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Milena’s Sweet Swiss Chard Tart

Milena’s Sweet Swiss Chard Tart

 Regular readers of this blog know that I’m part of a group of women who meet once a week to chit-chat in Italian. The meeting takes place at a different home each week and while we converse in Italian about anything and everything – we also eat. And every one of the women is a good cook, so we look forward to our gatherings for several reasons.

 I’m not able to attend each week, but when the group meets at Milena’s house, I’m really  loathe to miss it.
Milena, who hails from the region of Liguria, is one of the best cooks in the group, and not surprisingly, taught cooking classes for a while. Whenever the group meets at her house, she makes an array of different dishes to tempt us, some tried and true, and some new ones too.
This tart is one of the offerings (among many) that she served recently at her home. The recipe contains a bit of sugar, so you could serve it as dessert, but it’s not overly sweet, so if you’re yearning for a more traditional dessert, better stick to chocolate cake.
In that case, it would be equally delicious served with a glass of wine as an appetizer too.
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Sweet Swiss Chard Tart
3 cups flour (minus three Tablespoons) or 300 grams flour
1/2 cup butter or 125 grams butter
about two bunches of Swiss chard without the stems, or 500 grams Swiss chard
3/4 cup sugar or 150 grams sugar
1/3 cup pine nuts or 50 grams pine nuts
1/4 cup or 30 grams white raisins
2 eggs, separated
salt, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon, to taste
On a wooden board (or a bowl), make a well with the flour and add 3/4 of the butter (cut into small pieces), half the sugar, a pinch of salt and the egg yolks.
Incorporate all the ingredients until you have a soft and smooth dough. Cover it with a dishtowel and let it rest for two hours in a warm place.
Put the raisins in a bowl with some tepid water and let them soak in the water for at least 15 minutes.
Wash the Swiss chard, removing the stems, and place it in a covered pot with only the water that remains on the leaves. Let it cook on low heat until softened. Remove from the pot, squeeze out any remaining water, then give the swiss chard a rough chop. Add the remaining butter to a saucepan, put the Swiss chard back in, and stir, seasoning with salt and pepper.
Put the chopped Swiss chard in a bowl and mix with the remaining sugar, pine nuts, raisins (that have been drained), a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of cinnamon.
Divide the dough in half and roll out each half to fit a 9″ pie pan that has been buttered and floured. Place one piece of the dough into the pie pan, cover it with the Swiss chard mixture, then place the other piece of dough on the top, closing the borders with a pinch.
Beat a little of the egg white and brush over the top of the  tart. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden.
Lemon Spaghetti With Swiss Chard

Lemon Spaghetti with Swiss Chard

  I don’t live in a warm place like California or Florida or Arizona (or the Amalfi coast-sigh), where people are lucky enough to pluck fresh lemons from backyard trees. I have to rely on the supermarket variety. But with a box of pasta and organic lemons from a high quality grocery store, you can still serve a flavorful and easy-to-make pasta dish that will earn you raves. Add some Swiss chard to the mix and you’ll also garner a few kudos for the extra nutrition factor.

In support of the Princeton School Gardens Cooperative (PSGC), a wonderful group that fosters garden and food-based education in our local schools and community, I’m posting this recipe with chard for their “Garden State on Your Plate” program. Chard will debut in chef-led tastings at the Princeton elementary schools this fall, with more farm products to follow. PSGC has its own website (http://www.psgcoop.org), Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/psgcoop.org), Twitter (https://twitter.com/psgcooporg) and Instagram account (psgcoop), so hop on over and cheer them on.
But don’t forget to give this recipe a try. It comes together in practically the time it takes to boil pasta, and the fresh flavors will have you and your family asking for seconds. Maybe even planning a trip to Sorrento!

Lemon Spaghetti with Swiss Chard
printable recipe here

1/4 cup minced sweet onion (like Vidalia)
6 – 10 large Swiss chard leaves, roughly chopped
2 T. olive oil
salt, pepper

grated zest and juice of 3 lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 pound spaghetti or linguini
1 1/2 cups – 2 cups of pasta water
more parmesan cheese for serving
fresh basil, optional

Sauté the onion in the olive oil until limp, then add the Swiss chard and sauté for a few minutes until wilted. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Grate the zest of three lemons and squeeze the juice from them, discarding the seeds.
Bring the water to boil in a large pot and add a generous amount of salt. Cook the pasta al dente, especially since you’ll add it back into the pot for a few minutes with the sauce. Drain the pasta, but reserve about 2 cups of the pasta water.
Set aside the pasta while you make the sauce.
It takes only a few minutes so don’t worry about the pasta getting cold.
Use the same pot in which you boiled the pasta and put in the lemon zest, olive oil, heavy cream and about 1 cup of the pasta water. Bring to a boil over high heat, add the pasta to the pot and lower the heat to medium, all the while stirring everything together. Add the lemon juice, the parmesan cheese, and the cooked Swiss chard and stir vigorously. Keep adding more pasta water until there is enough sauce. Some people like the sauce to be very loose, so if you’re one of them, add more of the pasta water and keep stirring. Taste and season with more salt and pepper to your liking. Serve with additional parmesan cheese. If you have fresh basil, add a generous sprinkling of that at the end too.

Baked Tomatoes Stuffed With Quinoa

Baked Tomatoes Stuffed with Quinoa

 It’s the end of summer, and my vegetable garden looks as tattered as a scarecrow’s shirt, but it’s still providing me with those end-of-the-season tomatoes. Some of them went into plastic bags whole (yes, whole!) and are stashed in the freezer, awaiting soups and stews I’ll get to this fall and winter. If you’ve never tried it, it’s simple. You can take out one or two from the plastic bag, run under cold water and the tomato will be simple to peel. Cut into chunks, or leave it whole, and toss into a recipe for some extra color and flavor. 

But before you stash all those late summer tomatoes into the freezer, give this recipe a try.
Tomatoes stuffed with rice are a classic Roman dish, and my friend Frank has a great recipe for them, on his blog, Memorie Di Angelina.  This recipe however, uses quinoa instead of rice.
Start out by slicing off the top of the tomato, then scooping out the interior. (Save that pulp and juice and strain it to use later.)
Mix the cooled quinoa and swiss chard (or spinach or kale if you prefer) with cheese and seasonings.
Stuff the tomatoes, and pour a little of the tomato water in the dish.
Sprinkle with a little more of the cheese and bake.

Baked Tomatoes Stuffed with Quinoa
printable recipe here

8 medium size tomatoes
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1 T. olive oil
1/4 cup onion, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 heaping cup swiss chard (or spinach), roughly chopped
parsley, basil, minced
salt, pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup asiago cheese
olive oil for drizzling

Scoop out the inside of the tomatoes and set aside in a colander, over a bowl. Press out the liquid, tossing aside the seeds and pulp (This part is optional, but I like to surround the tomatoes with the tomato water when I cook them.) Sprinkle some salt on the inside of the emptied-out tomatoes and turn them upside down over some paper towels to drain.

Cook the quinoa by adding it to the water and let it come to a boil.  Let it come to a simmer, cover and let it cook until the water is absorbed, about 10 to 15 minutes. Let it cool slightly. In the olive oil, sauté the onion until translucent, then add the garlic clove and swiss chard. Sauté until swiss chard is wilted. Add the seasonings. Mix the parmesan and asiago cheese together in a bowl, and set aside about 1/3 cup to sprinkle on the top when you put the tomatoes in the oven. Add the other 2/3 cup to the quinoa mixture.
Place the stuffed tomatoes in an ovenproof baking dish and top with the 1/3 cup cheese. Optional: Surround with 1/2 cup tomato water. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake at 425 degrees 1/2 hour or until top is browned. If it gets browned too quickly, lower the temperature to 400 degrees.

Making Corzetti With Dad

Making Corzetti with Dad

It’s pasta time with Dad again – this time with corzetti – beautiful round disks of dough made using a hand carved wooden implement created by Artisanal Pasta Tools in Sonoma California. The one I used has a lovely design of clusters of grapes, but there are many patterns to choose from.  Mine arrived in the mail one day, totally unexpected, as a gift from my friend and fellow blogger – “corzetti queen” Adri Barr Crocetti. She writes a fabulous food blog, loaded with great recipes and thorough research on Italian food.  Her beautiful photos are always so artfully composed and expertly shot. 

She has written exhaustively about corzetti and you can find her posts about them by clicking here.
As soon as I showed my father this nifty tool, he was on board to make pasta with me. Regular readers of my blog know that my 92-year old dad loves to cook, especially pasta. We’ve made bigoli together (click here) , orecchiette (click here) and lots of other foods too.
 I arrived at his house and he was ready to go – mixing the dough on the counter and armed with a recipe to dress the pasta.
We cut the disks with one side of the form.
Then flipped the wooden implement to insert the disk and press down hard to make sure we got a good imprint.
Lined up on a cookie sheet, they reminded me of Christmas tree ornaments. Hey, maybe that’s an idea for the future – poke a hole in the top, let them dry and give them a coat of some clear preservative.
Here’s a closer view. They are like little works of art.

 

Corzetti originated in Genoa, a city on the Mediterranean in the region of Liguria. So it seemed fitting that we served them with some seafood – scallops and swiss chard, with some saffron.
 My dad found this recipe in an old issue of La Cucina Italiana. Unfortunately, for us Americans, the company stopped producing the U.S. edition. You can’t even access the online version, so sadly we’ve all lost a great resource of recipes. If you’ve got your old issues lying about the house, hang onto them.
“Butta la pasta” is a commonly heard Italian expression, meaning literally “throw the pasta.” As the sauce cooked, (and it took only a few minutes), it was time for us to throw the corzetti into the water.
We cooked them al dente, and added them to the sauce pan to swirl in the juices and meld the flavors.
And then it was time to eat.
It’s a great recipe any time of the year, but for you Catholics, it’s especially apropos for any one of these meatless Fridays during Lent.
Since I’ve introduced you to my dad over the years, but never to his better half, I thought I’d throw in a photo of his wife Rose – a sweet, lovely woman who lets him (and me) have the run of her kitchen whenever he wants.  We all had a fun day together making corzetti and plenty of memories too.



Corzetti with Swiss Chard and Scallops

If you can’t find dried corzetti in the store and want to make your own, here’s the recipe we used. But you could use any shape pasta here – from rigatoni to spaghetti.

We used a simple pasta recipe of two cups flour and two extra large eggs, mixing the ingredients together, kneading the dough and letting it rest, before rolling out the dough and cutting the corzetti disks. If the dough is too dry, add a little water.


printable recipe here
From “La Cucina Italiana”

1 pound sea scallops
fine sea salt
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
1 pound Swiss chard, center ribs removed and leaves coarsely chopped
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1/8 t. crumbled saffron threads
1 T. unsalted butter
1 pound fresh corzetti or dried corzetti
freshly ground white pepper (optional)

Cut scallops into quarters; set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat; add shallots, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots just begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add chard in batches, then add broth, 1/4 t. salt and saffron; cook, stirring until greens are just wilted.
Add scallops to skillet, tucking pieces among greens; gently simmer, turning scallops occasionally, until scallops are just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Add butter and gently stir until melted, then remove skillet from heat and cover to keep warm.
Cook pasta in the boiling water until just tender – 6 to 7 minutes or until al dente. Drain. Combine the pasta with the scallops and chard in the pan. Sprinkle with pepper if desired.

Ricotta And Swiss Chard Gnocchi

Ricotta and Swiss Chard Gnocchi

  My dad never used to cook. He didn’t need to – my mom was well known for her prowess in the kitchen. But when she died in 1986, cooking became a necessity for my dad – he isn’t one for take-out food. Even though he’s been remarried for 20 years, his culinary skills have grown along with his passion for cooking. On a recent visit, he prepared these gnocchi with a red pepper sauce and I was enchanted – they’re light enough to practically melt in your mouth and they’re a good way to use up some of the remaining swiss chard in my garden. The red pepper sauce is delicious and a little unexpected too.

 Don’t like red pepper sauce? They’re also divine with a simple melted butter and sage sauce. They’re easy to make too. All you do is mix a few ingredients in a bowl and shape into ovals. These are sometimes called “gnudi” – the Italian word meaning “naked” since they’re like a ravioli filling without the dough.
Warning – I used swiss chard that had red stems and the gnocchi took on a pinkish shade. Upon cooking, they turn a little greyish – not the most attractive food color.
 But it doesn’t matter because they’re as light as a cloud and the red pepper sauce adds a beautiful color to the dish. Besides, you can cover it all with a sprinkle with parmesan – something I forgot to do it for the photos.

 

Ricotta and Swiss Chard Gnocchi or “gnudi”


printable recipe here


1 pound ricotta
1/2 cup flour, or more if needed
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 large egg
a bunch of swiss chard leaves (about a dozen large leaves, or more if they’re small – you could also use spinach)
1/4 tsp. salt, pepper to taste
a grating of fresh nutmeg

Drain the ricotta overnight to get rid of excess water. Cook the swiss chard leaves in boiling water, drain and let cool. Squeeze out excess water and chop finely. Mix the ricotta, swiss chard and remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add more flour if necessary, but the least amount of flour you add, the lighter the gnocchi will be. Dust your hands with flour and roll into oblong shapes. Cook in a pot with ample water, salted until the gnocchi rise to the surface. Drain.

Serve with melted butter and sage, sprinkled with parmesan cheese, or with red pepper sauce – recipe below.


Red Pepper Sauce
1 shallot
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T. olive oil
8 oz. roasted red peppers – preferably homemade
1/3 c. white wine
1/3 c. chicken broth
salt, pepper to taste

Cook the shallot and garlic clove in the olive oil. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for five minutes, then put in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour back into saucepan to heat and serve with the gnocchi.

Swiss Chard Flan

Swiss Chard Flan

I wasn’t quite sure what to call this recipe – is it a custard, a flan, a tian? It’s kind of like a quiche, but without the crust. Call it what you like, but I call it delicious. It would make a nice lunch or dinner with the addition of a salad, but I plan to make it as a side dish this Thanksgiving. You can even assemble it the night before and bake it the next day. If you don’t have swiss chard, or don’t like it, you can substitute spinach. Actually any vegetable would do for this recipe. I happened to have some orange bell pepper on hand, and added that for extra color and flavor, but it’s not essential either. I used asiago cheese in the recipe, but the choice is yours here too – cheddar, parmesan, feta even. They would all work. The important thing is to get going and make it.

Swiss Chard Flan

swiss chard (about 4 cups of raw swiss chard packed into a measuring cup. After boiling and squeezing out the water, you should have about two cups)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt, pepper
5 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 cup asiago cheese, grated

Boil the swiss chard in water for about five minutes and drain. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess moisture and place on chopping board. Mince the chard until you have small pieces. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a saute’ pan and add the shallots, garlic and bell pepper. Saute’ until soft, then add the chopped swiss chard, parsley, salt and pepper.

Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the milk and grated asiago cheese. Add the swiss chard mixture and mix in the bowl until everything is blended. Pour into a buttered casserole and place the casserole in a bain-marie (water bath). Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.

Stuffed Swiss Chard Leaves

Stuffed Swiss Chard Leaves

Swiss Chard – It’s known as “The Queen of Greens” and for good reason. It’s packed with valuable nutrients and a flavor that delivers – something like spinach but punchier. Growing up in an Italian household, it was not unusual to eat it cooked with a little olive oil, garlic and a dash of red hot pepper flakes. I still love to prepare it that way, but when I find myself with an abundance of the crinkly green leaves, like the one in the picture, I can’t resist stuffing them with ground meat and brown rice and stashing them in the freezer for those days when I don’t have time or inclination to cook.
I have served them with a bread crumb/parmesan cheese topping or smothered in tomato sauce. Either way, this recipe has a way of winning over any skeptics who’ve never tried this relative of the beet family.
You can be creative and use anything you like in the stuffing. I happened to have tomatoes and mushrooms on hand, but you can vary it and use anything you like – from carrots and celery to zucchini and peppers. You can even eliminate the meat entirely if you want to go strictly vegetarian.
For this recipe I chop off the thick stalks and use them separately in other recipes – soups or gratineed in a casserole. It’s like getting two vegetables for the price of one.

Stuffed Swiss Chard Leaves

1 cup raw brown rice, cooked in 3 cups water
Make this ahead of time and let it cool.

swiss chard leaves, about 16-20 large

1 1/2 pounds ground meat
1/2 medium onion
3 T. olive oil
several cloves of garlic, minced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
6 mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup parsley, minced
salt, pepper

Topping:
either a tomato sauce OR a mixture of:
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. dried basil
dash of red pepper flakes

Start by bringing a large pot of water to boil. Cut off the stalks of the swiss chard and cook them in the boiling water for about two or three minutes. The point is to make them pliable enough to stuff easily. Drain and run cold water over the leaves to stop the cooking and to make them easier to work with.
Saute the chopped onion in the olive oil until translucent, then add the meat and saute until cooked through. Drain off any remaining water or oil and put into a large bowl. Saute the mushrooms until cooked, then add them to the bowl, along with the diced tomatoes, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Add the cooled rice to the bowl, then the beaten eggs and mix everything well.
Dry the swiss chard leaves a little, and lay them out on a counter top. Place about 1/4 cup of stuffing on each leaf, then start rolling up the leaves from the stalk end, folding in the sides as you roll. Place in a greased casserole. Top with either a tomato sauce or a mixture of bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and herbs. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for about 1/2 hour.