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Nut Loaf — Perfect Vegetarian Holiday Dish

One of the nicest holidays at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center was Thanksgiving. Besides being a Zen practice place, Green Gulch was also a working organic farm, so giving thanks for the year’s harvest was really appropriate. There was an altar built in the dinning room that was covered with produce and flowers from the farm, and it always was a work of art.

This was also the time when neighbors from Muir Beach would be invited to the meal so the dining room was completely filled. Before the meal the record of the years harvest would be read: 124 bushels of beets, 2,003 crates of lettuce and so on, until everything that had been raised on the farm was acknowledged. After that it was time to eat and enjoy.

This was always a very busy day for the kitchen crew. But it also was the one day that you would have plenty of volunteers to work in the kitchen. The centerpiece of the meal was always the nut loaf with gravy.

The rest of the meal was a traditional Thanksgiving meal, done very well.

If you are having any vegetarian guests this holiday season and can’t figure out what to do, here is the recipe for nut loaf.

Nut loaf is a rich dish, so think of it as a special occasion meal. Nut loaf can easily be made the day before and warmed up the next day.

I am not a vegetarian and I haven’t made this dish since I left Zen center, but when I made it the other day and tasted it, I thought wow, this is good stuff!

Nut Loaf

2 cups fine chop walnuts
1 cup fine chop onion
2 tsps minced garlic
1 cup fine chop mushrooms
2 tbs minced Italian parsley
12 oz grated jack cheese
1 ½ cooked brown rice
2 tsp thyme or to taste
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 cup cottage cheese
4 eggs lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 375

Spray a 9 ½ by 4 ½ loaf pan with oil. Cut a piece of parchment paper so that it fits in the bottom of the pan and the long sides of the pan with about 4 inches hanging over the long sides. Spray again with oil..

Fine chop the walnuts. If you have a food processor this will go much easier.

Fine chop the mushrooms.

Combine the ingredients in a large bowl mixing well.

Put in loaf pan, patting it down lightly. Put in a pre-heated oven’s middle rack for between an hour  to an hour-and-a-half.

You can tell when it’s done if the top’s browned and the loaf is somewhat firm when you press down on it.

Remove the nut loaf from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Take a thin-bladed knife and carefully slide it between the loaf and the pan on the ends that don’t have parchment paper. After 20 minutes invert pan on serving dish and remove. If you’re making it for the next day wait until it’s cool, then wrap and place in the refrigerator.

Lee Riggs is a Zen priest living in Shasta County who cooked and baked for many years at San Francisco Zen Center.  He is a devoted gardener. His simple credo is that butter is better and that you should be able to taste the hops in beer.