Sunday, January 1, 2012
Stuffed Cheese & Walnut Loaf
This is hands-down, my best vegetarian main dish. It blows everyone away when I put a crust on it, en croute. (The photos show the loaf without crust.) Non-vegetarians say they can't tell it's not meat, and the leftovers slice and freeze like a dream. The stuffing is a nice surprise in the middle, too. Serve it with sage gravy, and your guests will be glad they came to your house for dinner!
STUFFED CHEESE AND WALNUT LOAF
1-1/2 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups chopped walnuts (pecans, cashews, almonds, or mix is okay)
3 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup finely chopped fresh mushrooms
1 med. onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. rubbed or dried sage
1 tsp. dried marjoram
4 oz. cream cheese, cut in chunks
2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
8 oz. mild cheese, chopped (cheddar or jack)
1-1/2 cups fresh spinach, cut in 1/2” horizontal strips
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 unbaked pie crust, 10-inch circle, optional
Place nuts in a large pan, toast on medium-low heat. Add the butter and black pepper. When butter is melted, add mushrooms, onion, garlic, salt, and herbs, and cook for a few minutes until the water coming out of the mushrooms is cooked down. Turn off heat.
Add the cream cheese and cover. Let sit a few minutes to soften and melt in the pan, then stir. Remove from burner and add the rice, parsley, and cheese. Toss to coat well.
Preheat oven to 375 deg. F. Butter and flour a standard loaf pan (approx. 8-1/2” x 4-1/2”). Place 1/3 of the loaf mixture into bottom of pan. Lay the spinach on top, then sprinkle with cranberries. Pull spinach and berry stuffing away from the sides of the pan. Place more loaf mixture along the sides of the pan, to contain the stuffing by about 1/2 inch all the way around. Add remaining loaf mixture on top, and pat down gently.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden on top. Remove from oven, and cool in the pan for at least 1 hour. Turn out onto a platter or baking sheet if adding outer crust.
To encase in pastry:
Preheat oven to 400 deg. F. Drape a 10” unbaked pie crust over loaf, pinch corners, and cut off excess or fold across the ends. Be sure the seams are pinched shut. Garnish the top with shapes cut out of any excess crust. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crust is golden.
Remove from oven and let sit for about 30 minutes--the longer, the better for slicing.
Serves 8. Slice with a bread knife, and serve with sage gravy.