The Hand Off: Ratatorte with Cashew Garlic Sauce
by Brianna Bain
Beets are a personal favorite of mine. Although, I am aware that there are many in the world who feel just the opposite. For those who do not share my love for beets they can easily be substituted with eggplant or any other vegetable you favor for this recipe. Ratatouille and vegetable tortes don’t necessarily call for beets, but the wonderful thing about both of these dishes, is the freedom to adapt the recipe to your personal liking. For me the deep earthy flavor of beets can help bring out flavors in other ingredients when strategically put into the mix. In this recipe, I feel they bring out the sweetness of the tomato and onion for a flavorful and satisfying vegetable meal.
My inspiration fueled by the layering action in Sarah’s Kabobs, blended with the reality of a huge inventory of vegetables in my refrigerator; lead me to an image of a torte fashioned creation. Initially not impressed with the vegetable torte recipes alone, due to the lack of herbs and spices, I found a happy medium in combination with a ratatouille. I decided to “beef up” the call for herbs and create a savory purée of mushrooms and leeks to carry them, for what I am calling a “Ratatorte”.
Ratatorte With Cashew Garlic Sauce
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Yield: 6 to 8 as an entree (8 to 10 as a side)
- 1 egg
- 2 cups chopped mushrooms (I used Cremini and Portabella)
- 1 large leek
- 3 tablespoons white wine
- 2 tablespoons oil (safflower or olive)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tablespoon (combined) fresh marjoram basil, rosemary, and thyme
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup water
- 8 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 3 beets (medium)
- 4 to 6 zucchini (medium)
- 4 to 6 yellow squash (medium)
- 3 tomatoes, or 12-ounce can chopped (drained well)
- 2 sweet or mild onions
- Begin with preparing the layer purée, you may prepare this the night before or earlier in the same day and keep in the refrigerator. Coarsely chop mushrooms, leek, garlic and herbs. Add oil to pan and sauté garlic first to give it a head start. Add the mushroom, herbs, leeks and white wine; stir to coat with oil and wine. Add salt and pepper to taste, then let sit at medium-low heat for ~8 min. Stir as needed to be sure there is enough moisture and avoid burning or sticking.
- Set mushroom and leek mixture aside once leeks are translucent and aroma from mushrooms is strong. Let cool while you begin to prepare your vegetables for the body of the meal.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees, parboil beets with skins and 1 inch of their stem for 35-40 min. Once beets are soft enough to poke deeply with a fork, move to a cold water bath, peel and slice into 1/4 inch or thinner. If you have a slicing mandolin, it is recommended for even cutting throughout.
- Slice zucchini and yellow squash into 1/4 inch slices and place on a baking sheet, brush with oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 15 min at 350 degrees. This will allow for more pliability of the vegetables to form the round shape of pan and bring out some of the water before layering. May need to use two baking sheets to accommodate all squash.
- While Beets and squash are baking come back to your cooled, probably still warm mushroom leek mixture. Add mixture to a food processor or blender and blend. Beat 1 egg separately in a bowl and add to mushroom leeks mixture, blend again until smooth. This will be your layering purée between vegetables.
- Cut onion into disks and place in the bottom of an oiled 9 inch spring form pan or cake pan to start you first layer. Brush or spoon and spread on a thin layer of purée evenly across the onions, begin layering with remaining vegetables alternating with purée. My sequence: onions, zucchini, tomato, beets, yellow squash. If using canned tomatoes drain well and place in a strainer to allow excess water to drip out before adding.
- Brush top layer with oil and bake for 35- 40 min. at 400 degrees. If using a spring form pan, use a baking sheet underneath to catch drips of juice.
- While Ratatorte is baking prepare the cashew garlic sauce: Coarsely chop garlic and Thyme and sauté on med-low heat with oil. Add cashews and stir intermittently for 3-5 min. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Blend cashew mixture in food processor or blender adding water and additional oil until sauce is smooth. You may want to add more water, oil or optional lemon juice to achieve desired consistency.
- Remove Ratatorte from oven and let cool for 15-20 min. Remove form, cut and serve with a dollop of cashew garlic sauce and a sprinkle of freshly chopped herbs. Enjoy!
This recipe is not only versatile in creation, but also in use. It can be made as an main dish, side dish, served warm or cold and can be blended a day or two afterward for a vegetable tapenade for dipping or spreading on sandwiches. I will warn that this recipe can be a bit consuming, it takes timing and a willingness to chop. It is a great recipe to make if you have helpers, it can be broken down into smaller tasks. If you allow it, it could make for a lovely party in the kitchen.
There are many substitutions for this recipe, if you desire a more rich and creamy meal add your favorite cheese as a topping or right into the layers of the torte. You may want to choose a harder cheese for this recipe to avoid a melt down though. There are also many recipes for a cheese or milk based duxelles sauce to use as your layering purée. Feel free to omit the Cashew sauce and add a dollop of sour cream or come up with your own yummy creation.