xoFood: The Best Vegetarian Dish I've Ever Made

This tart is special, and to think that it will grace your tables makes me happier than you can imagine.

Jan 18, 2014 at 12:00pm | Leave a comment

Here's a secret, xoJaners: I was, for a very long time, a vegan. What my family did during that time for dinner has become part of those memory years I’ve blocked out.  Even though I've retired the soy milk in my house, more and more of my friends are now part of Team Veggie, and it's becomes a real consideration to put things on my table that make everyone feel welcome.
 
A number of years ago I hosted a dinner and had one vegan coming, and although I planned items just for him in addition to the other dishes, I also realized as I was cooking that it was often just one or two ingredients, easily swapped, that could turn a dish from vegan to non-vegan. If swapping out some butter for olive or coconut oil was the difference for him, was it really moral or gracious not to indulge him? How big a difference would these changes really make? 
 
It's a question a lot of my vegetarian and vegan readers ask, and the answer is, they make a difference. Sometimes they’re small differences.  I often eat a gluten-free cookie and think to myself, “Hey. know what would make this better? SOME FUCKING GLUTEN”.  But if you have a foodie peticularism, you often can’t choose to spend dinners or holidays among a receptive audience. Instead, you’re spending it with people with a variety of tastes and a stronghold on traditions that are at base, not accommodating. 
 
This recipe was years in the making -- I had the almond crust from a Mushroom Croustade recipe in one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks and I've repurposed it for all kinds of tarts. Tarts are like a high minded pizza.  I make a mean one with brie, apples and caramel that could be dessert or breakfast.  
 
When I was discussing this idea I had of a vegetable tart with a chef friend, they made an insane suggestion: chevre and miso. The tart has come some way since then, but I'm so proud of it that when i was recently asked to guest chef one night at my friends' French restaurant in Scottsdale, this was one of the dishes I put forward. 
 
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The night I served this at Petite Maison in Arizona- my first real restaurant gig. 

 
This is a multi-layered tart -- it's an almond crust with a layer of miso-chevre, tomato tapenade, blanched spinach and roasted fall vegetables. 
 
It's not complicated, it's multi-stepped. There’s a difference. Part of why I love it is that the fact that it's vegetarian is so happenstance. It’s just a gorgeous, delicious centerpiece and literally ANYONE would eat it.  If you’re a guest at a dinner and want to bring something vegetarian, this is ideal as it won’t require an oven or any prep time when you arrive and will travel well.  Take your time, don't rush it, and just work each part of the recipe separately and you'll be fine. 
I recommend a lot of recipes here on XOJane, a lot of them original out of my kitchen influenced by things all over the globe: websites, cooking shows, cookbooks, restaurants, colors, shapes.  I can’t tell you how much it means to me when you mention making them successfully, or I see them on Pinterest or Instagram. But this tart is special, and to think that it will grace your tables makes me happier than you can imagine. 
 
Amanda's Fall Vegetable Tart
 
crust:
1 1/3 cup almonds
1 cup whole wheat breadcrmbs
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove
6 tbsp butter
 
This is pretty simple. Throw everything into a Cuisinart. You can use regular breadcrumbs if you want, I don't notice much difference in taste. Pulse until everything is smooth. Empty out into tart pan and, using your fingers, press into an even layer along the bottom and up the sides. bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. 
 
tomato tapenade layer:
4 medium sized tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic
a dash of salt and pepper
1 tbsp of olive oil
 
Halve the tomatoes, smash the garlic cloves and throw everything into a small oven safe dish. Cover with the olive oil, salt and pepper and then put into 400 degree oven for 40 minutes. Once you remove them, pour off the tomato water, leaving the tomatoes and garlic behind. Pulse in a blender or food processor until smooth and put aside. 
 
Miso-Chevre Layer:
6 oz of chevre
1 tbsp of white miso
1 cup of heavy cream or yogurt
 
In your food processor, add the chevre and miso and blend. Pour in the cream slowly, until everything is blended, then pull out and put aside, leaving at room temperature. 
 
spinach layer:
3 cups of spinach leaves, washed
1/2 cup of olive oil
 
In a large sautepan on medium high, toss spinach leaves with olive oil, salt and pepper. Because you don't want to break the leaves, just toss them or move them around using the pan itself, by the handle.  Allow the spinach to cook through, seasoning it generously, about 5-6 minutes. Pour the spinach onto paper towels and cover in more paper towels, and press them dry. 
 
vegetable layer:
1 japanese eggplant
2 bunches of multicolored carrots
1 red beet
1 yellow beet
1 bunch thin asparagus
12 mushrooms
 
Peel all the vegetables that require it (beets, carrots), and trim the asparagus of its woody parts. Halve the eggplant. Place the carrots, asparagus, eggplant and mushrooms in a sautepan, on medium high heat with olive oil, salt and pepper and cook, tossing and moving around constantly, for 5-6 minutes then pour off onto paper towels. Wrap the beets in tin foil and place in oven for 40 minutes at 400degrees. 
 
Putting it all together: 
1. Start by placing the oven at 400 degrees. Prep the tomatoes as noted above, and then place into the oven. Prep the beets as above and place into the oven. 
 
2. Prep the crust as above and place in the oven, set timer for 20 minutes. 
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3. The crust, beets and tomatoes should be ready to come out about the same time. Place them aside to cool off and prep the other vegetables as above. 
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4. Prep the spinach as above and put aside. 
 
5. Prep the miso-chevre as above in your Cuisinart, then put aside and wash the cuisinart. 
 
6. Blend the tomato tapendade as above in the cuisinart and then put aside. 
 
7. With a bowl of water at your side, start spreading the miso-chevre in the bottom of the tart shell. Your goal is a single smooth layer, pretty thin. Use the back of a soup spoon. Just get the chevre into the shell, then dip the spoon into the water, so you're using a wet spoon back to smooth the chevre out. 
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8. Now pour the tomato tapenade on top of the chevre and spread it out with a spoon. 
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9. Using your fingers, start spreading out the spinach leaves on top of the tapenade. You overlap the leaves, and move from one side to the other, eventually covering the entire tart. 
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10. Now start placing the vegetables on top in small groupings. Place a line of sliced beets, and then nestle some asparagus next to it. Tuck vegetables into small spots wherever you can. The idea is to put different colors next to eachother. Ultimately, it will taste amazing regardless of what the vegetables on top look like. 
 
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That's it. Serve it by slicing it with a long, clean, wet knife. Enjoy.
 
 
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