Friday, January 22, 2010

Vegan Tamale Casserole

I spent a lot of time in my kitchen yesterday.  It was a rainy afternoon, and I enjoyed the warmth and comfort of my kitchen while I cooked lentils, chopped fresh herbs, and threw spices around.  I was trying out yet another new vegan recipe, which I found sometime back on VegWeb (one of my new fave websites).

When I was a kid my mom used to make a ground beef/green bean casserole with a mashed potato topping that I loved.  When I ran across the "Vegan Tamale Casserole" recipe, it immediately reminded me of that dish that my mom used to make, but with a southwestern flair, and it's vegan. Perfect!

Here's the recipe:

Vegan Tamale Casserole
{original recipe here}
Serves 6-12

Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 1 hour


1 cup lentils
28-oz. can tomato sauce
14-oz. can diced or petite diced tomatoes
1 small can green chilies
14-oz. can black beans, drained & rinsed
8-oz. frozen corn or 14-oz. can corn, drained
1 medium or large onion, chopped
2 cups cornmeal grits (polenta)
cumin (to taste)
onion powder (to taste)
garlic salt or garlic powder (to taste)
oregano (to taste)


Rinse lentils, combine lentils and 2 cups water in saucepan and bring to boil.  Stir, cover and reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes.  In a large mixing bowl, combine lentils, tomato sauce, tomatoes, chilies, beans, corn, onion, and spices.

Bring 5 cups water to boil in a saucepan.   Mix 2 cups polenta in 1-1/2 cups cold water.  When water in saucepan starts to boil, slowly stir in polenta.  Reduce heat to medium, continue to stir until polenta thickens.

Pour lentil/tomato mixture into a 9 x 13 inch pan or casserole dish.  

Pour polenta on top, spreading to cover.  Bake in a 350 degree oven about 1 hour.

A couple of changes that I made.  I added a LOT more green chilies (we love 'em) and I added some sliced black olives and a huge handful of chopped fresh cilantro to the lentil/tomato mixture.

Next time I make this I will halve the recipe; this makes a huge amount, way too much for just Mike and me.  I ended up freezing more than half of it.

I thought the polenta topping was a bit bland; next time I'll add either chopped cilantro (for both color & taste) or a teaspoon or so of sea salt, or both.

I thought the lentil/tomato mixture was a bit runny.  I think I'd cut back on the tomato sauce and perhaps add some barley and/or quinoa to thicken it up a bit.

In spite of the minor flaws, I LOVED this casserole, and will definitely make it again.  It's a totally comforting dish and was a lovely, lovely dinner on a rainy evening.  And so colorful alongside a salad of bright greens, red, and orange.

Got any recommendations for vegan dishes and/or websites?  Would love to have 'em.

Have a great day, every day!

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