The other day, I was talking with one of my friends about the “paleo” diet vs. vegetarianism. I don’t know a ton about paleo, but apparently there’s friction between the paleo people and the vegetarians, because the paleos think we should be eating meat, just meat that hasn’t been treated with hormones or subjected to the Big Agriculture system that produces most of our food. And vegetarians, obviously, pass on the meat, no matter how few hormones are in there.
As you can probably tell from this blog, I am neither vegetarian nor paleo (which I’ve also heard described as the caveman diet (!), which makes it sound wayyyyy cooler than it really is). I don’t like the idea of eliminating entire foods or food groups from my diet (except for, um, bananas), and I feel like there’s plenty of room for reasonable minds to disagree on whether these diets are worth it. When it comes to rules for healthy eating, I tend to focus on the ones that everyone agrees on and, uh, ignore the rest. Basically, I feel like there’s no real consensus on whether buying organic is worth it or whether eggs are good or bad, but everyone seems to agree that we should eat less sugar, less meat, more veggies, and more whole grains. Beyond that, keeping track of what foods are good or bad is too much effort for me.
This veggie-heavy gratin is the kind of dinner I aim for but don’t always manage to make happen — full of veggies, brown rice, and nuts, plus some yummy parmesan thrown in because, you know. Life is short. And I think that all the various dieters would agree with me! Vegetarians, paleos…I guess not vegans. Those vegans are hard to please. And actually I’m not 100% sure that paleos eat cheese. Dangit!
Diets are hard.
PARMESAN VEGGIE BROWN RICE GRATIN (adapted from Cooking Light)
3/4 cup uncooked long-grain brown rice
3 medium zucchinis, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (about 12 oz, I used one with cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots)
3/4 tsp salt, divided
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 white onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1/4 cup half-and-half
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 ciabatta rolls, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1. Cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Combine zucchini, frozen veggies, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium bowl; toss to combine. Place vegetable mixture evenly on large baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes. Once cooked, place vegetables in large bowl. Reduce oven temperature to 375.
3. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add onion and garlic; cook for 8-10 minutes or until tender. Add onion mixture to vegetable mixture. Add cooked rice, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3/4 cup cheese, and the next 3 ingredients (through eggs), and stir well to combine. Spoon rice mixture into 2-quart casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Cover with foil, and bake at 375 for 15 minutes.
4. Place bread in food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1 cup. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add breadcrumbs, and cook for 3 minutes or until toasted, stirring frequently. Remove pan from heat; stir in remaining 1/4 cup cheese, walnuts, and parsley.
5. When rice has finished cooking, remove foil from dish. Top rice evenly with breadcrumb mixture. Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 15 more minutes or until vegetables are tender and topping is browned.
This was really fresh and tasty — it’s probably best classified as a side dish, but we had it for dinner. I especially loved the walnuts in this, it gave it such a nice crunch and texture.