I had a feeling we were in store for 6 more weeks of winter and was not surprised when our furry friend confirmed it this past Monday. I didn't think this because its been cold, gray and dreary, in fact it has been quite warm here in Seattle and the sun has been shining. I knew it because my appetite hasn't changed. It may sound funny but my body lets me know when a new season is coming because it stops having cravings for seasonal produce and seasonal preparations. Last winter, despite my obsession with brussel sprouts, I woke up one day and I didn't want them any more. I noticed later that day that the winter seasonal vegetables were less prominent on the shelves. I started craving lighter preparations and more spring veggies. Not so this year thus far. I crave hearty, healthy, warming dishes.
For the past week and a half, I have been unable to run due to injury. With my inability to run, I have likewise been completely uninspired in the kitchen for the most part. For the better part of a week, I was moody, depressed and not hungry, and sometimes worse, sick to my stomach from the meds I am on for my injury. I have finally turned a corner in my own mind thankfully and have found my inspiration again, even though I still can't run. Today, I wanted nothing more than a warming, comforting meal. I didn't however want to eat something heavy and unhealthy. When I was little and I was sick, all I wanted in the world would be my mom's mac and cheese. As I have gotten older and moved away from wheat and from grains in general for the most part, I seldom crave dishes that are grain based. When I thought about what would fit the bill for a warm comforting healthy meal and the way I was feeling (not so good) and I was suddenly inspired with this idea to make a winter vegetable gratin (gluten free & can be made vegan using vegan cheese). It was absolutely perfect. The veggies were not too heavy, the sauce not to thick or rich, just right, the cheese is just a whisper of a flavor and the smoked paprika added a perfect layer of flavor. Make this for your friends and impress them with it complex delicious flavors or make it for yourself and nest down with a bowl full on the couch and watch movies. So even though there is six more weeks of winter, at least this recipe is something good to look forward to.
Winter Vegetable Gratin
1 cup brussel sprouts, quartered
½ cup broccoli
½ cup cauliflower
¼ cup cabbage , chopped
¼ cup frozen peas, thawed
¼ cup frozen corn, thawed
¼ cup frozen sweet potato
2 tbsp. earth balance
1 tbsp. buckwheat flour
1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk
⅓ cup pepper jack cheese, shredded
⅓ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tsp. smoked paprika
⅓ cup Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. On the stove top, bring water in a steamer to a boil. Parsteam the brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage for 1-2 minutes to begin cooking process. Drain and set aside.
In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the buckwheat flour in. Stir to make a roux and stir until well incorporated. Keep stirring for 1-2 minutes. Slowly start to add the almond milk 1/4 cup at a time, allowing the mixture to thicken before adding more. When all the milk is added and thickened, add the pepper jack and cheddar cheeses. Stir until the mixture melts. Add in the smoked paprika.
In a small dutch oven or other round baking pan, put all the veggies into the pan and toss together including the corn, peas and sweet potato. Pour the cheese sauce down over top of the veggies and stir to incorporate.
Sprinkle over the top the parmesan cheese and sprinkle a dash more of smoked paprika ver the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden and crusty.