The casserole was created for the multitasker. One person can assemble the ingredients, throw the dish into the oven and proceed on to other fun tasks such as laundry, dusting shelves and taking out the garbage, all while dinner is cooking. The casserole is also clutter busters; they eliminate the need for multiple cooking pots and pans by consolidating an entire meal into one dish. Finally, the casserole is an excellent source of quick meals during the week. One large casserole can be divided into serving size portions, packaged in microwave-safe containers and reheated when a fast individual meal is needed. Most casseroles taste better the second time anyway, as the herbs and spices have time to really meld with the contents.
Casseroles are also quite plastic, in that the ingredients and seasonings can be varied according to ethnic preferences. The following creamed corn and black bean casserole has a decidedly Mexican or southwestern United States character. Any ripe red tomato will work, but the meatier the fruit, the less liquid there will be to reduce. The recipe suggests using crushed tortilla chips, but for a lower-sodium option, use pieces of soft tortillas that have gone stale.
Creamed corn and black bean casserole
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 c. ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained
2 c. creamed corn
2 c. crushed taco chips, or 2 c. dry tortilla pieces
8 oz. shredded taco cheese mix (cheddar and Monterey Jack)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large saucepan, saute onion in olive oil until tender and slightly brown, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and seasoning and simmer until liquid is reduced by half. Add black beans and remove from heat.
Spray an 8" casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom with 1/2 c. crushed tortilla chips. Top with 1 c. creamed corn, then with 1/2 of the bean mixture. Sprinkle with 1 c. shredded cheese. Repeat for a second layer.
Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly and cheese is melted. Serves 6.
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