Can you see the golden brown melted cheese? Oh my, my!

What’s not to like in baked vegetables? It’s baked, there are loads of veggies and then there’s cheese too. At the risk of sounding like a schoolteacher, no you don’t have to wrinkle your nose at veggies! *big grin* Also, when you combine the veggies in a silky, smooth, creamy sauce and top it off with cheese you might just go ‘wow’ from ‘yuck’. I’m serious and I say this not from my own experience, I love veggies so it doesn’t apply to me, but I’ve served baked veggies to dozens of people by now and there are almost always no leftovers. Even if there are, someone’s always more than willing to doggie-bag it and heat it for lunch the next day.
One of the reasons I make this dish often is because it’s always a crowd-pleaser. The other is that you don’t need much around it, just some fresh bread (garlic bread, if you like), a salad and maybe a soup or a pasta and you’re set for a meal. And the other reason why I’m partial to this dish is because you can do all the preps in advance = make the sauce the night before, chop the veggies before you leave for work, come back home and all you have to do it put all this together, grate the cheese and pop it in the oven. While you have a relaxing shower that prepares you for the rest of the evening. Just perfect.
This time I decided to change things up a little bit and that’s not because I was bored. It was, err… well, because I had a smattering of pesto leftover in the fridge. *looks embarrassed* So instead of doing the usual white/cream sauce I added a little bit of pesto and believe me, this made such a HUGE difference to the taste. The dish went from being mild and subtle to robust and zingy. Absolutely delightful! Try it once and you’ll know what I mean. Also, did I mention that the aroma of this baking in the oven is just deadly? Now don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Baked vegetables in a pesto cream sauce
For the sauce
2 ½ tbsp of whole wheat flour
1 tbsp of Amul Nutrilite (you can use margarine or butter instead too)
1 tsp of olive oil
1-1 ½ cups of skim milk
2 tbsp of Pesto
Salt to taste
Heat the olive oil and butter in a pan until the butter melts. Lower the flame and slowly add the whole wheat flour to this, stir continuously until the flour begins to change colour and emit a nutty aroma. Now add the milk to this very gradually, stirring all the while, until it forms a smooth sauce. You may need to adjust the quantity of milk depending on how thick you’d like the sauce to be. Add the pesto to this and then adjust the seasoning. Let the sauce simmer for a while and then thicken. Remove from the flame when done. 
Silky smooth and a touch of green
To proceed with the dish
1 yellow zucchini, cubed
1 small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
½ cup of sweet corn kernels
1 cup of baby corn, peeled and chopped
1 small carrot, peeled, blanched and cut into small pieces
1 cup of button mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
Mozarella cheese, to grate on top of the dish
Place all the vegetables in a baking dish, sprinkle some salt on this and mix well. Now slowly pour the sauce over this. 
Give it a stir and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes until the veggies have time to absorb some of the sauce. 
Now grate cheese over this, I used mozzarella. 
And then pop it into the oven for about 15-20 minutes at 160 degrees Celsius. 
You will know its done when there’s a nice, golden brown crust on top. Remove it from the oven and serve warm with some bread.
  • If you don’t have pesto, then you can flavour the sauce with your favourite herbs, fresh is always the best option. Or you can pound some basil leaves and a clove of garlic with some salt and add this to the cream sauce.
  • You can play around with the veggies, I’ve just used whatever  was in the fridge. But I’ve also made the same dish with veggies like carrot, beans, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. It is a wonderful way to get stubborn veggie eaters to dig into what they call ‘ghas-phus’!
  • If you are wary of using too much cheese, then you can reduce the amount and top the dish off with some breadcrumbs. They also give the dish a nice golden finish and a lovely crispy texture too.
Psssst! I’ve attempted doing step-by-step pictures here (only attempted, okay?) because I wanted a record, for myself, about the making of this dish. 
I’m sending this to Guest Quest at Amina’s Creations, I Love Baking #4 at Tickling Palates by Radhika and since there are a lot of iron-rich veggies in this, it’s also going to Show me your hits: Iron rich food at Julie’s space, an event started by Sangee of Spicy Treats 

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