Saturday, July 12

Chard and beet green tart

Even though I don't usually cook from recipes, I am often inspired by recipes when making a new dish. As I've written before, I often check out my favourite cookbooks, blogs and chef's sites for the perfect blend of ingredients to make a dish. Then I modify these into the one recipe I will use.

Lately though, I've been just been pulling recipes straight out of my head. And they've been working! I suppose it's all the time I have now, you know, being on vacation and all :)

Earlier this week I made a Vietnamese tofu bun, complete with my own sauce, which brought me back to the days when I was a student in good old Toronto. Those were the days. Waking up late, subway to school, a little Vietnamese for lunch ( link) and a stroll through the ROM in the afternoon. I often picked up dinner ingredients from mom n' pop shops in the Bloor West Village (where I lived) and made some delicious eats for one. Evenings spent out with friends for drinks, a movie or a show. Or window-shopping. Oh, the shopping.

That bun tasted like my favourite Vietnamese joint in Toronto, so much so that I'll have to make it again and write down the quantities so I can share with you all.

In the meantime, I'd like to share a recipe for a tart I made a couple of nights ago. Ian's verdict: "Delicious! It's like getting the vegetables for free!" And his follow-up tweet: "Even better than free. Most people would pay to take veggies away." Aww, I love my husband.

I created this recipe just as it was happening, and I'm happy to say, we enjoyed it so much, I will make it again. I also used a fancier setup for the photos, which took longer, but since the tart needs to rest before cutting, the timing worked out well.

As always with my recipes, I invite you to use what you have. I made my own pastry, but if you wanted, you could use frozen pie shells as a short-cut (I did this my entire life until I recently bought a tart pan and now have the time to make my own!). I had left-over garlic butter (from garlic bread a few days before), so I used that to flavour the greens. But you could just use olive oil, or butter, or butter with a bit of chopped garlic.

You can also replace the shallots with one medium red or white onion. If you don't have the same kind of cheeses we did, just use what you have - it'll work! I promise! Finally, we used Andouille sausage from Oyama Sausage at the Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver. You could use any kind of left-over meat: Italian sausage, roasted chicken, bit of left-over ham. For a vegetarian version, replace the meat with more mushrooms, or even sauteed herbed tofu.

Since this recipe comes together in separate parts, I recommend you season each part as you cook it. In fact, I like to season each ingredient as I add it. Just a little salt and pepper for each, then taste and modify if needed. That way, the flavours will build in layers and you will get nice depth of flavour throughout the entire dish.

"Free Vegetable" Savory Tart

for the pastry (modified from The Best of Baking <-- everyone should own this!)
- 1 cup unbleached white flour
- 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
- pinch salt
- 7 tbsp butter (about 4/5 of a stick, or 100 g)
- 1-4 tbsp ice-cold water

for the filling
- left-over garlic butter
- one large bunch Swiss chard
- one large bunch beet greens
- 3 shallots, sliced thinly
- 7 button mushrooms, sliced thinly
- 1 foot-long Andouille sausage
- salt and pepper
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 6 tbsp softened cream cheese
- 4 slices feta, crumbled (about 1/2 cup, maybe?)
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for top
- 6 chives, finely chopped

1. For the pastry, mix flour and salt in a food processor (or by hand if you're not lazy like me). Add the chopped butter and pulse until it resembles bread crumbs. Add the egg and pulse. Add ice-water in 1 tbsp intervals until dough has enough "stick" to it to easily come together (I used 2 tbsp in my climate).

2. Dump it onto the counter and push it together into a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30-45 minutes. When ready to use, lightly flour a surface and roll into a circle (obviously!). Gently lay into a tart or pie pan without stretching. Press into sides. Leave the excess for folding over, or cut off excess.

3. While the pastry dough is resting, clean the greens, dry and chop them. I chopped the chard into roughly inch-long pieces, and the been greens into ribbons. But you decide how you like it. Also, slice shallots and mushrooms thinly.

4. In a medium saute pan on medium heat, melt a tsp of butter and saute chard with a bit of salt, then set aside. Then saute beet greens (add bit of salt) and set aside. More butter or oil, add shallots for 1 min, then add mushrooms, and season with salt and pepper. Saute until most of the moisture has evaporated out of the mushrooms. Add sausage and heat through for another 2-3 minutes.

5. Mix greens and mushroom mixture in a bowl and set into fridge to cool a bit. In the meantime, beat the eggs and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl, adding salt and pepper to taste.

** Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. **

6. Roll out tart and lay into pan. When tart is ready, combine the greens and egg mixtures. Place solids into tart, distributed evenly. Pour liquids over top, and jiggle the tart to distribute liquids. Grate a bit of parmesan over the top. If you have left-over pastry edges, fold them down on top of the tart.

7. Put a sheet pan or some foil under the tart pan to catch drippings. Bake for 40-50 minutes until pastry is golden brown. Let the tart rest for 10 minutes before cutting. Serve generous pieces with salad or by themselves.

This made a great dinner, but I could also see this as an awesome brunch or lunch item too! Enjoy!

Saturday, July 5

Breakfast cookies

When zipping out the door in the mornings at 6:30 or 7 a.m., we tend to forget about breakfast. I know it's unhealthy, but it's just the reality of a busy life.

To combat that, every few weeks for the last year I have made two loaves and a pile of muffins of some sort of breakfast-type healthy breads. We portion them off into tupperware and zip-top bags and freeze individual portions. This way, we can grab one from the freezer the night before to defrost, and voila - healthy breakfast on the go!

Some weeks the flavours are zucchini-carrot, other weeks it's banana-walnut-cranberry. I basically use what I have and strive to make this a healthy quick meal in one. I add plenty of nuts and seeds, and always use fresh veggies or fruit. There is often only 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/3 cup oil in the whole batter! (that's for two breads and a dozen muffins). The rest of the sweetness comes from honey, maple syrup, applesauce or cranberries and the breads are moist as a result of prune puree, yogurt or applesauce.

But lately I've become tired of eating these breads. Even though the flavours vary, the texture and shape remain the same and have started to bore me. So last week, I decided to modify my recipe into a seedy and dense breakfast cookie. That's right, a cookie for breakfast.

I was quite surprised at how well these turned out and will most definitely make them again. In fact, these would be perfect as road trip snacks (which we had on our recent trip to Vancouver!), as power boosts during a hike or as a mid-morning snack to hold you over if you have a late lunch. I'm also going to try spreading the batter into a square pan and cutting power-bar-like shapes as an easier and faster alternative to placing and spacing cookies.

Breakfast cookies
(an original recipe)

- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup kamut flour (can use spelt, whole wheat, or white)
- 4 tbsp freshly ground flax seed
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda

- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/8 to 1/3 cup Demerara sugar (depending on your sweet tooth)
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 cup old fashioned oats, soaked in 1 cup hot water for 5-10 min

- 1/3 cup shredded coconut (I used sweetened, but if you have unsweetened, add more sugar)
- 1/3 cup sesame seeds
- 1/3 cup chopped pecans (or other nuts that you have)
- 2/3 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350F/175 C. Line a cookie sheet with a silicon mat or coat with butter.

1. Put on 1 cup of water to boil and place oats in a small cereal bowl. When water is boiling, pour over oats and cover with a plate. Let stand until you're ready for them, 5-10 min.

2. In a medium bowl, stir all dry ingredients together.

3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, and incorporate with a whisk. Stir in vanilla and milk.

4. Drain any excess water from oats. Stir in dry ingredients into wet, alternating with adding oats. Be sure that you stir quickly after each addition of the hot oats so eggs don't cook.

5. Stir in the mix-ins, making any substitutions you like, but keep the entire quantity the same (just over 2 cups). Spoon onto cookie sheet, flatten, and bake for 12-15 minutes until the tops brown slightly.

I wanted substantial cookies, so I made 7 large cookies in each batch for a total of 14 cookies. If you make normal sized ones, you could probably get 20 cookies out of this batter.