My cousin Debbie is a great cook, but being hampered by a tiny kitchen, she doesn't cook that often. So, I was intrigued when she called me last year, asking if I had Deborah Madison's recipe for Cheese and Nut Loaf. There was a note of desperation in her voice, which is unusual. She had just returned from the Tassajara Zen Mountain Retreat and one of the meals featured the loaf, (actually a terrine). As I listened to her rave about how delicious it was, and how she HAD TO HAVE IT AGAIN, I started to crave it myself. I knew it must be a fabulous dish, if she was going cook it in her postage stamp sized kitchen. So, I promised myself that I would prepare the loaf someday. But I never did, until now. Yesterday I made it, even though it meant I had to turn on the oven and bake something, which breaks my summertime rule to never cook anything for longer than 20 minutes. Sometimes you have to turn on the oven.
And it was worth it, even though I had to crank up the air conditioner to combat the heat from the oven. I'll bake this marvelous loaf again and again. I'm hooked too. It's delicious, and why not? It's rich with cheese, nuts, and eggs. It calls for several different herbs, but the one that stood out for me was the sage, so that is my featured herb for this Weekend Herb Blogging which was created by the lovely Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen. WHB is being hosted this week by the talented Chocolate Lady at In Mol Araan. Stop by her site later this weekend or on Monday and see all the herby recipes from bloggers around the world.
Reading other accounts of the hold this recipe exerts on people, some mentioned that it was time consuming because of the chopping. I was rushed the day I made it, so I did most of the prep in my food processor, and it was pretty quick. I served it with an herb bechamel sauce, made with 1% milk. The next time I make this recipe, I'll double it and make several loaves. It's one of those recipes where the leftovers improve in taste. It slices beautifully and on the second day after I baked it, I made sandwiches with it. I'm addicted to this loaf, and will be busy making them quite a bit. I would even give them as gifts. They are that good. By the way, real meatloaf makes my acid reflux go crazy, but I had no problems with it after I ate this dish. So, if you have the same problem, try this recipe.
Cheese and Nut Loaf (Sage)
(Deborah Madison, The Green's Cookbook)
1-1/2 cups walnuts
1/2 cup cashews
1-1/2 cups cooked brown rice
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped fine
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, then drained and chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 Tablespoon fresh marjoram, or 1 teaspoon dried (I was out of this and it tasted great without it)
1 teaspoon fresh chopped sage, or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
2 large cloves of garlic, minced very fine
4 large eggs, beaten
9-12 ounces of grated cheese -- Use odds and ends of different cheese that go together. I used cheddar and jack cheese, but swiss or fontina are good too
1 cup (8 oz) cottage cheese
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375° F. Butter a loaf pan and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, then butter it again.
Toast walnuts and cashews on a baking sheet (or you could use a hot, dry skillet set on medium and stir constantly) until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Let cool. Chop fine with knife, (I used the food processor).
Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add mushrooms and cook until they're browned and any liquid from the mushrooms has reduced by half. Stir in the cooked rice, the nuts, chopped herbs, eggs, cheese, cottage cheese, minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Smooth it down until it's level. Bake until golden brown and firm to the touch, about 1 hour. It should be firm when you shake the pan. Let cool in pan 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the loaf and invert onto a serving plate. Serve with Herb Bechamel sauce or a mushroom sauce.
Herb Bechamel Sauce
2-1/2 cups milk (I used 1%)
1 Tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 bay leaf
pinch ground pepper
4 branches fresh thyme or a pinch of dried thyme
2 Tablespoons finely chopped parsely
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
Combine the milk, onion and herbs in a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to lowest point and cook for about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it set until you need it. Then strain it--or not, if you prefer. There should be about 2 cups.
Melt the butter and stir in the flour and cook over medium low heat about 1 minute. Whisk in the warm milk all at once and stir in cream, if you're using it. Season with salt and cook over lowest heat for about 20 minutes, stirring often.