As a mostly-vegetarian (if you’ll forgive the term), I tend to organize my meals a bit differently from omnivores. And frankly, I am occasionally envious of the ease with which a meal comes together around a piece of meat (and we do sometimes cook fish), because then all you have to worry about are salads and sides. And hey, I sure do like salads and sides.
So I get excited when I can have it all in one place: my vegetables and my whole grains, nestled in with tofu and cheese, scented with garlic and spices. Maybe even with a great salsa on the side. Yes, it’s true: I made a casserole.
The basic premise here is that flavorful, doctored-up brown rice and tofu are layered with tomatillos and tomatoes. The rice and tofu sop up the juices as the tomatoes and tomatillos soften and it all bakes up into one big pan of late-summer comfort. There are a few more steps involved here than in our usual recipes, but it’s quite manageable if you take it a step at a time: Make rice. Chop vegetables. Cook onions, garlic, and corn, then add tofu, spices, rice and cheese. Layer this mixture with thickly-sliced tomatillos and tomatoes, and scatter feta on top for an extra bite of tang and salt. Bake. You can do that.
The last thing I’ll recommend is that you try making this dish with tofu that has been frozen and then defrosted. It gives the tofu a bit of a spongy texture, which is more appealing than it sounds. Nobody will expect to find tofu in this dish, but it contributes flavor and texture as well as protein. If you’d prefer to leave it out, you could whisk a few eggs into the rice instead, but then I’d recommend baking the dish covered and maybe for a little longer.Baked Rice with Tofu, Corn, Tomatillos and Tomatoes: First, note that you are going to need cooked brown rice halfway through this recipe, so put a pot on now if you don’t have any in the fridge. (Combine 1 1/2 c. short grain brown rice with 3 c. water and a pinch of salt; cover and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer 40 minutes. Remove from heat and spread a dishtowel across the pot under the lid for a few minutes to absorb any remaining moisture.)
In a wide skillet, saute a chopped red onion with a pinch of salt until softened, then add two cloves of minced garlic and saute another minute. Add 2 c. corn kernels and a crumbled block of tofu* and saute until the corn is tender. Add 2 tsp. dried oregano, 1 tsp. each chile powder, cumin, and salt, and 1/2 tsp. each dried coriander and freshly ground black pepper. Stir for a moment until the spices are fragrant, then remove from heat. Stir in 4 c. cooked brown rice, 1/2 c. chopped cilantro, and 4 oz. grated jack or mild cheddar cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.
Slice a pound of washed and husked tomatillos and a pound of tomatoes into 1/3″ slices, then assemble ingredients in a well-oiled 9×13 baking dish. First, spread half the rice evenly across the bottom of the pan. Then spread all of the tomatillo slices in a single layer. Crumble a layer of feta cheese over the tomatillos. Spread the rest of the rice over the tomatillo slices. Top with the tomato slices, followed by one more handful of crumbled feta.
Bake uncovered at 350 for about 25 minutes, until the cheese is lightly browned on top.
*For recipes like these I like to use tofu that has been frozen and then defrosted. You can wring some of the moisture out of the tofu with your hands as you crumble it into the pan, but don’t worry about getting it too dry. Alternatively, you can use unfrozen cubed firm tofu, pressed briefly to squeeze out a bit of the moisture.