Savory Upside Down White Bean Tart

The vegan child was hungry and the grocery store was too far away on a Friday night. Although we have lots of up-all-night markets I … just … didn’t … want … to … go. It was FRIDAY, the end of the work week, and ok ok ok I was being lazy so I had to rely on the staples and the overlooked “that doesn’t sound good” food we had on hand. But laziness inspires creativity and I was d-e-t-e-r-m-i-n-e-d not to leave this house.

 And I didn’t. Oh snap.

 So here’s what you need for a savory, filling, easy meal inspired by my companion, Sloth. For my vegetarian and omnivore friends, please see the Veg & Omni ingredients list. I only give alternates instead of the entire list.

 

 Kitchen Items:

4 quart casserole dish

Medium mixing bowls

Food processor, blender, pastry blender, or fine mesh sieve

Your favorite vegetable-chopping knife

A couple of spoons for mixing

 

 Topping:

1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin mix (Or use 1 c. cornmeal and 1 tsp. baking powder)

2 Tbsp. your favorite oil

¾ c. unflavored almond milk

¼ c. tofu, pureed (If you don’t have a food processor or blender, puree by pushing through a fine mesh sieve or use a pastry blender. It won’t be as smooth but it’s really not going to matter for this recipe.

1 Tbsp. fresh chives, optional

 

 Savory white bean filling:

1-1/2 c. cooked white beans, with ¼ c.(ish) of the cooking juice

4 Roma tomatoes, chopped or sliced (These are going in the food processor if you have one so don’t knock yourself out unless you’re food-processor-free.)

¼ c. water

¼ c. salsa (You can make your own but Sloth said to use the jarred stuff in the fridge.)

1 c. cooked jasmine rice, white or brown

¼ of a sweet onion, chopped small

1/8 c. to ¼ c. nutritional yeast IF YOU HAVE IT. If you don’t, no biggie. This gives it a cheesier flavor and aroma without adding cheese. It doesn’t contribute to the matter of cooking since it’s deactivated, although it is a very healthy add-in. It is a complete protein and full of B vitamins. 

1/3 c. frozen corn

3 – 6 Tbsp taco seasoning, depending on how spicy you are (You can make your own … but I? No. Lazy.)

 

 Alternate Topping Ingredients for Veg & Omni:

Instead of ¾ c. almond milk, use ¾ c. regular milk plus 1 Tbsp of your favorite syrup; and although it’s my favorite syrup, chocolate probably won’t work here. Try for a maple-esque flavor. Or use molasses.

Instead of tofu puree, use 1 egg

 

Alternate Filling Ingredients for Veg & Omni:

Instead of 1/8 to ¼ c. nutritional yeast, use grated cheese. Sharp cheddar would be great. Cottage would be incredible.

If I weren’t so lazy, I’d tell you how to make taco seasoning and salsa. Heck, I’d even tell you how to make cottage cheese. But another day. Maybe you can experiment and tell me YOUR favorite taco seasoning and salsa recipes! That would make my life easier and I would be eternally grateful. 

This recipe is already super-easy to make, but it’s even easier if you use convenience ingredients like canned corn (drained), canned beans (kind of drained), canned tomatoes (not drained at all), and instant rice (put it in uncooked, and cut the measure down ½ cup so that when it cooks and expands it doesn’t dry out your filling).

If you make the topping with cornmeal and baking soda instead of a boxed mix, make it as runny as pancake batter so that it doesn’t overcook the topping and undercook the filling. Because I have food texture issues I prefer to use the Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix rather than cornmeal because it’s not as gritty. The premade stuff has more sodium and preservatives than the stuff you make at home but I’m in my late forties and am so full of preservatives by now that it’s probably the glue that’s holding me together. I highly recommend it.

 Here are the directions for this dish the way I made it. If you change up the ingredients you may have to tweak the cooking time a little bit. Just keep an eye on it and you’ll be fine!

 Preheat your oven to 325. Kind of low, yes, but you want the cornbread topping to have time to cook and the chili to have time to heat through and soften those onions.

 Topping:

  • Pour all ingredients into a medium-sized bowl. Mix well, set aside. The batter will probably be slightly lumpy. Don’t try to stir all the lumps out because it will make your topping too dry. All you have to do is get the biggest lumps out so you don’t bite into a dusty cornmeal ball. 

 White bean filling:

  • After you chop up the tomatoes in the food processor (make them as fine or as chunky as you like), add the water in the chimney thingie and process a little more until the water is incorporated.
  • Pour the tomatoes in a mixing bowl and add everything else, and mix until all ingredients are evenly distributed.
  • Cheese option: you can either incorporate the cheese throughout the chili OR you can use it as a layer on top of the chili. (Note that if you are using nutritional yeast, leaving it as a layer on top of the filling would probably be gross. Mix it in.)

 Put it all together it spells YUMMY!

  • Put the chili in the casserole dish.
  • Pour the cornbread batter over the top, and use the back of a spoon or a spatula to make it cover all the chili.
  • Put it in the oven and bake for 1 hour, or until the topping is golden and makes a sound if you tap it. “Bloop” is  sound too, but if you hear “bloop” you probably need to cook it a little longer until is says “tap, tap, tap.” Lava topping hurts when you eat it. My oven is temperamental and sometimes it takes longer, and sometimes it takes less time, so I am not sure of an exact cooking time. To be on the safe side, check on it periodically starting around 45 minutes.
  • If you are using the vegetarian / omnivore version of this recipe, when the crust is nice and brown and sturdy, rub it with butter and let it cook another minute or so. You will be very glad you did. (I didn’t, since it was for the vegan child, and it was still dang fab.)

 This seems like a lot of writing and instructing for something that was so easy to make, or maybe I’m just ridiculously verbose. This savory upside down tart really is a simple thing to make. I made it Friday after a day at work and a long commute, and the only time it made me cry was when I wept for joy at the flavor. (Yeah, not really, but I love the exaggeration.) The pairing of the sweet topping and the spicy white bean mixture is nothing short of delightful.

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Accidental cornbread: One delicious oops

The bustle of the holiday is over for this household. New Years is ahead but Christmas is the most active and exciting period of merriment for our preteens. It was fun but man I’m glad it’s done! There are decorations to take down (which I dread) but thankfully it doesn’t have to be done right now. Nope, not today. Today is for easing up, for taking a slow, comfy, casual coast downhill; and when I think of slow, comfy, and casual, I think of the richness and the flavors of southern food. Nothing says “don’t hurry” like a pot of pinto beans cooked with honest-to-God ham hock, and a pan of so-heavy-you-wonder-if-you-did-something-wrong cornbread.

Oh yes you did something wrong. But sometimes wrong is the only right there is.

And then there’s even wronger that turns out even righter if you’re lucky or if you only have enough cooking wit to be halfway dangerous. I’m not saying I’m smart or possessed of good fortune but the pan of blogging-inspirational cornbread worked. It was one mistake after another, pure kismet mixed with a smidgen of autodidact kitchen edge-oo-macation keeping it from turning into a disaster, which it certainly could have without realizing the potential for wasteful ruination of simple fine ingredients, and without the oven hovering (hovenering?). I was determined. And, dearest readers, determination can sometimes compensate for a lack of good sense.

What started this whole mess was a joyful collection of leftover ingredients from the riptide of Christmas cooking. When such an eclectic gathering amasses in the kitchen it’s a shame to let it go bad. Waste buttermilk and cheese? Not in this house, not even a little bit.

I really wanted Mexican cornbread but didn’t have jalepenos although there was some leftover hot sauce from the many batches of holiday Brunswick stew. I also happened to have white cornmeal on hand which I prefer to yellow because it’s usually a little less sweet and because southeasterners are supposed to prefer white cornmeal to yellow, and who am I to buck a tradition? (Well … I am usually one of the first contrarians to veer off the established path but that’s a story for another time. In this case, according to regional laws of cornmeal preference, I remain true to time-honored roots.) It seemed like the perfect crave-taming set-up.

There were no recipes that used exactly the ingredients I wanted to use which meant I either had to compromise or come up with my own recipe. Since my 2012 resolution was to be more stubborn (yeah, not really – stubbornness is a personal time-honored tradition) it seemed better to create than to settle. Here’s the recipe with dire warnings attached. DO try this at home but DO be vigilant when it comes to the actual baking. That is where disaster can strike if you dare to blink.

Cornbread 2

 Accidental Cornbread

2 c. cornmeal (yellow or white, your preference)

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

1-1/4 c. buttermilk plus ¼ to ½ c. more

1-1/4 c. corn (about a can, if you’re not using fresh) – do NOT use creamed corn!

1 c. cheese

2 eggs

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1 – 2 Tbsp hot sauce (optional)

Oil spray or greasing agent for pan(s)

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Mix well and set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk 1-1/4 c. buttermilk and both eggs until well-mixed. Set aside.

4. Put corn in a container somewhat larger than one in which the corn will fit (a 2-cup measuring cup works great). If you are using canned corn, drain the liquid off the corn first.

5. Pour buttermilk over corn until it just fills the crevices between the corn pieces. Do not use one more drop of buttermilk than it takes to be level with the top of the corn in your container. (It won’t hurt to use slightly less, in fact.)

6. Add corn and buttermilk to buttermilk and egg mixture. Add in melted butter, cheese, and hot sauce and mix well.

7. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and stir until just well-mixed. Mixing with a spatula is probably your best bet.

Let’s take a quick break, have some tea, and talk for a minute. We have some options here. You can either make one really thick luscious cake of cornbread (pictured) or you can make two somewhat smaller cakes. It’s totally up to you. Making the two smaller ones will be far less treacherous. The working accident, for me, occurred at this point because I chose to make just one cake. Be wary but fear not: I’m taking most of the guesswork out of it for you. It’s no longer an accident! Making the over-full one will require some watching and testing but when it’s done it’s a wow!

IF you choose to make the two smaller loaves, here are the instructions:

1. Spray two 8” cake rounds with cooking spray and divide the batter evenly between them.

2. Cook in your preheated 400 degree oven for 12 – 15 minutes, or until a knife or cake tester inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean.

3. Ta da! You’re done!

IF you instead choose to make the one gigantic cake, continue on, Brave Soul. Bon fortune and godspeed. This is a messy procedure that should only be attempted by the true extreme devil-may-care foodie adventurer.

1. Spray ONE 9” cake round with cooking spray and pour cornbread batter in. The batter should be about 1/4″ from the top of the pan. If you have excess batter, you can cook it in a dry non-stick frying pan, or in a frying pan with a spray of oil, and make yourself a little pre-cornbread cake treat.

2. With the oven rack at the halfway spot, place the cake round in the oven and with a baking stone or some other hearty pan on the bottom rack to catch the stuff that drips down. It will drip. A lot. These drippings will make you happy to be alive.

3. Cook for 15 minutes. Do not cringe when you hear the sizzle of the batter drippings hitting your stone. The drippings are divine, and you are going to (carefully) reach in to get them. Be excited!

4. Turn the oven temp down to 350. This is a great time to carefully move the top and bottom racks into position to allow you to scrape or scoop the dripped cornbread onto a plate. Be sure to keep the cake round over the drip pan. This dripped stuff is now cooked, and tasting it will give you a hint of what is to come. Be sure to have a good hold on the counter when you take a bite – swooning is entirely probable.

5. Put the pans back into position (keeping the drip pan where it is for now). Set the timer for 20 minutes. At the end of the 20 minutes, you can probably remove the drip pan. You can tell if you can move the drip pan by shaking the cake round. It should have lost most of its glop character.

6. Loosely cover the top of the cake in foil. Set the timer for 20 – 25 minutes. At the end of that time, test the cake for doneness by inserting a cake tester or butter knife near the center. If it comes out clean, it’s done. The top of your cake should be dark golden and the middle should be moist and light. If the cake doesn’t test as done, cook in 5-minute increments until the testing utensil comes out clean. When done, cool for 5 minutes, cut into 8 pie-like wedges.

And there you have it: simple fine ingredients to make one filling suppertime indulgence. If you want to send your crew into decadence overdrive, rub a little salted butter over the top of the still-warm cake before serving.