My Favorite Recent Dinner…Wheat Germ Vegetarian Torte
I’m having trouble deciding on a name for this post. I’m not feeling very witty. My cat Tommy, however, is not suffering from writer’s block. I just came back from the kitchen, coffee in hand, and found that Tommy had decided “ergbt55555555555555-” would be the perfect title. Fortunately he couldn’t find the “Publish” button.
Sorry Tommy – I’m just not feeling it. But thanks for your input.
The Cookbook: Best Recipes from the backs of Boxes, Bottles, Cans and Jars by Ceil Dyer, Galahad Books, 1993
This book, picked up like many of my treasures at a used bookstore somewhere long since forgotten, has always served as more of a novelty than a cookbook.
I guess that’s primarily because the main categories represented are “Meat” and “Dessert”. But I think, in retrospect, that I’ve been a little bit snobbish about this cookbook. The concept that drew me to it in the first place (a collection of recipes from the test kitchens of various food manufacturers) also gave me pause when it actually came time to do the weekly menu planning.
In this post, I actually planned to ridicule some of the other recipes in the cookbook. But I’m sitting at my desk, flipping through the pages, and somehow I’m not finding anything all that amusing. Gourmet cooking – not usually. But generally good basic recipes, if you can get past the name brands featured in each one.
I wasn’t looking for meat, and I wasn’t looking for dessert. I wanted a main dish that didn’t call for rump roast, a cut up chicken, or cream of mushroom soup.
And then I found it – the wheat germ torte, from the label on a jar of Kretschmer Wheat Germ (which I could not find in my local grocery store).
The Recipe: Wheat Germ Vegetarian Torte
Chris and I both grew up eating wheat germ on our cereal, but for some reason it hasn’t become a pantry staple for us as adults.
Really, that should change. Wheat germ is cheap, and is a good source of folic acid, iron, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamin, vitamin E and zinc. It can be used in baking, and is especially good in any recipes calling for nuts. And, as we learned, it makes a fabulous base for this vegetarian torte.
Other Menu Items: Brussels Sprout Slaw
If you think you don’t like Brussels Sprouts, bear with me here. They were on my official list of hated foods (which is, by the way, VERY short) until about 2003 when I came across a recipe for roasting them with a little olive oil, kosher salt and pepper. It absolutely blew my socks off.
To roast them – just trim off the ends as well as any yellow leaves, cut large sprouts in half if you’d like, toss with oil and seasonings, and bake at 425 until the sprouts are tender to your liking. I can never remember the exact cooking time, so I just check them periodically. Some of the outer leaves will fall off and get brown and crispy – this is not only desirable but delicious!
During a recent Trader Joe’s excursion, I heard one of the employees say, “Oh good, the Brussels Sprout stalks are back”. Of course, this made my ears perk up, and I turned around to see THIS…
I knew they grew this way, but I had never seen one in person. Or even in a picture. I had to bring it home with me. It was gorgeous. In fact, I actually wanted to WEAR it, or use it as a decoration, as much as I wanted to cook it. Inspiration for next year’s Halloween costume?
I couldn’t roast the sprouts for this particular meal, since the torte would be baking in the oven, so once again, I had to get a little bit creative. Read on for the Brussels Sprout Slaw recipe.
Cooking It Up:
The wheat germ pie was good. Really, really good. Like “I want to make it again next week” good. I’m glad we have leftovers!
I was a little worried, I have to admit. I actually said to myself, out loud in the kitchen, “Why do I always pick recipes that make me a little worried?”
What if the crust falls apart? What if the zucchini gets slimy? What if it’s more “eggy” than I want it to be? What if it falls apart when I try to slice it? What if it’s just plain weird? And then, to top it all off, I’m creating a Brussels Sprout Slaw at the same time, based only on a vague recollection of scanning some recipes someplace? Am I completely insane? (Don’t answer that, folks. Really. Don’t.)
But, as is frequently the case, I needn’t have worried. Even if any of those things had come to pass, it’s not like I’m saving babies here. But they didn’t, and it was delicious. Here’s how to make it:
Wheat Germ Vegetarian Torte: adapted slightly from the cookbook listed above
Grate 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan, and set aside. They can be mixed or not – doesn’t really matter.
Place about 26 saltine crackers in a sealable plastic bag and crush to a relatively fine crumb with a rolling pin. Combine the cracker crumbs (which should equal about 1 cup), 1/4 cup wheat germ and 6 TB melted butter in a bowl. Mix very well so all the dry ingredients are moistened.
If you have a 9-inch springform pan, it would probably work beautifully here. I do not, so I used a 9-inch glass pie plate. Press the crumb mixture on the bottom and sides of the plate (if you’re using a springform pan, only go 1 inch up the sides). Bake the crust at 400 for 8 to 10 minutes. It will be very lightly browned and smell really nice.
In the meantime, melt an additional 2 TB butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 medium onion, sliced. Saute until tender but still slightly crisp. Add 2 medium zucchini, sliced. I recommend not slicing the zucchini TOO thinly, or else it might get soggy (see “slimy zucchini” note above). Saute until zucchini is crisp-tender. Add 1 tsp dried marjoram, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and 1/4 tsp dried tarragon. Stir well and saute for another minute or so.
Put half the vegetable mixture in the pie crust. Sprinkle with 3 TB wheat germ. Add 1/2 the Monterey Jack cheese and 1/2 the Parmesan cheese. Layer in the remaining vegetables, and another 3 TB wheat germ.
Beat together 2 large eggs and 1/3 cup milk. Pour it into the center of the vegetable mixture. Slice 1 medium tomato and layer the slices on top of the vegetables. Sprinkle with remaining Monterey Jack and Parmesan, and 2 TB wheat germ.
Bake in a 325 oven until the filling is hot and bubbly, about 45 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve hot.
Note: It really looked like the first wedge would fall apart upon removal from the pie plate…oddly enough, it didn’t. I am not sure why, but I guess I shouldn’t question.
Brussels Sprout Slaw:
Thinly slice about 1 pound of Brussels Sprouts. (I know I’ve seen recipes that say you should grate the sprouts, but I didn’t feel like dirtying any more dishes. Slicing worked just fine.) Heat 1 1/2 TB olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sprouts, with kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Saute, flipping every couple of minutes with a spatula, until the sprouts are beginning to brown. Reduce heat slightly if needed. Stir in 1/4 cup dried cranberries and 1/4 chopped toasted nuts of your choice. (Note – I did not have any nuts, so I used sesame seeds, but we thought walnuts, pecans or slivered almonds would have been especially nice.)
Continue to saute until sprouts are nicely browned and crisp-tender to your liking. This whole process took somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 minutes, so it was a snap to make while the torte was in the oven. I served the slaw hot, but I think room temp or even cold would be fine too.
I’m looking forward to experimenting with variations on this theme – grated carrots & onion, or a slosh of balsamic vinegar (sorry Roberta!), or crumbled goat cheese, different kinds of nuts, lemon zest, etc. The possibilities seem endless!
With this post, I’ve officially worked my way through the first shelf of cookbooks. Only 4 more shelves to go before I have to start over!
The next shelf starts out with two more Julia Child cookbooks. But thanks to crepes and pie crust from MTAOFC, I am no longer afraid.
Until next time,