- 1 small zucchini, 1/3” dice (about 1 C)
- Kosher salt
- 2 T + 2 t vegetable oil
- ½ medium butternut squash in ½” cubes (4 C)
- 1 medium red or yellow bell pepper, chopped (about 1 C)
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 3 C cooked black beans (2 15 oz. cans)
- 6 – 8 scallions, 2 minced, remaining thinly sliced
- 2 ½ C organic whole milk
- 3 T butter
- ½ T chili powder
- 2 ½ T all purpose flour (no GF substitutes unless you have a foolproof thickener)
- 4 oz. full fat cream cheese, softened (see notes)
- 4 C shredded cheddar (preferably mild; any color)
- Lay diced zucchini on a couple layers of paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and cover with more paper towels. In a large, nonstick skillet, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium high. Add half the squash in a single layer and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt. After 5 minutes undisturbed, stir occasionally for another 5 minutes, until browned and tender. Set aside in a large, heatproof bowl. Repeat with more oil and remaining squash.
- Press down firmly on towel-covered zucchini to finish absorbing excess liquid before cooking.
- Return skillet to medium high heat. Once hot, add 2 teaspoons oil and heat until shimmering. Add bell pepper and half the minced jalapeno, and cook until starting to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add zucchini and cook in close to a single layer, stirring infrequently, until zucchini starts to brown. Remove to the bowl with squash, also adding the beans and half the sliced scallions. Stir to combine.
- Preheat oven to 375. Scald milk in a small saucepan, heating over medium until bubbles form around the edges, then turn off heat and cover to keep warm. In a medium saucepan, melt 2 ½ tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add minced scallions and the remaining minced jalapeno and cook a few minutes, until softened. If foaming vigorously, reduce heat slightly before continuing. Add flour and chili powder and stir with a wooden utensil for 3 minutes, until cooked and paste-like. With heat on low, whisk warm milk into roux slowly. Increase heat to medium high and switch back to a wooden spoon, stirring constantly to keep flour from settling in corners and bottom of pan. Once simmering, reduce heat to the lowest possible simmer. Still stirring constantly, cook 10 minutes, until sauce has thickened.
- Turn off the heat and whisk in cream cheese until incorporated, then 3 cups shredded cheese, half at a time, until melted. Season to taste with salt, starting with 1 teaspoon. (At this point, try not to eat all the sauce for the sake of taste testing.) Pour sauce over vegetable mixture and stir to coat. Scoop into 6 buttered ramekins (or medium casserole dish) and sprinkle with the last cup of cheese. Bake 20 minutes, until bubbling. Cool slightly and garnish with remaining scallion slices.
Because the roux includes chili powder, its color will not indicate when it’s cooked. Make sure to cook at least 3 minutes to avoid a raw flour taste.
I’ve made the sauce without cream cheese, and it’s still tasty. However, it lacks the really creamy texture you get when using it.
For a main dish, it’s fun to bake in individual dishes or ramekins. For a side, bake in a medium (around 2 qt.) casserole dish, so diners can choose their serving size.
Freeze individual ramekins before baking and topping with cheese, if you know you won’t eat them right away. Cooking once always yields better results than cooking twice when it comes to freezing casseroles, as I’m learning.
- Category: Lunch, Dinner
- Cuisine: Vegetarian, Meatless