Flavors of Moroccan cooking scream comfort food to me; cumin, tumeric, garlic, ginger, paprika. These flavors are all the base of our favorite winter dishes. Together in a casserole, with creamy polenta, chickpeas, and a mountain of veggies; you have yourself a meal you can easily call Sunday Supper. Vegan and gluten free, this is a dish you can happily bring to a pot luck or make for a large crowd and guarantee everyone will walk away with full bellies and smiles! Using frozen, precut veggies and quick cooking polenta makes this casserole a breeze to pull together on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Winter time is always difficult in the South. You never really “get used to” the cold. It just appears for a few days and you freeze your tush off. We don't have big warm jackets or know how to dress in layers correctly. I also struggle with how to get my veggies in during the cold times. I just can't bring myself to eat salad when it's 10 degrees outside. Maybe you are in the same boat? Casseroles, chili, and stir-fries are my go-to during these cold spells.
Like many of other people, I am also still very aware of my new year intentions to eat wholesome filling foods. So I wanted to build a casserole free of the usual cheesy gooey goodness we all crave when it gets cold. I wanted something that mimicked that creaminess though. Polenta, yes, polenta is creamy dreamy. And since I'm trying to expand my culinary horizons I decided to venture out to Moroccan flavors. After all, the base flavors in Moroccan cooking are some of my favorites. Cumin, tumeric, ginger, garlic, paprika. See you love those flavors too! I have to be honest with you though, I was really drawn to using apricots and raisins in this savory dish; which is traditional in Moroccan cooking. I can't keep a bag of dried apricots in my house, they are my kryptonite. They disappear. So yeah now I have an open bag. Wonder how long they will last? LoL someone send me some self control!
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This like I mentioned above, I went ahead and took the easy way out and used frozen veggies. A bag of frozen cauliflower, a bag of frozen veggies that included zucchini, yellow squash, red onion and red pepper (I used Birds Eye), as well as a bag of mixed peppers and onions (also from Birds Eye). I had butternut squash already cubed up (you can buy it precut in the produce aisle) and a can of fire roasted tomatoes. Quick cooking polenta (ready in 1 minute) rounded off this dish making it extremely easy to prepare. I was able to use my new immersion blender that Dave's parents got me for Christmas to blend up the whole canned tomatoes, which made this recipe that much quicker to assemble! Thank you again I love it! If you don't have an immersion blender, you can always buy the crushed tomatoes.
My tried and true recipe tester (Dave) really liked the dish. I'm pretty sure he was surprised by this, since he was like ‘What exactly is Moroccan food?” and he had to google what polenta was when I was having a meltdown in the grocery store after not being able to find a bag of organic, gmo free polenta. It was in the aisle with the rice, in case you are looking for it. I think he was happy to have something warm to eat after freezing through most of this past week!
Moroccan Polenta Casserole
Moroccan Spiced Veggies
- 1 package of Tri-colored peppers and onions - frozen
- 1 package of mixed veggies - zucchini - squash, red onion, red pepper (frozen)
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp. tumeric
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup roasted butternut squash
- 1 package frozen califlower - roasted with a pinch of salt
Moroccan Tomato and Chickpeas
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Roast butternut squash and frozen cauliflower for 30 minutes in 425 oven.
- While veggie are roasting, start frozen veggies on the stove.
- In a large saute pan, spray with nonstick spray and add frozen veggies. Allow to cook over medium heat.
- Once veggies are cooking, start on tomatoes. In a large saucepan, add tomatoes, and spices listed under Moroccan Tomato and Chickpeas.Stir to combine, cook over medium low heat.
- You will notice the frozen veggies give off a lot of water. I like to move the veggies tot he outside of the pan and let the water boil in the center for 4-5 minutes. The veggies continue to stay warm and the water will evaporate.
- In a saucepan, add the vegetable stock and water and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
- Once the water has mostly evaporated, turn the heat to low and add the spices for the Moroccan Veggies. Stir to combine. Cook an additional 4-5 minutes.
- If you used whole tomatoes, you will have to blend the ingredients using an immersion blender or the regular blender, just use caution as the ingredients are extremely hot. If you don't want to mess with this step, just use crushed tomatoes.
- Once tomatoes are all blended up, add back to heat and add chickpeas.Cook over low heat.
- Take veggies out of the oven after 30 minutes and add to the veggie mixture. Stir to combine flavors. Turn oven to 350.
- Once stock is simmering, turn off heat and add 1 cup polenta, slowly making sure to stir the entire time you are pouring the polenta into the water. Add cinnamon, salt, pepper and chopped apricots.
- Layer the casserole: Tomato and chickpeas, polenta, veggies in as many layers as you prefer.
- Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes to allow flavors to come together and polenta to firm up a biit.
- Serve hot or warm. Garnish with parsley.
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What about you?
- Do you have any favorite ways to beat the cold weather?
- Do you prefer casseroles or do you like one pot meals?
- What is your favorite casserole? Is it cheesy and gooey?