Swiss Chard Torta with Pine Nuts & Raisins

Swiss Chard Torta with Pine Nuts & RaisinsEvery time I step into my backyard, I am amazed by how much Swiss chard my little garden is capable of producing.  For going on 2 months, I’ve been eating chard a few times a week either with pasta or in garlicky sautés with potatoes or beans.  And while I’m still not sick of it, I have started looking for a few new ways to prepare it.

This past weekend, I looked to one of my forever-favorite cookbooks for inspiration, Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking and found a recipe for tegliata di biete, a Swiss chard torta with pine nuts and raisins.  Now this is the kind of recipe you might skip over if you were simply flipping through the book and didn’t happen to be sitting on a mountain of chard, but it’s exactly the sort of recipe I love to stumble upon.  There’s nothing especially flashy about, but it’s a perfect example of how with effort and care, a few simple ingredients can be transformed into something entirely new, nuanced and intriguing.

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Sour Cherry Cornmeal Clafoutis

Cherry ClafoutisSometimes being a homeowner can feel like such a drag.  The furnace fails, guess who’s on the hook.  And when the walk needs to be shoveled, the lawn needs to be mowed, or the caulking around the shower starts to brown and peel?  Yep, my problems, no one else’s.

And then there are times when I’m reminded that having a house and a yard to call my own are major blessings.  This sort of thing is usually pretty easy to recognize on a mid-summer day when I realize I’ve got a tree full ripe cherries and I’m no choice but to make an impromptu dessert on a Tuesday.  Ah, the importance of perspective.

So for my impromptu weekday dessert, I chose to make clafoutis.  Clafoutis (or clafouti…) is a dessert with a fancy French name that couldn’t be simpler to make or more delicious to eat.  It’s a custardy little cake baked in a pie pan, packed full of cherries.  I snuck a bit of cornmeal into mine and a splash of amaretto to bring out the flavor of the cherries.  

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Chickpea, Tuna & Caper Orecchiette Pasta Salad

Tuna, Chickpea & Caper Orecchiette Pasta SaladI thought I was done blogging.  I thought I’d finally had enough of the self-imposed stress and enough standing on chairs, photographing my dinner.  I’d thought I was ready put the project on the shelf for good.

The first couple of weeks were fun and it was certainly refreshing to cook without a notepad and a camera at my side.  I drank wine while I made dinner and didn’t worry about low-lighting or measuring cups.  I ate the same thing for days on end because, dang it, I felt like it and it wasn’t like I needed to come up with fresh content for a blog anymore.  

But then it started making me feel kind of sad.  And lonesome.  I missed the game, missed putting a little piece of myself out in the world.  So I’m taking it on again, with more of a relaxed approach.  I’m not going to feel bad if I don’t post every week, if my pictures aren’t perfect, if I don’t blog my way out of my day job.  I’m not going to worry that someone might not think something I post isn’t creative enough (who wants “creative” food all the time anyway?).  I’m going to remember why I started a food blog in the first place: because I love to cook and eat and my home kitchen is one of my happiest places.

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Rhubarb-Currant Mostarda

Rhubarb & Dried Currant Mostarda

If you were to snoop around my house, through my mess of a purse, and in the depths of my pockets, you’d find a thousand little scraps of paper covered in scribbles about things I want to cook.  A few weeks ago, I jotted down one of these notes to myself with the heading “late spring/early summer”.  The list ended up looking like it should simply be titled “10 things to do with rhubarb”.

Well, we tackled the first thing on the list a couple of weeks back: a batch of ginger-rhubarb swirled ice cream that was awfully good.  Today, we’ll make a mostarda so we can eat our rhubarb with some savory dishes too.  

Mostarda, if you’re unfamiliar, is in Italian condiment made from simmering fresh and/or dried fruits with mustard seeds, vinegar, and sugar until it reaches a thick, jammy consistency.  This one is a sweet-tart mix of fresh rhubarb and dried currants with an assertive mustard pop.  It’s great used as an accompaniment to cheese or cured meats and I’d be willing to bet it would be pretty spectacular with a grilled pork chop.  If I have any left by the weekend, I’ll be sure to test the theory.

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Croatian Chard with Potatoes & Garlic (Blitva)

Croatian Swiss Chard with Potatoes
It’s been a little while since I’ve shared a new recipe here.  I didn’t mean for it to be that way, it’s just that a switch flipped and, magically, summer began.  Suddenly, I was less interested in spending time in the kitchen and a whole lot more interested in digging up dirt and taking long walks.    

Now, of course, I’ve still had to eat but it’s mostly been a lot of mishmash salads and really simple dinners.  One of my recent favorite simple (and slightly extravagant) dinners was an evening spent on my patio, eating a giant T-bone and a big pot of garlicky Swiss chard and potatoes.  And don’t get me wrong, though the steak was certainly nothing to sneeze at, I think I was actually more upset when I finished my last strand of chard.

So let me give you a little background on this side dish–I certainly didn’t invent it and, quite honestly, I think a few years ago I would have thought it was an odd combination.  Around this time last year, I took a trip to Croatia and was first introduced to blitva, garlicky sautéed Swiss chard with potatoes.  I saw it on darned near every menu, ordered it a few times, and worked it into my repertoire once I got home. 

Dubrovnik Rooftops


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