lundi 5 février 2007

Finally! A non-meat post!

Given that I haven't much time to cook during the week anymore (see below post for the general craziness that is my life), I have to make the most out of those opportunities when I do happen to find time to make myself dinner - for not only do I have to make dinner that night, but I need to plan to bring leftovers at least a couple times a week to school for lunch, since there are only so many times I can visit the salad/soup bar.

So I'm always on the search to find a recipe that'll keep well and that won't bore me the third time I've eaten it in a week. And one that is filling enough so I don't end up pillaging the vending machines for Cheez-its and Cheetoes. For instance, this chicken salad and this sausage-and-lentil dish work well (although I do have to say that with all that protein in the chicken salad, I'm still left hungry and always must supplement with chips, preferably salt and vinegar ones, because those are the only chips I want to eat right now).

This week, the plat de la semaine is a rather engaging chard and saffron tart, first espied in the paper, but then I was reminded of it here, where the description of it was just too tempting to pass up. Plus, if I don't go to the salad bar, I forget to eat vegetables (although I do always hope that my multivitamin somehow makes up for some of it).

I have to say, while making the tart, I had my doubts that it'd turn out nicely. For one, the tart crust seemed rather thin in places (which was probably more my fault than the dough's fault). Oh, and I couldn't even find my tart pan, so made it in a regular pie pan. And while cooking the chard down (I cheated and used a pre-chopped mix from Trader Joe's that was largely chard with some other dark leafy green mixed in), I really didn't think that it was all going to fit into my crust. But it did, and miraculously, the crust baked up quite nicely, attractively puffing out a bit over the top of the egg+chard combination.

I suppose it does resemble a quiche, but it doesn't taste as rich as quiches I've had in the past. Which is sometimes a good thing.

Oh, and definitely do not leave out the pine nuts. While they sort of visually blend into the crazy maze of yellow-and-green, they add a nice little sweetness that compliments the dish nicely. And the dish itself certainly is a lot prettier than the chicken salad and sausage-and-lentil dish I've brought to school in the past, which unfortunately tend to look like mush.

Vending machines, you are safe from me. At least for today.


Chard and Saffron Tart
Serves 6 to 8
From the Los Angeles Times, recipe adapted from The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison, who makes no-meat food taste good.

1 large bunch chard, enough to make 7 cups leaves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/4 -inch dice
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
Large pinch saffron threads, soaked in 1 tablespoon hot water
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 recipe yeasted tart dough (below)

1. Cut the chard leaves away from the stems and save the stems for another purpose. Chop the leaves into pieces roughly an inch square, wash them in a large bowl of water and set them aside in a colander.

2. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a wide skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium heat; add the onion and cook it until it is translucent and soft, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, the chard leaves (by handfuls, if necessary, until they all fit) and the salt. Turn the leaves over repeatedly with a pair of tongs so that they are all exposed to the heat of the pan and cook until they are tender, 5 minutes or more. When the chard mixture is cooled, squeeze out any excess moisture with paper towels.

3. To make the custard, beat the eggs, then stir in the half and half, infused saffron, lemon peel, grated Parmesan, a few scrapings of nutmeg and the parsley. Stir in the chard and onion mixture. Season with more salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper.

4. Toast the pine nuts in a small pan over medium heat until they are lightly colored, 2 minutes. Pour the filling into the tart shell and scatter the pine nuts over the surface. Bake until the top is golden and firm, about 40 minutes.

Yeasted tart dough

1 teaspoon active dry yeast ( 1/2 package)
Pinch sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
About 1 1/4 cups unbleached white flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons crème fraîche

1. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in one-fourth cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees) and set it in a warm place.

2. If the egg is cold from the refrigerator, cover it with hot water and let it sit a few minutes to bring it up to room temperature. Combine 1 cup of the flour and the salt in a bowl and make a well. Break the egg into the middle of it; add the crème fraîche and pour in the yeast mixture, which should be foamy with bubbles. Mix everything together with a wooden spoon to form a smooth, soft dough, adding more flour as necessary. Dust it with flour, gather it into a ball, set it in a clean bowl and cover. Let the dough rise in a warm place, 45 minutes to an hour. If you are not ready to shape the dough at this time, punch it down and let it rise again.

3. Flatten the dough, place it in the center of the tart pan, and press it out to the edge using either your knuckles or the heel of your hand. Add only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking. If the dough shrinks back while you are shaping it, cover it with a towel, let it relax for 20 minutes, then finish pressing it out. It should be about one-fourth inch higher than the rim of the pan. It can be filled immediately or refrigerated until needed.