Sunday, March 04, 2007

grandma's test kitchen

Each week when we cross the bay and visit grandma, I try to get something done that is food related. Whether it's hitting the store, or driving out to west marin for a visit to one great food vendor or another, we usually come home bearing some kind of sustenance (even if we cross the bridge back home empty-handed and have to get a burrito on the way). This past week, I brought some whole wheat dough and the ingredients for a winter version of great-grandma's rice torte and spent the day experimenting in my mom's kitchen.

I've been wanting some rice torte lately. It is a family recipe from italy that incorporates rice, milk, veggies, cheese and eggs, and it is certainly one of those things where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Its flavor is imbued in my genes from eating it so much. Each time I take that first hot bite, it is like hugging the memory of my ancestors, but somehow doing it with my mouth. But in my quest to eat more seasonally I've been unable to make it, for there are no local zucchini at the moment. So I rummaged around the farmer's market veggies we had, picked some of the spinach from my planter box outside my bathroom window, made a few adjustments to the recipe in my head, and dragged it all to my ma's and began.

I cooked my rice with butter and milk while beginning to saute my veggie items. When the cooked items were done and ready for combining, I lightly beat a few eggs, grated some cheese, then combined the whole mess together and threw it into a caserole dish to bake. I topped it off with a sprinkling of more cheese and baked it for almost an hour. Even though it had many different ingredients than usual, it smelled familiar. I mentioned to my ma about the dry jack in particular and she told me that my great-grandmother sometimes used it in place of parmesan in her torte.

Whoa! I had unknowingly re-created a tweak on nana's torte recipe by using a different cheese. No wonder it smelled so familiar. Can you say: "deep-seated aroma memory being recalled........*deep nasal inhale*......ahhhhh."

The finished product looked like the real deal. I couldn't wait to cut into it, but it really needs to cool some and de-gas a bit. I put my flat whole wheat baguettes in the oven and prayed that they would poof up some. I had brought a "new" whole wheat sourdough with me, but it really needed to be fed more before having the strength to lift all that whole-grain goodness. The baguettes tasted nice in the end, even if they could be yielded as weaponry as soon as they cooled. The torte though, was worthy of note and needed to be recorded so that I may re-create it some other winter or spring while awaiting the arrival of garden fresh zucchini.


1 head of broccoli
1 large yellow onion
6 small stalks celery
3-4 ounces trumpet mushrooms
1 bunch Italian parsley
6 ounces baby spinach

1 c arborio rice
4 c milk
1/2 stick butter

4 eggs
1 c grated dry jack

cook rice in milk and butter with salt and pepper to taste, until tender but not completely done (about 20 minutes). while cooking rice, saute onions, mushrooms and celery in olive oil. when onions are translucent add chopped broccoli and most of chopped parsley. saute until most of moisture is gone and the veggies are soft. toss in spinach and remainder of parsley and continue to saute until popeye begins to wilt. remove from heat and set aside. do the same with the rice. crack them eggs and mix with the grated cheese. combine the rice, veggie saute, and egg/cheese mixture and mix thoroughly. pour into a 12 inch oval caserole dish or 9x9 inch square and sprinkle with more grated cheese. bake at 375 for 45-60 minutes, depending on the initial wetness of the cheesey rice n' veggie glop and the degree of brown you like on the top.

As usual, this goes well with a nice dark, high-alcohol beer. In this case, I was wishing I had a Moretti La Rossa. For you TJ's folks out there, it's that Italian 6-pack in the red carton with the guy who looks like he's gonna blow the head off his beer. I think it's $5.99 (a great deal considering it says "doppio malto" and carries a 7.2% rating). The green lager Moretti makes is fine and all, but the dark red is MMMM! If you've never had two or three of them, go get yourself some and give it a try, when they open at 9 am.....


Callipygia said...

This is like a savory rice pudding, sounds great and I do love dry Jack- oh yeah and vegetables too. That is neat that you get to hang out weekly with your mom too, double neat for the monkey.

Freya and Paul said...

Nice post! I love the idea of this, as Calli says, a savoury rice pudding! Very comforting!

D-man said...

Calli: Savory rice pudding indeed. When zucchini is around, and I mean as SOON as it is, I'll be making the real thing and posting it......oh yeah, I'm drooling already.

It is very nice seeing Grandma and Papa each week. The monkey is very close to them, and I get the best of both worlds by being close AND getting a break each week. (They're out right now, for probably a few hours....Bliss is mine) It is one of the key reasons for my current hold on sanity in this whole stay at home gig.

f&p: Savoury rice pudding indeed. This is based on one of my top three dishes having ever consumed, so yes, you could say it definately has a high comfort factor.

Really, I think of it as a savory cheese coated veggie and quiche rice pudding, that is best served hot to really warm, cool out of the fridge, reheated, room temp, damp leftover in foil packet........any ol' way. This was one of the winners in the playground food trading days of youth, that was bartered for many cookies and sweets (chocolate). Yeah, something just like that.

Mmmmm! Yeah!

cookiecrumb said...

D-Man: Cranky and I are sitting around plotting our version of this for tomorrow after the farmers market.
Oops! Spring just happened.

D-man said...

Cookie: Sweet! Let me know how it comes out. There are many variables cooking this one (or something like it) so on the off chance its not your thing the first time around (too wet or dry) just think about adjusting it and go from there.

btw: spent the majority of saturday out at Hearts Desire Beach feasting on local grub and even collected some water for a little 'speriment in dissolved solids......seems I heard about someone making their own salt last year, thought I'd give it a try.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

This dish seems stand alone good and beautiful on it's own, it's got both broccoli and spinach! But when you add "hugging the memory of my ancestors" it must be perfect!

cranky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cookiecrumb said...

Salt!! Oooh.
I'm going to Sonoma soon, maybe tomorrow. Heard they got some good salt seeds there.
(We got asparagus and green garlic for the rice dish. Oh, and maitake mushrooms. Your granma would be proud.)

D-man said...

mykitchen: is that you Tanna? Thanks for the support and just gotta 'member them ancestors, huh?

Cookie: Sounds fab, and having recently played with some maitake I'll give it an enthusiastic thumbs up. The asparagus/garlic combo sounds strong enough to handle them woody chickens, should be hella-yummy. Grandma would be proud, as am I.

kudzu said...

Reading your blog this morning via Sam's direction...I am deeelighted to hear of your Italian cooking on trips to Marin (where I live). Makes me feel right neighborly, and -- since I just had coffee -- hungry. The torte is familiar from days with my Italian inlaws. And I have always eaten rice-and0eggs for breakfast, a Southern tradition. Cheers!

D-man said...

Hello kudzu: Nice of you to drop by......that Sam! I travel to Marin weekly and would gladly get together sometime if that's what your hinting at....I've offerred Cookiecrumb before, maybe we could all say hi sometime? In fact, this Thurday I think I'll be either hitting the Marin Sun butcher shop or the Civic Center Farmer's Market......

tammy said...

Hi D-Man. I found you by way of CookieCrumb. This rice torte sounds fantastic. What part of Italy is your family from? I'm documenting some old Italian family recipes on my blog, as well (mostly from the Marches, but some from Naples). It feels good to get back to your roots, doesn't it?

D-man said...

Hey Tammy, G-Gma was from Genoa if that helps.....let me know where to find your blog, it sounds very interesting!


sathya said...

Nice post!
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