I know I’ve said it before, but permit me to reiterate: I hate comfort food. I’m talking about the American conception of comfort food here—greasy, fatty, high-cal, down-home, soul-food, Paula-Deen-esque, Southern-style cookin’. I mean the buttery, starchy, and (most stomach-turning of all) cheesy-creamy savory stuff that everyone seems to have grown up on—macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, pot pie, fettuccine alfredo, green bean casserole, and so on (not to mention all the meaty fare I’ve shied away from since childhood—can you see how easy it is for me to be almost vegan?!). When food is cheesy, it makes me queasy…and I get squeamish when something’s cream-ish. Desserts aside, I just can’t stand the kinds of dishes usually labeled “comfort food.” (For me, comfort food is more akin to a spicy curry, an exotic stew, or pasta smothered in bolognese, mmm.)
So anyway, as you can imagine, when I come across a recipe like this “creamy broccoli-mushroom bake” from Lauren Ulm’s Vegan Yum Yum cookbook, my reaction is to grimace, mutter a “blech,” and quickly turn the page. As you can also imagine, when I asked Matt to flip through some books one night and find something he’d like me to cook for dinner, and wouldn’t you know it, he selected this creamy casserole, my brain immediately screamed “Veto! VETO!” However, knowing that Matt does love comfort food, and realizing that I never indulge that craving of his, I did the unimaginable and replied with a hesitant “Ok.”
And crazily enough, not only did I bake it, but I liked it!
- 1 cup orzo pasta (dry)
- 1 large stalk broccoli, stem peeled, stem and florets chopped
- 1 cup mushrooms (any kind), cleaned
- ½ medium onion, roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ tsp paprika (optional)
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 1 cup soymilk
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- ¼ cup raw cashews, soaked
- 2 Tbsp arrowroot (or cornstarch)
- 2 Tbsp Earth Balance margarine (or canola oil)
- 2 Tbsp Bragg Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce)
- 2 Tbsp tahini
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and thoroughly grease a 7x11-inch (or similar sized) baking dish. Cook the orzo in boiling water for about 9 minutes, then drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, pulse the broccoli, mushrooms, and onion in a food processor until chopped into small pieces. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the vegetable mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5-7 minutes. When done, remove from the heat.
- While the veggies are cooking, combine all sauce ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth.
- Add the drained orzo to the vegetables, then pour on the entire batch of sauce.
- Stir thoroughly to combine.
- Transfer the mixture to the greased baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly across the top, then drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with paprika, salt, and pepper as desired.
- Cover tightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes to brown the top slightly.
- Let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
After all was said and done, and the casserole was baked and ready, I shushed my doubts and tried a bite. And I liked it! As a matter of fact, I ate a whole piece…and then went back for seconds.
Hmm…maybe I can get on board with this vegan comfort food thing after all.
Question: What foods do you have the fondest memories of from growing up?
And/or, what foods have you hated your entire life?