Tomato Zucchini Torta (Adapted from New Vegetarian, by Celia Brooks Brown)
1 medium zucchini, about 8 oz. cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped, peeled tomatoes
1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 handfuls basil, torn or roughly chopped
1 cup arborio risoto rice
4 oz mozzarella (I used Maplebrook) cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 oz local sharp cheddar, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/3 cup toasted breadcrumbs
kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan, lightly oiled
Heat a stove-top grill pan or cast iron frying pan until very hot. Brush both sides of zucchini slices with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add to the pan and sear, turning half-way through cooking until softened and either black striped or golden. Remove from pan.
Heat remaining oil in a saucepan (or the frying pan), add the garlic, and saute until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Stir in the basil.
Add the rice to a saucepan of boiling water (no need to measure water.) Bring back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the rice is tender but still firm (al dente), about 10 minutes. Drain.
Add the rice to the tomato sauce and mix well. Stir in the cheeses and add salt and pepper, if necessary.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs into the oiled loaf pan, tipping the pan from side to side until coated. Spoon in 1/2 the rice mixture and smooth flat.* Add the zucchini in a single layer, then top with the remaining rice. Smooth flat, pressing down firmly. Sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs. (The torta may be refrigerated at this point, then baked later.)
Bake in a preheated 425 degree F oven for 30-40 minutes or until golden and bubbling around the edges. Let stand for 10 minutes. Run a knife between the torta and the pan pressing inward to release from the pan, then turn out onto a platter; tap all over, and lift pan off. Cut the torta into slices and serve.
*Since the zucchini didn’t fit in a single layer, I put the rice mixture in thirds with layers of zucchini in between – it may have made it a little more challenging to release the torta in one piece, but I was glad for the added zucchini.)