Monday, December 17, 2012

Ground Turkey Vegetable Casserole

Ground Turkey Vegetable Casserole looks like an ornament and gives the cook an easy night in the midst of busy December. 

Sautéed mushrooms and roasted peppers build subtle complexity in a turkey mixture that alternates with lengthwise sliced zucchini and mozzarella cheese layered like a sideways lasagna. The mild southwestern flavors can be spiced up with a sprinkling of cayenne or hot sauce. 

Bake it in a round casserole dish to create a Christmas ball ornament effect that will make mid-week December dinners feel special.  It’s attractive enough to bring to holiday potlucks and cookie parties.  It even makes a good brunch dish.

Serve the casserole with pasta, rice or stuff portions into corn or flour tortillas.  On nights when we feel a bit weighed down by too many holiday parties, we eat it as is (no carbohydrate sides) with a side salad.

Its versatility is especially evident when you are in a hurry to a carol sing, candle lighting or school play.  It reheats beautifully.

Christmas Ornament Turkey Vegetable Casserole
Serves 4

1–2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 jalepeno peppers, seeded and halved lengthwise*
8 oz portabello mushrooms, sliced
1 pound ground turkey
14-oz can low-sodium tomatoes and their juice
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup milk or light cream
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 egg
1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise in 1/8 inch slices
3 ounces mozzarella
3 ounces grated cheddar, grated (about 1/2 cup)

*or 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 350˚K.  
  2. Coat a large skillet with about 1 tablespoon oil and grill jalepenos until skin bubbles and flesh begins to brown.  Remove from pan and when cool slice.  
  3. Add more oil to pan if needed and sauté mushrooms.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  (If using sliced bell peppers sauté with mushrooms.) Add to reserved peppers.  
  4. Cook ground turkey over medium-low heat until no pink remains. Add a little more olive oil if sticking.  When turkey is cooked, drain.  Add juice from canned tomatoes, salt, oregano and spices. Return peppers and mushrooms to pan. Stir to combine and cover.  Cook 5-7 minutes on low.  
  5. Remove cover and add milk or cream.  Cook uncovered until most of the liquid is gone. Fold in chopped spinach and cook just until it wilts.  Remove from heat.  
  6. Oil a round or oblong casserole dish (a deep pie plate is perfect).  Stir egg into slightly cooled turkey mixture.  Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.  
  7. Insert zucchini slices strait down into turkey mixture at intervals so that the green skin shows at top of casserole.  Slice mozzarella in half then into 1/4 inch slices and tuck along side of zucchini.  Chop the drained, canned tomatoes and layer over casserole.  
  8. Sprinkle grated cheddar over the top.  Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes at 350˚F, until zucchini is tender.  Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving.
Serve with sour cream, chopped black olives, hot sauce