Saturday, July 30

Chard Tart

 I feel a sudden lift in the cloud of writers block. I've been distracted (going to school, landscaping my yard, gardening) and without a camera. But as I ate my lunch and thought on how superb it was I needed to write it all down. "Eggless Chard Tart" And that was it. Here you have the most important thing I've ever learned about savory tarts.

Savory Tarts: a History

Sometimes two miraculous things happen at once and whatever is left over falls into place as if it were masterfully orchestrated. Once upon a time I fell in love with a country, and a man who lived in it. Maybe sometime I'll tell that story. But this one starts in the middle of it and now we find ourselves with two offspring who are no doubt the best of both of us. But when it comes to food, they are still just kids. I am always amazed with people whose kids eat EVERYTHING. Not true. I am sometimes amazed with people whose kids will eat ANYTHING. I have a hard time finding anything that my fiery sprite of a daughter (by the same name, in a different language) WILL eat.
On to the next related tangent: We, in this great country have such a thing as quiche. A crusted egg souffle that is light and airy and where I grew up always included half cooked broccoli and a dab of ketchup on the side. In the land of the a fore mentioned Argentine, there is such a thing as a tart. I remember the first tart I enjoyed. It wasn't the first tart I ate. But it was the first time I knew that I was in love with them. Ariel an I were enjoying a day in 'el centro', La Plata, wandering through shops, window shopping with no money and people watching. It was during a time when we were waiting for his visa to come through the US Embassy so that we, a newly wedded couple, might return to live in the US. We were totally strapped, even for Argentine standards. The hand full of times we ate anything that wasn't labored over in our hot little refrigerator-less kitchen, usually involved a street stand that advertize one thing on its menu, 'Chori-pan'. The most glorified of glorified hotdogs. But today there must have been something special. Some reason why we couldn't wait to go home and cook something. Instead of our regular park-gazebo chori-pan visit, we stopped in a little shop that made pizzas and 'tartas'. This was a lesson in Argentine cuisine for me. Not the most delicate or sophisticated little shop, but one with a line that went out the door. Which was good for me, because I had no idea what I wanted to order. When it was finally our turn we ordered two tarts, one of them was onion and tomato an the other was some variety of spinach. After ordering, the already made tart was conveyer belted up into an oven and slowly passed over a covered gas flame, coming out on the other side unrecognizably, perfectly charred. Around the corner at the same park, San Martin, we delved into our paper wrapped lunch. It would serve for nothing to describe to you the details of the feast. Needless to say, it was good and I have yet to enjoy as much the combination of Onions and Tomatoes. I remember it romantically blurry, the way I remember most things from that part of my life. And now I find myself with a three year old that won't eat food. She'll eat lots of other things and I am afraid I see her rib cages more bare than before, but as most things in parenthood with your first child, I may be wrong. It may just be a little girl well on her way to being four.
When we were in Argentina for Christmas I wanted to find that little shop again. So I sent Ariel out in search of it while I readied the kids to go out into the city. Little delicatessen style shops are pretty common and my only specification was that I wanted something with green vegetables in it. Ariel came back unable to find the same shop, with a dwarf version of a tart made with Swiss chard. Argentines love Swiss chard. Probably because most of the year it's too hot to grow good spinach, which makes it more expensive. I hardly knew what chard WAS when I first visited Argentina, not exactly what one thinks of as typical South American Cuisine. But that is probably the one vegetable that Ariel asks for and misses. So I've started to grow the stuff, which is, lucky for me, quite easy. When my beets won't come up and my tomatoes won't ripen, I always have at least SOME Chard. It's taken me a while to figure it out. Mostly to figure out what to DO with it. When we were sitting again at a park in La Plata (different park) I had another epiphany. Mostly because as we sat there, I offered my daughter a peice of tart, thinking surely she would throw it on the ground and I would be ready to catch it in the event. But to my amazement, she devoured it. So I set myself in motion to figure out how to make that tart. We ate it at least every other day for the rest of our trip. And I am happy to say that I figured it out.  And my daughter eats it practically every time I make it. Today, my son ate three helpings. So here is the most simple most delicious savory tart that my children will eat. ( Did I mention it has green vegetables in it?)

Chard Tart:

Things you'll need:
1 onion
about 1 lb of Swiss chard, chopped (preferably fresh, but frozen will do)
1 garlic clove (minced)
olive oil
roughly 2 Tbsp flour, any kind
pan for sauteing
2 rounds of pastry shell, frozen pie crust or whatever you like to use for a crust(that isn't sweetened)
8 inch pie pan
2 tomatoes sliced (optional)
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese or other cheese (optional)

Preheat your oven sometime during this process to 400 or whatever your pastry dough instructions say. The filling won't be raw so it doesn't matter how it cooks.
Chop your onion finely and saute in olive oil slowly (medium low heat) until just BEFORE brown. sprinkle flour over top of onions and mix in with a wooden spoon until flour has absorbed the oil. There should be no dry flour, let it sit for a minute. Then add garlic (minced) an allow to cook momentarily before adding chard to pan. Allow the chard to wilt and mix thoroughly, sprinkle about 1/2 tsp nutmeg and about 1 tsp salt over the top and mix it in with a wooden spatula. Take greens mixture off of the heat and set aside. Roll your pastry shell and place in pie pan. pour filling into shell and place tomatoes evenly over top followed by cheese. Place 2nd pastry shell on top and roll closed. (You can also use a larger piece of pastry dough rolled out and simply fold excess over the top lightly.) My husband always prefers a little egg(or alot) brushed over the top of the dough before it is cooked. You can also add an egg into the filling if you cool it down first before putting it into the pie pan, however I don't. I Love this method with chard because it takes any bitterness or acidity out of the chard. It has a creamy texture instead of a springy/airy texture. That's why my kids love it too!
PS. The best thing I've learned about tarts is that they don't have to contain eggs.


Unknown said...

Sounds delicious! I've been apprehensive of swiss chard, but this I will have to try.

Lisa Kay said...

Hi Andrea! This sounds so good! I really think my family will like this. Thanks for sharing, I'll let you know how it goes...miss your guts:)

Lisa and Andy said...

My husband loves swiss chard. I will definitely give this a try. Thanks for the recipe!