Start fresh! Using the freshest ingredients makes this casserole really something special. It brings all the tastes of the garden to your table. I adapted this recipe from one I found in an ancient church lady cook book my Grandma bought at a fundraiser eons ago. The original recipe submitted to the church cookbook by one Mrs. Inez F. Klein included one medium onion, two green peppers, one quarter cup of margarine, one pound ground beef, two cups of canned corn, two cups canned diced tomatoes, half of a cup soft bread crumbs, salt, pepper and dried thyme.
While the original recipe called for using canned corn and tomatoes (which works great) I thought it would be better if we started with all fresh ingredients. I made some other alterations as well; I started by deciding the onion must be a red onion. I have kind of a love affair going on with red onions, they are sassy when served raw but become sweet when cooked, and they are always colorful!
The recipe called for two fresh Green Bell Peppers to be sliced. I had two lovely green peppers, but then I noticed two of my Orange Bell Peppers were ready for harvesting, and well, it is just so much more colorful this way! So I subbed the two small orange peppers for one of the green, no only is it colorful but the orange bring another flavor profile to the dish.
Next there was margarine… yuck. Normally I would substitute unsalted butter for margarine but I decided that this recipe really wanted to be dairy free. Margarine, or Oleo as it once was called, became very popular in the 1950’s and is often included in casserole recipes from then and later. But we stopped using margarine some eight years ago and have never looked back. Besides, one quarter cup of fat to sauté the onions and peppers seemed like a lot of excess oil. A tablespoon of Olive Oil does the trick just fine.
Next on the grocery list, one pound of ground beef. We seldom eat meat, but when I do serve it I prefer to serve all natural grass fed or free range meats that are free of additives, hormones and antibiotic injections. This recipe could be made meatless easily by replacing the ground beef with vegetable crumbles or by chopping up a mixture of eight ounces of white and eight ounces of Baby Portabella mushrooms.
Aside from replacing the canned veggies with fresh corn and tomatoes, I also replaced the dried Thyme. I had no fresh Thyme on hand, so I substituted a couple sprigs of Spicy Oregano leaves from my garden and as well as fresh Sweet Basil because Tomatoes do love Basil! Lastly, instead of soft bread crumbs I used Japanese Panko crumbs and mixed them with crumbled French’s Fried Onions.
The whole thing comes together into a fresh, nutritious and really delicious explosion of garden flavors in your mouth.[sc:startcenter] [sc:endcenter]
- 1 medium Red Onion, chopped
- 1 Green Pepper, sliced
- 1 Orange Pepper, sliced (or 2 small peppers)
- 1 T Olive Oil
- 1 lb Grass Fed Ground Beef
- 2 C Fresh Cut Corn (Roughly 3 ears of fresh sweet corn)
- 4 Tomatoes, sliced
- ¼ C Panko Bread Crumbs
- ¼ C Fried Onions, crumbled
- 1½ tsp Sea Salt
- ¼ tsp Cracked Black Pepper
- ½ tsp Fresh Spicy Oregano (Can sub ½ tsp Thyme or regular Oregano)
- 1 tsp Fresh Basil, minced
- Cook onion and peppers in a bit of olive oil until soft.
- Add beef to pan, breaking into small pieces, cook until beef is browned.
- Season with salt, pepper, spicy oregano and basil.
- Stir in 2 C Fresh Cut Sweet Corn (you can substitute frozen sweet corn if fresh is not available)
- Begin building layers in a 2 quart casserole dish: half the corn and beef mixture and a layer of tomato slices
- Apply salt and pepper to tomato slices according to taste
- Repeat layers with the other half of the corn and beef mixture and top with tomato slices
- Mix panko crumbs with crumbled fried onions and top the casserole. Spritz top with olive oil.
- Bake in a pre-heated 350º oven for 35 minutes. Allow to rest 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4.