This last summer, I was at a picnic hosted by a French-German couple we’re friends with here in Berlin. It wasn’t the first time their Tarte au Citron made an appearance and was an instant hit. I’d seen it before and wondered if there was a way to make a vegan version. The original, like many famous French culinary creations, consists largely of butter and eggs.
We got to talking at dinner two weeks ago. I was telling them more about the vegan cookbook, and then the Tarte au Citron came up again. “Sure, we’ll give you the recipe! Maybe you can find a way to put it in the cookbook.”
When I got the recipe a few days later, I unfolded the paper anxiously and scanned the list of ingredients. How am I going to do this? I thought to myself. I’m not really a whiz kid when it comes to baking, but I do know the advanced basics of egg replacement, and I have a few pie and quiche crusts I do well. And I can sometimes force myself to actually follow instructions and not tweak everything like I usually do. This was going to be a major challenge. It would certainly require a lot of tweaking.
This is a fun salad that I came up with sometime last year. The inspiration comes from salads I’ve had at restaurants and homes across Europe, especially in Germany and France. I’d seen endives (chicory) prior to moving to Europe over ten years ago, but they seem to be much more popular and celebrated on this side of the Atlantic. That said, I have had some great endive salads in Montreal, too.
The first time I ever made a vegan quiche was in the early 90s, with a recipe from a then-new vegetarian cookbook. I remember it turned out OK. I gotta say: my vegan quiche these days is much, much better. The availability of vegan cheese substitutes and fancy soy creams (at least in major cities) makes it much easier to turn out a tasty vegan quiche than it was ten or twenty years ago. However…
My recipe is more original, more from-scratch (I always make my own crust but you can certainly work with a store-bought pastry shell) and doesn’t absolutely require the hardcore vegan ingredients. You could even drop the nutritional yeast, but I’d suggest increasing the spices and/or using the more luscious, creamy cashews instead of sunflower seeds.
Sure, I’ve eaten a few veggie quiches in Paris, but the story behind this recipe and my quiche smarts isn’t really based on vegan eats in Paris. (When in Paris I usually live on espresso and South Indian food.)
When I first moved to Berlin in the early 2000s, I met lots of fascinating people in my intensive German language classes. One was a journalist from Paris who threw dinner parties with her husband at their flat. Another was a punky illustrator and animation artist from Paris who’d moved to Berlin to be with her German boyfriend. We’d talk a lot about cooking and recipes (if we weren’t talking about Nina Hagen, art galleries, or Prenzlauer Berg gentrification). I was always curious to find out more about authentic French cooking. And particularly what parts of it could work well for vegetarians. After all, a steady diet of coffee, crepes, and croissants sounds delightful, but…