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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Savory cheese & chive quiche

A couple of months ago, after reading a list of ideas for quick and cheap kitchen makeovers on Alana Chernila’s blog “Eating from the Ground Up”, I realized that my wood and bamboo cooking utensils needed conditioned, some of them so far beyond dry they were on to parched cracking and splintering. In the past I threw these pieces away, unaware of how easily they could be fixed and oblivious to the utter Zen of bringing them back into a state of usefulness. All it takes is food grade wax and a little time.

The pictures of rounded bricks of amber beeswax wrapped in brown crinkly paper were irresistably pretty but trying to locate a block at local stores proved fruitless (I prefer to buy local). The Internet is loaded with beeswax sellers but the shipping prices tend to cost more than the product. We are a one-income family, and despite the intense desire to possess my own beautiful wax brick I couldn’t justify the cost. But oy. I really really really wanted to wax the wood (sounds dirty, huh?). And because I really really really wanted to do it, I eventually found a perfect substitute in a tube of John Boos Board and Block Cream, a mixture of food grade mineral oil and beeswax, and it shipped for free. Problem solved.

The package arrived close to suppertime on the day my son had dance so I put off the task for “a day or two.” And, as typical, the next day was too hectic, and the day after that was too busy, the next day was overscheduled … and the poor dehydrated wood spoons and spatulas were forgotten, wasting away in the drawer under the cooktop. My little bit of counter space was frenetic with holiday cooking and candy making and the little tube of magical elixir got buried in the holiday rubble. The morning after Christmas, though, unable to tolerate the visual kitchen cacophony for one more second, I put everything away and re-found the forgotten board cream, not realizing it was missing until then.

Bing!

After a cup of coffee and many lingering glances, I hand-slathered each piece of cookware with board cream. After they were dried and buffed, the texture was luxurious beyond expectation. The process was so pleasurable that I took an unhurried inventory of the pantry, cabinets, and fridge to decide on what kind of cooking joy could match this moment; and the only thing that could possibly match the magnitude of self-indulgery (don’t use that word in Scrabble) was … QUICHE!

Our little backyard flock gives us a few fresh eggs per week during the dark months and about two dozen eggs a week when the days are longer. Always having fresh eggs is a delight even though the cost of feed probably exceeds output. The biggest payoff is in watching their silly chicken antics (yeah, we don’t have cable and are pretty easily entertained) and the darling way they rid the yard of scary things and bitey things and gross things (bugs, spiders, and the occasional little snake).

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But let’s get back to the day in the kitchen! Like the freshly oiled and waxed woodenware, quiche is silky, smooth, rich, and it was a nice follow-up the chore that was a meander in spoony serenity. The sensuous feel of the utensils and the contentment of making (and eating!) quiche chased the rainy day out of the house. Quiche doesn’t ask for much – just a few ingredients based solely on your mood. It’s a very forgiving dish. I opted to keep it simple in flavor just because going minimalist seemed fitting.

Cheese chive quiche

 

Savory cheese & chive quiche

Uncooked pie crust for 9” pie

6 eggs

3 over-heaping Tbsp sour cream + milk to make ½ c.

¾ c. buttermilk (regular milk works fine if you don’t have buttermilk)

3 c. grated cheese (I used 1-1/2 c. cheddar and 1-1/2 c. Swiss)

3-1/2 Tbsp flour

½ tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

4 Tbsp (or to taste) snipped tops of green onions or 2 tsp dried chives, optional

Instructions:

1. Bring all ingredients to room temp

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

3. Press crust into 9” pie plate.

4. Combine sour cream and milk mixture with buttermilk or sour cream / milk mixture and mix well. Fabulous tool for the job: sauce whisk.

5. Add eggs, salt, pepper and flour to milk / sour cream mixture. Mix till combined well. Fabulous tool for the job: spring whisk.

6. Add cheese and green onion tops or dried chives. Stir till evenly distributed.

7. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until middle is set and the top is golden brown. Since this recipe contains an abundance of cheese, the knife test doesn’t work well. When you shake the pie plate there should be no lava-like bobble.

Notes and suggestions:

1. Fat free milk and buttermilk seem to work just fine with this recipe, probably owing to the fat in the cheese (I do not buy fat free cheese). Reduced fat sour cream also works well.

2. If you don’t like green onions or chives you can try different savory ingredients, like mushrooms pieces and well-drained chopped olives. Adding ingredients may affect cooking time.

3. Using 3 cups of nothing but cheddar may make your quiche very oily. If you use cheddar, consider pairing it with Swiss or finely-grated parmesan.

4. While it’s in the oven, the filling in the middle of the quiche may be lower than that on the sides. This is fine. The filling will level as it cools.

There you have it! Simple fine ingredients combining to make a savory decadent meal couldn’t be much easier or more satisfying to make. Quiche is inexpensive, quick to bring together, and pretty difficult to mess up. It’s a versatile meal that can stand by itself or paired with soup and crostini, spinach salad, fruit salad, or a full-flavored meat like ham.

Thank you, Ladies, for the main ingredient. The next time you molt I’ll lay off the FrankenHen jokes.

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