As promised in my last post, here is the second recipe in the appetizer episode of Miyoko’s Kitchen. Alas, I have no picture, so you’ll just have to see what they look like in the video! A quick description of their appearance, however, is a little reddish, round mound on a round croute. Descriptive, I know.
This is perhaps the oldest appetizer in my repetoire. I don’t know why I didn’t include it in the first edition of my first cookbook, The Now and Zen Epicure, 23 years ago. It didn’t make it into the revised 2001 edition, either. Perhaps I thought it was too simple. But I have been making it for years, and it has been a fallback quickie recipe that I can put together in a moments notice when I need something to nibble on for friends who come knocking unexpectedly. It doesn’t require any special ingredients, utilizing only things I usually have – tofu, almond meal, tomato paste, olive oil, garlic, some bread. And it produces hot, savory, satisfying bites that never fail to get the question, “Mmm. What is it?”
The story of its creation is based on a period of my life in my early twenties when I went from being a lacto-ovo vegetarian to a sometimes pesco-vegetarian (I know, not really vegetarian.). I was living in Japan with no veggie support, and lots of pressure from my aunt and uncle with whom I was living initially. During that brief period, when I occasionally ate seafood, I sampled a little canape made from a type of Japanese fish roe flavored with tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. I thought it splendid. When I finally came to my senses and returned to vegetarianism (and not long thereafter, veganism), I created a mock version of this wonderful little canape. I didn’t know what to call it, and for 30 years, it had no name.
A couple of years ago when we were shooting the appetizer episode of Miyoko’s Kitchen, we needed a name. During the filming, I suddenly blurted out that they were called “Tuscan Hills.” Why? Probably because they are little mounds, like hills, and mediterranean in flavor. Anyway, the name stuck, and for the first time in 30 years, I provide below the recipe.
- 8 ounces regular tofu, wrapped in a towel and drained for several hours, or firm tofu, the type that is packed in a plastic container with water (do not use the type of firm tofu that is vacuum packed – that is too firm)
- 1/2 cup almond meal
- 3 - 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 – 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 – 4 tablespoons olive oil, optional (this can be left out, but flavor and texture are better with it)
- 1/2 teaspoon or more sea salt
- 1 baguette, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
- more olive oil for brushing on bread
- 1. Mix the ingredients
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the tofu in a mixing bowl, and using a fork, mash well until it resembles ricotta. Mix in the remaining ingredients and season with salt to taste.
- 2. Mound on the bread
- Using a pastry brush, brush olive oil lightly on one side. Using a teaspoon, mound the mixture onto the non-oiled side of the bread, smoothing it into a nice mound. (Thus, Tuscan Hills!) Place the oiled side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
- 3. Bake
- Bake for about 15 minutes until slightly puffy, a deeper red in color, and slightly browned around the edges. Serve while hot.