Category Archives: Market Meals

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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Gluten-Free Tortilla Soup for a Southern soul.

My grandmother, Leah, died in August. Let’s get that out there right now. It was sad in the way that losing grandparents is sad and watching parents lose parents is sadder. It was also okay, in that she was old and possessed the kind of fire better suited to a snuff than a slow fade.

We weren’t close. In fact, we were nemeses at the holiday table, my family’s nervous eyes on me through her railings against social leftism and women who work outside the home. I could barely be bothered to snort. There was no point, I thought. We had nothing in common, I thought. I wrote her off and swore I’d never become so bitter and out of touch.

Leah was a product of her time. It’s not an excuse, but it’s an explanation. And the truth is, if she’d have been born 60 years later, I think she’d have been a lot like me. She was sharp-tongued and stubborn. Charming when it suited her. Loved to entertain; then loved to be alone. Type A to a fault. A regular card shark. And as no one, least of all me, would argue: a damn good cook.

A southerner via the southwest, Leah had a way with Mexican food. Her tortilla soup tastes more definitively of childhood than things I ate on a daily basis. It’s what always appeared the first night of a visit, a restorative tonic for jetlag and tension. What we slurped before trick-or-treating on Halloween, the calm before the sugar rush. A stab at comfort on Sunday nights at my Dad’s house, drowning the strangeness of packing to leave a “home” that never quite felt like ours.

I flew to Arkansas for the service and came back with a recipe box. The hits are all there: her biscuits and gravy, her scalloped potatoes, her carrot cake. Lots of alarming Jell-O salads and tuna casseroles. I had my mind on one thing.

I made her version first: all-purpose flour, stick of butter and all. Then I made our version: that same sultry Southwestern flavor with a whole-grain base and a hit of veggies, as is my way. The result is something that would have been laughed out of a potluck 60 years ago. But times are different now. We get our comfort how we can.

Sorghum Tortilla Soup with Collard Greens

You can sub all-purpose or corn flour, but don’t sleep on the sorghum. It’s a super-nutritious, gluten-free grain whose mild flavor plays well with the smoky ancho chile. Making a paste with hot broth helps the flour melt into the soup, eliminating the need for a roux; if you skip this step, you’ll wind up with clumpy sorghum “dumplings” instead of the voluptuous broth that makes this bowl so soul-soothing. Serves 4.

2 tablespoons neutral oil or lard (I used duck fat)
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup ancho chile powder
4 cups chicken broth
1 can white hominy, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
A handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1 bunch collard greens, thinly sliced
Avocado and/or corn chips, for serving

1. Heat fat over medium-low. Add onion and cook until soft, about five minutes. Add garlic, and cook for another minute or so. Add chile powder. Stir to coat, and add one cup of water.

2. Add broth, hominy, beans, and spices. Bring to a boil. Skim a few tablespoons of hot broth off the top and set aside. Add cilantro to pot and reduce to simmer.

3. Whisk flour into reserved broth to form a paste. Make sure there’s more flour than broth, or you’ll have a hard time getting it smooth. Return flour paste to pot and stir to incorporate. Simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, slice your greens. Extra-thin, because collards are as tenacious as Ms. Leah. Add to pot and simmer for another 10 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

5. Spoon into bowls. Top with avocado and corn chips. Slurp and be soothed.

Butternut Squash, Sage and Ricotta Calzones with Hazelnut Crust (or, Hot Pockets for dignified adults).

This is a tale of two underdogs: butternut squash and calzones. The first sidelined by its latte-plundering brethren; the second chronically, confusingly overlooked. In a world where Hot Pockets can turn a profit, I can think of no reason calzones aren’t killing it. Made in miniature, they’re a handheld dream for packed lunches or frozen dinners. A dignified way to dough on the go.

My epiphany came at Emily, a Clinton Hill pizzeria. The pies hit the spot, but the real star was the s’mores calzone that’s become the restaurant’s calling card (or at least its face on Instagram). It’s exactly what it sounds like: a full-size pizza topped with dark chocolate, marshmallows and graham cracker crumbs, folded and baked until charred on the outside and molten within. I mean. It’s just rude to serve something like that after a meal. Next time, I’m getting one for dinner.

In the meantime, I’d like to keep things a little (a little!) more sensible. So I stuffed my homemade calzones with the flavors of fall: butternut squash, sage and lush roasted garlic ricotta, all wrapped in a hazelnut crust.

These are a hard sell. I get it. There’s homemade pizza dough (yeast! Toasted nuts ground into powder!), pre-cooked veggies, and serious wrist calisthenics. The good news is that I made them four times, and start to finish, they’re ready in two hours. If you can’t commit to that, the dough and the squash can both be made ahead, trimming assembly to 30 minutes. The best news is that they’ll keep for months in your freezer — meaning if you put in the time now, you’ve got seven deliciously dignified Hot Pocket nights ahead.

Butternut Squash, Sage, and Ricotta Calzones

I am not a precise cook. This is not a precise recipe. The only thing you should be measuring is the dough, which I’ve broken out separately below. What’s key is slicing the squash into thin, layerable strips and letting the garlic soften to where you can mash it with the ricotta. These cook quickly in a hot oven, which keeps the dough from drying out — and don’t skip that last oil rubdown, okay? Does a body good. Flavors by Martha; form by Emily; engineering by me.

1 butternut squash, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4” half-moons
1 head garlic
1 recipe Hazelnut Pizza Dough (below)
1 cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup fresh sage leaves, torn into small pieces
A handful of finely ground yellow cornmeal
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Heat oven to 400. Peel and slice squash, toss with a few glugs of olive oil, arrange in a single layer, and sprinkle with salt. Lop off the end of the garlic so the cloves are exposed (no need to peel them), drizzle with oil, and wrap in foil. Bake for 40 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make your dough. Let it rise on top of your warm oven while the veggies roast. When it’s doubled in size (about an hour), divide into eight balls.

3. Mash the roasted garlic (squeeze from the bottom and it’ll ooze right out) into the ricotta. Add the sage, a healthy pinch of salt, and cracked black pepper to taste. I added five cracks per calzone. Say crack again. Crack.

4. Grease two baking sheets lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with cornmeal. Pat dough balls into 4×8″ ovals (four should fit on each sheet). On one half of each oval, layer a tablespoon of the ricotta mixture, a few slices of squash, another blob of ricotta, and more squash. Fold the unloaded halves over and press edges firmly to close.

5. Rub sealed dough balls with olive oil. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Eat and feel dignified.

Hazelnut Pizza Dough

1 cup warm water (110 degrees. Think bathwater, not tea water. Would you give it to a baby?)
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
Heaping 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and cooled
1 ½ teaspoons salt

1. In a small bowl, combine water and yeast. Stir and set aside. If it doesn’t look foamy and rebellious in 10 minutes, start over.

2. Pulse hazelnuts in a blender or food processor until finely ground. A few nubs are fine, but it should be mostly sandy in texture. If you get to the nut butter stage, start over. (And put that ish on some toast tomorrow morning.)

3. In a large bowl, whisk flour, ground hazelnuts and salt. Pour yeast mixture and olive oil over top, and stir until a dough forms. At this point, knead on a floured surface, or do what I do and push it around in the bowl, adding flour until it Feels Like Pizza Dough. Very technical term. You should mess with it for a good 5-8 minutes, and you’ll probably add another 1/4 cup of flour.

And you know what? If you wanted to halve the filling, I bet leftover hazelnut dough would make a killer s’mores calzone. Just do yourself a favor and don’t eat dinner first. It’s the adult thing to do.

Roll with the parsnips.

You may recall my sordid affair with a guy named Joe. At the height of my lust, I’d have walked 20 blocks out of my way just to see him for five minutes. Only now, nearly six months past our expiration date, can I see how strange and lopsided our relationship was.

I’d have been glad to get in and get out, but Joe wouldn’t let me off that easy. Every tryst was an ordeal that would monopolize my day. He’d force me to come at weird hours — early Saturday morning, say, or late Tuesday night. I showed up one Friday evening after work, and he made me wait outside. He was “at capacity.” Whatever that means.

I’d draw lines before I went in, but always found myself pushed over them. He’d murmur sweet nothings like “cookie butter” or “two-buck chuck” — and I’d obey, even though I was fairly sure I wasn’t that kind of girl. When I wanted to leave, there was always a fuss. I’d spend as long getting out the door as I did with Joe in the first place.

And you know what? His zucchini was not that impressive.

Joe and I have parted ways. I don’t miss him. These days, I don’t buy much at any grocery store </metaphor!!!>. I’ve become the kind of yuppie who loyally sources her artisan foodstuffs and, on Saturdays, rises and shines for the Greenmarket — where you’ll find me squeezing tomatoes, stroking chard and rooting around for the eggs with the best color scheme. Because priorities.

Priorities.

Or I try, anyway. Because farmer’s marketing does not come naturally to me. I’m a meal planner, a recipe reader, a multi-tracked-grocery-list-maker. What’s more, I’m old-fashioned at heart. I feel guilty squeezing your tomatoes and taking someone else’s home. I grow anxious letting a handsome pile of produce beguile me into a plan — I’d sooner arrive with one in mind.

But I’d like to be the kind of person who shops at farmer’s markets. And slowly but surely, I’m learning to roll with the parsnips. Even the man-made impulse buys rarely fall short — I cave to wine-soaked cheese or duck prosciutto, and with minimal effort, I eat like a queen. The only loser is my ever-expanding list of Ambitious Kitchen Projects. But that’s a list that only I can see. And honestly, the market’s plan is usually better than mine.

Joe, you can go shave your back now.

My cooking habits have also evolved. I no longer live on quinoa and cake, though I still appreciate both. I’ve come to relish crafting and plating bona fide grown-up meals, as well as cooking “off the book” as it moves me. I still bookmark, but I mainly use recipes as a starting point. The more practice I get, the more “me” my cooking becomes, and the more I favor simple dishes that let fresh ingredients shine.

The downside is that unless I’m entertaining, I rarely get to share. It’s natural to pawn off a cookie; not so much a scoop of pumpkin chili or or honey balsamic pulled pork. I scale down or freeze things so I don’t have to eat on repeat, but sometimes the results are so good I just want to high five people. Or at least have a tester confirm that we do, in fact, have a hit.

Cast-iron masterpizza. High fives all around.

One day, we’ll all have a dinner party. Until then, let’s cook together from afar. Look out for the “Market Meals” tag in upcoming posts, which will feature creative, accessible takes on whatever’s made its way from the ground to me. I’m excited to share what’s on my plate, and maybe even a few long-distance high fives. Cookin’ (almost) freehand to the seasons: It’s what’s for dinner. Now explain why it took me so long to wise up on Joe.