Corn bread casseroles are a too-busy cook's dream. A handful of pantry staples--frozen and canned corn, corn muffin mix, butter, sour cream and an egg--are baked into something delicious and comforting. We jazz ours up with shredded cheddar and sliced scallions. You can keep it classic and skip the mix-ins, or you can add whatever you have on hand.
Photographer and Alabamian Robert Rausch grew up eating vegetable casseroles—he and his mother are both vegetarians. The broccoli casserole his family ate is a step up from the standard church cookbook recipe, which calls for using canned mushroom soup: In place of that, he uses wild mushrooms. He still relies on Ritz crackers, though, for the crispy, buttery topping.
F&W’s Melissa Rubel Jacobson created this recipe to use up extra dried mushrooms and odds and ends of pasta. While the different pasta shapes cook at different rates in the water, they all become tender once baked.
Star Ingredient: Quercus Umbriae Giudia Artichokes
If cooks were asked to name the vegetables they find most intimidating and time—consuming to prepare, artichokes would surely top the list. Marinated artichoke hearts from Umbria in central Italy solve the problem: No trimming, cooking or choke removal is required.
Commercial wild mushroom mixes (usually a combination of shiitake, cremini and oyster mushrooms) are a godsend: Some invisible helper has already cleaned, stemmed and sliced the mushrooms for you. In this recipe, they are mixed with spinach and cream, then baked in a luscious gratin under smooth rounds of precooked polenta until bubbling hot.
Note: Make this dish with vegetable broth to keep it vegetarian-friendly.
Clothing designer Billy Reid says, “Folks in the South start eating grits young. You learn to love them as a kid and it never goes away.” Using old-fashioned, stone-ground grits gives the casserole a better texture and flavor than quick cooking grits.
Maria Helm Sinskey claims that a rich gratin topped with cheesy bread crumbs is the only way her children will eat Swiss chard. “I’ve learned that a little cream and cheese gets my kids to finish their vegetables,” she says.
Sweet potatoes grow in abundance in Alabama, where sculptor Sandi Stevens’ family eats them year-round. This casserole is a Stevens favorite: silky pureed sweet potatoes topped with a sweet and crunchy pecan-cornflake topping. If you don’t have pecans or cornflakes on hand, Stevens says the topping can be made with whatever nut or cereal is in the cupboard.
Marc Murphy grew up eating this intensely cheesy baked spaghetti. “When I was young, we lived in Genoa, where spaghetti is the pasta of choice. This is my mother's version of macaroni and cheese,” he says.
This fragrant side dish was born out of an argument between Bruce Aidells and Nancy Oakes on whether an entire head of cauliflower could be filled like dolma, the Middle Eastern family of stuffed grape leaves and vegetable dishes. “Nancy thought it could be done; I didn’t,” he says. Aidells turns the idea of dolma inside out by topping a rice casserole with cauliflower florets. “I’m the lazy, more practical cook,” Aidells says.
This savory bread pudding, loaded with sweet squash, is based on a recipe meat master Bruce Aidells’s wife, Nancy Oakes, created at her restaurant, Boulevard. For a more elegant presentation, Aidells bakes the bread pudding in individual ramekins.