And all of the produce had come from a local Amish farm market, I was told. Yes, there are several Amish enclaves in northern Maine, which may surprise you as much as it did me!
Of course, I asked for the recipe, to no avail, since the cook, like so many of us, simply put a little of this and a little of that into the pot, and never knew exact quantities to tell people. He gave me a list of the basic ingredients and seasonings, and I was on my own from there.
So, when I came home, I spent the next couple of days trying out a couple of different versions of the meal until I came up with the recipe I have here. It was a huge hit with hubby, and with a small gathering of friends I hosted on my patio, and two of my visiting sons also liked it very much, as did their girl friends.
For that reason alone, it would be a keeper, but it also has even more advantages.
It is a particularly great way to use those wonderful tomatoes that are ripening quickly on the vine.
It’s also a recipe that lends itself to using just about any vegetable your heart desires. I happened to have zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers on hand from our garden, but I can well imagine that it would be just as good with eggplant or greens of just about any kind.
The other beauty of this meal is that it is a cinch to put together. It does take some substantial oven time, so you need to allow for that, but actual prep time is only about 10-15 minutes.
And I also see it as an excellent possibility for the slow cooker. In fact, that might be the better alternative to the oven if the weather is hot. I happened to hit it on some cooler days, so the heat generated by the oven was not a problem. And finally, the recipe is gluten free for those among us who have to worry about such things.
The most expensive part of the meal is the cheese. And the mushrooms can also be pricey, so it’s important to check the sales flyer before planning this menu or any other kind.
Everything else is available either free from my garden, or for generally the lowest prices of the year at the market.
Normally, I pay more like $4 per pound on sale for cheese bricks. So I stocked up on a couple of extra pounds. I’ve also seen some great prices at Aldi’s for various cheeses. In fact, I find Aldi prices to be generally very good, so if you happen to have one in your area, I recommend checking them out.
The mushrooms were on sale for 99¢ for 8 ounces, which is a good deal around here. Sometimes they are expensive, though, and I rely instead on canned ones that I stock up on when they are on sale.
Using canned ones also saves a little bit of prep. If I were to use that option, I would substitute part or all of the water called for in the recipe with the mushroom broth from the can, and would also reduce the salt in the recipe by about half.
I used regular white potatoes that I always have on hand in my pantry – the cheapest ones per pound that my grocery store sells. That’s usually in the 5 or 10 pound bag at 40-60¢ per pound.
I don’t buy 10 pound bags in the summer, though, because my husband and I cannot use them before the heat starts to spoil them. When the boys were home, that was not a problem. And in the winter, it’s not a problem either. Potatoes keep a very long time if kept in a dark, cool place.
One last note. In dishes like this, there is always the option of adding a few tablespoons of flaxseed meal if you want to increase the protein content. Simply sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons over each cheese layer, and you’re done.
It does not alter the flavor or consistency, and it’s also loaded with lots of great nutrition, so it’s a good choice for anyone concerned about their protein intake.
Here’s the recipe:
Makes 6-8 servings
Prep Time – Approximately 15 minutes
Start to Finish Cook Time – Approximately 90 minutes
Total Recipe Cost – Approximately $10 (this will vary widely, depending on produce availability)
Total per person meal cost with tossed green salad and whole grain bread – Approximately $1.50
3-4 medium potatoes
2-3 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion or 2 medium ones
1 large green or red pepper
1 large zucchini (or 2 small)
¼-¾ pound mushrooms (about 8-10 large ones)
3 large tomatoes
¾ pound sharp cheddar cheese, pre-grated or in brick form
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon rosemary
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¾ cup water (a little less is fine, too)
Recipe continues after photos.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- If you are using brick cheese, grate it to make about 3 cups.
- Combine the 1 teaspoon of oregano, the ½ teaspoon basil, the ½ teaspoon of rosemary, the ¾ teaspoon of salt, and the ½ teaspoon of pepper with the ¾ cup of water. Heat the water with the seasonings in the microwave for about 1-2 minutes on medium to high power. Stir everything together and set this broth aside.
- Grease a 9x12 casserole dish using oil and a paper towel or napkin.
- Wash and scrub the potatoes, using a vegetable brush or plastic scrubber. Cut them crosswise into slices about ⅛-¼-inch thick.
- Measure the oil into a bowl and toss the potatoes in small batches in the oil to coat them. Layer the potato slices in the bottom of the casserole dish. You want some overlap, so a little doubling of the layer is fine.
- Cut the ends off the onion and slice it crosswise in half. Cut each half crosswise into thin slices.
- Toss the onions in the oil just to coat them a little, and layer them on top of the potatoes, spreading them around evenly.
- Spread about ½ cup of the cheese over the onion layer.
- Wash the mushrooms in a bowl or container of water, gently rubbing them to remove any garden residue. Cut them into slices about ⅛-¼-inch in thickness.
- Layer the mushrooms over the cheese and onion layer.
- Wash the pepper and cut off the cap. Remove the seed pod. Dice the pepper and spread it over the mushroom layer.
- Wash the zucchini and cut off the ends. Slice them crosswise into thin rounds about ⅛-inch thick.
- Layer the zucchini evenly over the onions. Spread about ½ cup of the cheese over this layer.
- Pour the broth over the layers in the casserole dish.
- Wash the tomatoes and cut the stems off. Slice them crosswise. Layer them all over the top of the other layers.
- Top the casserole with the remaining cheese.
- Cover the dish snugly with aluminum foil or other lid. Place it in the pre-heated oven and bake for about 60 minutes. Set a timer to remind yourself.
- When the timer goes off, carefully remove a corner of the foil and test the potatoes for doneness by sliding a knife through the layers. It should pass easily with no resistance at all.
- If the casserole is done, remove the foil. If desired, return it to the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes or so to brown the cheese a little. (If it is not done, reseal the foil and return it to the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes.)
- Let the casserole stand for about 10 minutes before trying to cut it into square or rectangular pieces.
- Serve with a tossed, green salad and an optional loaf of nice whole grain bread for a delicious meal.