A Handmade Swiss Chard Tart
Plus: Three-Citrus Bundt Cake, Oreichette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe, and Craig Johnson on Lunch Therapy.
Hi from the sky!
I’m writing to you from our flight to Ft. Lauderdale — an annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage, that we didn’t undergo last year because of the pandemic — and so we’re gearing up for a week of family, humidity, steakhouses, palm trees, and getting to see my niece and nephew.
I was almost going to take the week off from writing this newsletter (a newsletterer deserves a break every now and then!) but then I remembered all of the delicious things that I made last week and I couldn’t NOT tell you about them.
Right on the heels of making Melissa Clark’s incredible Cook-the-Apples-First Apple Pie, I became kind of obsessed with making pie dough with my hands. I love it. I finally get it. Keep the butter very cold, add just enough water, bring it together quickly, then refrigerate. So for lunch on Tuesday last week, I stumbled upon an Anna Jones’ recipe for a cheese tart and I used her formula for a base (250 g all-purpose flour (I used a scale), 1 teaspoon salt, a few sprigs of chopped thyme, 125 g butter, 4 to 6 tablespoons ice water).
I refrigerated and that and was about to riff on her filling, when I realized I had Swiss chard in my fridge and switched gears: using Martha Rose Schulman’s zucchini and Swiss chard tart recipe as a guide (skipping the zucchini), I sautéed onions and rainbow chard stems in lots of olive oil, added a few cloves of sliced garlic, some chopped rosemary, lots of chopped Swiss chard greens (still a bit wet from washing), cooked it all down, and then tasted to adjust for salt and pepper.
Tart-wise, I used Anna’s instructions to blind bake the crust, then brush it with an egg, and bake ten minutes more. This prevented a soggy bottom (more on that momentarily). I mixed the cooled filling with three eggs, added a half a cup of grated Gruyere, and then poured into the shell.
Into a 375 oven it went for 50 minutes — this was a late lunch — and out it came looking gorgeous. I let it cool for fifteen minutes then served it with a little salad. And look at that bottom: not even the slightest bit soggy.
I’m starting to get good at this pastry business. Great British Baking Show, here I come! (Just kidding, I could never do that.)
Though, I did also make a cake last week. I was so eager to cook from Cheryl Day’s spectacular new cookbook, A Treasury of Southern Cooking, I couldn’t stop myself… this three-citrus bundt cake looked so good. Look how pretty it came out:
The recipe packs a punch in two ways: one, it has almond paste in it, and I love anything with almond paste (see: my favorite cake of all time). Second, there’s lots of citrus zest (orange, lemon, lime) in the batter AND the icing. It was such a winner, I served it at two dinner parties AND also ate it for breakfast until it was all gone. FCheryl Day’s done it again: her books are the best. (If you missed her episode of Lunch Therapy, listen to it here.)
On Thursday night, I cooked dinner for our friend Jason, who’d recently traveled through Italy. I actually didn’t know about his trip beforehand, so I felt a lot of pressure once I told him the menu: Oreichette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe.
Lucky for me: he loved it. And it’s oh so easy to make.
Brown a half a pound of sweet Italian sausage (out of the casing) in a large skillet or big pot with lots of olive oil, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you cook. Keep going until it gets some color. Then add a few cloves of garlic, sliced or smashed (sliced will make it more garlicky), and a big pinch of red chili flakes. Drop your oreichette into a big pot of well-salted water and, at the same time, add two bunches of broccoli rabe — just the leaves and florets, chopped — to the skillet with the sausage and stir all around with some salt.
Here’s where things get nifty: you ladle some of the pasta water (which is starchy now from the pasta) into the pot with the broccoli rabe — a few ladlefuls — until you have enough liquid to make a sauce and for the broccoli rabe to cook down into. Keep stirring and cooking until the pasta is just al dente (about two minutes less than package directions) then lift into the pot with the broccoli rabe, stir, stir, stir, until almost all of the liquid in the broccoli rabe pot is absorbed (if there’s not enough liquid in there, add more pasta cooking water). To finish, off the heat, add a bunch of grated Pecorino cheese (at least half a cup) and — my secret — a knob of butter (let’s say two to three tablespoons) and stir, stir, stir. No wonder Jason loved this so much.
So there you go: a nice meal to make in this week leading up to Thanksgiving.
And speaking of Thanksgiving, I have TWO excellent Thanksgiving episodes of the podcast for you to listen to during your travels: the previously mentioned Melissa Clark episode, where she answers all of your most urgent Thanksgiving questions, including how to get all of the food to the table HOT. And on Thursday I posted an interview with one of my best friends, Diana Fithian, who’s cooking Thanksgiving for TWENTY this year, including several vegan siblings and ones who are gluten-free.
How does she plan to make everyone happy? How’s she dealing with the turkey? The gravy? The dessert? Give a listen to Diana Fithian’s Vegan, Gluten-Free Thanksgiving for Twenty HERE.
And if that’s not enough entertainment, guess who’s on the podcast today? Director Craig Johnson (The Skeleton Twins, Alex Strangelove) who also happens to be my husband.
Find out what I cooked for him (yes I violated the lunch therapist ethical code and made him lunch) and what it all meant by listening HERE.
Now for some links that caught my attention this week:
Lunch Therapy alumnus Hetty McKinnon reviews Lunch Therapy alumnus Mayukh Sen’s new book… and it’s a rave! (NYT)
Ben Mims profiles David Tanis who’s the chef at a new restaurant in L.A… I simply must go (LAT);
You better start feeding your Nigel Slater Christmas cake now (The Guardian).
That’s all for this week, folks!
Thanks for helping me kill time on this flight: we’re already over Louisiana.
In case you missed it, in my Thursday paid-subscribers-only newsletter I wrote A Tale of Two Pork Chops: one from the fancy butcher cost $20, one, from the less fancy butcher cost $5. What was the difference? Which one will I buy in the future? If you’d like to read that and have access to my entire archives, here’s a discount code that’ll get you 20% off forever. So what are you waiting for? Makes a great gift too.
Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone! Eat lots of turkey with extra cranberry sauce for me.
Until next time….