Tonight, I present you with ideal winter comfort food. It’s warm, creamy, “cheesy,” and filling, and it’s easy to prepare. If you cook your quinoa ahead of time (perhaps as part of a weekend batch cooking routine), then you can even throw this together on weeknight, after work or class. The leftovers get better over the course of a day or two, and they’ll also freeze for a couple of weeks, so no matter how many people inhabit your home, it’s worth making the whole recipe and saving leftovers for a quick and easy express meal later on.
And did I mention that it’s cheesy?
In his recent roundup of vegan favorites, my boyfriend mentioned that I put nutritional yeast on everything. Guilty as charged. I add nooch to grain bowls, salads, curries, and…everything. But the real beauty of nutritional yeast isn’t only its value as a condiment. It’s also the perfect base for creamy, “cheesy” vegan sauces. In this recipe, I’ve used the classic cashew/nutritional yeast combination, along with cooked chickpeas, which add a thick texture (not to mention a healthy dose of protein, folate, and iron!). The sauce is excellent, and it may now join my steady rotation of creamy condiments.
Cheesy Vegan Quinoa Bake
For the Bake:
- 4 cups chopped broccoli florets
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 white or yellow onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 4 cups cooked quinoa
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs (optional; you can make your own by pulsing two slices of toasted whole grain bread in a food processor, or you can use a gluten free brand)
For the Cheesy Sauce:
- 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least two hours, rinsed, and drained
- 1 cup chickpeas, cooked
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons white miso
- Fill a medium sized pot with water and fit with a steamer attachment. Bring the water to a boil and steam the broccoli florets until crisp-tender (about 3-4 minutes). Remove them from heat.
- Blend all of the sauce ingredients together in a high speed blender or a food processor until they're totally smooth.
- Preheat your oven to 350F. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and celery, and sauté the vegetables until the onion is clear and soft (about 7 minutes). Add the quinoa and the broccoli to the skillet. Add the sauce and stir everything to heat it through.
- Transfer all ingredients to an oiled 7x11 or 8x12 baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs, if using. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbling gently and the breadcrumbs are golden. Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.
The broccoli in this casserole is lovely, but you could swap it for all sorts of green veggies: kale, spinach, green beans, peas, shredded Brussels sprouts…I could go on. Like many casserole dishes, this one lends itself to customization, based on what you have at home. It’s also a nice vehicle for frozen vegetables, if you’re short on groceries and looking to make something special.
As I’ve mentioned a few times recently, I’ve been in a bit of a recipe development rut, relying often on bowls or old, tried-and-true meals to get by. When I made this bake last week, I had that sweet sense of personal accomplishment that comes when one has created a really satisfying meal. It had been a while, but it was enough to make me feel inspired again.
Cooking is funny; it’s easy to fall into ruts or to lose one’s sense of creativity, but even one good meal is usually enough to get the wheels turning again. I hope to have more to share soon, and in the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy this dish as much as Steven and I did.
Good night, friends!