Awesome Salad Meets So-So Casserole. Is It Love?

While I like to pretend I’m a creative genius when it comes to making up recipes, more often than not, they are happy accidents from playing with whatever happens to be in my fridge.  If it turns out good, I write it down.  If it’s just so-so, I forget it ever happened.  My goals for this recipe were to come up with something crunchy and colorful to brighten up a somewhat boring casserole.  For this dinner, the casserole was fine and dandy, but the real star of the plate was the side dish.  I wrote this one down.

Orange & Carrot Salad

Orange & Carrot Salad

1 1/2 cups baby carrots, quartered length-wise into matchsticks
1 large can (or two small ones) mandarin oranges, drained
2 tbsp. pomegranate infused red wine vinegar (or raspberry)
2 tsp. sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, salt and oil until well blended.  Add carrots, orange and parsley and toss to coat.

Green & White Bean Gratin with Orange & Carrot Salad

Oh, and what was the underwhelming casserole, you ask?  Green & White Bean Gratin.  I found it in my Moosewood Cookbook and was intrigued.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  It tasted good.  I actually liked it quite a lot. But.  You heard that “but” coming, didn’t you?  This casserole had a definite “side dish” vibe.  Sometimes when I make vegetarian meals, I look at my plate and think, “where are the pork chops?”  I think part of the problem is adjusting my thinking a bit, and what I think of as a complete meal sometimes still includes meat.  But part of the problem is that this main dish needs help!

So it tasted good, and was filling.  But it’s still kind of lacking as a main dish.  I just couldn’t help but feel like something was missing.  And I’m not sure what.  Maybe it needed more crunch?  Maybe more veggie variety or color?  Spice?  Meat?  I’m not sure.  Any suggestions?  Or should this just be relegated to my “tasty side dish” recipe box?

Green & White Bean Gratin

Green & White Bean Gratin
(from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers)

2 cups frozen (thawed) or fresh green beans
2 – 15 oz. cans white beans
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp. dried rosemary, sage or thyme
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of black pepper
1 cup grated Cheddar, Fontina, or Gruyere cheese
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. melted butter

Preheat oven to 375˚.  Butter an 8 inch square baking dish.  Spread green beans to cover the bottom of the baking dish.  In a blender, whirl one can of white beans, undrained, with the garlic, herbs, salt and pepper until smooth.  Pour over the green beans in the baking dish and sprinkle with the cheddar cheese.  Drain the second can of white beans and spread the beans on top.

In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and melted butter.  Sprinkle over the top of the gratin.  Bake covered for 25 minutes.  Uncover and bake until golden and bubbling, about 10 minutes more.

This made a good pairing with Orange & Carrot Salad.  But I still missed that pork chop.

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