The view from my desk today is of a winter landscape with little green in sight. We have had a few inches of spring snow, perfect for encouraging the peas, lettuce, bok choy, kale and beets I planted last week. The apple tree growing outside the kitchen window is plump with snow-capped buds. Full of promise.
I’m dragging along in the kitchen, ready for new seasonal ingredients and the appearance of self-seeded arugula, parsley, and dill in my garden. Our meals include dishes I’ve made for months, as I depend on old favorites to get me through ’til spring and all its possibilities. My impulse is to stay home, to cook, however uninspired I may be. We did venture out for our first dinner in a restaurant with friends to celebrate Sherry’s exhibition and beautiful book. What a treat to see dear ones and choose our meal from a menu. Slowly, we reenter the world.
One old favorite is a chard tart, jokingly called a ‘charred’ tart by Bud. The crust dough I use is simple, delicious and healthy. I’ve written about it in other posts but here is the recipe from Patricia Wells.
Combine 1 cup unbleached flour, a big pinch of salt, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup water. Press into tart/pie pan. Prebake at 375° for 15 minutes. This is a very amenable dough and does not shrink in the pan – no need to use weights.
For the tart, strip the bunch of chard leaves from stems. Slice crosswise about an inch wide. Chop stalks into 1-inch pieces. Sauté stalks in olive oil until tender, 5 minutes or so. Add the leaves and 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced, and cook until wilted and tender.
When cool, add a beaten large egg, 1/2 cup half-and-half, and a cup or so of grated cheddar, parmesan, gruyere or a combination. Spread in prebaked pastry shell and bake at 375° for 25 minutes.
I served the tart with a dish of lightly steamed asparagus, sliced almonds and capers, sautéed in butter.
For a first taste of spring, Evan brought a bunch of nettle tops from his garden, carefully clipped and trimmed for me. The leaves are very prickly and he prepared them with a glove and scissors. He promised to bring me nettle plants when the snow melts. I browsed in a few cookbooks for inspiration and read that nettles turn a vivid green when cooked. I settled on a basic soup recipe.
First, I sautéed a small onion, a carrot, and five very small red potatoes, all diced, in a tablespoon of olive oil and one of butter. When they softened, I added the nettles and about four cups of water. A chicken or veggie stock would have been good but I had neither. Cooked this about 25 minutes, cooled a bit, and blended to a smooth puree. Added salt and 2 tablespoons cream. At serving time, seasoned with lemon juice to taste.
We ate this spring tonic topped with a drizzle of yogurt.
The daffodils will bloom when the snow melts. I hope I do too.