So, I'll admit that my favorite part of any casserole is the crunchy, chewy top--you know what I'm talking about, those barely browned and chewy pasta shells make the dish delectable!
The right amount of sauce is achieved my watching your saute pan and increasing the amount of soy milk you'd like based on your personal taste--the sauce-to-pasta ratio in this is just about right for me.
We all have a memory of a tuna casserole. My memories include cans of cream of mushroom soup, maybe topped with bread crumbs, lots of celery and peas and stuff--depending upon the food pantry rations at the moment--which is what makes this such a good dinner item. This is also the dish many-a-home cooks take to friends in time of need. It is an old stand-by. One of the most vivid memories I have of casseroles is when my mom passed away. Lots and lots of casseroles. The casserole: you don't need a funeral to have one. It's an old favorite whether it's winter or summer--I just love a good casserole.
What brought me to this faux tuna casserole: the "Copenhagen Casserole" was, of course, the climate summit this past week--and the hours of news coverage it deservedly received. After braving the mall Friday (okay, not the most "green" way to behave, but I had a Border's coupon burning a hole in my wallet)--I came home ravished. I craved a casserole: tuna casserole. Alas, what is a vegan to do? I'll tell you what she's to do: get cooking, sister! So I did.
My little secret in this dish is my good friend arame seaweed. Arame is a sea vegetable/algae hand harvested and dried--it sort of looks like dried brown twigs when you first remove it from its package. It is one of the more milder seaweeds--so if you want to introduce a friend to this, start here. It's a wonderful addition to soups--sea-types. You need to soak it in hot water before using it. Then use the water you've soaked it in to cook with. It re-hydrates and imparts this beautiful texture to your dish. It is a wonderful source of calcium, zinc and iodine. You can get it at Whole Foods in the seaweed section--seriously. I love this stuff. I love it's smell, I love how it flavors my "chicken of the sea" old favorite. This ingredient list is long, but this comes together rather quickly! And totally worth the effort!
1/2 package of orecchiette pasta, cooked per directions (or bow ties would work well)
1/2 cup dried arame
1 cup boiling water
1 package tempeh
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
3 garlic cloves minced
6 baby bella mushrooms sliced
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen corn
3 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan butter
1 1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
2 tablespoons soy sour cream *optional
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
couple shakes of dried parsley
1 tablespoon vegan parmesean
1 cup blue corn taco shells crumbled
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 400. Oil a casserol dish--8" or 9" oval or round--whatever you have. First, place the arame with boiling water in a heat resistant glass measuring cup--set aside for 15 minutes. Cook your pasta, drain and set aside. Next, place a medium suacepan filled with about 4 cups of water on medium heat and place sliced up tempeh (cut in long strips--about five or six) in to boil for about 15 minutes. (This removes that bitter taste tempeh can have.) Next, prep your veggies. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan and add celery, onions and garlic. Next, add mushrooms. Let simmer for about 15 minutes--be careful to watch it. Drain the tempeh. Cut into 1" pieces and place in pan with onions and all--toss a bit to allow the tempeh to get a little brown. Add seasonings. Add the arame and liquid. Now, add frozen peas and corn. Add the remaining ingredients--flour, nutritional yeast, soy milk, butter. Bring to a simmer. If the mixture looks too dry, add more milk and keep stirring until you reach your desired "sauce" portion. I also found that pouring a little soy milk over the casserole prior to baking helps create a bit more sauce. Mix well. Now add the pasta to the pan and toss all ingredients together. Pour into baking dish. Now, make the topping. Crush the blue corn chips with the panko crumbs and then spread over the top of the casserole. Sprinkle with some vegan parm and bake, uncovered for 30 minutes (or until the top begins to brown). Remove from oven and sprinkle with a bit of dried parsley and serve!