Saturday, March 7, 2015

Chocolate Vegetable Tarts

For our second "chocolate night" during the Week 7 challenge, we went back to the Superfoods for Life: Cacao cookbook and made some rich chocolaty vegetable tarts. This was another one of those recipes that jumped out at me the first time I read through the book because it was such an interesting idea. You make the dough using cocoa powder and have bits of chocolate sprinkled inside the tart. I was so curious to see how well all that chocolate would match up with the savory ingredients.

First up, the ingredients for the dough:

- 1 tbsp sugar ($0.05)
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder ($0.60)
- 1-1/4 cups flour ($0.70)
- 1/4 tsp salt ($0.05)
- 1/2 cup melted coconut oil ($0.80)
- 4 tbsp cold water ($0)
- 2 tsp garlic powder ($0.05)

I added a little more garlic powder than the original recipe suggested, and used melted coconut oil instead of vegan margarine (one of the alternatives they offered). All together, the dough cost somewhere around $2.25.

Besides the dough, we also needed:

- 1 box of white mushrooms, chopped ($1.79)
- 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced ($0.60)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced ($0.08)
- 1/2 batch of chives, minced ($0.85)
- 1 tsp low sodium soy sauce ($0.05)
- 1-2 cups of artichoke hearts, chopped ($2)
- lemon juice ($0.10)
- salt ($0.05)
- 3 cubes of basil ($0.30)
- 2 tomatoes ($1.15)
- 2 oz of dark chocolate ($0.60)
- olive oil ($0.20)

The total for the tart contents was about $7.77 (the artichoke amount is more of a guess than anything else since we've had that jar for a while), making the grand total for our tart experiment approximately $10.02. Part of me wants to raise that total another $2 for the fresh basil we bought at the store that completely went bad before we could use it (and it wasn't even that long after buying it). It wasn't from Trader Joe's (with their awesome return policy), so we were just out the $2 and it really was just for this dish. If we just say it was about $12 then, it would be about $1 a tart (a little less, since not all of the vegetables made it into the tarts (more on that later)). Not exceptionally cheap, but fine.

There were a lot of steps involved in making the tarts, none of them exceptionally hard unless you're not used to working with the dough (like me) but together pretty time-consuming. They were:

1. Prep - chop mushrooms and onions, and mince garlic and chives. Mix them all together in a bowl with the soy sauce.

2. Make the dough - combine all of the dough ingredients together in a bowl and mix together well. [The consistency of the dough wasn't what I expected at all, but this was my first time making vegan dough. It was a little bit drier and less sticky to the touch, but I don't know if it was supposed to be like that or not.]

3. Separate dough into 12 portions. Take each portion of dough and roll it out flat.

4. Place each rolled out piece of dough into a greased muffin tin. [I did a really poor job of splitting the dough into equal portions... obviously. So I ended up moving some of the dough from piece to piece while in the tin. Oops.]

5. Slice up the artichoke hearts and add those as the bottom layer to each muffin cup.

6. Add the mushroom mixture. [NB: The mixture isn't cooked first according to the recipe. I was concerned about how much water this would release and considered a light saute first, but ended up just following the instructions. It turned out fine.]

7. Add a spritz of lemon juice and some salt to each muffin cup.

8. Add a little basil to each muffin cup. [Normally this would be where you place one basil leaf in each cup, but yeah... rotten basil leaves. So we microwaved the basil cubes for a little bit and then spread a little in each cup, kind of like pesto, which probably would have been a better idea.]

9. Slice the tomatoes and add one slice to each muffin cup.

10. Chop up the chocolate and add to the top of each cup.

11. Drizzle olive oil on top of each cup.

12. Bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes and then lower the heat to 375 degrees and bake for 15 minutes.

Similar to the green beans, the tarts didn't quite look like the cookbook photo, but in this case, it didn't matter. The tarts were so interesting and really tasty. I wasn't sure how a cocoa-heavy dough would go with the vegetables but they were a great match. We actually had some mushroom mixture and some tomato ends left after putting together the muffin cups, so I lightly sauteed that with whatever chocolate bits were left, and it tasted really great. In my opinion, that actually tasted better than the tarts, probably because it was a little lighter. Chocolate just seems to match up well with tomatoes, mushrooms, and onions. Who knew? Not me.

Although they were tarts, they were a little too heavy at first to actually pick up and eat like a tart. Maybe I put too much of the mushroom mixture and other vegetables inside, but we ended up eating them with a fork which was fine. A was eventually able to lift and eat them by hand, but that was after they cooled a bit more. I was actually impressed that they came out intact, since it was my first try making tarts and I thought they would be a huge broken mess. We ended up eating all 12 that night. Probably not a great idea, but we were hungry and they were so good! Not a short process to make them, mostly because of the rolling out of the dough and all the vegetable prep, but it was definitely worth the effort to test this out. More of a weekend cooking project than a weeknight meal, in my opinion, but we would consider making these again.

Our favorite recipe from the cacao cookbook was the cocoa jerk tofu, but these tarts were quite good. Can't wait to experiment more with cocoa powder and adding chocolate to savory dishes, because this experiment was great. I've learned through this challenge that chocolate isn't just limited to mole and chili in the savory context. It's so great in so many other things! Very happy with these experiments.

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