Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Simple and Delicious Family Cooking: Corn-Tortilla Casserole

Do you ever make (and eat) meatless meals? If not, you may think they sound a.) complicated, b.) unsatisfying, or c.) just plain yucky. I'm here to tell you that you're wrong, wrong, wrong.

About 23 years ago, I stopped eating meat. That went on pretty much 100% for 11 or 12 years, when I started eating fish and poultry on occasion, mainly for the convenience of, say, scoring a tunafish sandwich for lunch at the hospital where I was working at the time, during an era when meatless meal options were not commonly available. But for the most part, I've been mainly vegetarian for a very long time--and therefore, I'm a mainly vegetarian cook, and my family eats mostly vegetarian meals, too.

When you've been cooking and eating vegetarian food for over 20 years, you branch way beyond, say, a grilled-cheese sandwich, or even a tofu stir-fry. Which means you cook and eat all sorts of hearty, tasty, filling, savory, delicious foods....without meat. Here's one of them.

This dish could be termed a "Mexican lasagne." If, you know, it wasn't most likely totally culturally inappropriate. At any rate, it is soooooo good. It does not matter if you are vegetarian or not; you will not miss the meat if you try this for dinner. Plus, it's easy.

(Sorry, no photo. We ate it too fast.)

Corn-Tortilla Casserole
6 to 8 servings

1 T. olive oil
2 large onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, with juices
1 4-oz. can diced green chiles, OR a few dashes of hot red pepper sauce, OR a teaspoon or 2 of chili powder (or nothing, if your kids won't tolerate any spice at all)
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper
8 to 10 corn tortillas (those small yellow tortillas that come in the big stack at the grocery store), cut into 1-inch slices
1 cup "light" sour cream
1 to 2 cups (depending on your preference) shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish with cooking spray. Heat oil in a large skillet at medium-high heat, then add onion and garlic. Saute about 10 minutes, until onion is soft and golden brown. (Turn heat down to low if it starts to brown/burn before it becomes soft.) Add tomatoes, chiles (or pepper sauce or chili powder), and beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer, uncovered, for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper if desired.

Spread half the onion/bean/tomato sauce on the bottom of your casserole dish. Layer half the corn tortilla strips on top of the sauce. Spoon half the sour cream over the tortilla strips, spreading with the back of your spoon. Sprinkle with half the cheese.

Spread a second layer of sauce over the cheese, using up the rest of your sauce. Add a second layer of tortilla strips, but save out a handful. Then spread on the remainder of the sour cream. Sprinkle with most of the rest of the shredded cheese. On the very top, scatter a handful of leftover tortilla strips, and top with a bit of leftover shredded cheese--just to make it pretty on top, and to add a little crispy yumminess as a garnish.

Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes, or until hot and bubbly and the tortilla strips and cheese on top are crispy. (Put under the broiler for a few seconds if need be.)

Note: you can assemble this casserole ahead of time and bake just before dinner. If you do so, either bring to room temperature before baking, or bake a little longer--say, 45 minutes. If the top of your casserole seems like it's browning too quickly for the inside to get fully hot, cover pan with foil until the last 10 minutes.


Heidi Mann said...

I think I might make this TONIGHT! I needed an idea! Thanks, Shan!

Mnmom said...

mmmmm chilies, cheese, beans, sour cream,mmmmmm. Four of my favorite foods!

Rita said...

My husband is always saying "it's not a meal unless it contains at least one dead animal".

Yuck, right?

What can I say, I married a country boy.

But maybe I can fool him with this one. Because it sounds delish!

Shannon said...

Rita, you are too funny. I say, try to pull the wool over his eyes. Tell them there's ground beef cooked in there somewhere!