It’s the weekend guys, and I don’t know about you but I feel good. Ecstatic, even, although it’s not like I’ve got anything special planned out. But how great is the very thought of two full days crammed with nothing other than endless possibilities of having fun?
And here’s one way to have that fun and eat well too — my deliciously vegan French Onion Tart with a divine gluten-free crust.
I use so many onions every day in my cooking, usually as a flavor base for other ingredients, that I forget just how much of a star this good old veggie is in its own right. Caramelized onions are deep, rich, sweet, smoky and incredibly flavorful. But wait! Did you know that onions are also super-good for you? They contain cancer-fighting compounds and have anti-inflammatory properties. Amazing.
I had been wanting to post this recipe forever because it’s so good and because I love you all so much, but I needed to find the time to make it during the day so Desi could get great pictures too. Despite sounding so ooh la la, this is quite a simple recipe and you don’t need to go shopping for any fancy ingredients (not unless you consider nutritional yeast a fancy ingredient, but it is optional). Which makes it the perfect treat for a lazy weekend, when you want to spend less time in the kitchen and more time hanging out on the couch with your sweetie (or your dog or cat or all of the above), and a bottle of wine.
The gluten-free crust is wonderful, but if you’d rather make a wheat crust that’s perfectly fine too. Just follow the instructions for the whole-wheat crust in my Coriander Quiche recipe.
So on with the tart recipe then, and weekend here I come! Why aren’t there two of you in every week?
1¼ cups gluten-free flour all-purpose flour (try and use something that’s gum-free. If you can’t find one, make your own with a combination of sorghum and millet)
¼ cup cornmeal
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp coconut oil (should be solid. Refrigerate if needed for a few minutes if it’s liquid)
Ice cold water
For the filling:
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 large onions, very thinly sliced. About 6 cups altogether.
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
1 tbsp cognac (optional)
1 14-oz package of firm tofu, drained
½ cup soymilk or other nondairy milk
1 tbsp thyme, finely chopped (substitute with 1 tsp dry thyme if you can’t find fresh)
1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional, it adds a slightly cheesy flavor which is nice)
1 tsp dijon or whole grain mustard
To make the tart shell, mix the flour, cornmeal, salt and black pepper in a bowl.
Cut the coconut oil into the all purpose flour with a fork or a pastry cutter until you have small pieces of the fat dispersed throughout the flour.
Drizzle in ice-cold water and mix with a fork until the dough comes together in a ball. Add the water slowly because you don’t want a wet dough– it should be moist enough to just hold together.
Press the dough into a flat disc and wrap tightly in cling wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
In the meantime, make the filling.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onions, sugar and a little salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions start to caramelize and become golden brown. This took me about 20 minutes over medium heat.
When the onions are browned, stir in the thyme, then add the cognac to deglaze the pan and scrape up all the tasty brown bits stuck at the bottom. If you’d rather not use cognac, use vegetable stock or plain old water.
Turn off the heat and set the onions aside to cool.
In a blender, crumble in the tofu then add soymilk, nutritional yeast if you’re using it, mustard and salt to taste. Blend until you have a very smooth mixture.
Scrape the tofu mixture into the pan with the onions and mix well.
To assemble the tart:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove the tart dough from the refrigerator and roll it out on a floured surface to a diameter two inches larger than the base of the tart pan (mine is 9 inches wide). Fold the dough in half and then transfer to a tart pan and open it so it lies evenly across the pan. If the dough tears, don’t worry. Patch it up once you have transferred it to the pan. No one will be able to tell.
Run the rolling pin across the edges of the tart pan and remove any excess dough hanging over the sides.
With a fork, prick the bottom of the tart shell in several places. Then cover with aluminum foil and fill it to the brim with rice or beans or pie weights. I keep some rice in a box and reuse it every time I need to blind bake a pie or tart crust.
Bake the filled tart crust for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the foil with the rice or beans in it, and continue to bake the crust for another 10 minutes until it is quite dry.
Remove the crust from the oven and increase the heat to 425 degrees. Brush the bottom of the crust with some extra virgin olive oil. Now scrape in the filling and smooth it.
Return the tart pan to the oven and bake for 40 minutes until the top of the tart is golden-brown.
Remove the tart to a rack and cool 10 minutes. Then unmold it — I do that by placing the tart on top of a mason jar and letting the rim slide off. Slide the tart off the base and onto the rack and continue cooling it for another 10 minutes.
I am not a big fan of tomato-based pasta sauces, but there is one — just one– dish that makes me feel like I’ve died and gone to Italian food heaven: Pasta Puttanesca.
Perhaps that’s largely because the tomato flavor in Pasta Puttanesca is not overriding. Instead, it has the olives and the capers and the parsley and the anchovies that give it that complex, rich, deep, amazing flavor… wait, did I just say anchovies? On a VEGAN blog?
Ok, relax, I was just messing with ya. But here’s the truth. Pasta Puttanesca without anchovies is pretty much pasta in just another tomato sauce because let’s face it: the anchovies give the sauce that rich saltiness and that sea-like flavor that defines this dish. Because a big part of cooking vegan is giving up animal foods without giving up any of the flavor, I came up with a perfect solution for the anchovy dilemma that I shared with you when I posted my Vegan Slut’s Spaghetti way back when– a combination of seaweed and tamari. The seaweed adds the ocean-y flavor that’s so integral to Pasta Puttanesca, and the tamari adds that equally important deep, salty richness.
I made this pasta gluten-free and because there are so many new gluten-free eaters, or so it seems, after the dawn of 2014, I want to include some simple instructions helpful for any cook new to gluten-free pasta:
-Gluten-free pasta tends to be — like many gluten-free foods out there — starchy. So try to cook the pasta in lots and lots of water– it wouldn’t hurt to double up on the amount of water you use for your regular pasta. You will see evidence of the starch in the water which will turn milky white after a few minutes of cooking.
-Like with any pasta, salt your pasta cooking water liberally. Remember to stir your gluten-free pasta regularly to separate the strands and don’t overcook it because it will turn into mush — al dente is key here, so test the doneness and texture of your pasta often in the last few minutes of cooking.
-Also, as with any pasta, don’t let it sit around after it’s cooked and before you add it to the sauce– because that’s when the noodles start to stick together, when they have nothing else to do. Remember your sauce can sit around for a while before you add the pasta noodles– you can always reheat it — but not the other way round.
So now that you have the basic primer, here’s the recipe for my gluten-free Pasta Puttanesca, a treat you can cook and enjoy in a hurry on a weeknight or a relaxed weekend when you don’t want to spend half the day cooking. Try feeding this to someone who wouldn’t be seen within 10 feet of a vegan meal and see if they can tell the difference. I betcha they won’t.
I have for you today this delicious Pasta with Bean Ragout. With whole-wheat fettuccine. And two kinds of beans. And greens, and carrots, and tomatoes. Can it possibly get any better than that?
If you are looking for a weeknight dish that cooks up in a hurry and also makes a convenient brown bag lunch you can stop right now and put the pot on. I used two kinds of beans in this recipe– Great Northern Beans and some jewel-red kidney beans (rajma)– because I wanted their different, distinct flavors and textures and also all that great protein they bring along.
The greens were a bit of an afterthought, but an afterthought that worked. I had a big box of fresh, organic spring greens sitting in the refrigerator and begging to become anything but a salad (have I told you I’m not a big fan?) So into the pasta they went, right at the end of cooking, and wilted just enough to become perfectly tender.
This is, like most of my recipes, a very versatile one. You can substitute another kind of bean (black would be great, or pinto, or even chickpeas). And you can use all kinds of veggies– green peppers, zucchini, mushrooms and kale would all work perfectly.
The sauce is light and flavorful but robust enough to leave you licking the bowl after you’ve slurped up the last of the pasta. And the bean ragout is quite able to stand on its own as a separate dish, thank you, that you can soak up with some crusty wholegrain bread.
1 16-oz package of fettuccine pasta. I cut up the fettuccine ribbons into 2-inch bits to make this an easier lunch to brown bag, but you can leave it whole if you’d rather.
1 cup of dried, mixed red kidney beans and Great Northern Beans or 3 cups of canned beans. (Use chickpeas, black beans or pinto beans for a variation)
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 medium carrots, diced
4 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled and then finely chopped
1 14-oz can of diced tomatoes (feel free to sub with two fresh tomatoes)
5 cups of packed spring greens (use spinach or kale for a variation)
2 bay leaves
¼ cup white wine (optional)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
If using dry beans, soak them in hot water for an hour or cold water overnight. Pressure cook or cook on stovetop until they are tender. If cooking on the stovetop, cover the beans with at least an inch of water, bring to a boil, cover and cook for 60-90 minutes or until tender. Keep an eye on the beans and add more water if the beans dry up during cooking.
Cook the pasta per package directions in salted water.
While the pasta cooks, heat half the olive oil in a large saucepan.
Add the chopped onion, bay leaves, and some salt and saute for about 5 minutes or until the onions turn translucent. Don’t let them brown.
Add the garlic and saute for a few seconds.
Add the carrots and wine, if using, and saute for another five minutes.
Add the beans and tomatoes and a cup of the beans’ cooking liquid or water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 7-8 minutes. Add the rosemary and stir it in.
Add the cooked pasta and greens and mix well. Turn off the heat.
Add some ground black pepper to taste and more salt, if needed.
This Pumpkin and Spinach Lasagna is just about the perfect meal if you love creamy pastas that melt in your mouth and seem way more indulgent than they actually are. And if you hate baking up those full-size lasagnas that take forever to make and then last forever and a week.
I made this lasagna on a weeknight and it took me no more than 45 minutes to put together (plus baking time). I used those no-boil noodles that cut down on the prep time quite a bit and the 7-inch noodles also fit perfectly in my little baking dish.
There are two kinds of fillings that you need to make for this dish, but they come together easily. One is a pumpkin bechamel sauce that is smooth and velvety and fragrant with nutmeg. I used almond milk for the bechamel but you can use any nondairy milk. The spinach filling is rather like creamed spinach — in fact if you were looking for a vegan creamed spinach recipe I bet you won’t find a better one. I used cashew cream in place of the dairy cream and it was just perfect.
To top the lasagna I used some grated potatoes because I love potatoes and I love the crunch they add to the creamy lasagna. You could go with breadcrumbs mixed with a little oil and herbs if you’d rather.>
This lasagna is an extraordinarily healthy indulgence, as you can see from the nutrition label at the end of the post. A single serving packs nearly 11 grams of protein, more than 8 grams of dietary fiber, and more than 400 percent of your daily requirement for Vitamin A. Although I called this a lasagna for two it could easily feed four people. Or you could brown bag leftovers to lunch, like we did. The only problem is, once you’ve licked off the last of the crumbs you might be left wishing you had made more.
1 potato, zapped in the microwave for a minute, then peeled and grated and mixed with 1 tsp olive oil
FOR THE PUMPKIN BECHAMEL:
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1½ cups pumpkin puree
A generous pinch of nutmeg
2 cups nondairy milk like almond or soy
2 tsp olive oil
FOR THE CREAMED SPINACH:
2 tsp olive oil
½ medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
½ cup cashew nuts, blended with ½ cup of water until very smooth and creamy
8 ounces of frozen, chopped spinach, thawed in the microwave
Salt and pepper to taste.
MAKE PUMPKIN BECHAMEL:
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Over medium heat add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour glistens, about two minutes.
Add the nondairy milk, stirring constantly with a whisk to prevent lumps from forming. Add the pumpkin puree and continue to whisk. Cook the sauce for 10 minutes. You want it to be thick but fluid, about the consistency of pancake batter. If the sauce gets too thick, add some more nondairy milk.
Add salt and pepper to taste and the nutmeg. Stir well.
MAKE CREAMED SPINACH:
Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onion and garlic.
Saute over medium heat until the onions turn translucent. Add the flour.
Cook, stirring, about two minutes until the flour glistens. Add the cashew cream and stir well.
Add the thawed spinach and continue cooking about two minutes. If the mixture is too thick, add some water. Add salt and ground pepper and, if desired, a dash of nutmeg.
Turn off the heat.
ASSEMBLE THE LASAGNA:
Spread a ladleful of the pumpkin bechamel on the bottom of a 8 X 5-inch baking dish with sides that are at least 3 inches deep.
Arrange two no-boil noodles on top of the sauce, then pour half of the pumpkin sauce on the noodles and spread evenly.
Place two more lasagna noodles on the pumpkin mixture, pour the the spinach mixture on top and spread evenly.
Place two more lasagna noodles on top of the spinach and spread the remaining pumpkin sauce over the noodles.
Top with the grated potato or breadcrumbs. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes remove the tinfoil and continue to bake for 15 more minutes. Then turn on the broiler and broil until the potatoes turn golden-brown and crunchy, about 5-10 minutes. Keep a close eye on the lasagna at this stage because you don’t want the top to burn.
Remove from the oven. Serve the lasagna hot or at room temperature– it’s perfect either way.
Nutrition information is for four servings, although this recipe could easily serve six:
Mujadara, a Lebanese medley of onions, rice and lentils, is delicious proof that the simplest of recipes can sometimes be the most satisfying and flavorful.
I came across a recipe for a one-pot version of this already easy-to-make dish in the New York Times while looking for dinner inspiration the other night. I was captivated. Mujadara is typically started by caramelizing onions but the cook in this case had used leeks. She had also cooked the lentils and rice together instead of cooking the lentils first as most recipes would do. And she had added greens to the pot too, making it a true one-pot meal and a supremely healthy one at that.
But the best part of it all was the time required to make the recipe. Just 35 minutes. How could I say no?
So I pulled out my big pot and my lentils and my rice and some wonderful spring greens and kale that were sitting in the refrigerator and went to work. I increased the flavor by adding more garlic and cayenne than the recipe called for. And I did have one brainwave that I used to ensure that the lentils did cook thoroughly because lentils take longer to cook than rice. The New York Times recommended soaking them for 10 minutes, but I put them in a microwave-safe bowl, covered them with an inch of water, and then I zapped them for seven minutes before adding them to the pot. When the dish was all ready the lentils were perfectly tender without being mushy and the rice was not overcooked. Divine.
This is an almost foolproof recipe and it packs so much flavor for so little work that it’s almost criminal. Oh, and did I say it was quick? But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s the recipe.
2 leeks, cleaned thoroughly. Trim the roots and slice the white and green parts into thin ribbons (use a large onion if you can’t find leeks)
1 cup brown lentils (whole masoor, sabut masoor). Place in a microwave-safe bowl with enough water to cover the lentils by an inch, then microwave for about seven minutes. You can do this while chopping your vegetables. Drain the lentils.
¾ cup basmati or other long-grain rice
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp allspice powder
5 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
1-inch stick of cinnamon
Salt to taste
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 cups leafy greens (use any combination of vegetables. I used 3 cups of spring greens and 1 cup of baby kale), finely chopped
Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the leeks and saute, stirring, over medium-high heat until the leeks are golden and crispy, about 8 minutes. If you use too little oil the leeks won’t crisp up.
Remove half the leeks to a bowl and sprinkle with a little salt while still warm.
To the pot with the remaining leeks, add the garlic and bay leaves, stir for about 30 seconds, and then add the cumin, allspice and cayenne. Stir for a few seconds to coat with the oil and then add the rice. Saute for a few seconds until the rice turns opaque.
Add the drained lentils, cinnamon, and salt to taste. Stir well, then add 4 cups of water.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to low until the water just simmers. Place a tight-fitting lid on the pot and let it steam away for 15 minutes.
Open the pot, arrange the greens on top in an even layer, cover, and cook for five more minutes. Turn off the heat.
Let the mujadara stand at least 10 minutes before opening the pot. Garnish with the reserved leeks and serve hot.
(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.