Thursday, September 27, 2012

Oat and Vegetable Torta

Oat and Vegetable Torta
Home Cooking

My long lost friend Mochi has been initiated into the world of healthy, organic eating. She's detoxing from sugar and green-juicing it. I am so proud of her. I try to eat as 'clean' as I can during the week but man, sugar is in bloody everything! Everything good, that is. I've cut it out of my mixers at home (now buying sugar-free soda water or lemonade to pour my vodka with) but I don't know if health benefits are identifiable when you're drinking alcohol. Anyway, at least she's inspired me to some extent and that's better than nothing.

Mochi recently posted a link on my Facebook wall for a recipe to make an oat and vegetable torta. We are similar in that a lot of boring/weird-sounding foods appeal to us. We like things with oats and nuts and desserts made from vegetables. Whenever I bake these days, I always question "does this only sound good to me, or will other people eat it too?" For many items, I'm sure they would only sound good to me and Mochi, so I bypass them and stick to the conventional.

I'm not sure how an oat and vegetable torta sounds to anyone besides us but I can imagine Marc pulling his face and asking "where's the meat?" or "why are oats and vegetables in the same dish?"

Maybe I should first explain what a torta is. There is some background information in the prelude of the original recipe. Tortas can mean almost anything in the culinary world, but here, refer to a pan-cooked frittata type dish set with eggs. Traditionally, rice is used in the body of the mixture but here, oats are used instead.

The original recipe specifies steel-cut oats but I just used regular traditional oats. My only other alteration was that I couldn't find tried porcini or portobello mushrooms so I sneakily used shiitake instead. They worked well enough but if you can find the other mushrooms, do use those instead.

Oat and Vegetable Torta
Serves 8

  • 1 cup dried portobello or porcini mushrooms (I used dried shiitake, shhh don't tell)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 and 1/2 cups quick good steel-cut oats (I used normal, traditional, non-instant oats)
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup coarsely shredded zucchini
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4-1/2 cup chopped fresh oregano
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • marinara sauce for serving (I used basil and tomato pasta sauce)

1. Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour in the boiling water. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes until the mushrooms are soft.
2. Place the oats in a bowl and add salt to taste. Position a seive over the top and drain the mushrooms into it so that the mushroom water is submerging the oats. Squeeze the mushrooms to get out any further liquid. If there isn't enough liquid to cover the oats, add some water. Leave the oatmeal to soak for 20 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
3. Rinse the mushrooms of any sand. Dry them and chop to medium-fine. Set aside.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the oats and any liquid remaining in the bowl. Stir constantly until all the liquid has evaporated from the pan and the oats are cooked to al dente (roughly 3 minutes). Remove from the heat.
5. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a heavy 10-11 inch nonstick skillet. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring constantly, until tender and translucent. Add the garlic, zucchini, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes and cook until the zucchini begins to soften.
6. Add the oat mixture and stir together until everything is combined. Remove from the heat.
7. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Add the oregano and 3/4 cup of the parmesan.
8. Stir in the oat and vegetable mixture and combine well.
9. Thoroughly clean and wipe the skillet. Return it to medium-high heat and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil is hot, pour in the egg and oat mixture, pressing down into the pan and levelling it out with a rubber spatula.
10. Cover the pan tightly and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the egg is set (an inserted knife into the centre of the torta should come out clean). Remove the lid and remove from the heat.
11. Let the pan sit for a few minutes then invert the torta onto a serving dish. While its still hot, sprinkle on the remaining parmesan.
12. Allow the torta to cool for 15 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving with a simple tomato-based sauce (warmed up first).

This was a very interesting recipe to follow. I like that the oats were steeped and cooked in mushroom liquid. Aside from all the preperation in chopping and grating the vegetables and cheese, it wasn't an entirely difficult recipe and the procedures weren't complex. I should NOT have turned the torta out onto a plate because that made it impossible to cut and serve. Turn it out onto something flat, please. Also, it helps to have a really non-stick pan (thanks, Stain for unknowingly let me use yours).

Like with anything egg-based (the zucchini and carrot slices for example), a little patience goes a long way. It's much easier to cut the torta once it's cooled a bit and given the chance to set.

I really enjoyed the texture of oats in this dish. It's a new application of oats that I haven't tried before but the slightly chewy texture works well as a base to the vegetables. The chunks of mushroom and sun-dried tomato provided most of the flavor. The torta does need a tomato-based sauce to go with it. It's bland on its own but with the tart-sweetness of tomato, the flavors come together.

I thought the torta tasted better reheated the following day, again with the marinara sauce but also with a drizzle of unsweetened Greek yoghurt (not shown in the above photo but you can use your imagination). I would imagine sour cream to have the same effect. It was delicious!

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