Butternut Squash and Rainbow Chard Torte

Rainbow Chard is just gorgeous.  Its colors are so vibrant.  Most recipes calling for chard will tell you to discard the stalks, but I just… couldn’t.  They were too beautiful.  And I actually really like their taste. So I included them in this recipe.

I was having a crummy day.  I knew that I needed to get into my kitchen and it would all go away.  I was right.  Sometimes I just need to stand back and look at how stunning vegetables can be, smell the aromas, taste something delicious.  If I have a headache, I cook and it goes away.  If I’m stressed out, if I can get myself into my kitchen and into my little cooking-zen place, it all gets better.  Everything will work out, just give me a big old knife, some heat and heavy metal pans…

The bones of this recipe are based on a torte from a gorgeous vegetarian cookbook I’ve had for years, DK Living’s Vegetarian Cookbook by Paul Gayler.  It’s over 10 years old and thus, you can get a dirt cheap copy on the internet.  I changed the recipe quite a bit, but the phyllo crust is his.  I really like this cookbook because it’s not just a bunch of one pot meals.  Those are great sometimes, but other times you want an elegant vegetarian meal that impresses people.  And this book is full of interesting ingredients and spectacular presentations.

That being said, this recipe isn’t exactly quick.  There is a lot of preparation involved.  I steamed the squash and made the arborio rice in the afternoon while eating lunch.  I set them aside and tackled the chard filling when I got home from work.

After I got all of the components of this torte ready, I sipped my favorite beer.  I usually cook with a glass of wine or a beer in hand, as long as it’s after 5 o’clock.  It’s ritual I suppose.  My Grams always cooked while sipping a glass of white wine.  I swear the food tastes better when you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself.

So, the stout has nothing to do with the recipe, but I’m pretty sure it has everything to do with its success.  It’s an Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout from North Coast Brewing Company.  One of my favorites.  My two great passions in life are coffee and stout and I’m pretty sure you’ll be hearing about both quite a bit in the future.

I think this would be a great side dish for Thanksgiving.  You can substitute pumpkin if you would like, and spinach can be used in place of the chard if you prefer.  I used arborio rice, but I see absolutely no reason you can’t use any other kind of white rice.  While I usually try and substitute a brown rice whenever possible, I think it would be too chewy for this dish.

Has anyone ever taught you how to chop basil?  I learned from a Martha Stewart episode.  You roll up all of the leaves like a cigar and then cut them into skinny slices.

Butternut Squash and Rainbow Chard Chard Torte

Adapted from Paul Gayler

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, finely diced or crushed
  • 1 bunch swiss chard, (I used rainbow but it could be any color) washed with stalks cut out from leaves
  • 2 cups cooked arborio or white rice
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese (I used a parmesan, fontina and asiago mix)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 10-12 sheets phyllo dough, defrosted and brought to room temperature, then cut in half, 6 halves reserved
  • 1 medium butternut squash, sliced and steamed
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Preparation, can be done ahead: Steam butternut squash slices for 10-15 minutes until tender.  I over steamed mine, as I tend to do while multitasking.  It’s not the end of the world, but just makes them harder to handle.  Also cook rice according to package directions.  You want two whole cups, cooked.  (I ended up with a little bit extra and gave it to my dogs, along with some extra squash.  They were pretty happy about it.)
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. Take the chard and separate the leaves from the stalks.  I flip the chard over so I can trace the form of the stalk with my knife.  Trim off the ends of the stalk.  Dice stalks and roughly chop leaves.
  4. Heat oil in a sauté pan or skillet.
  5. Sauté the thinly sliced onions for a few minutes until translucent.  Add garlic and diced stalks.  Sauté until onions are golden and chard stalks are tender.
  6. Add diced chard leaves and cook just until chard wilts.  Remove from heat.  Add sliced basil and stir until combined.
  7. Transfer chard and onion mixture to a fine colander and allow any excess liquid to drain.
  8. Divide rice evenly between two bowls, seasoning with salt and pepper.  Add 1/2 cup of cheese to each bowl, along with 1 egg in each.  Add drained chard and basil mixture to one bowl.  Stir each bowl until fillings are combined.
  9. Grease a 9-inch, circular, spring form cake pan with a tablespoon of melted butter, making sure to coat both the bottom and the sides.  Working in a circle, place a phyllo sheet into the pan, brush with butter and allow part of it to hang over the side.  Continue adding additional sheets, brush with butter between each addition, until pan is completely covered with sheets and no part of the pan can be seen either between or through the sheets.
  10. Using a pizza cutter, slice remaining phyllo sheets into long strips.  Cover with a damp paper towel and set aside.
  11. First, gently place the rice-chard mixture into the bottom, spreading out evenly and being careful not to puncture the dough.
  12. Next, layer the pieces of butternut squash so they cover entire torte in a thin layer.
  13. Finally, top with a layer of the final rice-cheese mixture.
  14. Fold the remaining phyllo dough into the center of the torte.  Brush with butter.  Using the leftover strips, crinkle, fold and twist them, brushing with butter and using them to decorate the top and fill in any spaces still uncovered.
  15. Bake for 50-55 minutes at 375 degrees F.  Top should be golden.
  16. Remove from oven and open the spring form pan immediately.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6-8.

If you need to reheat after baking, cover with foil and reheat in oven, as microwaving will make the phyllo dough soggy.

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