Late Summer Tomato Tart (vegan!)
I’ve never been a cheese girl. Not to say that I don’t appreciate a bite of an artisan wedge, but cheese just wasn’t a big deal to get away from when I started focusing on vegan cuisine. I’ve always been wary of any food that ropes you in with an unhealthy craving - actually, I’m wary of anything with that addictive “gotta have it” pull. I’ve known cheese addicts who’ve gotta get their fix every day. Kids, that stuff’s just not something for “everyday”. Save it for special occasions if you must, there’re better options out there for your little arteries.
For me it’s eggs. I don’t need them for baking, I have plenty of delicious and healthy egg-substitutes that I use in the sweet department, from flax seed to silken tofu to chia seeds. In fact, there are tons of recipes where they’re not even needed. Pancakes don’t need ‘em. Neither does banana bread. Cookies? Nope. Nor many cakes. Heck, I even make challah — yes, that traditional “egg” bread — without eggs.
No, it’s not the baking thing. For me it’s the morning after a long run when I most crave the straight-up protein with a light bite. Yesterday I did the longest run of my life (12 miles, but we can talk about that another time) followed by a late-night gig, and this morning, after a few hours in the kitchen, I could feel that old craving coming on. Never fear though, dear reader, because within that hour this late summer tomato tart came out of the oven and damn if that craving didn’t fly right out the window like a song on a breeze. When Bad*ss Bassman came home an hour later he said, “wow, this tastes just like quiche!”. And then later, “wait, did all the rest go to the clients?”
The tomatoes I used were right from our garden. We’ve got an amazing crop this year which Bad*ss Bassman attributes to the paper wasps we let keep their nest on the eaves just 10 feet away. Even our picky little E likes the sweet grape toms right off the plant. She loves harvesting them, and lately we’ve got a pie-plate full almost every morning.
We’ve also got basil growing, but it’s hidden somewhere under the lush tomatoes, so this batch was from the hydroponic herb vendor at the farmers market yesterday. Remind me to make a hydroponic herb garden one day, will you? Maybe that’ll go on my 100 Things To Do List for 2013.
I’ve been thinking of this dish for a few days, but it wasn’t till the last minute when I was already knee high in this morning’s cooking extravaganza that I thought “ah, yes, the crust. Let’s make it almond.” This almond crust is a keeper for the tart. It lends a crispy-edged egg feel, and adds more protein content to the dish. Of course, the tart would be good with a traditional flaky pastry crust if you prefer that route.
Now, one word about the ingredients. If you are a bit newer to vegan cooking you may balk at the two types of tofu, the nutritional yeast, and the almond flour. Find courage, dear cook, because they are not too strange and not at all difficult to handle.
First off, you can buy almond flour or make your own almond flour per my notes below. It’s actually quite simple. However, if this is too daunting, feel free to use a different type of crust if you like.
Nutritional yeast is not the same as bakers yeast. Nutritional yeast is an excellent source of B-12, an essential amino acid. Plus it tastes good in sauces and things like that. I often add it to cream sauces or ricotta-inspired fillings. Some say it has a bit of a cheesy taste, and I’ve seen people sprinkle it on popcorn. I’m more of a hot sauce-on-popcorn type, but I like the dimension nutritional yeast adds to some recipes.
As for the tofu, this recipe calls for two different types. They are both staples in our household. The silken tofu is a great substitute for eggs in baking, so I keep a few boxes around. The other kind - the one you’re likely more accustomed to - is the one you’ll find in the refrigerated section at the store. Soy is one of the most common genetically-modified crops, so be sure and always buy organic.
You can find all of these items at Whole Foods or your nearest natural food store. Nowadays, at least here in our LA neighborhood, I can actually find them all at the neighborhood supermarket. Trader Joes, sadly, only has the tofu packed in water, and none of the other items. But they do have chocolate-dipped-everything lining the aisles, so there you have it.
LATE SUMMER TOMATO TART (vegan!)
FOR THE CRUST:
2 cups almond flour (or, make your own by grinding 2 cups of almonds in a food processor until very fine)
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 cup firm silken tofu (the vacuum-packed kind, not in water)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried rosemary
FOR THE CUSTARD:
1 17-oz package tofu (the kind in water)
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp cracked red pepper
1 tsp sea salt
FOR THE TOP:
2-4 large Heirloom tomatoes, 1/4” slices
handful of fresh basil leaves
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt/cracked black pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 400.
In a food processor, blend the almond flour with the other crust ingredients. If using whole almonds, blend them first so that they are very fine before adding the rest. This is done when it all comes together in a soft dough-like consistency.
Lightly grease a 9 x 13 cookie sheet or 9” tart pan. Press the crust into the pan, working it all the way in and slightly up the sides.
In a food processor, blend all the custard ingredients.
Spread the custard evenly on the crust, all the way to the edge.
Arrange basil leaves evenly over the top. Arrange the tomato slices over that. Lightly brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake at 400 until the tomatoes are soft and the custard is firm, about 35 minutes.