I’ve been spending plenty of time in the garden over the past week. What a joy! Last year, with our move to Miami and all the planning and packing it involved, my poor garden got very little attention. I would stand on the deck and be dismayed to see all the weeds, all of the plants that needed to be trimmed or moved, all of the small signs of neglect.
This year will be different. It is different already. There is nothing more beautiful than a spring garden, so full of hope and promise and so I am inspired. I have spent more hours in the garden this last couple of weeks than I did in the entire season last year. And I am making some changes.
I am moving around a bunch of the perennials and creating a West Coast shade garden in the front yard. There are now hostas, foxglove, maidenhair ferns, lily of the valley, columbine, wild ginger, bleeding hearts and Calla lilies where there was once just a patch of grass.
I am reworking the herb garden, moving the fraise de bois strawberries, and readying the soil for my vegetable plot. This year there will be kale and leeks, onions and red leaf lettuce, arugula and mustard greens. There will be plenty of Swiss chard. There will be green chard and red chard and rainbow chard too. I love how chard always seems to thrive in my garden and doesn’t seem to mind our cooler, wetter climate in Vancouver. I even have a few bunches that happily overwintered and are still thriving in the front yard.
Since today is a rainy day there will be no time spent in the garden. I am happy to leave my gloves and trowel and weeding bucket beneath the stairs and spend some time puttering around in the kitchen instead. I harvested some of the chard before it started to really rain this morning and have some puff pastry defrosting in the fridge. I am planning to sauté the chard and the shallots and mix up the ricotta and egg base and then assemble the tart right after lunch. Topped with some fresh goat cheese it will happily sit in the fridge until dinner time when it will be popped into the oven and scent the house with earthy greens and the buttery pastry. Topped with the currant, pine nut and parsley relish it will be cut into slabs and served on the cutting board for everyone to help themselves.
A simple and perfect dinner for a cool and rainy evening. Much like the garden in early May this little tart is quintessentially spring.
Swiss Chard Tart with Goat Cheese and a Pine Nut, Currant and Parsley Relish
Recipe adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin
This can be assembled in the morning and then covered and refrigerated until ready to bake. I used swiss chard here but you could also use kale or even sautéed stinging nettles.
For the tart:
1 sheet puff pastry measuring approximately 10 x 13 inches (25 x 33 cm), defrosted if frozen
1 large egg separated
2 large bunches of Swiss chard, cleaned and centre ribs removed
4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 cup shallots, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta, drained if very wet
1/4 cup crème fraîche
6 ounces (170 g) fresh goat cheese (chèvre)
Fine grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the currant, pine nut and parsley relish:
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Small sprig of rosemary
Pinch of dried chile flakes
3/4 cup finely diced rid onion
1/2 cup dried currants
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Fine grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (205 C).
Place the puff pastry sheet on a parchment lined sheet pan and using a pairing knife score a 1/4 inch border around the edge of the pastry. Whisk the egg white with 1/2 teaspoon of water and brush the egg wash over the base of the tart avoiding the border edge. This will help to waterproof the crust when you top it with the ricotta mixture. Chill the puff pastry in the freezer until ready to use.
Slice the chard into medium sized pieces. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat for a minute or two and add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the shallot and the thyme and sauté for a few minutes before you add in half of the Swiss chard. Cook for a minute or two, tossing the greens in the hot oil to help them wilt and then add the remaining chard and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a few more minutes, tossing the greens frequently until they are wilted and tender.
Spread the greens on a sheet pan to allow them to cool. If you want to speed this up then place them in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or so. Once cooled, gently squeeze out the excess water with your hands.
In a medium mixing bowl gently beat the egg yolk. Add in the ricotta, remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, crème fraîche and a healthy pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper and gently fold this mixture together.
Spread the ricotta mixture over the base of the puff pastry, taking care to keep the filling inside the scored border. Crumble half of the goat cheese on and then arrange the cooled greens on top. Sprinkle the remaining goat cheese over the top. At this point you can cover the tart with plastic and put it in the fridge to bake later or pop the tart into the oven now.
Bake the tart for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is a beautiful golden brown.
While the tart is in the oven you can make the currant and pine nut relish.
Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat for two minutes and add the olive oil, rosemary and chile flakes. When the rosemary starts to sizzle add in the red onion and season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Turn down the heat to low and let the onions gently sauté for about 10 minutes until tender. Transfer to a small bowl, discard the rosemary sprig, and allow to cool. Reserve the pan.
While the onion is cooking place the currants in a small bowl and cover them with hot water. Allow them to soak for 10 minutes and then drain well.
Add the balsamic vinegar to the pan that you cooked the onions in and reduce it over medium high heat until you are left with approximately 1 tablespoon. Stir the balsamic into the onion mixture and add in the drained currants, parsley and pine nuts. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
To serve transfer the hot tart onto a cutting board and cut into squares. Spoon the relish over the top of the tart and serve at once.