Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Swiss Chard Quiche

Swiss chard is my new favorite vegetable. It cooks up delicately soft like spinach so that it can be used chopped fine in all kinds of Italian and Greek dishes (lasagna, ravioli filling, spanakopita…), it’s mild and thin enough to blend wonderfully into salads, in its rainbow versions it’s beautiful, it grows super easily in my garden, and my son likes it! So now I’m using it in droves in all kinds of places where I would have put in spinach (spinach is more of a cold-temp veggie, so it tends to be in short supply in midsummer, while swiss chard thrives in the heat and is all over farmers markets and CSA shares in August). The latest success is quiche, which in addition to being delicious and healthy in general can be made from totally local ingredients and most important to me can be served hot or cold and travels very well (in tupperware) on picnics!

Swiss Chard Quiche
Serves 4

Crust:

½ cup white flour (local flours now available at farmers’ markets and at Sherman Market)
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 stick cold butter
¼ cup ice-cold water

Mix flours together. Slice butter, then cut into flour using a pastry cutter or two knives in a criss-cross motion. Do not overmix. Once butter is pebble-sized, us flat hands and quickly rub it between your palms to finish mixing. Add ice water and quickly mix with fingertips. Flour a smooth dishtowel and dump dough onto the towel. Pull the towel together to make dough into a tight ball, then flatten into a disk using the palm of your hand. Open dishtowel and use a rolling pin to roll dough into a flat round that is ¼-1/2 inch wider than your pie or tart pan. Using the cloth, flip the dough into the pan, pull the cloth off the top, smooth the dough down, and fold over anything that hangs off the top to make a little raised ridge. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350.
Filling:

3 eggs
1 cup milk
8-12 oz grated cheese – a mix is best; this time I included cheddar, gouda, and cream cheese but really any mix works well.
2 bunches swiss chard
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
Cut the stems off of the swiss chard. Steam the swiss chard, then let it cool. Squeeze out all the water you possibly can. Chop it as finely as possible. While the swiss chard is cooling, beat the eggs then stir in all of the other ingredients. When the chard is ready, add it. Pour the filling into the crust. Bake for 45-55 minutes.



Monday, August 6, 2012

Ratatouille can be a wonderful mid-late summer fridge-clearing extravaganza--the traditional base of tomatoes, onions, zucchini, eggplant and peppers easily expands to include just about any other veggie you can think of.  But recently, I was served a ratatuoille that went for less and did it superbly.  Company (a fantastic group of French gourmands with whom we had such fun eating at the Marché des Producteurs that they invited us to lunch the next day) and location (under the arbor of an old French farmhouse overlooking fields of sunflowers) combined with skill to make Agnès's Eggplant Ratatioulle unrepeatable (she also served it surrounded by home-pickled green peppers):



But here's a recipe for a close second. In addition to the selection of ingredients, the key is to first cook the eggplant separately from the onions and tomatoes, and then to cook it all together.

Agnès's Eggplant Ratatioulle

Serves 4-6 (as a side or, spooned over brown rice, as light main dish)

3 medium onions
6 medium tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
3 eggplants
4 T olive oil
2 tsp. coarse sea salt
1 tsp. pepper

Slice the onions and sauté in a deep pan or saucepan 1T olive oil until translucent, 3-5 minutes.  Slice the garlic and add to the onions.  Cook 1 minute longer.  Roughly chop the tomatoes and add, along with 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper, to the onions and garlic.  Simmer on low for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the eggplant (skin on) into 1-2" squares.  Bring the remaining 3 T olive oil just to sizzling in a new pan.  Toss in egplant; toss to coat, then reduce heat to medium-low.  Sauté with remaining 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp salt. until eggplant is very soft, about 15 minutes.

Pour eggplant into onion-tomato mixture and simmer, covered, over low heat for 20-40 minutes (you can see from the picture that Agnès's cooked much longer than mine - the trick is to cook it a nice long time without loosing liquid-if you have a pressure cooker, you're really set - go for 6 minutes at medium pressure, with slow release).  You can serve this right away, or for even better flavor set it aside for anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours (in fridge if it's going to be more than 3 hours), then reheat gently just before serving or serve at room temperature.