As I’ve moved towards a mostly-vegetarian diet, my dinner repertoire has become more diverse. Since my motivations for going meatless were primarily based on health and environmental concerns, replacing meat with copious amounts of cheese (as a friend puts it, “a cheese pizza vegetarian”) would have missed the point. Instead, I tend towards vegetable-based meatless recipes, and I try to rely on what produce is in season. During the summer and fall, I work through my calendar of recipes as the various crops ripen. Linguine with asparagus becomes linguine with tomatoes or zucchini and then the growing season draws to a close with gnocchi with butternut squash. As winter settles in, I cook from my extensive collection of dishes that rely on root vegetables, canned beans, or sturdy produce that tastes halfway decent after a cross-country journey (cabbage, leeks, and squash feature prominently). And finally, when the snow has mostly melted and I’ve switched to my lightweight winter coat, I pull out my it-should-be-spring-already-but-I-live-in-Minnesota recipes. These are foods that taste light and fresh, but are still hearty enough to sustain you through the inevitable April snowstorm.
This is the perfect-not-quite spring recipe: the zest and juice of a lemon provide an invigorating zip, and the herbs used (parsley and rosemary) seem to reliably travel well from distant climes. It’s a nice change of pace from the the typical vegetarian casserole: instead of pasta and lots of cheese, it’s packed with chickpeas and bound together with yogurt, cottage cheese, and a bit of brown rice. This recipe does take a while to prepare, so if you’re making this on a weeknight you may want to prepare it the night before and add the bread crumb topping before baking the next day.
1/4 cup uncooked brown rice (about 1 cup cooked)
1 cup low-fat small curd cottage cheese
3/4 cup full-fat regular (not Greek) plain yogurt
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
3 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 large shallots, minced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, juiced and zested (about 1/4 cup juice and 1 tablespoon zest)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
Prepare rice according to package directions.
Meanwhile, beat eggs in a medium bowl. Stir in cottage cheese, yogurt, 1/2 cup Parmesan, parsley, and rosemary and mix until well-combined.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (if cooking the casserole the same night you are preparing it).
Combine chickpeas, shallots, garlic, lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper, and prepared rice in a large bowl. Stir in the cottage cheese mixture and mix thoroughly. Pour mixture into prepared dish (at this point, you can refrigerate the casserole until the next day if desired). Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan and bread crumbs.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until bread crumbs are golden-brown. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.