One of the biggest challenges I have with seasonal cooking is the transition from one season to the next. The weather begins to change, butternut squash loses its thrill and the anticipation for new produce doubles down. For me, waiting for winter to end and spring to begin is the hardest seasonal transition (although I do get pretty sick of zucchini and tomatoes by August). Yes, it's lame to be dramatic about winter produce as we currently live in California, with no snow and year-round access to fresh produce. But waiting for rhubarb and fava beans to hit the market is hard because in my mind, they are the taste of spring. Pea shoots, fiddlehead ferns, morels, green garlic-- these relatively rare vegetables symbolize spring as much as chirping birds and sprouting tulips. I've realized, though, that it's not entirely fair to give these few show stoppers all of the attention. Fresh spring flavors can be summoned with a whole host of fruits and vegetables that are more every day and readily available, even if you're still shoveling out your driveway. Frozen artichoke hearts, peas, leeks, fennel, fresh herbs, citrus fruit, strawberries, leafy greens -- while these might not always be farm fresh or the best of the season, cooking with them can tide you over during the slow crawl of February.
And this swiss chard tart with leeks and pecorino does just that. It was born out of the frustration of waiting for rhubarb and the quintessential produce of spring, yet it's fresh, aromatic, and tastes like a crisp day in April. The crisp, flaky crust is filled with a silky custard, sweet buttery leeks and a ton of swiss chard. This is a tart that begs to be served at an Easter brunch with a crisp glass of Pouilly Fumé.
swiss chard tart with leeks and pecorino
serves 6 | recipe loosely adapted from food network
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 stick + 3 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cubed
2- 4 tbsp ice water
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 leeks, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
2 bunches swiss chard, leaves coarsely chopped, stems discarded
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup pecorino, shredded (or other hard salty cheese like parmigiano)
Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Add 2 tablespoons ice water and pulse until the dough just comes together, adding up to 2 more tablespoons ice water if needed. Transfer to a sheet of plastic wrap and pat into a disk; wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
Coat a 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray (I found this unnecessary, but if you're worried go ahead and grease it). Roll out the dough into a 12-inch round on a floured surface. Ease into the prepared pan and press into the bottom and up the side; trim to make a 2-inch-high crust. Prick the bottom a few times with a fork; refrigerate 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the dough-lined pan on a baking sheet. Line the dough with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the edges are just lightly golden, 15- 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights; continue baking until the crust is lightly golden all over, 15- 20 more minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
The crust can be made a day ahead; cover and store at room temperature.
Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks, season with salt and pepper, and slowly sauté until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 10- 15 minutes. Transfer leeks to a large bowl.
In the same pan, add olive oil and raise heat to medium-high. Add swiss chard, season with salt and pepper, and sauté 4-5 minutes until wilted and tender. Remove from heat and when cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess liquid, finely chop, and add to bowl with leeks.
Stir in parsley, cream, eggs, pecorino, a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread filling evenly into prepared tart shell and bake 30- 40 minutes, until filling is set and firm in the center. Check halfway through, and cover loosely with foil if edges begin to brown too quickly. Serve warm or at room temperature.