When you say rice cake, you usually are talking about one of those crisp airy flat tasting cardboardy things that became popular in the early 90's as a diet food. I tried hard to get to like those sorts of rice cakes, but failed, miserably. I didn't mind the taste, but having to call for help to pry the things off the roof of my mouth was getting embarrassing.
Instead, I turned my attention to making a risotto based rice cake with a kick. As my friends seem to know, poblanos are my favorite pepper. They have a nice amount of heat without knocking the top off your skull and good complex flavor with elements of fruit and tannic qualities.
Serve this dish as a main meal or as a side to a more elaborate banquet. I had intended this to be part of our Christmas dinner, but the other dishes I was making took over the meal and there was far too much food before I even thought of starting this dish.
If you reheat a slice of this cake/pie in the microwave, sprinkle it with a little water first. It'll help it heat up much more evenly.
Poblano Rice Cake
1 cup arborio or other short grained rice
1 quart vegetable stock
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 poblano peppers
1 cup shredded Chihuahua or other mild Mexican cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup lime juice
1 cup tomato-based (or at least red) salsa of your choice.
cilantro, for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Chop the poblano into 1" pieces, discarding the seed pod and trimming the white veins. If you wish, you may blister the skin first and remove it. This will improve the texture, but isn't absolutely necessary.
In a dutch oven, heat the oil and when hot, sautée the garlic and onion and poblano in it until the onions start to go translucent. Add the rice and sautée for 2 minutes over high heat, stirring frequently. Add 1 cup of stock and stir. Reduce heat to medium-low. Let the rice absorb the stock whiel stirring. Add 1/2 cup stock and stir until that is absorbed. Continue until all the stock has been absorbed by the rice or until the rice refuses to absorb any more stock. Don't drown the rice under any circumstances.
Stir in the cheese. Take a small bit of the rice and stir it into the egg. Add a bit more rice and stir it into the egg, then add the whole rice and egg mix back into the main pot and stir well very quickly to distribute the egg. The process is similar to tempering eggs with liquid, only we're using the rice to bring the egg up to temperature so it doesn't cook as soon as its added, but its not as effective.
Stir in the lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Fill a 9" pie pan with the rice mix. Press down to compact the risotto in the pan. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, then check the consistency of the rice cake. If you'd like it crispier and drier, go 10 more minutes. If you'd like it firm, but not crispy, take it out after the first 30 minutes.
Run a knife around the outside to the risotto cake and invert the plate onto a flat surface for serving or onto a serving plate. Spread the salsa over the top of the cake. Garnish with cilantro, and serve in wedges.