Friday, May 11, 2012

Mediterranean Brown Rice & Vegetable Bake

I flagged this recipe some time ago as one to try, and if good, I would add it to this blog.  In the meantime, my sister and her husband decided to become vegetarians. No meat, fish, fowl or anything that has a mother. Only plant- based foods.  Wow, as an Italian American family where food has played a very central role throughout our lives, that's hardcore.

Given the health benefits vegan-ism brings, my husband and I are contemplating doing the same - well perhaps not so drastic, but at least eliminating meat and foul flesh from our diets. As a result, this recipe jumped to the top of the pile of new recipes to try.  The fact that it contains no meat and is suitable as an entree, in my mind, made it a pretty good vegetarian option.  A closer look, however, reveals it still contains some cheese and eggs -- no no's for true vegans. 

The recipe comes from an ad in Cooking Light magazine for Mahatma brand brown rice. I liked the fact that it is chock full of vegetables, including sun-dried tomatoes, and used ricotta cheese to keep it moist and tender.  To my delight, it is simply delicious, full of flavor and retains a rather substantial texture to consider as a substitute as an entree.

The ad shows it shaped as a loaf, suggesting it could be an alternative to a meat loaf. Actually, it can.  When cold, it firms up nicely so it can be sliced and made into a delicious meat-free sandwich. 

I would definitely make it again. To satisfy my sister's vegan issues, I don't see why the ricotta and eggs couldn't be replaced with either some pureed soft tofu mixed with a tablespoon or two of ground flaxseeds; or, possibly some pureed pumpkin or sweet potatoes. Either combination would provide the moisture and binding properties the cheese and eggs provide. As for my husband and I going vegan, I'll keep you posted. 

Mediterranean Brown Rice & Vegetable Bake
from Mahatma Brown Rice

2 c. cooked brown rice
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped or 1 cup chopped fennel bulb
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups finely chopped mushrooms
1/2 c. drained sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 c. chopped almonds
1/2 c. ricotta
2 eggs, lighted beaten
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil

Prepare brown rice according to package directions.

Heat a 10-12 inch skillet, add 2 T. olive oil. Add the onions, garlic and celery (or fennel) and saute for 6 minutes until vegetables are tender.

Add the mushrooms, tomatoes and pepper flakes and saute until mushrooms have released their moisture and much of the moisture has evaporated. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs and ricotta. 

Add to the egg mixture the cooled vegetables, the salt and pepper, Parmesan cheese, the parsley and basil and the nuts. Mix well to combine all ingredients.

Add the brown rice and mix together.  Lightly oil a loaf or casserole dish. 

Pour the mixture into the dish and spread evenly. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.  Remove foil, and bake another 10-20 minutes.

To serve, sprinkle with some parsley and Parmesan.

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