Monthly Archives: November 2009

White Bean Tartlets with Oven Roasted Tomatoes

This post is dedicated to my friend Elsbeth who is going to kick my butt for waiting two weeks to post. I could possibly be the most procrastinating-est blogger ever. It’s a curse.

So, Elsbeth, this one is for you.

Solo Tartlet

I had a little party on Friday two weeks ago to celebrate a blog milestone. The original plan was to have a few friends over for appies and wine to celebrate crossing the 100,000-views mark, but that didn’t work out because I ended up getting to that point faster than originally thought and the timing was off. (No, it was not procrastination related, for once.) Then I thought it would be cute to instead have people over for passing by 123,456 views.

So, that’s what it ended up being.

I sometimes get a bit of party anxiety, though. Will people have fun? Will there be enough food?

And, as usual, my fretting was all for naught. Besides having cheese, crackers, some salami and prosciutto, I also made two appetizers: prawns sauteed with chili, garlic and ginger served in wonton crisp cups and these White Bean Tartlets with Oven Roasted Tomatoes. And thankfully (with the addition of sending one care package home for a friend who couldn’t make it), all of the food was eaten! Frankly, that was the best part. Made me feel like everyone enjoyed the goodies. Plus, you know, less clean up.

(So, I’m making up for the lack of text here with bonus photos. Couldn’t narrow them down….)

Trio of tartlets III

I got the inspiration from one of my 8 million cookbooks, but adjusted the recipe quite a bit and figure that, at that point, it’s safe to call it my own. It was pleasantly garlicky and rich-tasting even though there was almost no fat involved. And, c’mon, they’re just so damn cute.

Thyme

Tomatoes and Thyme

Roasted Tomatoes with Thyme

White Beans pre-puree

Trio of Tartlets

Trio of tartlets II

White Bean Tartlets with Oven Roasted Tomatoes

  • 30 grape tomatoes
  • 30 tart shells or pastry to make 30 tarts
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4-5 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 19 oz (540 mL) can white kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup white wine (can substitute stock or even water)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bake tart shells as indicated or blind bake homemade pastry until shells are completely cooked.

Preheat oven to 350. Put tomatoes in oven safe dish and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt and add the sprigs of thyme. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes until their skins have started to split. Set aside.

In a pot over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and minced garlic. Once the oil is hot and the garlic has started to soften, add the drained and rinsed beans and continue cooking until warmed through and the beans are starting to fall apart, stirring often. Add wine (or stock or water) and thyme leaves and cook until most of the liquid is gone. Remove from the heat. Dump the beans, garlic and thyme into a food processor and whiz until it forms a nice paste. If it appears to be a bit too dry, add some more wine/stock/water. Spoon into cooked pastry shells and top each one with a roasted tomato. At this point I also spooned any drippings from the roasted tomato pan onto the tartlets.

Applesauce Cake

The original copy of this recipe is a decrepit piece of scrap paper with a lone hole punch that has been reinforced. It is battered, splattered and stained.

It has been typed on an old typewriter using a cloth ribbon, a large series of Xs cancelling out the erroneous title of Nanaimo Bars, while the correct name of Applesauce Cake has been underlined in red.

And there, in my mum’s bubbled handwriting, are the adjustments she has made over the almost four decades she has carried this recipe around. It has travelled from one kitchen to the next, slowly yellowing with age, garnering new splotches as time has passed by.

The original recipe

But the flavour of this applesauce cake — warmly spiced, slightly sweet and oh-so-apple — remains a constant. A taste of childhood and home and family.

The original still resides in my mum’s kitchen, tucked away among her other recipes, typed by her or clipped from the newspaper, newer ones printed from the Internet or photocopied from magazines. But with the technology of a scanner and e-mail, I now have my own digital copy of the beloved Applesauce Cake recipe, complete with brown stain and wrinkled edges.

At its heart, it is a simple loaf cake flavoured with applesauce, nutmeg and cinnamon. But it is also a trigger for childhood memories: trying to wait for it to be cool enough to eat as it sat on the wire baking rack; running little fingers under the rack glaze that had drizzled off the edge of the cake; finally getting a slice and eating it from the bottom up so the last few bites were coated with icing.

Applesauce Cake I

The apple flavour comes through well, but it is the cinnamon and nutmeg that make the cake a little more extraordinary. I’m not a food snob by any stretch, but I will say that there is no comparison between pre-grated nutmeg in a spice jar and the taste imparted by the freshly grated stuff.

These days whole nutmegs are not that hard to find and are well worth the effort for the improved flavour alone. Not to mention, they are gorgeous when grated: cream-coloured with darker brown veins, like marble.

(A fine grater will work, but my family is devoted to the rasps scoop up from Lee Valley Tools, which make quick work of nutmeg and are ideal for zesting citrus, mincing garlic and making fluffy clouds out of Parmesan.)

While the original version made one loaf in a 9.5-by 5-inch pan (24-by 12-centimetres), it left the baker with leftover applesauce. In her wisdom, my mum amended the measurements–writing them neatly down the side of the paper– so it would use up a full can, rather than leaving her to try to deal with roughly a half-cup of the stuff. Plus, in her words, it means “more cake!”

This comes together very quickly–especially if you have the forethought to pull out the butter or margarine early. Patience must come, though, with the hour-long baking time and the dreaded cooling period, which was such a source of frustration as a kid.

My glazing skills apparently need work, but, while unattractive, it tasted just as good as when I ate it in my mum’s kitchen.

Applesauce Cake II

And yes, when I had finally waited long enough for it to be glazed and I could slice off the first piece, I ate it starting at the bottom so the last bite would be the perfect combination of cake and glaze. After all, some things never change.

Applesauce Cake III

Applesauce Cake IV

Applesauce Cake

  • ¾ cup (175 mL) margarine or butter, softened
  • 1½ cups (375 mL) sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2¾ cups (675 mL) sifted flour
  • 1½ tsp (7 mL) salt
  • 1½ tsp (7 mL) baking powder
  • ¾ tsp (3 mL) baking soda
  • ¾ tsp (3 mL) nutmeg
  • ¾ tsp (3 mL) cinnamon
  • 1 14 oz (398 mL) can sweetened applesauce

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

Cream together margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in eggs. Sift together dry ingredients. Add to creamed mixture, alternating with applesauce, beating after each addition.

If you like, stir in ¾ cup (175 mL) chopped walnuts before pouring batter into loaf pans.

Pour into two prepared (sprayed or rubbed with a bit of butter or margarine) 8-by 4-in. (20-by 10-cm) loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour or until done. (Start checking at the 50-minute mark.)

Remove and let cool for about 10 minutes before removing from pans and putting on rack to cool completely.

Sugar Glaze:

Combine ½ cup (125 mL) sifted icing sugar with 1 tbsp. (15 mL) water. Pour over cake.

This story first appeared in the Real Life section in the Calgary Herald. For more delicious recipes, visit CalgaryHerald.com/life.