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Swiss Chard Tart

I just unearthed some old files, two of which were noteworthy.  One was filled with menus I’ve kept over the years from memorable meals out or from restaurants I was reviewing for a local weekly newspaper many years ago. The menus were grease-stained and creased and typed in every imaginable font and printed on every imaginable kind of paper and they brought back many, lovely memories.

The second file was full of clippings.  They are mostly from the New York Times and are lengthy articles with gorgeous recipes with vast ingredient lists. I guess the fact that this file ended up in an unmarked box in the basement for over 10 years is noteworthy in-and-of-itself . . .. Ironically, the title of the first piece in the file is “In a Berkeley Kitchen, A Celebration of Simplicity.” The menu discussed in this piece is: brine-cured roast turkey, fresh oysters, terrine of foie gras, bagna cauda, pork sausages, and cranberry upside-down cake. Simple?

Swiss Chard Tart

It’s not that I don’t occasionally cook fancy meals or that I no longer like reading about elaborate, delicious feasts, it’s just that in my professional life of  Cook With What You Have I am focused on demonstrating how truly simple and satisfying the plainest of dishes can be. Whether you’re short on time or money or both, it is possible to bring good, real food to your table occasionally and possibly even often. I actually think  Alice Waters (of the above piece) would sign on to this too. . . . it’s just that she has access to ingredients and means many of us only dream of. . .

The star of the show.

In any case, the recipe I want to talk about today is kind of a happy-medium between “Alice Waters simple” and “really simple”. It’s a Swiss chard tart I’ve been making for a while now and it’s both refined and rustic, quick as tarts go, but still a bit more work than a fast soup or pasta. It calls for lemon zest and nutmeg (the fancy ingredients) but if you have neither on hand, it’s dandy without too. It, like this recipe and this one, showcases one of the must abundant, prolific, and tasty vegetables in our region. And ironically, the tart dough recipe comes from David Lebovitz, who was the pastry chef at Alice Waters’ restaurant Chez Panisse for many years.  I love savory tarts and have been making them more since the discovery of this tart dough that does not require blind baking (baking just the crust first, filled with dry beans or pie weights) and is incredibly easy to handle thanks to the egg in the dough. I’ve also written about this Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart that uses the same crust. So if you’ve been put off by tarts and the finicky doughs that crumble and break, try this. It makes you look really accomplished and fancy and is delicious. And if you’re really short on time you could even skip the crust and just bake the custard and veggies in a cake pan or cast iron pan until slightly puffed and cooked through.

Swiss Chard Tart

Preheat the oven to 425ºF

1 recipe Tart Dough (recipe follows)

1 large bunch of chard, leaves only, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon butter

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 eggs

1 cup whole milk

Zest of 1 small lemon  (optional)

3 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan (or Gruyère or just plain old cheddar if that’s what you have)

A few pinches of ground nutmeg (optional)

Heat the butter in a wide skillet; add the onion and cook it over medium heat until it is translucent and soft.  Add the garlic, and the chard leaves by handfuls, if necessary, until they all fit.  Sprinkle in a large pinch of salt.  Turn the leaves over repeatedly so that they are all exposed to the heat of the pan, and cook until they are tender, 5 minutes or more.

Make the custard.  Beat the eggs; then stir in the milk, lemon peel (if using), grated Parmesan, and a few scrapings of nutmeg. Stir in the chard and onion mixture. Taste and season with salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Pour the filling into the prepared tart shell and bake until the top is golden and firm, about 40 minutes.

Tart Dough

–Adapted from David Lebovitz

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
(or ¾ cup apf and ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour)

4 1/2 ounces, about 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

2-3 tablespoons cold water

Make the dough by mixing the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and use your hands, or a pastry blender, to break in the butter until the mixture has a crumbly, cornmeal-like texture.

Mix the egg with 2 tablespoons of the water. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the beaten egg mixture, stirring the mixture until the dough holds together. If it’s not coming together easily, add the additional tablespoon of ice water.

Gather the dough into a ball and roll the dough on a lightly floured surface, adding additional flour only as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to the counter.

Once the dough is large enough so that it will cover the bottom of a 10-inch tart pan and go up the sides, roll the dough around the rolling-pin then unroll it over the tart pan. “Dock” the bottom of the pastry firmly with your fingertips a few times, pressing in to make indentations. (I occasionally forget to do this with no ill effect so don’t sweat it if you forget.) If you don’t have a tart pan you can use a 9 or 10-inch pie pan too. The recipe for the dough is pretty generous so will fit a pie pan too.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Katherine

Corn Meal Pancakes & New Lunch Time Classes

My husband referred to our four-year-old as the breakfast tyrant this morning. And it’s true. I’m not sure how and when it started but the first thing he says when he wakes up now is: “Can we have crepes for breakfast?” and without waiting for my reply he usually adds: “We have enough milk, don’t we? And eggs?!”  If I say no (to the crepes) he turns to pancakes or waffles or biscuits. . . I love to cook. I cook several times a day every day and making crepes in a blender is practically as fast as cutting up some fruit for him and adding it to his muesli and granola which is the everyday breakfast around here. But on weekday mornings, the answer is often no. But not on weekends.

Another good thing about these pancakes is that they cook in a flash.

On Saturday we had crepes but on Sunday we had my favorite–corn meal pancakes. He loves them too and so it didn’t take much convincing. I’ve been making these–an adaptation from an old Joy of Cooking recipe–for many, many years. And each time I make them I wonder why I would ever make any other kind. They are light and lacy around the edges if don’t skimp on the oil in the pan. They have a little crunch and wonderful fragrance thanks to the lemon zest. I often add blueberries straight from the freezer to the batter. They are wonderful served with jam, with syrup, with a fruit compote or with greek yogurt and chives and I’m sure with most things you might think of.

Blueberries and lemon zest are a wonderful combination. I neglected the blueberries in this weekend's version but I'll have another opportunity soon thanks to the breakfast tyrant.

They are a bit thinner than regular pancakes and they are best with a medium to coarse grind of corn meal and even better if the corn meal is fairly fresh. We happen to be fortunate enough to have a local farm (several now actually) who sell freshly milled grains. Bob’s Red Mill medium grind corn meal or polenta work well too as do most commercially available kinds. The corn meal is mixed with boiling water and gets to sit for 10 minutes which softens the crunch.

One of the corn meals I buy is called Roy's Calais and has beautiful reddish flecks in it.

Corn Meal Pancakes

–adapted from The Joy of Cooking

1 cup medium or coarse white or yellow corn meal

1 teaspoon salt

1 – 2 tablespoons honey, syrup or sugar

1 cup boiling water

1 egg

1/2 cup milk (preferably whole milk)

2 tablespoons melted butter

the zest of one lemon, finely grated

1/2 cup whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

oil for frying

Whisk the salt and sugar into the cornmeal in a medium bowl. Carefully whisk in the boiling water and syrup or honey (if using that instead of sugar) since the hot water will prevent it from clumping. Cover bowl with a plate or lid and let stand for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile whisk the egg with the milk and melted better. Mix the flour and baking powder in a third bowl. Add the egg and milk mixture to the cornmeal; add the lemon zest and flour mixture. Combine quickly. Add blueberries here if you’re using them.

Fry the pancakes in a hot, oiled pan. They only take about 90 seconds per side. Flip when the edges appear golden and the bubbles begin popping on the surface.

Makes about 12 4-inch pancakes.

P.S. you can also make fancy pancakes for the young or young-at-heart at your table–see below!

Cowboy boot pancake--hard to flip but very fun.

P.P.S. I’m launching my new Lunch Time classes next week. So depending on your locale (I’m in Portland, OR) and lunch routine, the classes I’ve scheduled over the next couple of months might be appealing. You won’t have to pack a lunch or buy one (elsewhere!) and you’ll get to learn a couple of new one-dish meals that make for excellent leftover lunches and enjoy a delicious meal! And knowing my love of desserts, I’ll spare you that mid-afternoon cookie run by sending you off with a sweet treat of some kind.

So check out the lunch-time classes here and sign up! I’m in inner SE Portland, very close to downtown, in case that’s where you find yourself during the day. . . .Classes are from noon – 1:30pm, February 24, Mar 17, and April 14.

Cabbage, etc.

"Clean out the fridge" winter lunch

It’s taken me a year and a half to articulate what exactly it is I’m trying to do with my business–Cook With What You Have (through the classes I teach, this blog, etc.).  The name really speaks for itself and even the words I used to describe the business/approach/philosophy at the outset are more or less the same ones I would use now. But these words, these ideas, are really sinking in in a more profound way than they did when I started this (ad)venture. They are sinking in thanks to my students, my neighbors, my chef friends, strangers in the grocery store and at the farmers markets, . . . And yesterday’s lunch!

Two kinds of cabbage and chard . . .

Yesterday’s lunch was a result of various factors: 1) the previous day had seen two birthday parties (one with kids from Ellis’ school and one with family members) laden with treats of all kinds, but plenty of sweet ones. 2) yesterday was also Superbowl Sunday and I knew there would be lots of heavy foods, and 3) I needed to clean out my fridge to make room for the new haul from Sunday’s Hillsdale Farmers Market run.  I found 1/4 of green cabbage starting to brown around the edges, and 1/2 a red cabbage with similar signs and 1/2 a bunch of slightly wilty chard. After a rinse and a trim they looked much better (as do I:)!) and 10-15 minutes in the saute pan with a little olive oil and salt, they were damn near perfect.

So the above paragraph illustrates theme one of CWWYH (Cook With What You Have). Use what you’ve got. Now theme two (really en elaboration of theme one) would manifest itself as follows: If you like/have eggs on hand, scoot that cabbage over and fry a couple of eggs in the same pan. Serve them on top of the veggies sprinkled with good salt, drizzled with good olive oil and a few grinds of pepper. If you like/have bread on hand, toast a piece and dig in. If you like/have sausages in the freezer (like I do for just these occasions), slice one up and brown it and mix in.

Theme three might be considered the analytical part of the above story. Cooking can be fun, quick, delicious, cheap and not scary at all if you have things in your house you like, are not afraid to use salt and fat and taste the food as you’re preparing it. A little creativity can go a long way in making every day meals not so daunting.

And don’t get my wrong. I love cookbooks and recipes and food that’s a bit more involved than the above, but what we (collectively) seem to sometimes forget or not realize, is just how easy and fun and tasty food can be on the fly. And we get better and better at tossing things together like this if we have fresh produce on hand, experiment with ingredients we (our children, partners. . . .) like and are confident enough to look at a recipe and use it to our advantage rather than be enslaved by it.

Happy Cooking & Eating!

Katherine

P.S. Apropos fresh produce and local farmers (here in Oregon) there is a bill in the Oregon Legislature that will clarify and provide sound standards for on-farm production of items many of us love and rely on. Below is testimony by Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek farm on the matter and an email for the committee administrator of House Bill 2336 in case you’d like to weigh in in support of this very well-crafted bill.

Committee Administrator, Liz Puskar:  liz.puskar@state.or.us

Testimony of Anthony Boutard in Support of HB 2336 Before The House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources 2 February 2011

Chairs Jenson and Clem, members of the committee,
For the record, my name is Anthony Boutard. My wife and I own and manage Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston, Oregon. We are small family fruit, vegetable and grain farm. We sell to grocery stores, restaurants and directly to the public. I served as a member of the committee’s working group that put together HB 2336.

At the outset, I want to thank my representative, Matt Wingard, for chairing the working group. He kept us on task and working productively. I also appreciate the contribution made by the staff of the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the representatives of the Oregon Farmers’ Market Association (OFMA).

Over the last two decades, agriculture in Oregon has seen a marked increase in venues for selling agricultural products directly to the consumer. Farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture (CSA), and buying clubs have increased without a clear place in the regulatory structure. Historically, roadside stands selling produce, eggs and honey have been exempt from licensing, but these new venues stretch that definition. It is essential that the legislature provide statutory guidance on this issue, and I am grateful that the committee is doing so. As a farmer who sells directly to consumers, as well as processors and large retail stores, I believe this bill provides a balanced and sensible regulatory approach to direct marketing.

The bill identifies foods that, from a food safety perspective, are regarded as either non-hazardous, or minimally hazardous, and that can be safely produced by the farmer, and sold directly to the consumer without licenses or inspection. With the help of ODA staff, these definitions are also tightly drawn. Foods that pose a greater hazard, such sprouts, low-acid canned vegetables and fruits, and baked goods, are not included and must be processed in a licensed facility. It must be stressed that farmers’ market rules still prevail, regardless of licensing requirements. These organizations will still determine who can participate in the market, and what they can sell.

With its provisions regarding preserves and pickles, this bill provides room for innovation at the small farm level. New ideas invariably start at this level whether it is in some one’s kitchen or garage. Oregon’s craft brewing industry developed after laws prohibiting the brewing and selling of beer in the same establishment. Allowing farmers to try out new products at a small, manageable scale is an important step in fostering innovation. HB 2336 also includes a provision that allows the ODA to expand the list of foods that can be prepared at the farm, consistent with food safety. With the $20,000 annual limit on sales of these foods, the bill set up a clear threshold where the farmer must shift into a licensed facility.

I urge the committee to pass this bill with a “do pass” recommendation. The lack statutory clarity has festered too long and all of parties involved, the ODA, the farmers, and farms’ market organizations, need the guidance provided by this bill.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of HB 2336.

Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm
Gaston, Oregon

Chickpeas & Pasta

I finished teaching my 3-part Eat Better Series just over a week ago. And I missed my students this Sunday, when they didn’t show up for the first time in four weeks. I didn’t miss cleaning the house but I did miss the dynamic, passionate, and rich conversations about food and food in our regular old daily lives–the likes and dislikes of children and partners; the satisfaction in successfully applying a new skill to dinner prep several nights in a row; the beauty of leftovers for lunch; and the joy of pre-cooked beans in the freezer.

Most of what you need for this dish!

You know I’m a big fan of the latter. Those cooked beans in the freezer are a busy person’s lifeline when it comes to dinner. Canned beans certainly work too but the flavor of those home-cooked ones (not to mention minimal cost, lack of BPA traces. . .) is worth the occasional effort of cooking big batches and freezing most for later use.  I think my new pals from the series are as hooked on home-cooked beans as I am now, in part thanks to this dish, which was definitely a class favorite.

So, if you find yourself short on time and with some already cooked chickpeas on hand, make this for dinner. I realized after the fact that it’s a vegan dish. I tend to think most things are improved by adding cheese but I actually didn’t do so in this dish and was amazed by the richness and complexity of flavor in this meal that takes barely 20 minutes to prepare.

Buon Appetito!

P.S. I will be repeating the series in March and have a wait list going so if you’re interested, please let me know.

P.P.S. I’m also launching lunchtime classes in late February, so if you don’t have time for a weekend class and are interested in a shorter, mid-day stint, sign on up!

Onions, celery, garlic, rosemary and chili flakes. . . this is where much of the flavor comes from.

Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)

–Adapted from Jamie’s Italy via Dana Treat

Serves 4 (with some leftovers)

This is delicious, fast, easy and nutritious.  I also tend to use the chickpea cooking water for part of the liquid, top it off with water and then add about 4 teaspoons of veggie bouillon to the mix if you have it or just add vegetable stock or just water.

1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 stalks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped (use carrot if you don’t have celery or both)

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

Olive oil

1 sprig of rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped

1 quart cooked chickpeas (keep the cooking liquid they were frozen in) or  2 14-oz. cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

3 1/2 cups veggie bouillon or vegetable stock (or mix veggie bouillon into chickpea cooking liquid if you have it and top off with water)

5 ounces tubetti or ditalini (Barilla and DeCecco brands both have these. I’ve seen them at Safeway, Fred Meyer and New Season) or other small pasta. 5 oz is about one generous cup if you’re using this kind of small pasta and don’t have a scale and don’t want to guess!

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place a large soup pot over medium-high heat and then pour in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom.  Add the onion and celery (and/or carrot) and sauté just until tender, about 6 minutes.  Add the garlic, rosemary, and red pepper flakes.  Sauté for 2 minutes, then add the chickpeas and the bouillon.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer and allow to cook just until the chickpeas are heated through, about 5 minutes. Remove half of the chickpeas with a slotted spoon and set them aside.

Purée the soup in the pan with a handheld immersion blender, or blend in a blender or food processor if you don’t have an immersion blender.  Add the reserved whole chickpeas and the pasta to the blended part, season the soup with some pepper (it will likely be salty enough because of the veggie bouillon), and simmer gently until the chickpeas are very tender and the pasta is cooked, about 10  minutes. Add more liquid as necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper and drizzle with some good olive oil.

 

Cooking away before pasta is added.

Dig in! It tastes much, much better than it looks!