When you hear the word ‘gratin,’ what do you think? Cheesy, breadcrumb-laden goodness made of 10% vegetables and 90% butter? Yeah, me too. That’s why my tastebuds are usually drawn to this comforting dish but my stomach is turned away.
However, I’ve been thinking of a way to vegan-ize gratin while keeping it simple, natural, flavorful and gluten free. No easy task, but I think I’ve cracked the code.
The magic starts with vegan parmesan cheese. Have you tried it?
Dairy-free and vegan friends, if you haven’t you are simply missing out on fairy dust GOLD. Trust me, I have loved parmesan for years. I used to put it on my eggs at breakfast, my soup at lunch, and my potatoes and salads at dinner. Don’t get me started on how much I put on my pizza. I adore its salty, slightly dry goodness on anything and everything, and have a discerning tongue for how it should taste.
Considering this, I had low expectations for how this vegan version would perform.
This – 4 ingredient wonder bomb – actually tastes like parmesan and acts like it in cooking, too!
While it won’t melt into pasta sauces and other hot dishes, it will absolutely toast up and get a nice color. And the most important part, the taste is spot on. If you haven’t tried vegan parm, get some in your life. I adapted this version in this recipe from Veggieful. Go there for a video demo of how to make the stuff.
One last note, nutritional yeast is a wonder food if you haven’t already heard. It’s high in folic acid, contains 9 grams of protein per 2 Tablespoons – that’s more than an egg! – , contains 3 grams of fiber per serving, and boasts an entire day’s worth of Vitamin B-12 (crucial for red blood cell production) in just 1 Tablespoon. I mean, c’mon. And it tastes like cheese? I mean…
So even if you aren’t vegan or dairy free, you should consider incorporating even a little bit of nutritional yeast into your daily diet.
Once you have your parm ready, move onto your veggies. I opted for yellow and zucchini squash as a base and asparagus for accent because it’s just so beautiful (and cheap!) this time of year. Oh asparagus, I could paint you you’re so pretty.
The other veggie in the mix is onion, which I sauteed to make a nice savory “crust” or base for the asparagus and zucchini to nestle on. This replaces the need for breadcrumbs, puff pastry or pie crust which some veggie tarts require, keeping things light, natural and veggie-focused just the way my body likes it.
Once the onions are sauteed, simply toss your veggies in a bit of olive oil and arrange them in a pretty pattern on top. It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Just put them in a pattern that makes you happy.
Then, the fun part. Top that baby with loads of vegan parm. I mean LOADS. Do your thang girl.
Then bake bake bake until golden brown and toasty. You guys are gonna love this dish. It’s:
Packed with veggies
Entirely guilt free
Lovely for spring and summer
In my opinion, it’s just what we need to get us past the last of these icky winter days and into warmer weather. Cheers!
- For the Gratin:
- 2 medium zucchini squash, sliced in thin rounds (I used 1 zucchini, 1 yellow)
- 1 small bundle asparagus
- 1/2 yellow or white onion, cut into thin rings
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 3/4-1 cup vegan Parmesan cheese
- 2.5 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- For the Vegan Parmesan Cheese:
- 3/4 cup raw cashews
- 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- Prepare vegan parmesan cheese by whirling all ingredients together in a food processor or blender until a fine meal or powder is formed. Don’t over-process or it will begin to get clumpy. Set aside. Will keep covered in the fridge for about a month.
- In a 10-inch cast iron or oven safe skillet, sauté onion in .5 Tbsp olive oil over medium-low heat until soft – about 10 minutes – seasoning with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Slice squash into very thin slices, about 1/8th-inch thick (see photo). Use mandolin if you have one, or just a sharp knife.
- Cup off the top 2-3 inches of the asparagus. That’s the only part you’ll be using. Save the rest for another dish. Carefully split the top portion in half so it nestles into the gratin better (optional).
- Add asparagus and squash to a mixing bowl and top with remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil, 3/4 tsp salt, pinch of black pepper, 1/4 tsp garlic powder (optional), and 2 Tbsp of the vegan parmesan cheese. Toss to coat.
- Spread the slightly cooled onions around in the bottom of the skillet to create an even base. Top with squash, layering green and yellow as you go (if you did two colors). It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just start on the outside and work your way in, keeping them in line as much as possible. Once the squash is arranged, tuck pieces of the asparagus into the layers in a circular motion (see photo).
- Top with an even layer of the vegan parmesan cheese (~3/4 cup) and bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes. Then broil on high for the last 1-2 minutes to toast up the top (optional, but recommended). Watch closely as it can burn quickly. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.
- This makes an excellent side dish, brunch item, or light lunch or dinner when accompanied with a protein, such as hummus or chickpea salad, or scrambled or fried eggs if not vegan. Reheats well in the microwave or oven.