Swiss Chard Pie (Tourte de Blette Sucrée) : the Tribe has Spoken!

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My sister (my first and strongest culinary inspiration) used to make us Swiss chard pie. It is an odd sweet snack that is so unique I can never remember precisely why I like it so much, only that I do, and that I love serving it to people. I make it every year or so.

This time, looks trumped flavor. It was a little too sweet, and the crust was a little thick on the bottom. But I think it’s worth posting for two reasons: this is really something you’re unlikely to come across anywhere else; and it comes from a truly excellent cookbook that seems to be out of print except on Google Books: Paola Scaravelli and Jon Cohen’s A Mediterranean Harvest.

Rather than type out a whole recipe, I’m going to give you David Lebovitz’s recipe (it’s more accurate than it would be if I typed it out on my own), and then add Paola Scaravelli’s and Jon Cohen’s directions and my own. 

Don’t add cinnamon, use freshly ground black pepper (Scaravelli and Jon Cohen)

  1. Add two scant scrapes of nutmeg (McWarmspice)
  2. Try Thomas Keller’s excellent pine nut crust, particularly if you are lactose intolerant. (Hi Chad)
  3. Cooking apples can be replaced by pears (Scaravelli and Jon Cohen)
  4. Although it’s traditional to make this with a top, I suggest you don’t (guess again), if for no other reason than arranging and then caramelizing fruit on the top of a tart is truly one of life’s greatest pleasures.
  5. Add a tablespoon of cream to turn the egg into a proper custard if you run short of filling.

 

The Warmth of the Sun

SeasonalLocalOrganicHeirloom. Now is the time of year to reclaim these words… to rebuild the neural pathways that connect them to real food, rather than Big Food’s cynical, available-year-round imitations.

This is the best thing I can offer you in mid-August: a warm, light, gentle, delicious alchemy of things that, for most of the year, probably shouldn’t attract more than a passing sneer as you wheel your cart through the produce section (but which, in reality, get paid for and carted home with only a vague sense of unease).

Go to a farmer’s market (or your garden, if it has any of the following produce). Procure a half-dozen smallish yellow and/or green zucchini/squash. A couple of pounds of light purple eggplant. Some fresh bulb onions. A few improbably large, heavy, richly juicy tomatoes.

Pre-heat your oven to 350’F. Put on some good music (Endless Summer?), pour yourself a glass of crisp white wine, and slowly consume both of those things. As you do so, coarsely chop about 2.5C of the onions, and sweat them over medium heat with a little olive oil, a generous pinch of sea salt and 2 cloves of grated garlic, until they’re mellow and starting to break down. Spread this onto the bottom of that shallow, wide porcelain or enamel baking dish you have up in the top cupboard. Chop about a tablespoon of fresh thyme, and scatter that atop the onions.

Slice the other vegetables into 1/4-inch discs, and start layering:

The careful placement of the veggies won’t show when the dish is plated, but that very fact brings out the Zen gardener in me.

Brush a slick of olive oil atop each layer of vegetables, and sprinkle them generously with a 50/50 mix of panko crumbs and parmesan (I used a Parmigiano / Pecorino blend) with a little chopped thyme.

Got lots of squash? Do a double layer.

I swear I’m not messing with the saturation on my tomato pics – look at the red pepper for reference – my camera doesn’t seem to know what to do with otherworldly, mid-August tomatoes. These are “Clear Pink” tomatoes from our back yard garden.

I sort of regret not taking a pic of the whole eggplant, which – as my farmers’ market shopping buddies will attest – was the length and girth of a grown man’s upper arm. Evidently, I have deep-seated shame issues.

One more layer of squash…

A final layer of tomatoes…

A final sprinkling of cheesy breadcrumbs, and into the oven. Keller (yes, this is an adaptation of his Summer Vegetable Gratin recipe from Ad Hoc at Home) says this will take between 1 and 1/5 hours… it took more like 3 hours until our eggplant finally gave up the ghost and became yielding to the tines of a fork.

I added an outer ring of tomatoes and some more crumbs around the 2-hour mark.

This is best at room temp, several hours after cooking, or – after refrigerating it – for lunch the next day. I had it today with plain quinoa, and it kept me going for the whole work day.