Friday, July 30, 2010


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As I mentioned in my blog last week, we have lots of lovely Swiss chard growing in our mini-garden, so I thought of this dish to use up some of it in an interesting way.

This type of delicious savory pie (many of them based on vegetables in season) is common all over Italy, but especially in the Italian province of Liguria, on the Italian Riviera, where my paternal grandmother’s family originated. It’s a large, thin double-crusted tart baked on a pizza pan. The thin olive oil dough (a little different from the olive oil pastry I used for a fruit pie here) is surprisingly pliable and easy to work with.

Though this type of tart is a gourmet treat, it was born of necessity—in earlier times wheat was expensive in that region and the thin dough used a small amount of flour and oil to feed quite a few. The filling could contain anything that was plentiful in the garden or on the farm, plus wild greens, mushrooms and herbs gleaned from nearby meadows, hillsides and forests.

(BTW, you can substitute any of your favorite greens for the chard in this pie.)

I’ve used my “Quick Tofu Feta Crumble” in place of the mildly tangy tuma fresca soft cheese of the region, and a binding mixture of silken tofu, nondairy milk and egg replacer instead of the customary eggs.

I think you'll like this!

 Printable Recipe

Serves 6 to 8

1 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup ice cold water
10 large Swiss chard leaves, washed, drained, stems discarded, leaves sliced 1/2” thick (4 cups)
1 medium Russet potato, steamed, peeled, and cut into 1/2” dice
1 medium onion, minced
2 tablespoons Italian parsley (flat leaf), minced
(Note: I mince the onions and parsley together in the food processor)
1 1/4 cups “Quick Tofu Feta Crumble” (recipe below)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup medium firm tofu, or extra-firm silken tofu
2 tablespoons nondairy milk
1/2 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon egg replacer powder (Orgran or Ener-G)
To Finish:
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Make the dough first: Whisk together the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Drizzle in the oil and mix with your fingers or a fork. Drizzle in the cold water slowly, mixing with a fork as you go. When it holds together, knead it gently into a ball, cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

While the Dough is chilling, make the Filling: Heat a large pot of water over high heat until it boils. Add the sliced chard and boil for about 30 seconds—just long enough to wilt it. Immediately drain it in a colander and cool it off under cold running water. Squeeze it in your hands to get as much liquid out as you can. Transfer it to a food processor and pulse it until it is minced.

Make the Tofu Feta Crumble (see recipe below) and mix it in a large bowl with the potatoes, onions and parsley. Add the 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste, and mix well. Stir in the minced chard.

Mix the Binder ingredients with an immersion/stick blender, or in the (cleaned) food processor until smooth. Scrape this mixture into the bowl of Filling ingredients, along with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix well. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Spray or lightly brush a 14” pizza pan with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with flour.

Cut of 1/3rd of the dough and set aside under a damp towel or plastic wrap while you work with the large piece. On a floured surface (Note: you can cover your counter with a large sheet of baking parchment and flour that, if you wish—this helps prevent sticking), flatten the larger ball of dough a bit and, using the “roll from the center forward, quarter turn, repeat” method, and flouring lightly if necessary, roll the dough out into a 15”-in-diameter round. This dough will roll out thinly quite nicely, but watch for tearing.

Sprinkle the round lightly with flour, fold loosely in half and then in half again. Transfer the dough carefully to the prepared pizza pan and carefully unfold the dough to fit the pan. Evenly spread the Filling over the dough, leaving 1” of exposed dough all around (Important!).

Now roll out the remaining, smaller ball of dough the same way to make a thin 13”-in-diameter round. Using the same method of transfer, place the dough over the Filling. It should overlap the Filling a little. Brush the exposed part of the bottom crust lightly with water and fold it over the top crust edge. Crimp to seal and pierce the top crust in various places to allow steam to escape and prevent the crust from puffing up. “Dimple” the top of the torta with your fingertips and drizzle or brush with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Bake about 35 minutes, or until it is golden and starting to brown. Place the pan on a cooling rack. Cut the torta into 6 or 8 wedges and serve hot or at room temperature.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 284.0 calories; 42% calories from fat; 13.7g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 627.7mg sodium; 403.5mg potassium; 33.0g carbohydrates; 2.6g fiber; 2.2g sugar; 30.4g net carbs; 8.8g protein; 6.3 points.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

8 ounces firm tofu (NOT silken), crumbled
4 teaspoons miso (not a very dark type)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/3 teaspoon salt

Mix and mash together all of the ingredients well with a fork. It will keep for a week or so, refrigerated in a covered container.


Thursday, July 22, 2010


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The pattypan squash are blooming-- can't wait for the little beauties!

DH does most of the gardening-- 99% of it-- around here, but neither of us is really into gardening. But you can't live in the country and not grow something in the summer! So here is a picture essay of our conventional garden and our deck garden. It's really producing now! So nice to have fresh greens and herbs, and there is is absolutely nothing like your own home-grown tomatoes!  (And our island market and market gardens can provide the rest for us!)

The Conventional Garden:

Lettuce, chard and kale

The tomatoes in the garden, surrounded by chicken wire to keep the cats from digging!

Chard up close

A pattypan blossom peeking out

A volunteer nasturtium cuddling up to a lettuce

BTW, in the front of the house, I have sage and a big rosemary bush, but I forgot to take pics!

The Deck Garden: (We always grow basil and cherry tomatoes on the back because it gets nice and hot, but this year we also have Italian parsley and we used some old dresser drawers to grow mesclun, baby spinach and more lettuce. I can go out and snip off some salad without getting my feet dirty! Evidently, if you cut lettuce about an inch above the soil, it will grow back! And I'm told you can do the same with spinach.)

I never had any luck with ordinary parsley, but the Italian parsley is doing wonderfully!

Dresser-drawer lettuce planter!

Dresser-drawer spinach-- so tender, and so clean when you snip it off!

Spinach and lettuce growing in drawers

Basil on the deck

Black cherry tomatoes-- so good!

The Harvest:

Fresh basil

Lettuce in the colander and spinach in the bag-- picked this morning!

Lettuce DH picked on Tuesday-- we save organic greens boxes and layer the cleaned, spun greens in them between pieces of paper toweling-- they keep quite well that way.

Fresh arugula in the spinner

My favorite lettuce spinner-- the Oxo Good Grips. It spins so well, it has a "brake" on it!

The Eating:

Lunch yesterday-- a "chef's salad" of fresh butter lettuce topped with Soy Curls sautéed in a little olive oil with some homemade bacon salt (no bacon in it!- here's my recipe), toasted pecans, and some strawberries and blueberries, with my Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette (low-fat). Yum!

Lunch today was a piece of leftover homemade pizza with this salad of fresh butter lettuce and arugula with marinated artichokes and some homemade bean salad.

Boy, don't we vegans suffer (not!)?


Monday, July 19, 2010


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DH got a "new" Bosch Universal Machine from our "Bosch Lady", Grace, now semi-retired. Only, it's not the new, new one!  It's a slightly older limited edition model (not used, but not the current model), in red! Isn't it cool?  She only had one left.  DH uses the Bosch more than I do, since he makes and sells bread to friends and neighbors several times a week.

I still use the Bosch often for mixing and making pizza dough, etc., but I make more and more of the crusty, no-knead bread these days.  Here are two boule that I made from the master recipe from "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, except that I added 1/2 cup of bran and baked them in a cast iron pot and a "cloche" made from a large flower pot!

I made them for dinner with a friend who was introducing us to her Italian boyfriend.  He was having a hard time finding good bread in our town-- well, Italian-style bread.  They loved it, so I promised to teach her this ridiculously easy method.


Last, but not least, the recipe with the unusual ingredient.

I've talked about this before, but I am revisiting it. Cocoa and chocolate have been used for centuries in savory cooking, in Central America and Mexico, of course, but also in Europe, particularly parts of France and Italy.  Says Remo Vannini, executive chef of Florence's L'Incontro at Hotel Savoy: ."Like wine, vinegar or lemon juice, chocolate provides just the right touch of acidity. We Italians add a hint of chocolate to many sauces. Chocolate acts not only as an emulsifier, adding natural thickness to sauces, but also enhances the other flavors." 

This can also apply to vegan dishes-- I will have a recipe for a Sicilian-style stew containing cocoa in my new book. The following dish is much faster to make, and contains the medieval touch of raisins soaked in wine. The mushrooms are rich tasting enough to use instead of the above-mentioned "game meats". I thought it was absolutely delicious. DH remarked, "This is the kind of meal you don't want to end!"

Unusual ingredient in a savory dish, but truly "food of the gods"!

Printable Recipe


 Servings: 4
This is easy and pretty fast to make, and really excellent flavor.  

1/2 cup dark raisins, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup medium-dry sherry
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 lbs button or cremini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups any kind of seitan or chicken sub (such as Soy Curls), cut into 1/4" dice(see info here about Soy Curls)
1 cup chicken-style vegan broth, or mushroom broth (about broths, see this page, and this one)
4 teaspoons organic, fair trade unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons hot water
salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley for garnish
8 ounces dry linguine

Place the raisins in a bowl with the sherry and set aside to soak.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, salt them a bit, and cook them, stirring often, until they are soft and turn brown, but not burnt. Alternate Method to save time: Place the olive oil in a microwaveable casserole, add the onions, salt lightly, cover and microwave on 50% power for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are softened. Then scoop them into a heated nonstick pan and continue cooking over medium heat until they turn brown, as above.

Cut the mushrooms into about 3/4" chunks. If the mushrooms are small, you can leave them whole, or cut them in half; if they are large cut them into quarters.

Have a large pot of water heating to cook the linguine. When it boils, add the linguine and until al dente: drain.

While the onions cook, heat the second tablespoon of olive oil a larger heavy skillet or stir-fry pan over high heat. Add the mushrooms and salt lightly. Stir-fry them until the start to exude their liquid. Keep cooking them until they are done to your liking, adding a splash of water if necessary to keep them from sticking. Add the browned onions, diced seitan (or alternate), and the sherry and raisins. Toss well and add the broth. Whisk the cocoa and hot water together in a cup and add to the pan. Keep cooking over high heat, stirring often, until the sauce reduces and thickens a bit. Taste for salt and pepper.

Divide the pasta between 4 pasta bowls and top evenly with the mushroom mixture and some of the sauce. Sprinkle with the parsley.

Nutrition Facts (made with Soy Curls and including the pasta)
Nutrition (per serving):
428.3 calories; 19% calories from fat; 9.7g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 126.9mg sodium; 965.2mg potassium; 66.7g carbohydrates; 4.9g fiber; 16.4g sugar; 61.8g net carbs; 15.0g protein; 8.6 points.

Nutrition Facts (NOT including the pasta)
Nutrition (per serving): 250 calories, 78 calories from fat, 8.9g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 123.6mg sodium, 887.1mg potassium, 30.7g carbohydrates, 3.8g fiber, 16.4g sugar, 8.9g protein, 8.6 points.