My new brunch “go-to”, Cheesy Chile Rellenos Casserole is a quick and easy vegan version of the classic Mexican dish. Since it’s baked, there’s no deep-frying involved. Skinning and stuffing the peppers isn’t necessary either. The finished casserole can be stored in the refrigerator once cooled and reheated as needed. I like to serve it with skillet potatoes, or refried beans and rice. Garnish with fresh or cooked salsa if desired. Vegan eggless scramble is a nice addition for a breakfast/brunch dish too.
- 6 Poblano or 8 Anaheim chiles, split length-wise with seeds and membrane removed
- 2 medium sweet yellow onions, sliced thin
- 1½ cup vegan shredded cheddar, homemade* or commercial
- 1½ cup vegan shredded Monterey Jack or mozzarella, homemade* or commercial
- 2 or 3 slices day-old crusty bread
- 1 teaspoon each onion and garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
*Delicious homemade vegan cheeses can be prepared with recipes from my Non-Dairy Evolution cookbook. See my website homepage for more information at: thegentlechef.com
Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C.
Mist a large baking dish with cooking oil spray.
Layer the bottom of the dish with half the onions. Layer the sliced peppers evenly in the dish. Top with the shredded cheddar. Layer the remaining onions and top with the shredded white cheese.
In a food processor, add the sliced bread and seasonings and process into coarse crumbs. Top the casserole with the seasoned crumbs and seal the dish with foil.
Bake for 90 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
Vegan Cheesy Chile Rellenos Casserole
A whole cauliflower is marinated in Middle Eastern seasonings, roasted to golden brown perfection, dressed with a variety of tangy and spicy sauces and then garnished with an abundance of fresh herbs. The herb garnish not only lends beauty to the finished dish but is intended to be eaten with the cauliflower. Simply superb!
· 1 large whole cauliflower
· ½ cup grapeseed oil or other neutral cooking oil
· 1 teaspoon ground coriander
· 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
· 1 teaspoon nigella seeds (onion seeds)
· ½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
Toppings (recipes follow)
· Sumac Onions
· Tahini Sauce
Remove the stem and excess core from the whole cauliflower, but be very careful not to remove too much, as it will separate the florets.
Whisk together the marinade ingredients and add to a sealable bag with the whole cauliflower. Seal the bag and shake to distribute the marinade. Refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour (best overnight).
Preheat the oven to 400˚F/200˚C. Place the cauliflower in a baking dish and roast in the oven for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until nicely browned and fork tender. Brush with the marinade mixture occasionally during baking time. Transfer to a serving plate and dress with the zhoug and tahini sauce. Garnish with the sumac onions and a generous amount of fresh parsley, cilantro and mint.
Pickled red onions seasoned with tart and citrusy ground sumac make a lovely condiment for Middle Eastern cuisine. They make a superb condiment for vegan burgers and hot dogs too.
· ½ large red onion, thinly sliced
· 2 tablespoons white vinegar
· ½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
· 1½ teaspoon ground sumac
Bring the vinegar and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the sliced onions. Toss thoroughly and let cool. Sprinkle in the sumac and toss thoroughly again. Refrigerate in a sealed container until thoroughly chilled to blend the flavors.
Zhoug (pronounced zoog), is a spicy, green herb and chili condiment that originally hails from Yemen, but has become popular in Israeli and other Middle Eastern cuisine. The flavor and warmth of the spice cardamom is what makes this sauce unique. Spoon it over falafel, vegan shawarma, shish kebab, or grilled eggplant wraps. Use it as a condiment for roasted vegetables and grilled tofu. Swirl it into hummus or non-dairy yogurt.
· 1 bunch parsley, large stems removed
· 1 bunch cilantro, large stems removed (or additional parsley)
· ¼ cup olive oil
· 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
· 3 jalapenos, stems and seeds removed (or leave in some seeds for extra spicy)
· 3 large cloves garlic
· 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
· 1 teaspoon ground cumin
· ¾ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt, or more to taste
· ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until nearly smooth. Add a tablespoon of water if needed to lighten consistency. Season with additional salt if needed to taste. Refrigerate in a sealed container for a minimum of 1 hour to blend flavors. Use within 1 week.
Tahini sauce is a deliciously rich, smooth and tangy condiment sauce made from tahini (ground sesame seeds), lemon juice, garlic and seasonings. It’s widely popular in Middle Eastern cuisine.
· 2 cloves garlic
· ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
· ½ cup tahini
· ½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt, or more to taste
· ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
· 1/3 cup water, additional as needed
Process all ingredients in a blender until smooth. The sauce should have a salad dressing consistency. Whisk in small amounts of water as needed to adjust consistency. Season with additional salt as needed to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use within 10 days.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Zhoug, Tahini Sauce, Sumac Onions and Herbs
In the photo, the tamales were filled with Tex-Mex seasoned shredded beaf brisket from my Crafting Seitan cookbook (available through Amazon). Vegan carnitas (from the same cookbook) would be delicious too. Other filling suggestions might be refried beans, or chopped and cooked mixed vegetables, with shredded vegan cheese; Tex-Mex seasoned textured vegetable protein or soy curls. Yields about 20 tamales.
Ingredients for the Masa Dough
- 4 cups masa harina (do not use regular cornmeal)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
- 3 cups broth (vegan beef, vegan chicken, or vegetable broth)
- 1 cup refined coconut oil, melted
- 1/3 cup neutral vegetable oil
- package dried corn husks
- Fillings of your choice (about 4 cups of filling for one batch of masa dough)
Immerse the corn husks in a large container of very hot water and let stand for a few hours to soften (you will need about ½ the package).
Prepare desired fillings and set aside.
To make the masa dough, add the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Add the broth and oils and mix well to create a smooth thickened batter.
Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap to prevent the dough from drying out.
Assemble the tamales: Lay a corn husk, glossy side up, on the counter with the wide end at the top. Scoop about ¼ cup of masa on to the top center of the corn husk. Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and spread the masa using your fingers into a thin layer, about ¼-inch thick (be sure to only spread the dough along the top half of the corn husk to allow plenty of room to fold the bottom husk up when finished filling). Working with the sticky masa takes a little practice, so be patient.
Place about 2 generous tablespoons of desired filling in a line down the center of the dough. Avoid using too much.
Fold in one long side of the husk over the filling. Fold in the other long side, overlapping the first (like folding a brochure). Fold the bottom of the husk up.
Add water to the bottom of your conventional steamer or instant pot (electric pressure cooker). Use 2 cups for the pressure cooker; or a few inches for a steamer pot. In either case, don’t fill above the steamer rack. Lay a few extra corn husks on the bottom rack to keep the tamales from falling through and any boiling water from directly touching them.
Place the tamales standing upright, with their open end up, just tightly enough to keep them standing. If using a steamer pot, lay a few soaked corn husks over the top of the tamales before closing the lid.
Conventional Steamer Pot
Bring the water to a boil (in Mexico it is a common practice to place a coin at the bottom of the steamer and when the coin started to tap in the pot you know the water was boiling.) Set a timer for 50 minutes.
Cook on Manual/High for 25 minutes. Allow pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes, and then quick release.
Store leftover tamales in the refrigerator up to 1 week.
To freeze, allow the cooked tamales to cool, then place them in a freezer safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
Reheat the tamales in a conventional steamer; or wrap chilled or frozen tamales in a few dampened paper towels and microwave until warmed through. The wet paper towels will help them “steam” as they are reheated.
This dish is the vegan variation of Chinese lemon chicken. The tempeh can also be subbed with pressed extra-firm tofu or vegan chikun. The sauce is lemony, sweet, savory and has just a hint of heat.
Ingredients for the Tempeh
• 1 package (8 oz) tempeh (or 8 oz pressed and cubed block tofu or vegan chikun)
• 2 T tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
• 2 T Shaoxing wine or sweet mirin (or water)
• 2 T unmodified potato starch, cornstarch or arrowroot powder
• 2 T all-purpose flour or rice flour
• toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
For the Sauce
• 1 T peanut oil or other cooking oil, plus more for frying
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 tsp grated ginger
• 1 cup vegan chikun broth or vegetable broth
• ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
• 2 T organic sugar, or to taste
• 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
• 1 tsp sambal oelek, Sriracha™ or other hot red pepper sauce
• 4 tsp unmodified potato starch, cornstarch or arrowroot powder, dissolved in just enough water to create a slurry
• sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
Slice the tempeh in half crosswise and simmer in enough water to cover for 10 minutes. This will help soften the tempeh and remove bitterness. Drain on paper towels until cooled. Slice the tempeh into bite-size cubes. Place the cubes into a food storage bag and add the tamari and wine/mirin. Seal and marinate in the refrigerator for a minimum of a few hours and best overnight.
Drain the excess marinade from the bag and add 2 tablespoons starch and the flour. Seal and gently toss to coat evenly. Place on a plate to dry while the sauce is prepared.
Add the 1 tablespoon oil to a medium saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the remaining sauce ingredients except for the starch slurry. Bring to a boil, whisk in the starch slurry and stir until thickened. Taste the sauce and add additional sugar or salt as desired. Reduce the heat to low to keep warm while frying the tempeh.
In a wok or deep skillet, heat 1-inch of oil over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, carefully add the cubed tempeh and fry until golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
Add the fried tempeh to the lemon sauce and toss gently to coat. Serve immediately and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.
A hearty casserole, vegan Greek moussaka features layers of potato, eggplant, savory beaf crumbles cooked with onion, crushed tomatoes, parsley and red wine, and an enriched and creamy cashew-based Béchamel that’s baked until golden brown. My plant-based variation is an adaptation of a generational family recipe from the Greek village of Ardactos on the island of Crete. I tried to stay as true to the flavors of the dish as possible. This recipe requires several components, which can be prepare separately and then assembled prior to baking the dish; however, I’ve written the recipe so the dish can prepared seamlessly from start to finish.
Ingredients for the Eggplant Layer
• 2 medium eggplants (aubergine), about 3 lbs, peeled or unpeeled
• olive oil as needed
• coarse sea salt or kosher salt
• coarse ground black pepper
Ingredients for the Potato Layer
• 3 medium russet potatoes
• sea salt or kosher salt
Ingredients for the Meatless Meat Layer
• 2 T olive oil
• 1 large onion, peeled and diced
• ¾ cup water
• ½ cup dry red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, etc.)
• 2 T tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
• 1 T porcini mushroom powder
• 1 T Worcestershire sauce (pg. ) or commercial vegan equivalent
• 1 cup dry TVP/TSP granules (textured vegetable protein/textured soy protein)
• 1 cup crushed tomatoes (from canned)
• 1 T tomato paste
• ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
• sea salt or kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste
Ingredients for the enriched Béchamel
• 2 and ⅔ cup plain unsweetened non-dairy milk
• ⅓ cup olive oil
• ½ cup (about 2.5 oz/71 g) whole raw cashews (pre-soaking unnecessary)
• 4 tsp nutritional yeast flakes
• 1 T mellow white miso paste
• 1 T fresh lemon juice
• 1 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
• 1 tsp onion powder
• 1 tsp garlic powder
• ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
Slice the eggplant crosswise about ¼-inch thick. Place a colander into the sink and add layer of eggplant slices. Sprinkle generously with the coarse salt and repeat with layers of eggplant and salt (don’t worry about using too much salt as it will be rinsed away later). Let the eggplant drain about 30 minutes and up to 1 hour to remove bitterness. Rinse well and pat dry on several layers of paper towels.
Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F/180°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place layer of eggplant on the parchment. Brush with olive oil and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Repeat the layers as needed. Bake uncovered in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove to cool.
While the eggplant is baking, peel and slice the potatoes about ¼-inch thick. Immediately place into a large cooking pot with plenty of cold water to cover. Add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a full boil. Drain in the colander and set aside to cool.
Next, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large skillet and place over medium heat. Sauté the onions until tender and lightly golden. Add the water, red wine, tamari, mushroom powder and Worcestershire. Bring to a boil and add the TVP/TSP granules, crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir well, reduce the heat to medium low, cover the skillet and cook about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
To prepare the Béchamel, add all ingredients to a blender and process on high speed for 2 full minutes. Transfer to a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the mixture comes to a simmer. Do not boil. Reduce the heat to low to keep warm.
Assembling the Moussaka
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C (if not already heated).
Lightly oil a 9”x13” shallow baking dish. Arrange the potatoes in an even layer on the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping as you layer. Spread about ⅔ cup Béchamel sauce over the potatoes.
Next, layer the eggplant slices as you did the potatoes and spread about ⅔ cup Béchamel sauce over the eggplant.
Spread the meatless meat mixture over the eggplant and top with the remaining Béchamel sauce. Season with a little coarse ground black pepper and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
Greek Moussaka, Vegan-Style
This dish is an original creation and is based upon the classic Chile Relleno; but rather than stuff the Poblano or Anaheim peppers with cheese and then batter them, the peppers are roasted and wrapped in soft tortillas with melted non-dairy Monterey Jack and flash-fried in a small amount of cooking oil (rather than deep-frying in a large amount of oil). The results are delicious and so much less greasy than the traditional dish. I chose the cheese melt over shredded block cheese since the chimichanga is flash-fried very quickly, which wouldn’t give the shredded cheese enough time to melt. The cheese melt is quick and easy to make too! (recipe follows)
• 4 large Poblano or Anaheim chilies
• 4 whole wheat or white tortillas (burrito size)
• 1 cup Monterey Jack Melt (recipe follows)
• Chunky Garden Vegetable Salsa (recipe follows) or salsa of your choice
• toppings and garnishing of your choice, such as diced avocado or guacamole, chopped cilantro and/or non-dairy sour cream
• 8 toothpicks for securing
• large skillet with ¼-inch of cooking oil
Prepare the salsa first since it requires about 45 minutes of cooking time. If using pre-prepared salsa, skip to the next step.
Roast the chilies on a hot grill or under a broiler. Turn them occasionally until the skins are blackened and charred. When the skins of the chilies have sufficiently charred and blistered, place them on a plate and cover with foil until cool. The residual heat will steam the peppers under the foil and fully cook them through. When cool, peel the skin from the chilies (they will remove easily) and blot them with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture. Cut the peppers into strips (you will need the strips of 1 pepper per tortilla); set aside.
Prepare the cheese melt according to the directions and keep warm over low heat until ready to assemble the dish.
Next, place a tortilla directly on the stove burner set to low heat. Flip after about 15 seconds and repeat as necessary until the tortilla is heated through and is soft and pliable.*
*An alternate method for heating the tortillas is to preheat the oven to 350°F. Wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil and warm them in the oven for approximately 15 minutes. The tortillas can also be wrapped in a damp towel and warmed in the microwave for about 15 seconds; or they can be misted with a spritz of water and heated briefly in a hot non-stick or cast iron skillet.
Place a tortilla on a work surface and place the pepper strips on top. Spread ¼ cup of the melted cheese over the peppers. Begin rolling the tortilla over the pepper/cheese mixture and fold in the sides as you roll (like wrapping a burrito or spring roll). Secure the seam of the tortilla with 2 toothpicks and repeat with the remaining tortillas.
Place the skillet with the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, fry the chimichangas until golden brown, turning with a pair of kitchen tongs. They will brown quickly, so turn frequently (it is advisable to only cook 1 or 2 at a time since they brown so quickly). Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Remove the toothpicks.
To serve, place on a serving plate and garnish as desired. Serve with the salsa.
Chunky Garden Vegetable Salsa
Salsa is the Spanish word for “sauce”. This is a cooked salsa which is served hot and is wonderful for topping a variety of Tex-Mex inspired dishes such as chimichangas, burritos and Tex-Mex tofu scrambles. Despite the inclusion of fresh jalapeno pepper, the sauce is relatively mild. To spice it up add a little chipotle chili powder or minced habanero pepper, to taste.
• 1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes
• 2 T olive oil
• 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 2 ribs celery, diced
• 1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 tsp ancho chili powder or other mild chili powder
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• sea salt or kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste
Drain the excess juice from the tomatoes (reserve for other uses) and pulse the tomatoes in a food processor until puréed but still chunky. Set aside.
Add the oil to a cooking pot and place over medium heat. Add the carrots and sauté for a few minutes. Now add the onions, celery, jalapeno and a couple pinches of salt and sauté until the onions are translucent and the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sauté an additional minute.
Add the tomatoes and the chili powder, cumin and oregano. Season with black pepper as desired and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 45 minutes or until the carrots are very tender, stirring occasionally. Season the salsa with salt as needed and keep warm until ready to serve.
Monterey Jack Cheese Melt
This popular, mild white cheese can be used for a variety of Spanish and Mexican inspired dishes and is excellent as a spread for grilled cheese sandwiches. This recipe yields about 1 cup of melted cheese.
• ¾ cup pure soymilk
• ¼ cup mild vegetable oil
• 3 T tapioca flour
• 1 T nutritional yeast flakes
• 1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar
• ½ tsp plus a pinch of fine sea salt or kosher salt
• ⅛ tsp lactic acid powder or ½ tsp fresh lemon juice
• ¼ tsp guar gum, sodium alginate or xanthan gum
In a small saucepan, vigorously whisk together the ingredients until smooth. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring slowly and continually with a flexible spatula.
As the mixture thickens and curdles (forms lumps), begin stirring vigorously until the curds disappear and the cheese becomes very thick, smooth and glossy. Keep warm over low heat, stirring occasionally, until ready to use. For a spreadable consistency, remove from the heat and allow the melt to thicken.
Chile Relleno Chimichangas