Monthly Archives: July 2015

Balsamic Swiss Chard Tart with Rye Cracker Crust.

We met on the subway. He fell. I laughed. Four stops later, we were texting from opposite ends of the block. It was the kind of obnoxious meet cute people move to New York to experience. The kind that doesn’t happen. Except it did.

Our first date was stupidly perfect. It was a dark and stormy night, and we got drinks at a speakeasy downtown. The bar was too loud, our bodies too close, the repartee too easy. We carelessly tossed around secrets that should have been coaxed out over weeks or months. In between those sweet, sloppy overshares, there was dancing and kissing and running through alleys and groping in taxis and broken umbrellas abandoned in rainy streets.

And kale. A shared love of dark leafy greens became our first inside joke. I awoke the next day to a very un-chill request for a second date and fired back a very un-chill YES, suggesting a restaurant known for its cult-status kale salad. At work, I pounded kale chips, high on hope and Vitamin C, too green myself to check my runaway daydreams.

Our second date went like a third, if you know what I mean. And sometime between the night of and the morning after, something kale-d the vibe. His alarm went off and he tore into the shower without so much as a good morning, and I have this sad recollection of thinking, Oh.

I didn’t leave, because I didn’t want to be the girl who left. I quickly wished I had. He was leaving the country for a two-week vacation, and it felt too soon to say what I wanted to, which was: Wait. No. Stop. I like you. Tell me what this is. Instead, I threw down some impressively blasé girl games to compensate for all the rules I’d already broken. We parted on weird terms, and I spent two weeks feeling alternately self-satisfied and panicked, obsessively checking my phone for a text I knew wasn’t coming.

Meanwhile, he got back together with his ex.

Since then, I’ve had a physical reaction to kale that rivals what I experience when someone unscrews the cap on a Diet Coke spiked with Smirnoff. (College!) It tastes like lust and loss and puts my stomach in angry, gurgling knots. I’m pretty sure the trauma incurred by eating it negates the benefits. So I don’t.

It’s cool. There are other fish in the sea. Butter lettuce has some smooth moves, and I’ve been known to fool around with shaved raw fennel. But when only a dark leafy green will do, chard’s the one — preferably baked in a buttery rye crust and served by the slice. I’ll have you know we are very happy together.

Take that, kale.

Balsamic Swiss Chard and Gouda Tart with Rye Cracker Crust

This is loosely based on a spinach tart I make on the reg. The crust can be made with olive oil, but I dig a buttery base with the sweeter balsamic and gouda filling. I used crushed rye Wasa crispbread for something like a savory graham cracker crust — for a whole-wheat version, try the original recipe.

1 1/2 cups rye cracker crumbs (about 12 crackers)
6 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 large bunch Swiss chard, stems diced and leaves cut into ribbons
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 ounces aged Gouda, shredded

Coarse salt & cracked pepper

1. Prepare the crust. Whisk together the cracker crumbs and salt. Add the butter, plus about 1/2 cup of water. It should have the look of wet sand and hold its shape when pinched. Press it into a 9″ springform pan, using a measuring cup to pack it down evenly and making sure it comes up about an inch around the sides. Note: You can par-bake this, but I’m all for saving time and found that it crisped up nicely when baked with the filling. Up to you.

2. In a large pot over medium-low heat, stir chard leaves until wilted. Wrap in a paper towel or cheesecloth and wring out excess water. Don’t not do this or you will have a sad, soggy tart. Set aside in a large bowl.

3. In the same pot, sautee the shallot and chard stems in olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for another minute.

4. Add the shallot mixture to the chard leaves, along with the vinegar, eggs and gouda. Season with a pinch of salt and a generous shower of cracked black pepper.

5. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until crust is golden-brown and fragrant and greens are set. Laugh in the face of kale salad.

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Condiments Anonymous.

The time has come to admit that I have a problem. I am powerless over my addiction and I do not want to get better.

Open my fridge and OH GOD DON’T LOOK AT ME:

three kinds of hot sauce
four kinds of mustard
an economy-sized tub of miso
a row of half-empty jam jars
a bottle of soy sauce AND an emergency stash of takeout packets
fancy anchovies
enough pickles to carry my veg intake for several weeks
salted fig caramel sauce
small-batch artisanal horseradish
Hidden Valley Ranch because LET ME LIVE
and several unmarked jars filled with mysterious DIYs.

Simply put, I want my kitchen to feel like a fast-casual restaurant. I’m a fan of batch cooking and leftovers, so the condiment fetish is my way of re-accessorizing the same old LBD (Lazy Bowl Dinner).

Besides, any condiment addict knows they’re good for more than a swipe on a sandwich. They’re not just embellishments. They’re ingredients. I put blackberry jam in my pulled pork and anchovies in my tomato sauce. A well-deployed condiment can transform a basic recipe with virtually no extra effort.

Which brings me to herb oil. Few things I make on a regular basis DON’T call for a glug of olive or coconut oil, and rarely do they suffer from a subtle herbal infusion. I’ve made chive, thyme, and basil oils, and I show no sign of stopping. You heard me. I do not want to get better.

If you’re looking to fall down this rabbit hole, I am looking to enable you. If not, avert your gaze now.

CHIVE OIL ALL DAY EVERY DAY.

You’ll four parts herb to one part oil. The amounts don’t matter as long as the ratio’s right — it just depends how much you want to make. I wouldn’t use less than 1/4 cup of oil, as you’ll lose too much in the process to make it worth your while.

For leafy herbs (basil, mint): Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the herbs and blanch them for 10 seconds. It’s a quick dip, but it keeps them from discoloring and brightens the flavor just a smidge. Plunge them into cold water, wring them out, and blend them with the oil. Push that ish through a coffee filter. Welcome to the jungle.

For sprig herbs (thyme, rosemary): Place a handful of herbs directly into the oil and bring that to a boil. Turn off the heat and let it steep for an hour or two. Strain out the stems and leaves.

Responsible media outlets would say it keeps for a week, but I’ve had chive oil in my fridge for a several months with no issues so…take your chances and please don’t sue me. Instead, do this stuff:

make it rain on yo saladz
~*spice up ur stir-frii*~
give roasted veggies a swift kick in the ass
knead it into pizza dough and top with garlic and Parmesan
rub down a piece of chicken or fish
drizzle it on soup
toss it with pasta
whip it into hummus
massage it into your cuticles
use it to grease the floor of your enemy’s summer camp cabin

Let’s see your Hidden Valley Ranch do that.

Still here, still hungry.

OH WOW.

Thank you for your compassionate response to my ED recovery story. Sharing it was hard and weird and wonderfully freeing, and I have no regrets. Since food and fitness have been major talking points around here, I want to be honest about how my view of health is evolving. I own my missteps and am so grateful for the discourse surrounding that post.

I want to quickly address what that means for this, uh, food blog…because nothing gets the appetite going like mental illness, no? I mentioned that my fixation with food was a product of my uber-restrictive diet and a way of distracting myself from loneliness and lack of purpose. That’s a bummer, and valuable knowledge for me. I’m working toward a new normal that does NOT involve food as the source of every joy, frustration, success or failure (and also involves eating a lot more of it). Part of that means stepping away from the stove and taking a good hard look at what’s missing elsewhere.

That said, cooking is a huge part of who I am. And I don’t think that needs to change. I still believe in food as a source of connection and creativity. It’s just up to me to make sure I’m using it that way. Sharing stories and recipes here keeps me accountable to exploring the moments before, during, and after the meal, and to spinning them into something bigger than me. I want to love food not just as an end in itself, but for what I take away once my plate is clear.

So that’s that. We back. Let’s not make this awkward like LOL I MEAN LIKE COME ON GUYS BE COOL.