Sweet Potato Spinach Quinoa Casserole – Vegan gluten free entree for Passover or anytime, topped with a rich coconut-saffron “gratin” sauce.
Developing a vegan entree for Passover is tough business. My vegan guests deserve an entree at the Seder table, but finding one that is flavorful enough for a holiday is a real challenge. Over the past couple of Passovers I’ve given myself the task of coming up with a vegan entree option that isn’t just an afterthought, but something truly comforting and filling. When you remove meat and dairy, then apply Passover restrictions to your list of options – there’s not a whole lot left to work with! Never one to shy away from a challenge, I put on my thinking cap and came up with something pretty amazing. Vegan or not, this casserole is really, really delicious!
This recipe was inspired by my Dairy Free Saffron Scalloped Potatoes, which are made with a delectable coconut milk and saffron-based sauce. It has the creaminess of a dairy dish with the exotic flavor of saffron, which elevates it to something truly special. To make the dish more filling, I sandwiched a layer of quinoa and spinach between the roasted sweet potato slices, topped it with sauce, then baked and broiled it gratin-style. The quinoa provides Passover-friendly protein and makes the dish more hearty overall. This recipe is something I’ve been developing in my head over a the course a few weeks, knowing that all of the ingredients are tasty and should work well together. Even so, I wasn’t sure it would work until I tested it– then retested it– then tested it again, because I couldn’t stop eating it! This Sweet Potato Spinach Quinoa Gratin is really unique, and it’s also a very pretty dish. It’s definitely worth a try as a vegan option for the Seder table, or for Meatless Monday, or just because. Enjoy!
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Sweet Potato Spinach Quinoa Gratin
- 2 whole large orange sweet potatoes (2 lbs. total) peeled and sliced into rounds 1/8 inch thick
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 3 cups spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 pinch saffron threads (make sure it’s good quality saffron - it’s much more expensive, but the cheap stuff has no flavor)
- 2 tablespoons hot water
- 2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated margarine
- 1 tablespoon potato starch
- 14 ounces full fat coconut milk (1 can)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic (or ¼ tsp garlic powder)
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adds heat – use less if spice sensitive)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread the sweet potato slices across two lightly greased baking sheets. Toss each sheet of slices with 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil to lightly coat the slices.
- Roast the sweet potatoes for 20 minutes in the oven, stirring the potatoes and turning each baking sheet around once during cooking, until slices are tender and starting to caramelize.
- While sweet potatoes are roasting, rinse the quinoa out well in a mesh colander until water runs clear. Combine rinsed quinoa and low sodium vegetable broth in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until broth is absorbed and quinoa is tender/fluffy. When the quinoa is finished cooking, quickly open the pot and add the roughly chopped spinach on top of the cooked quinoa. Recover the pot and let it rest for 5 minutes while the spinach wilts on top of the quinoa. Stir the spinach into the quinoa. Reserve.
- After sweet potatoes are removed from the oven, reduce heat to 350 degrees F. Reserve the sweet potato slices. Grind the saffron threads in a mortar and pestle to a powder. Add 2 tbsp of hot water to the ground saffron and let it soak for a few minutes.
- Lightly grease an 8x8 inch baking dish. Place half of the sweet potato slices in a thin layer on the bottom of the dish, with each slice overlapping the next.
- Spread the cooked quinoa/spinach mixture over the first sweet potato layer.
- Make a top layer with the remaining sweet potato slices.
- In a small saucepan, melt 2 tbsp non-hydrogenated margarine over medium heat. Whisk in 1 tbsp potato starch to form a thick paste.
- Slowly whisk in the coconut milk. Whisk in the salt, garlic, cayenne pepper, and the reserved saffron water. Heat the sauce over medium, whisking frequently, until it boils and thickens into a golden yellow sauce. Reduce heat to low and keep warm.
- Pour the sauce over the layer of sweet potatoes, using a ladle or large spoon to make sure the potatoes are evenly covered with sauce.Place dish in the oven and bake covered for 20 minutes until heated through. Remove the foil and turn on your broiler. Place your baking dish 6 inches below the broiler. Broil the casserole for a few minutes until the top is nicely, evenly browned. Note - if you use a glass baking dish, skip the broil and simply bake until it's lightly browned on top. Serve warm.