>> Wednesday, February 18
As a teasing, warm morning unfolded Saturday, I caught a whiff of fresh oregano in Marktplatz, where the morning market is always held in Basel. I sourced it to a booth with marinated green olives, some stuffed with garlic, others almonds, and all begging to be sampled. The tangy, herbed meat of a large, plump olive reminded me just how long it had been since I had enjoyed one. Winter has apparently converted all my taste buds to conservative root vegetable fundamentalists. Like most people in northern climates who try to eat local in the winter, I’ve mostly eaten potatoes, carrots, and beets for the past few months. Enough is enough. We like our root veggies, but there’s a need at some point to help spring get back up here. But what to do to try to bring some life to a decidedly northern meal plan?
When in doubt, just think Mediterranean. It’s a region that never ceases to dazzle and satisfy our tastes. So many articles have been published on the health benefits of Mediterranean cuisine, and the area’s food culture is rich in delicious, varied local ingredients, artistic creativity, and an appreciation for true enjoyment; the kind that comes from long summer days drinking coffee in the shade of olive trees, absorbing lazily that warm southern repose. Italy, France, Greece…Sure, there’re the ancient civilizations, the scientific breakthroughs, philosophical landmarks, and artistic geniuses; and then there is the tender, delicate pesto, the elegant tapas, and, the mother of all soul-satisfying goodness, the quiche.
Then you discovered a gluten allergy, and turned vegan. And one chirping spring morning found you gazing teary-eyed at the warm glow of the deli case before turning back to the salad bar, sure you would never enjoy another bite of your favorite café courtyard meal.
A few hours after the olive-sampling in the market I am contentedly kicked back with a tea and a warm belly full of the most flavorful, perfectly-textured quiche I’ve ever had. And you know what? Not one animal ingredient or glutinous grain. Just the summer-fresh taste of sundried tomatoes, fresh basil, oregano, and rosemary, and the springy, dense moisture of this crustless quiche’s golden flesh. It’s enough to transport any gluten-free, vegan, landlocked northern cook to vibrant French Provence. Forget about breaking a sweat in every bakery- The divinity that is fresh quiche is all yours.
Guiltless Quiche Provencal
(Thanks to The Happy Herbivore for the inspiration to use turmeric-colored tofu and other great ideas!)
- 400 g firm tofu, drained
- ½-1 tsp turmeric (for color)
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp Braggs (opt.)
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 heaping tbsp fresh chopped rosemary
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped basil
- juice of 1 lemon
- 4-5 cloves garlic
- 100 g green olives, sliced (reserve 5 slices for garnish)
- 10 sundried tomatoes (reserve 4 for garnish)
- ½ head celeriac, grated
- ½ kohlrabi, grated
- ½ leek, chopped
- 1 bunch/head of chard, chopped
- 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds (garnish)
- Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Set aside 5 slices of olive, 4 tomatoes, and the pumpkin seeds for garnish.
- In a large frying pan steam 6 tomatoes, chopped, in a little bit of water until softened and warm. Add the vegetables, cover, and steam until the chard is wilted. Set aside.
- Combine all the other ingredients and puree in a food processor or mix by hand until you have a smooth, thick batter. Add a tiny bit of water if needed to blend everything fairly smooth.
- Combine everything and scrape into an oiled casserole dish.
- Garnish and bake for 20-30 minutes, until the center is firm and the sides are lightly browned and coming away from the sides.
- Let cool until sliceable and serve.
As a party dish, this can easily become dip for bread, chips, or crackers. Follow directions for steps 1-4, then garnish and bake just until warmed through.