Roasted Summer Vegetable and Rice Casserole with Chicken
Casseroles and I have had a long relationship with a lot of ups and downs. I grew up loving them, and they were a part of every family gathering I ever attended. I’m guessing anyone that grew up in the deep south would say the same. Squash was always eaten with cheese and crushed Ritz crackers. Hash browns? Those had cheese, too. Basically, if it was a casserole, it involved some type of vegetable smothered in something creamy and/or cheesy. You know, anything to negate the vegetable-ness of it.
As I got older, casseroles started to kind of gross me out. Too many similar textures and not enough flavor. I didn’t eat them for a long time, but then I got turned on to them again, thanks to some awesome recipes that showed me it’s possible to have casseroles with loads of flavor and texture.
This casserole takes advantage of the abundance of produce available during summer – some of my favorites like corn, zucchini and tomatoes. The vegetables are roasted to bring out all their flavor, then they’re mixed with rice and chicken before being baked. This recipe calls for cottage cheese to make the sauce that holds the casserole together, but don’t worry if you’re not a fan of cottage cheese. I certainly am not, but it works well in this recipe. If you want to make this vegetarian, simply leave out the chicken. It works great as a vegetarian main dish or even as a side to something else.
2 medium zucchini, sliced into half-moons
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup cottage cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
⅔ cup Parmesan cheese, divided
⅔ cup corn (cut from 1-2 ears or frozen)
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
¼ cup chopped fresh basil, divided
Preheat the oven to 425º. Spray a 2½ quart baking dish with cooking oil.
On one rimmed baking dish, toss together the zucchini and red bell pepper with 1 tablespoon of oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and add the tomatoes and remaining oil. Stir and continue roasting for about another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 350º.
Allow the vegetables to sit until cool enough to handle. While they’re cooling, make the sauce. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, Dijon, cottage cheese, garlic, and half the Parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Dice the pepper strips into bite-size pieces and add them to the egg mixture. Add the remaining vegetables, rice, chicken and 2 tablespoons of the basil. Stir to combine, then transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese (or forget about it until after it bakes, like I did) and cover with foil.
Bake for 15 minutes, then remove foil and continue baking for another 15 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown. Rest for 10 minutes and top with remaining basil just before serving.