Topped with fresh tomatoes, Brown Rice and Summer Vegetable Casserole with Feta and Black Olives is perfect late summer comfort food!
Gardens everywhere are still producing summer vegetables while coaxing in fall varieties. Locally-grown bell peppers, zucchini and tomatoes along with fresh herbs are still available at area markets. Most of us are still not ready for anything heavy, so this light vegetable casserole is perfect to enjoy right now.
I have loved this recipe for many years. It’s inspired by one that first appeared in the classic Moosewood Cookbook published in 1977. The author, Mollie Katzen, reissued the cookbook in 1992 with lighter versions of all the dishes from the original that were heavy on eggs, cheese, dairy and other calorie-laden ingredients. The updated version of the recipe kept the cheese (which I also did), however, feel free to substitute light or fat-free versions.
Her version was called “Bulgarian Pepper Casserole” and it wasn’t exactly a big seller with my clients. Bell peppers, especially green bell peppers, can be a little difficult for some people to handle. Once I changed the name to be more descriptive and swapped zucchini for the green bell pepper, it became a hit.
My favorite way to cook brown rice is to get a large saucepan of water boiling, add some salt then the rice and simply boil it until it is tender—I don’t even measure. Drain thoroughly in a colander and the result will be beautiful, fluffy brown rice. When I cook brown rice at home, I always cook extra so that I can freeze it and have it available when needed.
Pitting Kalamata olives can be labor-intensive, but they are available pitted. When purchasing “pitted” Kalamata olives, I treat them as though they still have the pit. I never take for granted that the mechanical pitting process got all the pits—I look each one over.
This vegetable casserole is easily prepped ahead of time–up to a day before serving. Place the tomatoes and olives over the top just prior to baking.
A light soup or crisp green salad pairs perfectly with this tasty casserole.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for oiling the baking dish
- 1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 small yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced into half-moons
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
- 2/3 cup ricotta cheese (light is fine)
- 2/3 cup feta cheese (reduced fat or fat-free is fine)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 medium plum tomatoes, sliced
- 10 Kalamata olives, halved and pitted
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil an 8 or 9-inch by 5-inch baking dish. Set aside.
- Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped bell pepper and continue cooking 8-10 minutes or until bell pepper begins to soften. Add the zucchini and cook 2-3 minutes more or until zucchini begins to soften. Stir in garlic, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, oregano, dill and crushed red pepper if using. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, combine vegetables, brown rice, ricotta and feta cheeses, lemon juice and salt and black pepper to taste. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and smooth the top.
- Place tomato slices over the top then sprinkle with halved Kalamata olives.
- Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until hot throughout. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining chopped parsley.
Prep time does not include cooking the brown rice. I like to make a big batch at a time and freeze it so I always have it on hand.