Vegetable-Topped Tart with Pecan Crust

However you slice it, tarts are work.  They take a long time to make and they dirty (almost) every dish in the kitchen.  But.  They are pure decadence that proves to everyone who eats them just how much you love them.  They’re daintier than a pie and striking in presentation.  Once in a while, particularly when vegetables are at their prime, it’s the best way to showcase them as edible art.

This tart is inspired by all the scrumptious ones that Amy Chaplin (my hero and cooking crush!!!!) has blogged and written into her cookbook.  It features her garlic poaching trick and an almost illegal amount of pure virgin olive oil in every component to be made.  Celebratory food to be eaten with reckless abandon on a Sunday night before going back to a grueling week at the welding shop.

Yield: 9 tartlets with some leftover vegetables and filling or 1 massive tart

What you need for the crust:

  • 1 cup raw pecans
  • 1 cup chickpea flour (besan)
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup rice flour, white or brown
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons cold water, or more, as required
  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

What you need for the vegetable topping:

  • 8 cups sliced summer veggies (any or all of the following: wax or green beans cut into thirds; halved and sliced zucchini; baby carrots quartered lengthwise; halved small radishes; thinly sliced Japanese eggplant; quartered Harukei turnip; french cut shallot or onion)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

What you need for the filling:

  • 1 lb firm or extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry
  • 1 steamed or roasted medium-size sweet potato, yellow-flesh preferred
  • 4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sweet brown rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon ume plum vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • zest of 1 organic lemon
  • juce of 1/2 of the lemon
  • 3 tablespoons water, depending on how firm the tofu is

And finally:

  • 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar per tartlet

What you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Start by making the crust.  Buzz the pecans and rolled oats in a food processor until a coarse meal forms.  Empty the contents of the work-bowl into a large mixing bowl.  Add the chickpea and rice flours, sesame seeds, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Drizzle in the oil and water and mix into coarse crumbs using a fork or your fingertips.  Check and see if more water is needed by squeezing some of the mixture in your palm: it should hold its shape but not stick to your hands.  If it won’t hold, add a bit more water until it does – but not so much as it becomes sticky.
  3. Clean your hands and dry them well.  Press the mixture into a large tart pan or multiple smaller ones.  Press well so the crust sticks together nicely without being overly thick in any given place.  Ideally, use tart or tartlet pans with removable bottoms.
  4. Par-bake the crusts for 12 minutes in the hot oven, just to set them.  Remove and let cool and raise the oven temperature to 400F.  Also raise one of the oven grates up a notch so you can get two sheet pans in there at once.
  5. Now it’s the vegetables.  Toss them with in a large bowl with the oil and salt.  Split between two 11×17 baking pans lined with parchment or silpat liners.  Pop’em in the oven and let roast 20 minutes or so, rotating pans half-way through.  It may take longer or shorter depending on the size the vegetables have been cut and how hot your oven runs, so check often.  The vegetables should be soft and starting to brown when removed, but not overly crispy.  When done, remove from the oven and let cool.  Lower the oven back to 350F.
  6. While the vegetables roast and the crusts cool, make the filling.  Heat a small skillet or frypan over low heat and add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 4 cloves of chopped garlic.  Cook until the garlic is soft (but not coloured) and the oil beginning to simmer and highly fragrant.
  7. While the garlic poaches peel the sweet potato and put it in the work bowl of the food processor (fitted with an S-blade).  Add the vinegars, lemon juice and tamari.  When the garlic and oil are done, add those two and process until very smooth.
  8. Break the tofu into chunks and add it to the food processor.  Process until stiff and smooth, adding water by the tablespoonful as required if the mixture is too thick.  When ready, add the lemon zest and pulse a few times to distribute it while keeping the strands relatively whole.
  9. To assemble, mound the filling into each tartlet crust (or pile it into the big tart).  Top with a healthy heap of roasted vegetables, artfully scattered over the tofu mixture.                                                                                                                             IMG_0394
  10. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.  5 minutes before the tart(s) are done baking, drizzle 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar over each tartlet evenly and finish cooking.  (For a large tart, it would translate to about 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.)
  11. Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes at least before removing from the pans.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

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