Saturday, November 17, 2012

What's Gratin Into You?

Today was Compassionate Action for Animal's 10th annual Thanksgiving potluck. Last year, I attended this event and was blown away by the over 100 people and the countless vegan options for Thanksgiving. We had brought simple, roasted brussel sprouts (so good), but I knew this year I wanted to try something new in honor of some amazing dishes people brought last year. I remembered there being a lot of salads and noodles and desserts, but not a lot of hot vegetable side dishes. Liking a challenge, I started to brainstorm what I could make and the inspiration came from Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer: Three Green Gratin! Decadent but packed with greens....yes, this could work.

Trader Joe's version isn't vegan, but it wasn't hard to veganize. Sub a vegan bechamel and vegan cheese and bam! done. I hadn't made a bechamel sauce in a long time, but I remembered how finicky it could be to get all the lumps out. The trick is just to go slow adding a little flour and later non-dairy alternative at a time to make sure it all gets incorporated and silky smooth.

The picture isn't that appetizing, but just imagine earthy greens (with the swiss chard stocks for a pop of color) lovingly wrapped in a silky, creamy bechamel with a hint of nutmeg, rosemary, thyme and garlic and bubbling, ooey, gooey browned Daiya garlic jalapeno havarti. You'll want to lick your plate, I promise.

Michelle's 3 Green Gratin (inspired by Trader Joe's)

1 bunch swiss chard
1 bunch spinach
1 bunch green/curly kale
1 1/2 T fresh rosemary
1 1/2 T fresh thyme
4 large garlic cloves
1 T olive oil

Vegan Bechamel Sauce:
6 T earth balance spread
6 T all purpose flour
3 c unsweetened rice milk
1 1/2 t fresh grated nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste (I used himalayan pink salt)
1/2 block Daiya Garlic Jalapeno Havarti

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Chop greens to bite size pieces (keep only the stems of the swiss chard). You will easily have over 10 cups of green, but they cook down. Heat oil in a large skillet or stir fry pan. Cook greens (likely in 2 batches) until they cook down to less than half their original size. Add in minced garlic, thyme and rosemary. Set aside cooked greens. In a large cast iron skillet, heat earth balance and add flour in a tablespoon at a time, stirring it in to avoid clumps. Once all the flour has been added, slowly add in the milk, stirring constantly. Let the sauce thicken for 4-5 minutes, taking care to stir often. Grate in nutmeg and add salt and pepper to taste. Mix greens in the cast iron pan with the bechamel. You can cover with tinfoil and put in the oven, or transfer to a greased glass 9 x 13 pan before placing in the oven. Let cook covered for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and turn up the heat to 450 degrees. Crumble Daiya havarti with jalapenos over the bubbling mixture and return to oven uncovered and cook for another 15 minutes until Daiya browns. Remove and let cool 10 minutes before serving.

So good and not too bad for you :)

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