Tuesday, May 08, 2007

tortino for enyasi


Bette à carde
Originally uploaded by Choui-Pok.
My friend enyasi is a brilliant gardener. She’s been doing it for years, and she has that cryptic knowledge of all things green and growing that would have gotten her a dunk in the drink hundreds of years ago – it’s almost witch-like. It leaves me in awe.

She rips up whole hedges and transplants them great distances; touches a plot of bare brown earth and green things bloom beneath her; recognizes tiny baby sprouts for the utterly unique creatures they will become.

I asked her once for her secret, and she paused for only a moment – not like she was looking for the answer, but like she was considering whether she should give the secret away – and then she said: “You can’t be afraid to kill things.”

Reasonable advice from a gardener, who sees the cycles more acutely than the rest of us – the coming and going of the season, the inimitable ability of the earth to give it up again after a long time of lying quiet, fallow, unproductive. Faith that the unseen will bloom up again, with or without our intervention.

Good advice, and not entirely limited to the garden.

Stopped by to see her new digs while I was in Seattle, was blown away by the very beginnings of what she’s laid down in her surroundings, and promised to share my favorite Swiss chard recipe in anticipation of the harvest that will soon enough spring up from the earth.

So here it is.

Swiss Chard Tortino
Tortino di Bietole

Serves 4 to 6.

1-2 oz porcini mushrooms I usually sub- in a couple of portabellos
2 bunches Swiss chard
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 med onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
3 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6 tbsp bread crumbs, divided
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Unsalted butter

If you’re using porcini’s, soak them in warm water for about 20 minutes. Then rinse under cool water to remove all the grit and cut into strips.

Wash the chard well, Strip the leaves from the stalks. (Reserve them for soup if you’re feeling ambitious.) Place the leaves in a large pan, braising them in the water that clings to them after washing. When tender (about 5 minutes in) drain and gently press out excess water with the back of a wooden spoon.

At this point I generally set the leaves in a colander over the sink to drain, quickly clean the pan with the swipe of a paper towel, and proceed to sauté the onions and mushrooms and garlic in the olive oil, for about 3 to 4 minutes. When all is tender and well, add the chard, stir, and cook for another 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl beat together the eggs, grated Parmesan, 2 tbsp bread crumbs, parsley, nutmeg, salt [1] and fresh-cracked pepper to taste. Mix in the chard.

Butter a medium-sized round baking dish or a 9-inch springform pan (I use a ceramic pie dish). Sprinkle with 2 tbsp of breadcrumbs. Add the chard mixture and smooth the top. Sprinkle the top with the remaining breadcrumbs and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tortino is golden.

Freely adopted from Viana La Place’s Verdura: Vegetables Italian Style



[1] We’ve talked about this, right? Sea salt. Big, coarse granules. You won’t be sorry.

5 comments:

MGL said...

I prefer big coArse granules, but that's just me.

anniemcq said...

Yummmmm. I'll definitely give it a try.

suttonhoo said...

don't you have a dissertation or something to write, Martin? ;)

duly noted. and corrected.

thanks.

Anali said...

Nice post! I must say that the women in our family do very well with plants, so it could be the genes! ; ) But I agree with Enyasi's philosophy too!

enyasi said...

Okay you win!!!! You have the distinction of making me cry and my mouth water all in the same post. I am speechless (and we both know that does not happen often). Thank you for the recipe, thank you for the post, thank you for being such an amazing friend and thank you for humoring this crazy garden girl.

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