Just when you thought it was safe

…to leave off admiring the goldfinch swinging on a black-eyed Susan seed head the size of an olive pit and go back in the kitchen, another heap of summer squashes appears.  And you’re ready with another unexpectedly wonderful recipe (something more than the chile to which you added chunks of zucchini before simmering).

This Mexican Chicken Casserole with Charred Tomato Salsa is from the January/February 2011 issue of Cooking Light magazine. You’ll use lots of dishes during the preparation, and it takes a bit of time. The recipe says 25 minutes of prep time, but I took longer. However, it was a Saturday morning when I had time, and it makes 8 servings — that’s 4 meals for us two, me and the Farmer in the Dell.

The taste is full and light at the same time. I like dishes with zip in hot weather, and this one has just enough with the jalapeno, chili powder and feta cheese. Also, it has only 331 calories and 12.3 g of fat (6.1 saturated) per serving. It tastes like much more.

Mexican chicken casserole with charred tomato salsa

For the salsa: 8 plum tomatoes, halved and seeded

3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 small onion, peeled and chopped

1 seeded jalapeno papper, quartered

Cooking spray

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I used parlsey — to me, cilantro tastes as gym socks smell)

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (must be fresh)

Freshly ground pepper to taste

For the casserole:

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup fresh, frozen or canned and rinsed corn kernels

1 cup diced zucchini

1 cup chopped red bell pepper

3 cups shredded cooked chicken

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 10-ounce can green chile enchilada sauce (I used green salsa because it was all I could find)

1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles

12 6-inch corn tortillas

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterety Jack cheese

1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Heat broiler. Combine plum tomatoes, garlic cloves, small onion and jalapeno  on baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Broil until charred, stirring frequently. Remove from oven; cool slightly. Place mixture in food processor; add cilantro, lime juice and pepper. Process until smooth.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare casserole, heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion, corn, zucchini and bell pepper; saute 5 or 6 minutes or until tender. Add chicken, minced garlic, chili powder, cumin, enchilada sauce and green chiles; cook  until heated through. Remove from heat.

Spread 1/2 cup salsa over bottom of 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange six tortillas over salsa. Spoon 2 cups chicken mixture evenly over tortillas. Top with 3/4 cup salsa. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of each cheese. Add another layer each of tortillas, chicken mixture, salsa and cheeses. Bake at 350 or until bubbly. (Or you can refrigerate for up to a day and bake later. In which case, turn off that oven you just pre-heated!)

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