Green Tomato and Swiss Chard Gratin

The summer has been much cooler than previous summers, which has been refreshing. Lower energy bills are a perk, and subway and walking commutes are much less sticky. But the lower temperatures mean that my tomatoes have been pokey about ripening. I’m getting impatient! Chances are, as always, as soon as a couple of fruits start ripening, too many will, and I will be scrambling. Before that happens, I stole a few unripened tomatoes from the plant to make this dish.
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This is the first time I have tapped into the green tomatoes so early. There are usually some left over on the plant when the first frost creeps in, and I snatch them before my garden is winterized.

I make fried green tomatoes at least once every year. They keep me in touch with my southern roots. Buttermilk dressings and remoulade sauce make excellent pairings. In this recipe, lightly fried tomatoes make the topping of the gratin. It seems to me more like a crustless quiche of Swiss chard and Gruyère cheese with a green tomato topping.
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I hope you’re not getting sick of me posting about chard. Remember, you can substitute pretty much any hearty green..spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens, etc. I just happen to have chard again!
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Green Tomato and Swiss Chard Gratin
Reproduced from Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe in The New York Times

1 bunch Swiss chard, stems separated from the leaves
1 lb green tomatoes, sliced a little less than 1/2 inch thick
1/2-3/4 Cup cornmeal for dredging, as needed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion
, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 Cup milk
Approx 1/2 Cup or 2-3 ounces Gruyère cheese
, grated

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Prepare your 2-quart baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray or olive oil.

To blanch the swiss chard leaves, fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. While the water heats, dice the swiss chard stems and set aside to be combined with the chopped onion.

Taste the rainbow.

Taste the rainbow.


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Once boiling, drop the chard leaves in the water and blanch for about 1 minute.
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Lift out of the water and transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking. Put the leaves in a colander to drain excess water. Chop and set aside.

Slice your green tomatoes. This is a little tedious with the plum tomatoes–ideally you have abundant round beefsteak or big boys. Season the slices with a little salt and pepper, and add a little salt and pepper to the cornmeal as well.
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Dredge the tomatoes in the cornmeal.
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Glug 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Pan-fry the tomatoes for about two minutes each side, until they are just starting to turn golden. A narrow flexible spatula, like the type used for fish, is helpful for turning over the slippery suckers. When done, transfer to a plate and set aside.
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While frying the tomatoes, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Add more olive oil to the now-empty pan and pour in the onion and chopped chard stems. Saute for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables soften. Add a pinch of salt, some grinds of pepper, and your minced garlic.
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Cook for about a minute, and then finally add the thyme and chopped chard. Stir everything together over medium heat for another minute. Good luck keeping it in the pan as your stir! Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, whisk the 3 eggs with a generous pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour in the milk, stir, and then add the cheese and chard and stir. Pour into your baking dish.
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Layer the tomatoes over the top.
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Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. The gratin is done when the eggs are set and it is beginning to brown.

Could be browner.

Could be browner.


This makes a generous 6 servings, so I will be enjoying it all week!
Chow down!

Chow down!

Swiss Chard and Prosciutto over Polenta

I’m due for a follow up on the last post, Chard Stem Hummus! What did I make with the de-stemmed leaves? Something unbelievably easy. Swiss Chard and Prosciutto over Polenta.
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You probably already know that the chard leaves lend themselves to a wide range of recipes. The leaves show up in recipes calling for some tomato here, a few dried fruits and nuts there, a touch of vinegar, or perhaps a little cheese. Last week I enjoyed Chard, Caramelized Onion, and Gruyère Crepes; also easy and delicious. I recently finished skimming through the expansive the book Vegetable Literacy, by Deborah Madison. Deborah lists the following as good companions for chard:DSC_9290

  • olive oil, butter, sesame oil
  • quinoa, rice, potatoes, white beans, lentils, chickpeas, pasta
  • garlic, thyme, cilantro, basil, cumin, saffron, nutmeg
  • fresh lemon, aged red wine vinegars
  • eggs, cream, Gruyère, Parmesan cheese, tahini
  • My selected recipe is spot on with several of the recommendations. As for eggs, I’m not one of those people who thinks to reach for eggs as a dinner ingredient (besides in crepe and other batters or dough). However, in this recipe I can easily imagine the soft polenta replaced with soft scrambled eggs, served with some rustic toast on the side.

    Swiss Chard and Prosciutto over Polenta
    Adapted from Cooking Light on myrecipes.com
    Scaled to serve 2

    IngredientsDSC_9287
    a few slices prosciutto or pancetta
    , about 1 ounce, cut or torn into 1/4-inch pieces
    Cooking spray
    1 Tablespoon garlic
    , minced
    3/4 Cup low-sodium chicken broth
    1/2 Tablespoon fresh thyme
    , chopped
    4 Cups Swiss chard leaves, coarsely chopped
    1/8 teaspoon sea salt
    1/8 teaspoon black pepper
    1 Cup prepared polenta
    , cooked from yellow cornmeal by following this recipe (scale down by at least half if feeding only 2 people) or freshly made instant polenta cooked according to package directions
    1/8 cup (.5 ounce) Parmesan cheese, shaved

    Head a large skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray or olive oil. Cook prosciutto about 10 minutes, until crisped. Removed the crispy pieces from pan and set aside.

    I love the flavor added with this step, but it sure makes a mess of the stovetop!

    I love the flavor added with this step, but it sure makes a mess of the stovetop!


    Add garlic and stir into the drippings in the pan for about 30 seconds. Pour in broth and add thyme. Raise the stove temperature to bring the mixture to a boil. Allow to boil for about 5 minutes to reduce by half.

    Add chard, salt, and pepper. Toss to incorporate.
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    Cover the pan. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until chard is tender, about 3 minutes.

    Spoon over polenta and top with prosciutto and Parmesan shavings.
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    Chard Stem Hummus

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    I made a cooked vegetable dish this weekend that I fully intended to share on the blog. It displayed a medley of farm-sourced ingredients and required quite a bit of time to stir and cook. When it finally finished, I sat down and ate it…and didn’t like the flavor. One of the vegetables I incorporated was kohlrabi, and I think it was too dominant in the dish. More importantly, the vegetables were supposed to soften after pan frying for so long, and the kohlrabi didn’t. It stood out. It may have even been burnt–I couldn’t tell. The dish was edible, but it needed a lot of tweaking before sharing. Fortunately, it wasn’t served to guests–only to my husband, who years ago would have run away if I tried serving him a dish with kohlrabi. He didn’t love it either, but he ate it. I’m so proud of how far he has come.

    It got me thinking about the people, young and old, who won’t eat vegetables, and their noble partners who, out of concern for the health and well-being of loved ones, find ways of sneaking in nutrition. Do you know one of those people? Maybe YOU are a sneaker. You probably use up even more of the vegetables you buy than I do, because you plan to throw them into a food processor to make a secret sauce, or soup, or dressing. In my ongoing search for recipes that use the Swiss chard stems, I found this recipe for a chickpea, tahini, and yogurt dip with hidden Swiss chard stalks. Last summer I pickled some stems, which was great for preserving, but I rarely reached for them in the fridge. When I tried this grilled Swiss chard stem recipe, I didn’t seem to have enough stems to make it substantial…and then some of them even blew off of the grill while they were being cooked! When tasting the hummus recipe I made this Monday, one would never guess it has Swiss chard. What a difference from that weekend vegetable medley! Are there those with the opposite view of a stealthy vegetable cook, who insist that each vegetable be featured prominently and celebrated, who are less than impressed with this approach? Perhaps. But this dip is undeniably delicious, and I do give the Swiss chard stems some of the credit.

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    Chard Stem Hummus
    From Martha Rose Shulman of The New York Times

    4-5 ounces pound Swiss chard stalks, from about 1/2 pound bunch, sliced
    Salt to taste
    2 garlic cloves
    (to taste), peeled
    heaping 3/4 Cup cooked chickpeas (about half a small can), drained and rinsed
    2.5 Tablespoons stirred sesame tahini
    4 Tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
    2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    , to taste
    1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted on the stovetop
    1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

    Steam chard stalks over 1 inch water until tender when pierced with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes.
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    Collect the rest of your ingredients.
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    Drain the Swiss chard stems well, about 10 minutes. Add to a food processor along with your chickpeas.
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    Purée, stopping the machine from time to time to scrape down the sides.

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    Using a mortar and pestle, mash garlic with 1/2 teaspoon salt until you have a smooth paste. Add to chard stalks and chickpeas. Process until smooth.

    After the first whirring...

    After the first whirring…


    Wipe out the same mortar to grind your toasted cumin seeds.

    Add to processor along with tahini and yogurt and run the machine until smooth once again.

    With machine running, add lemon juice, olive oil and a touch of salt to taste. Test the dip for seasoning, and then transfer to a bowl.

    The final product!

    The final product!


    Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley, for garnish, and serve with crudités, along with some wonderful homemade whole wheat pitas.
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    Stay tuned for what I made with the leaves this time!
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    Weekend Cooking – Part 1 – Chard

    I hadn’t done much cooking during the week, with dinners out and social gatherings, so I had big plans to use up a lot of ingredients on Friday night. It was to be a “cook the pantry” type of night. Then it got to be 8:30pm before I started. Why so late? Well, there was some drama in discovering that one of our cats was refusing to eat the dry food we had always fed her, so there were two trips to Petco to find alternatives. Then I was so sleepy that I tried to take a preliminary power nap. And one of the floors desperately needed to be vacuumed, and that needed to be done before too late so as not to disturb the neighbors. So, I didn’t have time to cook everything I wanted before bed. Fortunately, there was time on Saturday too!

    I was facing another batch of swiss chard, so I decided to try something a little different. Why not puree it? This soup recipe was great because it also utilized parsley, which I received in the farm share at the same time it happens to be thriving in my garden. With the added tang and creaminess of lemon juice and greek yogurt and the salty zing of feta, we had a pleasant summery soup on our hands.
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    Chard, Herb, and Feta Soup
    adapted from Bon Apetit
    Serves 4

    I’m not sure why the Bon Appetit recipe refers to this as a winter soup. Unless you have your own green house, the fresh herbs would be a big investment at the grocery store during the winter. I’m certain you could substitute spinach in this recipe, but there is no substitute for the fresh herbs.

    2 Tablespoons olive oil
    1 large onion
    , coarsely chopped (I used about 1 C of onion I had left over)
    2 large garlic cloves, smashed
    1 pound Swiss chard leaves (center ribs and stems removed), coarsely chopped (about 10 cups)
    3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
    1 cup flat-leaf parsley
    1/2 C fresh cilantro
    1/4 C fresh mint leaves
    1 tablespoon dried mint
    1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    1/2 C plain Greek-style yogurt

    Optional garnishes:
    Plain Greek-style yogurt
    Mixed chopped herbs
    (such as parsley, cilantro, and mint)
    Feta, crumbled
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Fresh lemon juice
    Olive oil

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    Heat oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until translucent and soft (do not brown), 7–8 minutes.

    While they cook, roughly chop your herbs.
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    Add chard, parsley, cilantro, fresh and dried mint, nutmeg, and broth to the pan.

    It might seem like there isn't enough broth...

    It might seem like there isn’t enough broth…

    Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chard is tender, less than 10 minutes.

    .....and then the chard shrinks!

    …..and then the chard shrinks!


    Stir in lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Take out your immersion blender tool and go at it. DSC_4866I like the idea of an immersion blender because it is very easy to clean compared to a food processor or blender. Yet it makes a mess with its splattering. Even with an apron, I don’t recommend wearing dry-clean only clothes with this one! Especially if you want your soup really really smooth, you could purée it in batches in a blender. Return to pan.

    Place a few Tablespoons of the yogurt in a separate medium bowl. Add a ladle-full of warm soup and whisk until smooth. Repeat process twice more, using the yogurt and adding a total of 1 cup more soup.

    Whisk yogurt mixture into soup in saucepan. Stir 1/4 cup herbs and about 1/4 cup of crumbled feta into soup. Season to taste with lemon juice, pepper, and salt, remembering that you will be garnishing with additional feta–and my feta at least was very salty.

    Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with herbs and feta. Drizzle with oil, if desired. Serve with a good crusty bread, ideally.
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    I had almost 3 Cups of leftover swiss chard stems, which I saved from disposal and pickled using this Bon Appetit recipe as guidance. I didn’t quite double the recipe–I ended up using about 3 Cups of Sugar, 1 3/4 Cups white vinegar, 4 Tablespoons Siracha, and 3/4 tsp of celery seed. Since they are supposed to sit for a few days, I have no idea how they will turn out, but I’ll let you know!

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    It’s Burger Season!

    Who doesn’t love a burger?

    I may be misleading you with the title of this post, because what I will be featuring is a veggie burger. But this veggie burger is one of the best I have ever tasted.

    I found the burger on Pinterest, drawn to this picture:

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    The author described the original burger, which was discovered at a well-known vegetarian restaurant, as quite burger-like, vegetarian or not!

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    I’m particularly proud of how my version turned out because I truly improvised on this one. The recipe called for approximately one onion. We all know that onions vary widely in size, so that kind of recipe instruction bothers me. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, but a lot of times new or hesitant cooks would appreciate more precision. To represent that onion in this recipe, I used about 3/4 of a cup of “stuff”: a little bit of yellow onion, a little bit of leftover chopped red onion I had (from a recipe that actually stipulated the number of tablespoons), and—-chopped swiss chard stems! Swiss chard came in my share last week and I had yet to fully utilize it. I used a few leaves as a substitute for spinach in a blue cheese, sundried tomato, and greens sourdough bread I made in the bread maker the day before, and I saved the stems.
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    If you’re not familiar with swiss chard, I would say that it has more of an earthy flavor than other greens. I’m sure it has some similarities with beet greens (which could also be used here, if you have beets with the full tops!).
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    Beet and Bean Burgers
    Adapted from theKitchn’s recipe inspired by the veggie burgers at Northstar Cafe in Columbus, Ohio
    makes about 4 medium burgers

    1/4 cup brown rice (doubled if you like more rice-they say it makes a crispier burger)
    3/4 cup of some combination of onion (red, yellow, white, or even green) and swiss chard stem, diced small
    About 8 ounces of beets, diced small
    3 cloves garlic, minced (to taste…at least 2 tsp for me)
    1 Tablespoons cider vinegar
    1/2 can black beans (about 3/4 cup), drained and rinsed
    1/2 juice from 1/2 lemon
    2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1 Tablespoon parsley, minced
    1/2 teaspoon coriander
    1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme
    , minced
    2+ Tablespoons all-purpose flour
    salt and pepper to taste

    cheese (optional) – provolone, monterey jack, or cheddar

    Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add a handful of salt and the rice, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the rice until it is no longer al dente. You want it a little over-cooked. This will take at least 40 minutes, depending on your rice. Drain the rice and set it aside.

    Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and swiss chard mixture, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the onions are translucent and softened.

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    So pretty!

    Stir in the beets. Cover the pot and cook until the beets are completely tender, stirring occasionally. Give it at least five minutes and then taste for tenderness.
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    Add the garlic and cook until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Deglaze the pan using the cider vinegar.

    Empty the black beans into a large bowl and use a fork to mash them up a bit. Add the cooked rice, the beet and onion mixture, the lemon juice, the olive oil, and all the spices. Stir to combine.
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    Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the flour and stir. I needed to add a little extra flour for keeping the mix together, and it still fell apart a bit. Reviewers on the recipe’s webpage mentioned using rolled oats as a binder as well.

    Heat a cast-iron skillet over the highest heat. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Heat until it flows easily and shimmers.

    Using your hands, form about a cup of the burger mixture into a patty between your palms. (Get ready to have horror-flick gory hands). Set it in the hot pan. Continue shaping and adding as many patties are you are making at one time and add to pan as they fit. Reduce heat.

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    What’s wrong with this picture? Answer: not enough oil in the pan.

    Note: the recipe says that the burgers are best eaten immediately. The mix can be kept in the fridge for a few days if you want to save it and make additional burgers at another time. I formed a few burgers and stuck them in the freezer–I’ll let you know if they hold up.

    Cook the patties for 2 minutes, working to get a nice crust, then flip to the other side. If you’re adding cheese, lay a slice over the burgers now. Cook the second side for another 2 minutes.

    Serve the veggie burgers on a toasted english muffin, burger buns or sandwich bread.

    Seriously, this was so delicious.

    Seriously, this was so delicious.

    OK, OK, I know you want to see some meat. Here’s the burger I consumed at a friend’s house a few days later, made by our own Chef Chris Davila:

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    The picture is blurry, but I’m sure you can see how it was cooked wonderfully medium rare.

    He ground his own beef and used a combination of short ribs, sirloin, and flank steak. The recipe was from Saveur magazine’s June/July 2013 issue: Ultimate Grilled Cheeseburger. Special sauce and all.

    DSC_4770And the spread:
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    Happy burger season!

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