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.