Winter squash have arrived!
I see them at the grocery, hinting of Autumn holidays.
In magazines and on blogs, I see the most delicious, tempting recipes for acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash.
But, here in the south, I’m still caught in the stranglehold of yellow crookneck squash and zucchini.
Summer squash flourishes here. Everything else in your garden may die, but your squash and zucchini will keep right on thriving! You can pick a basket of squash and leave it in the breakroom at work – by the time you get home, you’ll have another basket ready to pick.
Small wonder, then, that Southerners know so many ways to cook summer squash. Boiled squash with onion. Sauteed squash. Steamed squash. Fried squash. We put squash in vegetable soup, corn chowder, and chili.
And then of course there’s squash casserole – a special “company” dish that was made for (duh) company and taken to potlucks and church suppers. There are dozens of (non-vegan) ways to make it, and you better believe the older women would critique a woman by how she made her squash casserole.
Cream of chicken, mushroom, or celery soup? She’s definitely not from around here.
Just squash – no other veggies like onions or green peppers? She’s boring – pray you’re not seated beside her on the church bus trip to Myrtle Beach.
Bread crumb topping instead of cracker crumbs? A bit uppity, isn’t she?
Wine in the cream sauce? Bless her heart, I’ve never seen anyone enjoy cooking with wine quite as much as Miranda!
Pimentos? She’s from Charlotte!!!
I loved squash casserole, but gave up after my first naive attempt to veganize it. (This is one case where subbing Daiya cheese for cheese and egg replacer for eggs really doesn’t work.)
This summer, with a little more vegan cooking experience, I attempted squash casserole once again. It took me all summer long, but I did it – a vegan squash casserole that not only tastes pretty darn good, but tastes like the real thing.
Vegan Squash Casserole Ingredients:
Six small to medium Yellow Squash
1/2 cup Yellow Onion
1/4 Cup Green Bell Pepper
1 small jar Pimentos (about 2 oz.)
1 TBL Sea Salt
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
Approx. 1 cup Saltine Cracker Crumbs or Bread Crumbs
For the Cheese
1 tub Silken Tofu
1/4 Cup Canola Oil
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
1/4 Cup favorite cooking “Milk” (I used Westsoy)
Directions for Vegan Squash Casserole:
Prepare the squash. To peel or not to peel? I usually don’t peel if I get squash from a farmer’s market or someone’s garden – I just scrub them. Supermarket squash, however, sometimes have this waxy coating, so I do peel them. I also peel very large squash – the rind can become quite tough the older the squash gets.
After you peel the squash, slice them into “coins.”
Preheat oven to 350.
Boil the yellow squash for 6-8 minutes, or, alternatively, steam until squash is soft.
WHILE THE SQUASH IS COOKING, make your “cheese.” Drain the tofu and then combine with oil, milk, and nutritional yeast. I use an immersion blender to get it smooth and creamy.
When the squash is ready, drain squash into a colander. Shake to get out as much water as you can.
Return to pot. Pulverize very gently with a potato masher (you don’t want mush, you just want the squash to be broken up a bit). Add onion, green pepper, pimentos, salt, and pepper.
Add the “cheese” mixture and stir gently to combine.
Pour into a casserole dish. Narrower is better – you want the squash to stack up and create a deep casserole.
Add your choice of topping. Crumbled saltine crackers were the accepted norm when I was a child; you could also use panko crumbs or make your own bread crumbs by toasting a couple of slices of bread very toasty and then crumbling them. If you are gluten sensitive, feel free to leave off the topping entirely – it will still be good!
Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350 or until casserole is hot and bubbly.
Use only yellow squash, not zucchini.
Don’t try to make the squash “tender crisp” – that totally changes the comfort feel of this recipe.
Don’t try to get all fancy with the “cheese” part. “Cashew Cream” gives the casserole a heavy feel, when this should have a rich but light, summery taste. And all those things we usually put into “cheese” sauce – like miso, white wine, mustard, garlic? Tried all those and they were all REALLY bad in this recipe! Super-simple is better here!
As strange as it is for me to admit this, this is one dish that does not improve with the addition of green chili peppers – or any other kind of pepper, for that matter.
If you don’t have green bell pepper, simply add more pimento – 4 oz. instead of 2! I think I actually prefer my squash casserole with just pimento!
Finally, try the leftover squash casserole for breakfast. It’s awesome.