I’d been planning for days to make a vegan version of one of the mirliton casserole recipes on the internet. I’d even cooked the mirliton in advance so that the casserole would be that much quicker to make. But then lack of celery spoiled the whole plan.
Mirliton? Celery? Wondering what the heck I’m talking about?
Mirliton=Chayote=Chouchou=a squash-like vegetable with many names. In Louisiana we call them mirlitons (pronounced mee-li-tawns, in parts of the state) and eat them stuffed and in casseroles. I’ve written about them a few times before, with Mirliton and White Bean Stew being one of my favorite recipes on this blog. Many U.S. supermarkets now sell them as chayotes, so before you write them off as some exotic ingredient that you won’t be able to get, look for the light-green, pear-shaped vegetables near the ginger root and bean sprouts in your local grocery store.
Now, about that casserole. As you know celery is part of the “trinity” of ingredients that’s considered essential in most of Louisiana cooking. When I realized I didn’t have any, I just couldn’t bring myself to make a mirliton casserole without it. After all, I was already planning to leave out the seafood, ham, butter, bread crumbs, and cornflakes of the traditional version; without celery, I just didn’t think it’d be a Louisiana recipe at all! So I made a sudden turn and decided to go a little more southwest with the recipe: instead of seafood—beans; instead of bread crumbs and cornflakes—cornbread. The results were completely different from the mirliton casserole I had envisioned, but very, very good.
Southwestern Chayote Casserole
3 chayote squash
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
chipotle chile powder, to taste (I used about 1/8 tsp. to keep this casserole mild)
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups cooked pinto or other beans (I used a mixture of different chili beans)
1/2 cup TVP (textured vegetable protein) granules*
3/4 cup vegetable broth*
salt to taste
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
- Cook the chayotes in boiling water until they are soft enough that they can be pierced to the middle with a fork. Set aside to cool (you may continue on with the recipe and come back to the chayotes later). When they are cool enough to handle, cut them in half from top to bottom, remove the seed from the center, and eat it. (Seriously, the seeds are tasty, but throw them away if you don’t like them.) If the skin of your chayote is tough or bitter, as some varieties are, peel it; then cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
- Sauté the onions in a large non-stick pan until they begin to brown. Add the bell pepper, jalapeño, and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add all remaining ingredients, including the cubed chayote but excluding the topping; cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400 F and oil a large casserole dish. Transfer the chayote mixture to the casserole dish. Prepare the cornmeal topping by mixing the dry ingredients and stirring in the boiling water until smooth. Drop it by spoonfuls over the casserole, and then smooth it evenly over the top. Bake until the topping is firm and beginning to get crisp, about 25-30 minutes. Makes about 6 servings.
*Note: Instead of TVP, you may substitute 1 cup of corn or additional cooked beans for the TVP and vegetable broth.
Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Cooking time: 55 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6
Nutrition (per serving): 219 calories, 16 calories from fat, 1.9g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 627.7mg sodium, 503.2mg potassium, 44.1g carbohydrates, 9.3g fiber, 8.5g sugar, 9g protein, 6.4 points.