Vegetable torta serves as a side or first course

Entertaining

Sunday Gourmet

October 31, 2004|By Betty Rosbottom

By stroke of good luck, my first attempt at making a vegetable torta turned out to be a winner. I sauteed diced portobellos and chopped shallots together until tender, then seasoned them with crushed rosemary, coarse salt and pepper. The mixture was spread in a buttered pie plate and topped with a batter of flour, grated Parmesan cheese, milk, eggs and baking powder. As the torta baked, the batter expanded and encased the portobellos. When done, the golden mushroom-speckled torta was only about 3/4 inch high, perfect for cutting into slim wedges.

This dish, I realized, could be presented in more than one way when entertaining. I served my baked vegetable creation as a side dish with grilled steaks one night, and my husband was reaching for a third slice when I finally took the plate away. Next I want to try the torta as a brunch entree accompanied by sauteed bacon or ham and some warm crusty peasant bread. Or for an interesting first course, slices of this warm mushroom pie could be garnished with a mound of mixed greens tossed in a vinaigrette dressing.

Portobello Mushroom Torte

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the pan

6 ounces portobello mushrooms (see note)

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup chopped shallots (3 large)

1 1/2 teaspoons crushed dried rosemary

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup whole milk

1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 to 3 fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish, optional

2 teaspoons chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish, optional

Butter a 9-inch pie plate. Clean mushrooms and pat dry. Cut off most of the tough stems. Then cut mushrooms into 1/2 -inch dice to yield about 3 1/2 cups.

Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add mushrooms and shallots and cook, stirring, 4 to 5 minutes until vegetables are softened and all liquids have evaporated. (Initially, the butter and oil will quickly become absorbed by the mushrooms but don't worry because the vegetables will start to release their juices after a few minutes.) Sprinkle vegetables with rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and stir a minute more. Spoon mixture into the buttered pie plate.

In a small bowl whisk together milk, egg and egg yolk. In a medium bowl combine flour, cheese and baking powder. Whisk milk and egg mixture into dry ingredients, mixing just until well blended. Then pour batter over the mushrooms.

Bake torta on center rack of preheated 375-degree oven until puffed and golden on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and, if desired, garnish with a bouquet of rosemary sprigs and chopped parsley.

Note: Many supermarkets sell packages of portobello mushrooms cut into 1/2 -inch-thick slices and already cleaned. This is a great time saver. If you can purchase the mushrooms prepared this way, simply cut the slices into 1/2 -inch dice.

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