Do you ever have those moments where you are watching a cooking show and you are struck by a dish you see and immediately have to go and make it?
I do, and I had one of those moments when I was watching Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escape episode on Sicily and Puglia. Admittedly the dish that inspired me was in fact a lamb dish, but as I watched the dish being made by a local Puglian chef I thought to myself “I could make a vegetarian version of this” and that was exactly what I did a few hours later.
Puglia, for those who are unfamiliar (as I was until I watched the show) is a region of South Eastern Italy. From what I saw on Rick’s show it appears to be untainted by tourists demanding skyscraper hotels and fancy restaurants. The region looks beautiful and steeped in history and as a result I’ve added it to my list of places to visit when I get to Italy….whenever that may be.
So, onto the layered potato and vegetable casserole (would you call it a casserole? ). In the show, the dish consisted of layers of thinly sliced potato on top of which olive oil was drizzled before being sprinkled with grated Parmesan and salt. Then that was covered with tomatoes, onions and garlic along with lamb and the layering continued until it reached the top of the dish and ended with the potato topped with olive oil and Parmesan. For my vegetarian version I decided to substitute the lamb with broad beans, baby spinach, and thinly sliced zucchini and celery. It was then baked in a slow oven until the potatoes became soft and the cheese golden on top.
To me, this dish felt like a celebration of summer vegetables, and although a casserole is traditionally considered as heavy, this was light and full of flavour. It’s traditional Italian peasant food, which I absolutely love.
So, tell me, have you ever been inspired to immediately cook something you have watched on a cooking show? What was it and how did the dish turn out?
Potato and summer vegetable casserole
2 large potatoes, washed and peeled and thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 stalk of celery, thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
2 cups of broad beans
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups of baby spinach
Olive oil to drizzle (I didn’t measure this, I just drizzled enough so that each layer of potato was lightly covered, but not soaking in oil)
1 cup of grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Lightly grease a casserole dish and preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.
2. Place a layer of sliced potato in the bottom of the greased casserole dish until it covers the bottom. Drizzle with olive oil and then sprinkle with grated parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Cover with the tomatoes, celery, broad beans, zucchini,onion, garlic and spinach. Repeat the potato and vegetable layers, ending with a layer of potato drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with parmesan.
3. Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake for an hour or until the potatoes and vegetables are tender. Then remove the foil cover and allow the potatoes on the top to turn golden. Serve with some crusty bread or a fresh salad.
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