This deceptively easy dish is visually stunning. Based on a recipe from Celia Brooks Brown’s “New Vegetarian”, it is sure to impress even the most die-hard carnivores (i.e. even my husband!) with its unexpected layer of meaty mushrooms. An ideal dish for entertaining, it can be made up to a day in advance, refrigerated and brought to room temperature before cooking. —Mardi Michels
large Portobello mushroom caps, sliced into ½ inch slices
garlic cloves, minced
large Portobello mushrooms (plus the stems from the 3 caps), finely chopped into small cubes
1 1/2 cups
diced canned tomatoes
dark brown sugar
generous handfuls of fresh basil, torn or roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups
mozzarella cheese, cut into ½ inch cubes
fontina (or other hard, mature) cheese, cut into ¼ inch cubes
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher or sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
Prepare a 9-inch loaf tin by oiling and coating with about 3-4 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs.
Pre-heat oven to 425?.
Heat a stovetop grill pan on high heat. Toss the Portobello slices in about 3 tablespoons of the oil, season with salt and pepper and sear each side for a couple of minutes in the hot pan, until softened. Ideally, we want to mark the Portobello slices with black grill marks but this might not always happen depending on the size and shape of the mushroom slices and your grill pan. A regular fry pan can also be used. Place on paper towels to drain some of the moisture off and set aside.
Heat remaining oil in a saucepan; add garlic and sauté for about a minute. Add the chopped mushrooms and sauté a couple more minutes until both garlic and mushrooms are soft and fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes, the vinegar and sugar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir over medium heat until sauce is heated through. It will thicken slightly, that's ok - you don't want it too runny. Remove from heat and and stir in the basil.
Add the rice to boiling, well-salted water - “it should taste like the sea” according to my Chef at Culinary School! (no need to measure the water). Bring back to the boil then simmer, uncovered, until the rice is al dente - tender but still a little firm - about 8 -10 minutes. Drain.
Stir rice into the tomato, garlic and basil sauce and stir to incorporate and coat the rice. Season to taste and add the cheeses. Mix well.
Spread about half the rice mixture into the loaf pan, packing it well. Smooth the top. Layer the sliced, roasted Portobello mushrooms on top, layering them width ways across the pan and taking care to pack them tightly.
Top with the remaining rice mixture. Press the loaf firmly, smoothing the mixture on top and sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs. (At this point, you can refrigerate the torta and cook it later, bringing it to room temperature before cooking).
Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are golden and the torta is bubbling around the edges. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes to cool slightly. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and turn your torta out onto a platter (If this scares you, you can simply cut slices from the pan and serve it from there). Cut into slices and enjoy!