- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Here’s a lovely dinner to celebrate the beginning of May. This casserole is an old-fashioned vegetarian combination that I have been making and loving for years. Savory cooked vegetables are spread in a pan, topped with a rich custard and cheese, and baked until golden.

This version is particularly beautiful, made with a spectrum of brightly hued bell peppers that shine through the custard and, once baked, arrive at the table looking like an abstract painting. So try to get as many different bell pepper colors as possible.

It’s a real crowd pleaser and, in fact, if you are serving a crowd, please note that it can easily be doubled if you have two pans or one very large one. You will need to adjust the baking time, though.

To create a Cinco de Mayo menu for the May 5 Mexican celebration, serve rice and beans (your favorite recipe for each); Mexican-style pepper casserole; a smoky-hot tomato-chipotle salsa (also your favorite, but this can be purchased instead of homemade); hot buttered corn tortillas; a large green salad with orange sections, olives and a simple vinaigrette, with chocolate cake for dessert.

Mexican-style pepper casserole

Nonstick cooking spray for misting pan

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups sliced onion

6 to 8 medium bell peppers (a mix of colors), thinly sliced

1 tablespoon minced or crushed garlic

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander, optional

1 teaspoon dry mustard

Black pepper

Cayenne

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 large eggs

2 cups yogurt or sour cream

A handful of minced cilantro, optional

2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese

Paprika for the top

Generously spray a medium-size gratin pan or the equivalent of a 10-inch square pan or a 6-by-9-inch oblong pan with nonstick spray.

Heat olive oil in a deep, wide skillet or Dutch oven. Add onion and saute over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes, or until onion softens. Add peppers, garlic, salt, cumin, coriander, if desired, mustard, and black pepper and cayenne to taste. Saute for another 10 minutes, then sprinkle in flour, stirring constantly. Continue to cook only 5 minutes longer, or until peppers are tender.

Transfer mixture to prepared baking pan.

Beat together eggs and yogurt or sour cream. Stir in minced cilantro, if desired, then pour this custard over peppers. Distribute cheese over top, then dust with paprika. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven uncovered for 40 minutes, or until firm in the center when shaken and bubbly around the edges. Serve hot. Makes about 4 servings.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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