Back when I wrote about the ever-popular red lentil kibbe, I mentioned that I had a retro kind of craving for some kind of stodgy vegetarian loaf. In the comments, Wendy pointed me to what has become a fast favorite in our household, a Deborah Madison recipe for what we now call simply Loaf. We love it ardently and eat our way through one nearly every week.
Hot is just fine, but we prefer it cold, either alone or in a sandwich, topped with brown mustard. It is not pretty. I don't care. No doubt this is precisely the dish our future children will find unbelievably disgusting. Too bad for them. They can tell lurid stories about it on HyperNeuroGullet and get lots of sympathy; we will still know it is great.
I will not lie to you: Loaf is going to be a pain in the ass to make unless you're in the habit of preparing the constituent parts in quantities large enough to provide for multiple batches. There are nuts to toast and chop, mushrooms and onions to saute, rice to cook, cheese to grate (and I will also say that if ever there was a place for pre-grated cheese, this is it). But if you love it as we do, then you will know that you will be making it week after week, and so you will toast and chop several cups of nuts at once, saute mushrooms in bulk, and portion out big pots of rice into little tubs containing one and a half cups apiece.
It is also a fact that a single loaf is quite a lot of food. Two and a half slices is a hearty serving. I have made a few minor modifications to the recipe after finding out what little variations made for particularly successful iterations.
CHEESE AND NUT LOAF
2 T. unsalted butter, plus extra for the loaf pan
2 c. total of any proportions of walnuts and cashews
1 yellow onion, chopped fine
1/2 lb mushrooms, chopped fine
1 T. porcini powder (optional)
1 1/2 cups cooked brown or white rice
4 T. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 T. of some combination of basil, thyme, marjoram, and/or tarragon
2 large cloves of garlic, minced very fine
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
12 ounces of grated cheese -- almost anything will do. I love gruyere, but in these circumstances happily settle for things available pre-grated.
1 c. (8 oz) cottage cheese
1 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375° F and butter a 9 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter it again. Toast walnuts and cashews on a baking sheet until lightly browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Let cool. Finely chop with a sharp knife, or in the bowl of a food processor.
Melt butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about three minutes, until it's translucent. Add mushrooms and cook until they're browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in porcini powder, if using. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the cooked rice, the toasted nuts, the chopped herbs, eggs, cheese, cottage cheese, minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Pack it firmly. Bake until golden brown and firm to the touch, about 1 hour. Let cool in pan 20 minutes, then invert and remove from pan. If you plan to serve it hot, serve it. Otherwise, let it cool thoroughly, right side up, on a rack, then wrap in foil and move it to the refrigerator.