Thursday, June 28, 2007

summer rice torte; grandma's test kitchen round 2

The monkey and I were on our way to Grandma's. I wanted to work on a summer version of rice torte. I wanted to make one sourcing nearly everything from the Berkeley Farmers' Market. I'd pull the store bought butter from the freezer for my one market exception, but the trick would be using brown rice instead of white and still getting that creamy rice pudding quality the dish is known for. A challenge was at hand, but I felt confident that a day in the test kitchen would yield some tasty results.

I used some familiar ingredients and proportions to hang my summer flavors on. For the rice component, I measured out 1 cup of medium grain brown rice, pouring 1/4 cup at a time into a spice grinder and giving it a pulse for a second or two. Mildly ground and cracked, I heated 2 cups of water with 1/2 stick of butter to a boil, adding the rice and simmering for about 30 minutes. The pot on the top right is this now, rice porridge. The cheese is tangy and hard, nice for grating. The squash is a sort of zucchini and some sunburst. That would be fistfulls of garden herbs. One large yellow onion and half dozen crimini later, generously splashed with olive oil and we're ready for a sauté. Put it all together with the eggs, bake it in a pan, and a bit of magic occurs. But more on that after the frying.

This dish makes the kitchen glow with aroma. Toss the onion, mushroom and squash together, cooking over a medium low heat. Add a few piches of salt early on. After ten to fifteen minutes, while the onions are translucent but not yet brown and the squash is getting tender, add the fresh herbs and some more salt. Cook it for another 5 or 10 and adjust the herbs to your liking. While seasoning, you will probably want to eat most of this before using it in the torte. Please refrain, as it will ruin the proportions later on. Trust me.

With the rice cooked, veggies soft, eggs mildly beat and cheese grated, combine everything in a large bowl, being careful to not scramble the eggs while mixing the hot ingredients together. Pour the entire thing into a 9x9 square plus some other fun round-thingy, or put the entire thing into a 9x13. Top it with even more cheese before putting into a very hot oven.

While the torte is in the oven, I like to treat myself to a little something. A little bresaola on sourdough, with a few green leaves and slices of cheese perhaps. It goes down real easy. Maybe even with a dry red wine. With a red beer, I'm sure.

I start the oven out hot, like 425 or even 450. Then after it starts getting poofy and a touch golden, I turn it down to about 375 and finish it. It usually takes about 45 to 55 minutes, with the amount of brown determined by personal preference. With this being a summer torte, I wanted to enhance the golden hues so I kept it on the lighter side. It tasted pretty golden too.

Did I mention this makes a great breakfast? With all the veggies and rice it's downright healthy too. Just don't eat it all in one sitting and have a little patience. It keeps and travels well (don't freeze it though) and will have your friends saying "what was that one dish you made that time, the tasty one with the.......what was that?"
To which you respond "Rice torte."
And they say: "Yeah! That one! MAN I love that torte stuff. Wait, did you say rice? I thought it had cheese or something?"
"Yes, and vegetables."
"Yeah, something green, I liked that, whatever it is."
"Squash. And it has eggs too."

Start making this with any consistency, varying the ingredients as the seasons pass, and you will have a conversation along these lines. It's one of those dishes that certain ingredients do well to hide in. Perfect for getting in different foods you don't always like, but couldn't necessarily identify if pressed. So let me take a little inventory. Summer torte: it's yummy, local, ovo-lacto vegetarian, stores well, and allows parents to hide the greens.

I love summer.

(I've included where I purchased the ingredients with a link if available, if not, then the BFM Vendor Directory link has been provided)

1 cup brown rice (Massa)
2 cups water (EBMUD)
1/2 stick butter (Straus)

2 pounds summer squash (Riverdog)
1 onion (Full Belly)
6-8 medium brown mushrooms (Solano Mushrooms)
1/4 cup olive oil (Stonehouse)
1 T salt (Aged Bay Salt - my own)
1 bunch parsley (from my backyard)
1 t rosemary (frontyard)
1 t thyme (backyard)
2 t oregano (sideyard)

6 eggs (Kaki)
1/3 pound hard cheese (Spring Hill)

Measure out 1/4 cup of brown rice into a spice grinder and give it a whirl. Do this with with the rest of the rice. Heat 2 cups of water and 1/2 a stick of butter to a boil. Add the rice and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes or more, stirring every so often to check for consistency and lack of burning. While this is cooking, chop the vegetables and mince the herbs. Start sauteeing the onions, mushrooms and squash. When squash is softening and the onions are translucent but not brown (maybe a bit golden) add the fresh herbs and cook for another ten minutes. All of the vegetables should be soft. Crack the eggs and lightly beat with about 2/3rds of the cheese (finely grated). Combine the cooked veggie mix, cooked rice mix and raw eggs and cheese. Pour into a large caserole dish, cover liberally with more cheese and bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes, then 375 until finished. No more than an hour later and you have a golden summer torte!

I have made something like this dish, and other versions of it several times. I have even had it using leftover brown rice and veggies from another dish, married them with cheese and eggs and voila! Yet another torte! There are endless combinations and you'd be surprised how forgiving all that eggs and cheese can be.


K & S said...

ooh this sounds really good and all the fresh ingredients too :) good job!

Mallika said...

Looks lovely... how do you get tat golden crust? The rice?

Hope your baby monkey is well...

Callipygia said...

Did you find the brown rice version less creamy w/ using water? Also I followed your recipe awhile back using milk I think, and while it tasted great it didn't have a creamy texture. I imagined it to be like rice pudding/risotto. Should it be wet and creamy. Do you just add more cheese or cook it less? I like the idea of whirling up the grain first. (could use cream of rice-kidding sort of)

cookiecrumb said...

OMG, you made Italian jook!
I want that again.
I also want savory bread pudding again; same difference.

Stacie said...

uh oh... i think you are again inspiring a copy cat casserole!!

Monkey Wrangler said...

K&S: The general consensus around the ranch said it was good too, thanks. I just had to share with folks who are trying to eat more local, but maybe don't have as many recipes as they'd like, or can use something like it and improvise.

Mallika: The golden crust comes from the eggs and cheese in it. Plus not burning it. But, this dish does have the advantage that when you do overdo it a bit, it is primarily a surface thing, resulting in a crispy layer that slips right off leaving the rest just fine.

Calli: The brown rice was less creamy, but not by much, which was the biggest surprise in the experiment. I explain that by it being really great rice that was ground some. Next I'll try it with milk (maybe grind it a touch more as well) to get that consistency somewhere between risotto and chunky quiche, like the original.

Cookie: Yeah, do it! And thanks for the reminder about savoury bread puddings. (Holy crap! Was that really nearly a year ago!?!?!) I'll have to give another one a try.

And who you callin' jook?

Stacie: Sweet! For the local thingy, it's a ring dingy. Let me know how it turns out......something from that tasy garden of yours?