Cooking in Clay

Casseroles are a winter food, I have decided.  I never bake casseroles in the spring, summer or fall.  I don’t know why exactly, though I can honestly say that winter veggis taste great baked and it doesn’t hurt to heat the house with an oven on a cold night.

The following is a recipe my friend Noreen Morley sent me (along with a cup of her veg stock) so I could try another fabulous winter casserole in one of my casseroles.  My casseroles can go into a hot oven, as long as they are room temp when they go in.    Once out and empty, these babies are a breeze to clean!  Either hand wash or dishwash, my pots clean up easy.

By the way, Noreen is a wine maker, honey bee keeper, honey collector, shiitaki mushroom grower and mead maker… along with other fabulous things!  Check out her Big Girl Winery, made from fruits grown on her property or pretty darn close!  Visit her winery or find our where you can get some of her fab wines!

Winter Vegetable Cobbler

1 turnip. peeled and cut in bite-sized pieces

1 potato (russet or baking) peeled and diced

2 small parsnips, peeled and sliced

1 small onion, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup parsley

1 cup vegi broth

2 Tb cornstarch

1 tsp salt

pepper to taste

4 Tb butter


1 1/4 cup flour

1 Tb baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

6 Tb butter, chilled and in small pieces

3/4 cup cream

Put the vegis in a large, 8-cup baking dish (preferable clay pot 2 inches deep).  In a small bowl, blend the broth with the cornstarch and pour this over the veggis.  Add salt and pepper to taste and mix well.  Dot the top with butter.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and begin making the cobbler dough:  mix flour, baking powder and salt in a food processor.  Drop chilled butter in and mix, with short bursts, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Slowly add cream to mixture and blend until it just begins to ball up.  Empty dough onto floured board, flatten out and place onto top of baking dish to cover veggis.  Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until lightly browned and veggis are tender.

Clay casserole

Tasty goodness in a clay casserole


Winter vegetable cobbler, on a plate

Plated on a Kevin Snipes bowly plate. Tastes better when served on a friend!

Handmade Pottery Produces Great Lasagna!

I have felt really guilty about my bakers and casseroles lately. Why, you ask? Well, I love to cook and eat out of handmade pottery. Did you read that? I love to cook. And I love to eat out of handmade pottery. But do I COOK in handmade pottery?! Actually, most often I do not. This is because most all of my vegetarian/pescartarian meals are cooked directly on the stovetop – like stir fries, beans in my pressure cooker, etc. I just don’t make casseroles and hardly bake anything but bread – and that bread is in free-form or in my aluminum bread pan (insert guilty smile.)

Honestly – I am afraid of making any baked good like brownies, cornbread and the like, in a pan that doesn’t exactly fit the recipe’s recommendations. You’ve read them – a 8×8 or 11×7 pan, large loaf pan 4×9, etc. Being that I am not into measuring every little item I make on the wheel, I make no ‘8×8’ pan, and therefore no brownie pan.

So tonight I took the plunge. I brought home one of my bakers and decided to make lasagna. Now, this is no ordinary lasagna. My friend Noreen owns Big Girl Winery and Farm just outside the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. She is also a lover of handmade pottery. So when she brought over 2 pounds of fresh shiitake mushrooms to add to her barter lot*, I couldn’t resist the idea of finally doing some savory baking in my baker – shiitake-spinach lasagna.

Shiitake-spinach lasagna

Leftovers - Shiitake-spinach lasagna in a Pincu Pot baker. Notice the puffy handle (see my last post if you don't get it)

On my way home from Pincu Pottery after a long day and really fun time with my 5 young students, I stopped at Ingles, my local grocery, to purchase the required ingredients.   Here is the quick and easy recipe for working folk (If I weren’t working I may have made my own noodles, sauce, etc.):

Shiitake-Spinach Lasagna

1/2 package no-cook lasagna noodles

1 can organic pasta sauce

about 20 fresh shiitakes, sliced

4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped

1 15 oz. ricotta

1/2 small bag of shredded mozzerella

Parmesan cheese

1/2 small bag frozen spinach

1 egg (organically grown by Sleepy Hollow Farm, a Bryson City organic farm just outside the Great Smoky Mountains!)



ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Mix the ricotta, mozzarella (minus about a handful), egg, spinach together. Add some black pepper to taste and a pinch of ground nutmeg. Saute the shiitake mushrooms in olive oil until slightly soft (5 min.) and at the end, throw in the garlic to soften. Mix this in with cheese mixture.
Place a little sauce to cover the bottom of the baker.  Then add one layer of noodles. Add a layer of cheese mixture and sprinkle with a little oregano. Add another layer of noodles. Then add some more cheese mix and then more sauce. One more layer of noodles, then sauce then extra mozzarella and Parmesan cheese on top.
Cover with tin foil and bake at 375 for 55 minutes. Take off the tin foil and turn on broiler for 5 minutes or until cheese on top gets crusty.

Pincu Pottery Lasagna with Shiitake and Spinach

YUM! We each had seconds! (the photo was taken with poor lighting and with a video camera, so please excuse....)

So now it’s your turn – I need more recipes to use in my bakers/casseroles! Please post your favorite no-meat casserole recipe in the comments! Thanks in advance!

* I will barter for pottery. It needs to be win-win, like me getting fresh shiitake mushrooms, honey and wine from Big Girl Winery. Just ask – I may be interested!