When Fall arrives, it may feel like an “Indian summer,” or it may cool off leaving your final tomatoes green on the vine. In my hemisphere, it seems it can’t make up its mind. One week the temperatures hit more than 100 degrees F., other days it’s 50 degrees F. at night and 70 degrees F. during the day. Then there were two long riotous days of thunder abd lightning that set the hills on fire. Sheesh.
I’m going to pretend that the lovely coolness has already arrived. A chill in the air make us long for heartier fare–to me that means casserole. What is delightful about a casserole is it can be made ahead of time to pop in the oven when you are ready. Don’t let the word “casserole” fool you. Many envision the tuna-and-potato-chip dish when they hear that word, but we can make a light, healthy dish that we just pop in the oven and can call it anything we want. Okay, I’m going to stop using that word. Don’t get me wrong… not every recipe is a “the word we are not using.”
We have enchiladas, fajitas, and stuffed bell peppers–all of which use a Spanish-style rice to accompany them or as an ingredient. We have many recipes for salsa in the archives, so I’m not adding another. I haven’t yet done a guacamole, so I’ll add a recipe for a quick, tasty one.
It is always nice to have a charred effect on fajita meat, so if you can cook over an open flame, do it! If not, don’t fret, it will still be tasty. Cook the tuna to rare or medium-rare only–well-done tuna is tough and dry. If you have access to an open flame, you can also heat the tortillas over it so they get that delightful charring. A gas range burner will do the trick, as well; just place the tortilla directly on the grid. To heat or not to heat, that is the question. A room-temperature flour tortilla is really warm enough to make a fajita. Hot meat is put in first, then the cheese so it can melt, and then all the other goodies. An alternative method is to microwave the tortilla with the cheese on it, then add the meat, etc. Just remember that the hotter the tortilla is made before using, the harder it will be when it cools–brittle, in fact.
The stuffed bell pepper was created to use up leftovers. The guidelines are as vague as: fill a pepper (sometimes a tomato) with chopped available meat, starch (I guess it is more contemporary to say carbohydrate), and vegetables. The traditional recipe has beef and rice. In everyday life, we can make some choices. Have leftover rice or potatoes? Use it. Stale bread? Make breadcrumbs. Look in the fridge and pull out the containers of corn, tomato, scalloped potatoes, and sausage–chop it all up, fill a pepper, and bake it–it will taste good. Even leftover pizza chopped up with some vegetables plus extra pizza sauce or marinara stuffed in a pepper then topped with cheese will work. The options are endless.
When buying sweet potatoes and yams, make sure you can tell the difference between them as they are often mis-marked in stores. Sweet potatoes are beige on the outside, yellow on the inside. Yams are reddish on the outside, orange on the inside.
I’m not mentioning salt or pepper this time. You will know when you want to use it. I lightly salt any raw fish or meat before I cook it. A reminder: it is always a good idea to read a recipe all the way through before you start cooking–check the fine print.
Fall Casserole Recipes and More!