- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 2, 2004

For one of my favorite desserts, I simply spread berries in a baking dish, add a cakelike batter and streusel topping, and bake. This is called a buckle, and it is often prepared with blueberries.

The French have a version they call “clafoutis,” which they often make with cherries. So I was surprised when I discovered savory vegetable clafoutis featured in a new French cookbook.

Soon after, in an Australian cooking magazine, I spotted a similar baked-vegetable torta made with roasted vegetables. Ideas began flowing. I was ready to branch out into savory inventions.

My first attempt turned out to be a winner. I sauteed diced portobello mushrooms 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.

Portobello mushroom torta

1 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the pan

6 ounces portobello mushrooms (see note)

1 tablespoons olive oil

cup chopped shallots (3 large)

1 teaspoons crushed dried rosemary

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

cup whole milk

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano

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 -inch dice to yield about 3 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, teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; 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-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.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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


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