Monday, May 11, 2009

Meatless Mondays: Deborah Madison's Chard-Onion Torta

I've already documented my love for Deborah Madison several times over, but this recipe has added another layer to my already extensive admiration.

The truth is, I am bad at pie crusts. I suspect that if I really tried I could master them. But it's one of those vicious cycles--I'm not good at making them, so I don't make them and then I don't have any practice making them, so when I do they're bad, and on and on. The dough always seems to get too warm and sticky, the crust falls apart, I wonder if I need a pastry cutter, or maybe 2 forks are fine, or maybe the food processor, except that mine is really little . . . and so on and so forth. I am entirely confident where bread and yeast are concerned, but with pie crusts--not so much.

But I like making baked eggy kinds of dishes, and while I do sometimes make quiches in store bought crusts, I never feel very good about it. (Also, the only really tasty one I've found of late was in a natural foods gourmet grocery store that's now closed.) So, Deborah Madison had me instantly when she said that the crust for this torta was made simply from bread crumbs pressed into a buttered dish. That I can do.

And the rest of the recipe is just as easy. You saute up some chard and onion in butter or olive oil. You mix up some eggs, milk or cream and grated cheese. (Some miscellaneous herbs are also involved.) Stir everything together, pour into your breadcrumb-lined pan, let it bake, and voila. The final results are slightly homely and apt to possibly fall apart on the plate, but they couldn't be any tastier.

Chard and Onion Torta
from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen

2 Tbsp. butter or olive oil, plus butter for the dish

2 slices bread, crusts removed, made into crumbs in a food processor

1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced crosswise

2 pinches of saffron threads

1/4 cup slivered basil leaves

1 tsp. thyme leaves, chopped, or 2 pinches dried

2 big bunches of chard, leaves sliced from the stems and chopped into 1-inch pieces

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 garlic cloves, smashed in a mortar with a pinch of salt

1 cup grated Gruyere cheese

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus a little more for the top

3 eggs

1 cup light cream or milk

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Generously butter a baking dish, such as a 10-inch round terra cotta gratin dish, then press the bread crumbs into it, covering the bottom and sides. Reserve any extra crumbs.

2. Heat the 2 tbsp. butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, then crumble the saffron threads over it. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is very soft, about 15 minutes. If it threatens to burn or crisp, add a little water or white wine to the pan.

3. Add the basil, thyme and chard to the softened onion and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until the chard has wilted and is tender, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, taste for salt and season with pepper. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in any extra bread crumbs. Add the cheeses, eggs and cream.

4. Pour the filling into the prepared dish, grate a little extra Parmesan over the top and bake in the center of the oven until golden and nearly firm throughout, about 30 minutes. Poke a knife tip into the top to make sure the eggs are set. Let rest for several minutes before serving.

1 comment:

Cara deBeer said...

So I have the same comfort with yeast doughs, bad at pie crusts problem. Like you, I suspect that all it takes is practice (and maybe a marble slab.) But the problem with practice is that then I'm left with a whole pie - usually fruit - which gets soggier by the day and the two of us can't finish it before it gets gross. So maybe to practice piecrusts, I need to think about different fillings - like quiche, or maybe mousse - which make better leftovers after 4 days.

Although the torta certainly looks worthwhile.