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For People Who Fear Crust

March 24, 2010

Some people are afraid of yeast so they don’t make bread.  Some people are afraid of crusts so they don’t make tarts or pies.  (I myself am afraid of frosting layer cakes but I don’t let it stop me.)  So, If I say “tart”, are you one of those people who gets scared?   Truth be told, I find crusts can be tricky even thought I have made a lot of them.  Every time I make a pie, I say a little prayer to the crust gods to make things go smoothly.  My only advice is that it helps to have a good recipe and lots of practice.

If you do suffer from a crust phobia, please make this pie.  I would say it’s like a crust-less quiche, but it does in fact have a crust.  It is nothing more than some breadcrumbs sprinkled into a buttered pie plate, but somehow just that little bit of attention makes it more elegant, interesting, and also helps hold the slices together.  The lack of a butter and/or shortening  crust also makes a slice much lighter and healthier – so you can be a little more heavy-handed with the cheese.

This is one of many Jeanne Lemlin tarts that I have made – all easy, all delicious.  It is totally adaptable and great for lunch, brunch, or dinner.  Although she says it is important to use Swiss cheese in this one to help keep it all together, I bet you could substitute another firm cheese and have it turn out fabulously well.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

Zucchini, Tomato, and Swiss Cheese Pie
Adapted from Quick Vegetarian Pleasures
Serves 4

1 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup bread crumbs
Olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 tsp. fennel seed
¼ tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
¼ pound grated Swiss cheese
3 tbsp. grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 375º F.  Butter a 9 inch pie plate, then sprinkle the bread crumbs all over the sides and bottom.  Allow whatever loose crumbs are there to just sit on the bottom.

2.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add enough olive oil to just coat the bottom, then add the onion.  Sauté until translucent, then add the garlic and sauté for another 3 minutes.  Stir in the diced tomatoes and sauté another 5 minutes.  Raise the heat to high.  Mix in the zucchini, fennel seed, salt and pepper.  Cook until the zucchini is barely tender, about 5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and cool 5 minutes.  (The recipe may be prepared in a dvance to this point an dchilled up to 24 hours.  Bring to room temperature before proceeding.)

3.  Beat the eggs in a large bowl.  Stir in the milk, then mix in the zucchini mixture.  Pour half into the prepared pie plate, top with the Swiss cheese, then pour on the remaining vegetable mixture.  Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese all over the top.

4.  Bake 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is golden brown.  Let sit 10 minutes before cutting.

Apple Torte from a Great Book

February 9, 2010


When you are a cookbook addict and you have more than your fair share of vegetarian cookbooks, what do you do?  If you are me, you start buying baking books.

I don’t remember when I bought The Greyston Bakery Cookbook and I don’t remember why.  It is a fairly unassuming looking book.  It doesn’t feature any of the gravity defying desserts that seem so tempting from other gorgeous books I have been fooled into buying.  In a moment of unremembered inspiration, I brought home this sweet book and am I ever glad I did.

In spite of the draw toward architectural and difficult desserts, the truth is that I like my sweets on the simple side.  I like the challenge of making something involved but if I am going to sit down and eat a treat, simple is better for my taste buds.  I don’t mean simple as in plain; I mean simple as in unfussy.


If you are with me, this cookbook is a treasure.  So often when I start opening my baking books looking for that elusive just-simple-but-still-delicious cake (like this one), I start to lose interest as page after page of time consuming sweets go by.  Last night I had some friends coming over and, after our vacation, I was ready to bake.  But I definitely wanted simple.  I first picked up Tartine, the dessert book I chose for my Top 10 Desert Island cookbooks.  Nope, nope, and nope.  Then I remembered this book.  Yep, yep, and yep.  Grapefruit Yogurt Cake, Orange Poppy Seed Cake, Chocolate Obsession Cake.  All tempting, all relatively simple.

I decided on this Apple Torte.  I was a little nervous about it turning out.  I have made some of the bar recipes in the book and a fantastic cookie recipe but never any of the cakes.  It could have been a mess.  It was not a mess.  In fact, I think it was amazing.  The contrast in textures of the crunchy crust, the smooth cream cheese filling, and the soft but not mushy apples was amazing.  And taste.  The buttery richness of the crust, the fruity sweetness of the jam, the tang of cream cheese and the spiced and maple syruped apples was sublime.  This is coming from an avowed chocolate lover – it is a terrific dessert.  I’m officially changing that Top 10 list to include The Greyston Bakery Cookbook.


One Year Ago: Broccoli and Red Pepper Pie

Apple Torte
Adapted from The Greyston Bakery Cookbook
Makes one 9″ Cake, 10-12 servings

Although this recipe is found in the cake section of the book, it is really more like a tart.

For the Crust
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup flour
½ cup apricot jam

For the Filling
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 egg
¼ tsp. vanilla extract

For the Topping
3 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ cup slivered almonds

Prepare the crust:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.  Grease a 9″ round springform pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla on medium speed.  Using a fork or your fingers, work in the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Press the mixture onto the bottom and 1″ up the sides of the prepared pan.  Pierce the bottom several times with the tines of a fork.  Chill at least 30 minutes.

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the pastry is set and golden.  Cool on a wire rack.  When the pastry is cool, spread the apricot jam evenly over the bottom of the crust and set aside.

Prepare the filling:
Using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat the cream cheese with the sugar until light.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Spread the filling over the prepared crust.

Prepare the topping:
In a large bowl, combine the apples with the sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and cardamom.  Arrange the apples in concentric circles over the filling.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.  Remove the torte and sprinkle with the almonds.  Put the torte back in the oven and bake an additional 30 minutes, or until the apples are tender.  Cool on a wire rack at least 30 minutes.  Release and remove the pan sides.  Cool completely and then refrigerate until ready to serve.

(DN: I didn’t do this, but I would recommend brushing the apples with warmed apricot glaze.  It will make them shine.  Also, I had LOTS of leftovers which I refrigerated and they still look great, so I would imagine you can make this a day ahead.  Much more than that and the apples will start to look tired.)


January 26, 2010

So 300 posts.  Really?  300?  How did that happen?  Didn’t I just start this blog yesterday?  Numbers, as they say, don’t lie and my count says 300.  Wow.  I thought I would give you some Top Ten Lists in celebration.

Top Ten Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me

1. I play guitar and sing.  Well, I don’t much anymore but I started guitar lessons in 7th grade and took them all the way through high school.  I sang in coffee houses all through college and at some open mic’s in my 20’s.  Now I sing “The Wheels on the Bus” ad nauseum.  I also write my own songs for the boys such as the “Hippo Song” and “I’ve Got Two Little Boys and They’re Eating Some Dinner”.  Genius stuff.

2. My boys’ names are Graham and Spencer.  There is a very cool (and very expensive) clothing line also named Graham and Spencer, which I didn’t know about until after we had decided to name the youngest Spencer.  It is the last names of the two designers.  I am always tempted to buy something of theirs so I can go around town showing people my label.

3. I am very very afraid of spiders.  All bugs really.  Can deal with snakes but not bugs.

4. I kind of hung out with – I wouldn’t say dated – the drummer from Alice in Chains for a summer.  He had a cervil (which is an African cat – like a small leopard) roaming around his house.  True story.

5. My dream is to attend the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in Napa for pastry.

6. As a child, I was told that I would grow to be 5’9″.  I stopped at 5’3″.  Sometimes I pine for those 6 inches.  My own mother is four inches taller than me and both my brothers are over 6 feet.  My boys are tall for their ages so it looks like the short gene skips a generation.

7. I used to be a huge Bruce Springsteen fan.  My senior year of high school, I camped out on 3rd Avenue in downtown Seattle (with my parents’ consent) to get tickets for his concert.  In spite of almost being at the front of the line, we had lousy seats.  I wrote a letter to his fan magazine (Backstreets) and it got published.  And that is the only bit of my writing that has ever been published.

8. I don’t like tropical fruit.  Wait.  Is pineapple considered a tropical fruit?  If so, I don’t like tropical fruit except for pineapple.

9. I used to work in radio and I went to concerts for free for two years.  I got to go backstage often and met a lot of cool people.  Lenny Kravitz, Melissa Etheridge, kd lang, Jackson Browne, Hootie and the Blowfish, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Dave Matthews (yes, he is my neighbor – well, close enough), Tori Amos, Chris Cornell, the Spin Doctors (yes, this was the mid-90’s), Shawn Colvin, etc.

My favorite experience was meeting Jackson Browne.  My dad has been a huge fan since the early 70’s and we listened to a lot of his music all throughout my childhood.  I was friendly with his record label rep and asked if he could get us good seats and backstage passes.  This very nice guy delivered and we enjoyed a terrific show.  Afterward we went into the holding room where the “meet and greet” was going to happen and waited.  The label rep found us and brought us back to Jackson Browne’s dressing room where we got some one on one time with him.  My dad was like a kid in a candy store (not a description I would ever use for my dad) and asked him all sorts of questions.  Jackson Browne was really lovely and indulged him.  I had a lot of fun and was so proud that I could do something special for my dad who has done so many special things for me.

10. I met my husband online.  We used a site called which was eventually bought by  I didn’t want to put up a picture but I didn’t want guys to think I was a dog either, so my tagline was “People Tell Me I Look Like Teri Hatcher” which at that time, pre-Desperate Housewives, they did.  Of the 50 responses I got, 48 of them told me how much they loved Teri Hatcher.  My husband was one of the other two.  About one hour into our first date (that eventually lasted ten hours), I asked him if he thought I looked like Teri Hatcher.  He said, “I don’t know who that is.”  He responded to me because he liked what I wrote about myself.  That may have been the moment I knew I was going to marry him.

Top Ten Cookbooks I Would Bring to a Desert Island
(I’m not saying my favorite books because some of my favorites fall into that category because of good looks.  If I were going to be stranded, I would like some variety – and some dessert – so that is how I chose these books.)

1. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone – Deborah Madison
2. Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen
3.  All of Jeanne Lemlin’s books
4. Fields of Greens – Annie Sommerville
5. The Martha Stewart Living books, Volume 1 and 2
6. From the Earth to the Table – John Ash
7. The Provence Cookbook – Patricia Wells
8. Real Vegetarian Thai – Nancie McDermott
9. Tartine – Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson
10. The Perfect Scoop – David Lebovitz

Ten Food Bloggers (+2 More) I Want to Have a Potluck With and Their Assignments

1. Stacey from Stacey Snacks – Appetizer of her choice – no meat please!
2. Sarah from In Praise of Leftovers – Galette or Pizza of her choice
3. Sara from Sprouted KitchenPeanut Sauce Bento Bowls for everyone and her boyfriend as a photographer
4. Joy from Joy the Baker – Dessert and possibly breakfast for the next morning
5. Lisa from Lisa is Cooking – Main Course – something interesting and spicy
6. Tracy from Shutterbean – Some kind of salad and her adorable boy to play with my boys
7. Tara from Seven Spoons – That chickpea dish and her sweet gentle soul
8. Vivianne from Food and Style – That mac and cheese and she has to let me speak French with her
9. Allison from Local Lemons – Her Limoncello, once it is done
10. Cheryl from 5 Second RuleToasted Cumin Hummus and her wit
11. Giao from Kiss My Spatula – Her perfect bread with homemade goat cheese
12. Tim from Lottie and Doof – Two words – French Fries

I could have invited about 20 more people – so many lovely blogs out there.  Thanks to everyone for reading!  I really appreciate your support.

Making Do with Soup

January 21, 2010


I read a lot of food blogs.  There are about one bazillion of them out there and many of them are not all that good.  Many of them are good.  A few of them are great.  It’s the great ones where I get inspired.  When a dish leaps off the screen, that’s when I know it is time to make it.

When I saw this soup with the chickpea croutons, I immediately started my shopping list.  I love croutons in soup and had never thought to do anything like what Allison did with chickpea flour.  Brilliant, right?  Sadly, they did not work out for me.  I take total responsibility for the fail.  I’m not sure what I did wrong – did I stir enough?  too much? – but what I got was a slab of mush on my baking sheet.

Then, panic set in.  My brother Michael was coming to dinner.  Michael is a bike racer and has a large appetite.  I knew he was coming off a long ride and would be ravenous.  I wasn’t sure the soup as written was going to fill him up and so, I improvised.  I very loosely based this soup on a recipe in a Jeanne Lemlin book (Simple Vegetarian Pleasures) but really made it my own with what I had on hand.  I was really pleased with how the soup turned out.  If you read here often, you know anything with chickpeas is a favorite of mine.  The greens along with the couscous were a really nice combination.  I didn’t have any fresh herbs on hand (not even parsley!) but they would be most welcome here.  By the way, Michael left full.


The two C’s together previously on Dana Treat: Chickpeas and Chard with Cilantro and Cumin
One Year Ago:
Sicilian Eggplant Spread with Crostini

Chickpea, Chard, and Couscous Soup
Dana Treat Original
4 Servings

Olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ – 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup couscous
1 large bunch chard, leaves cut off the stems and cut or torn into bite size pieces
6 cups vegetable stock
Crumbles of ricotta salata or feta cheese (for garnish)
Cherry tomatoes (for garnish)

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom.  Add the onions and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and thyme and stir for 2 minutes.  Add the chickpeas and the couscous and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often to keep the couscous from sticking to the bottom.

Add the chard, in batches if need be, and stir well to combine.  Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and allow the soup to simmer for about 30 minutes – enough time for the couscous to cook, the greens to soften, and the flavors to blend.  Serve in bowls topped with a crumble of cheese and a few cherry tomatoes.

Grilled Vegetable Salsa

June 24, 2009


In addition to the cake that I brought for my friend Lauren’s 40th birthday, I also brought a couple of appetizers.  I figured since her husband Travis was going to be hauling the entire dinner up the mountain, the least I could do was bring some things to munch on while he got the rest of the food ready.

When I was searching for recipes for another friend’s 40th birthday party, I found this one for Grilled Vegetable Salsa.  I was planning to make it for John, but then decided to take the party in a more Mediterranean and less Mexican direction.  The idea of the salsa stayed with me and when I learned fajitas were on last weekend’s menu, I knew exactly what to make as an appetizer.

This recipe comes from Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook.  I love this book on principle.  It has lots of gorgeous photographs in the front and all the recipes in the back.  It is well laid out and all the recipes I have tried are winners.  What I don’t like is that almost every recipe suggests you serve the dish right away.  What kind of cocktail party is there where you can make everything à la minute?   So, I take a lot of what is said in the book with a grain of salt.  Against Martha’s advice, I also streamlined the cooking process and I made parts of the salsa ahead of time.  It was great and everyone loved it. The salsa was awesome with chips, but you could incorporate it into a main course by spooning a generous amount of the salsa over black beans and rice, and topping it all off with slices of avocado or guacomole.


One Year Ago:  Mushroom Pearl Pasta with Sweet Peas and Goat Cheese (if peas are in season where you live, make this!)

Grilled Vegetable Salsa
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook
Makes 1 1/2 quarts

Stewart calls for three different cooking methods for the vegetables.  I streamlined it into two.  You could further streamline it by just grilling the peppers rather than roasting them.  If you do roast the peppers, they can be made up to four days ahead of time and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.

1 tsp. olive oil
2 ears of fresh corn, husk and silk removed
1 large red onion, root intact, sliced into 1/2-inch rings
4 plum tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 roasted large red bell peppers, seeds removed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 roasted large yellow bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 roasted large orange bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 oz. kalamata or oil-cured black olives, pitted and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 roughly chopped fresh basil

1.  Prepare a grill over high heat.  Place the corn and onions on the grate and grill, turning, until grill marks appear on all sides and the corn and onions are cooked through.  The onions will take 5-8 minutes and the corn will need 15-20 minutes.  Transfer to a plate to cool.  When cool, cut the corn off the cob.  Cut the onion rings into 1/2 inch pieces.  Set aside.  (Can be made one day ahead.  Cover and chill.  Return to room temperature before continuing.)

2.  In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, peppers, corn, and onion.  Stir in olives, garlic, cumin, and lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper.  Allow the vegetables to marinate for at least one hour and up to six hours.  Just before serving, stir in the basil and season to taste.

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