Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Unfussy French on a Wednesday night
Have you ever followed a recipe that didn’t make any sense?
I like to think that even if I am not quite a great cook, I do increasingly have a good sense of what it takes to make something bind together, to be fluffy, to rise. In short, to taste good. So I was perplexed when I saw this ridiculously simple recipe from Patricia Wells’s, “Bistro Cooking”:
Tourte Aux Blettes (Savory Swiss Chard Tart) (paraphrased)
1 cup flour
¼ t. salt
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. swiss chard leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 large eggs
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine flour and salt; add 1/4 cup water and then the oil, mixing until thoroughly blended. After kneading briefly, the dough will be very moist like cookie dough. Press dough into loose-bottomed metal tart tin.
3. Wash and dry the leafy portion of the chard and coarsely chop the leaves. Wilt the leaves in a skillet, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper. Heat until most of the water has evaporated.
4. Combine the eggs and grated cheese; add the chard and pour mixture into the pan.
5. Bake for about 40 minutes, until crust and filling are golden.
Perplexed, yet intrigued. I thought all pastry crusts had to made with butter and rapidly, to keep the butter cold and the pastry flaky. As I pressed the crumbly olive oil-colored dough into my springform pan (no tart pan), I thought, thank God I'm only making this for myself. Then the three eggs seemed so meager, just barely swimming around the cooked chard. How could it be so easy to make a tart?
It turns out I know nothing about the physics of cooking, because the recipe worked just fine. In fact, it was quite good and as easy as it appears, and the kind of recipe you can follow after coming home after work with only a vague desire to cook that bunch of swiss chard in your fridge, though you do have to be prepared to eat your sliver of a tourte at 9:15 pm. (And that is easy enough if you have only recently returned from Spain, where they do not think of eating before 9 pm.) I didn’t have a glass of crisp white wine as recommended by Patricia Wells, but I did have a glass of refreshing Pernod. God, I love the taste of licorice.
Despite being in my pajamas, I felt almost like one of those French girls that get described as “effortlessly chic.”