
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2-3 cups frozen hash brown potatoes (or 5-8 ounces raw potato, shredded)
- smoked paprika, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly oil or spray a 2-3 quart casserole dish.
- Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and add the onions. Cook until onions soften, 2-3 minutes. Add the celery, mushrooms, and garlic and cook for 2-3 more minutes, until mushrooms exude their juices. Add the asparagus and two tablespoons of vegetable broth, cover pan, and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until asparagus is bright green and beginning to become tender.
- Whisk the flour into the cup of vegetable broth. Add it, the milk, nutritional yeast, thyme, and basil and heat until bubbly. Add the chickpeas and salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour into prepared casserole dish and top with an even layer of potatoes. Sprinkle potatoes with salt, if desired, and smoked paprika.
- Bake until casserole is bubbly and top is lightly browned, 25-45 minutes (frozen potatoes will take longer than fresh). If top does not completely brown, place it under the broiler for a few seconds.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s) | Cooking time: 50 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6
Nutrition (per serving): 152 calories, 17 calories from fat, 2.1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 166.3mg sodium, 458.1mg potassium, 26.8g carbohydrates, 5g fiber, 5.2g sugar, 10.1g protein.