Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Curried Green Beans and Roasted Cauliflower with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

One of the heirloom beans we are growing for the first time is Anellino di Trento.  We were initially drawn to the unusual crescent shape and speckled colors of this bush bean.  Sometimes known as Anellino Marmorizzato, this heirloom variety from Northern Italy is "marmorizzato" (marbled) in shades of green, purple and lavender, with a dense, firm texture and unusual, rich flavor.  The taste actually resembles that of a yardlong bean.  A pole version of Annellino, Stortino di Trento ("Curved from Trent"), is also available, but we have been quite pleased with both the productivity and taste of our bush beans.    Stortino di Trento, Anellino di Trento, and another heirloom bean, Sultan's Golden Crescent, are all beans referred to as "shrimp" beans because of their curved shape.

Anellino di Trento beans, with their unusually solid texture and distinct flavor, combine perfectly with roasted cauliflower to create an extremely hearty dish.   The vegetables are filling (and vegan) even without the yogurt sauce, but the sauce adds a nice zing thanks to fresh cilantro and spicy garlic.   These flavors play off the toasted Madras curry which seasons the vegetables to perfection.   If you are not growing Anellino di Trento beans, any green beans or even yardlong beans will work well in this recipe.   Be sure to select beans that are firm, not wrinkled or starting to dry out, with a bright color that indicates they are still fresh and full of flavor. 
Curried Green Beans and Roasted Cauliflower with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce
serves 2-4


Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

1            cup                non-fat Greek-style plain yogurt such as Fage
1            Tbs                fresh lemon juice
1/2          cup               cilantro, choped
1                                 garlic clove, minced

Curried Green Beans and Roasted Cauliflower

1             large             cauliflower head, cut into 1" florets
1                                 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4          cup               olive oil
1/2          lb                  green beans, cut into 2" pieces
1            Tbs                vegetable oil
2            slices             white sandwich bread, cubed
1            tsp                 Madras curry powder
                                   sea salt and black pepper


Cilantro Yogurt Sauce
  1. Combine all ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.
Curried Green Beans and Roasted Cauliflower
  1. Heat oven to 425°.  Combine cauliflower and onion with 3 Tbs olive oil.  Season with sea salt and black pepper, then spread in a single layer on a sheet pan.
  2. In same bowl, toss the beans with 1 Tbs olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Spread beans on another sheet pan.
  3. Place both sheet pans in oven and roast until tender and lightly browned, stirring occasionally.  The beans will cook faster, about 14 minutes, than the cauliflower, about 18 minutes.  Remove from oven and combine.
  4. While vegetables are in the oven, heat 1 Tbs vegetable oil over low heat and saute bread cubes until golden and crispy, about 4 minutes.  Remove from pan to cool.
  5. In the same pan, toast the curry power over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Scrape out of the pan and toss with the cooked vegetables until well coated.  Season the mixture with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve vegetables while still warm, topped with the bread cubes and yogurt cilantro sauce on the side.
Printable Recipe

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pasta with Italian Dandelion Green Pesto, Roma Green Beans and Potatoes

2009 in our garden was the year of the eggplant.  We grew a dozen varieties, and always had several pounds of eggplant on hand from June until mid-November when a hard frost killed the plants.   Six months later, we are still recovering from eggplant overload, and have dramatically reduced our collection of eggplants in the garden.  Instead, we have become obsessed with snap beans.
While eggplant provides several nutrients, most significantly important antioxidants, beans are even more impressive.  Green beans are an excellent source of dietary fiber, protein, and beta-carotene.  They also provide folate, omega-3 fatty acids, and niacin.  Just one cup of beans includes 25% of the vitamin K needed per day, an important vitamin for maintaining strong bones.  And beans contain beneficial amounts of vitamins A and C.    This is not to knock eggplants, which are both beautiful and delicious, but beans are hard to beat from a nutritional standpoint.

Like eggplants, beans are a beautiful vegetable to include in the garden.  They come in an amazing array of colors including green, purple, yellow and speckled.  They are also as easy to grow as eggplants in our hot, humid climate.  We are currently growing ten different types of snap beans including three of our favorites, Royal Burgundy, Burpee's Stringless, and Cosse Violette.  We are also trying several beautiful heirloom varieties for the first time:  Rattlesnake, Anellino di Trento, Rocquencourt and Merveille de Piemonte.   Another bean new for us is Gina, an heirloom Italian flat-podded bean.  
As the name suggests, this type of bean, also referred to as a Roma or Romano bean, has a wide, flat shape.  Gina in particular is a vigorous producer of delicious, crisp beans that have a distinctly "beany" flavor and dense texture.  Each bean matures at five to six inches long, making for a significant harvest weighing in at several pounds per week.   The beans should be picked while they are still fairly smooth, firm and a dark green color.  Waiting too long allows the seeds to develop, making for a bumpy-looking pale bean that is tough with a less appealing flavor.
The shape and taste of flat-podded beans combine extremely well with pasta, especially a flat noodle like the fettucine we use here. The beans are cooked with the pasta and potatoes.  Somewhat miraculously, all three are done at the same time.  Afterwards, everything is tossed in a pesto made with Italian dandelion greens from the garden.   The resulting dish is deliciously rich, extremely hearty, and plates beautifully.  Do try to find flat-podded beans for this recipe, but if they are unavailable, any green beans will work as long as they're fresh and firm.

Pasta with Italian Dandelion Green Pesto, Roma Green Beans and Potatoes
serves 2-4


Italian Dandelion Green Pesto

2            cups          tightly packed, washed dandelion green leaves
12                           large basil leaves
2                             garlic cloves
1            cup            toasted pine nuts
1/2         cup            olive oil
1/3         cup            parmesan, grated
1            Tbs           creme fraiche
                              sea salt and black pepper


1/2         lb              Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, quartered and cut into 1/2" slices
1/2         lb              green beans, preferably flat-pod, cut into 1" pieces
1            lb              dry ribbon pasta such as fettucine



  1. Combine greens, basil, garlic and pine nuts in food processor.  Slowly stream in olive oil while motor is running until well combined and smooth.  Add cheese and creme fraiche.  Season with salt and pepper.
  1. Boil large pot of water and add 5 or so tsp sea salt.  Add potato slices and return to a boil.  
  2. As soon as water is boiling again, add pasta and beans and cook until pasta is done. 
  3. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid and set aside.
  4. Combine the pesto with 2 Tbs cooking liquid and heat over medium low in a large saute pan.  Add pasta mixture and toss until evenly coated.  Add more cooking liquid as needed so pesto won't coat too thickly, and continue to toss until well-combined.
  5. Serve with more grated parmesan on top.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Swiss Chard Quesadilla with Queso Fresco and Green Onions

We keep reading about the gourmet taco trucks popping up in L.A., New York and Austin.  While it's impossible to drive more than a few blocks here in Houston without passing a taco vendor, they all serve the same standard fare aimed at an audience craving familiar, affordable meals on the go.  There is rarely anything vegetarian on the menu other than a cheese quesadilla, and few if any fresh vegetables.
To fill the void, we introduced a small taco and quesadilla menu at Be-Wiched a few months ago.  While they're not exactly the paninis we usually serve, we figure these are really just sandwiches served on corn tortillas instead of ciabatta.   These new items have become wildly popular, especially the vegetarian tacos and quesadillas, probably because they are so unique for Houston.

At home, we've been experimenting with creating quesadillas from the garden.  We've made a quesadilla with Chinese kale, and another with butternut squash, feta and jalapeno.
Our most recent creation features home-grown Swiss chard and green onions combined with a classic Mexican cheese, queso fresco.  The filling has beautiful layers of red, green and white (just coincidentally the colors of the Mexican flag).  It is also wonderfully creamy and gooey thanks to the melted cheese.  The Swiss chard ribs and leaves, cooked in vegetable stock for added flavor, are ready in just a few minutes.  After that, just assemble the quesadillas, heat, and eat.

Swiss Chard Quesadilla with Queso Fresco and Green Onions


1            lb        Swiss chard
1 1/2     Tbs       green onion, chopped 
1                      garlic clove, minced
2           Tbs      olive oil
1/2        tsp      sea salt
1/4        tsp      black pepper
1/3        cup     vegetable stock
1/2         cup    queso fresco, diced
4                     corn tortillas
                       olive oil for frying tortillas

  1. Cut the ribs and stems from the chard, and slice into thin slices.  Chop the leaves.
  2. Heat the olive oil over low heat, then add onions and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until golden, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add sliced chard stems, salt, and pepper and cook around four minutes. 
  4. Add chard leaves and stock, increase heat to medium, and cover.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until leaves are tender, about 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat.
  6. Layer half the cheese and chard filling on a tortilla.  Place another on top.  Repeat for second quesadilla.
  7. Heat a small amount of oil in a saute pan.  Heat one quesadilla at a time.  When one side is golden, flip and repeat.  Remove from heat and repeat with second quesadilla.  Serve immediately.
Printable Recipe

Other Swiss Chard recipes from Vegetable Matter:
Flatbread with Swiss Chard Puree, Tomme de Savoie and Fake Bacon
Swiss Chard Rib Gratin with Pine Nuts and Parmesan
Flatbread with Swiss Chard, Kale, Brown Butter and Ricotta Salata

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Flatbread with Sauteed Apples, Fennel, Radicchio, Escarole and Stilton

This flatbread, with its pungent leafy greens, tart apples and strong blue cheese, practically screams autumn.  But here In Houston, our growing seasons are a bit upside down.  We grow fall vegetables such as leafy greens, lettuce and brassicas during the winter for a spring harvest in order to avoid the impossibly hot summer temperatures that start as early as April.  This means we are eating vegetables like collards, fava beans, chickpeas, and escarole in the spring instead of the fall.   While we're enjoying the last of these wonderful vegetables, our snap beans, tomatoes, and other summer vegetables are also maturing, a clear sign it's the end of our spring vegetable season.

This flatbread includes both radicchio and escarole from the garden, two of our favorite chicories.  These plants, started last October, have far exceeded expectations by producing massive, thick heads of leafy greens.   We also use a fennel bulb from the garden.  All these plants are suffering badly due to our high temperatures.  We're hoping the fennel will last a few more weeks still, but the chicories are about done for the season.  To enjoy this flatbread despite the heat, we just turned up the air conditioning and let the flavors serve as a reminder that cooler weather, at least here in Houston, is only about five months away.

Flatbread with Sauteed Apples, Fennel, Radicchio, Escarole and Stilton


2           cup             escarole leaves, washed, stems removed and 
                               coarsely chopped
2           cup             radicchio leaves, washed, stems removed and 
                               coarsely chopped
1           cup             apple juice
1                             small fennel bulb, thinly sliced, about 1 1/4 cups
1                             Granny Smith apple, very thinly sliced
                               sea salt and black pepper
1           Tbs             olive oil, plus more for flatbread
1           Tbs             butter
3           oz               Stilton or other strong blue cheese, crumbled
                               (we used Neal's Yard Colston Basset Stilton)                   
1                             ball flatbread dough, at room temp for 5 minutes before rolling out
                               flour for rolling out dough and cornmeal for peel
  1. Preheat oven to 450° and place rack in top third of oven.  Place pizza stone on rack and heat, ideally for one hour, before baking flatbread.
  2. Heat apple juice over medium high until it is reduced in volume to 1/3 cup.
  3. Heat olive oil, fennel, 1/4 tsp salt and a few pinches of pepper over medium.  Saute about 2 minutes, then add greens and another 1/4 tsp salt and another pinch of pepper.  Cook until greens are wilted, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add apples and apple juice and continue to cook until greens are very soft.
  5. Remove from heat and leave in the pan to cool.  Add the butter and toss together.
  6. Roll out dough on a well-floured surface.  Cover very lightly with olive oil.
  7. Spread half the cheese over the dough, then add greens and apples.  Top with remaining cheese, and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
  8. Bake until bread is crispy and golden brown and cheese is well melted.  Serve immediately.
Printable Recipe

Other Escarole recipes from Vegetable Matter:
Escarole Soup with Arborio Rice and Escarole Blue Cheese Crostini

Monday, May 17, 2010

Chinese Kale Quesadilla

Chinese Kale, also called Gai Lan or Chinese Broccoli, forms open heads of thick, blue-green leaves.  These plants are brassicas in the mustard family, but the taste is closer to broccoli than the typical bitter mustard green.  The stems, leaves and flowers are all edible, providing significant amounts of calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C.  Chinese Kale also contains vitamin E, folate, calcium, and fiber.  These are cool-weather greens; warm spring temperatures have caused the plants to send up huge flower spikes with seed pods forming dramatic horizontal and L-shaped spikes up the stem despite the seed package's claim that this vegetable can be grown "year-round".
Here we enjoy a quesadilla with our Chinese Kale harvest.  We make a quick sauteed kale using traditional Asian ingredients such as sesame oil and soy sauce, then sandwich it between toasty tortillas.  We have converted the same dish into a meal by adding slices of sauteed tofu and shiitake mushrooms.  For some heat, add a small diced jalapeno pepper before cooking the Chinese Kale.  Not your typical quesadilla ingredients, but wonderful nevertheless.

Chinese Kale Quesadilla


2                        garlic cloves, minced
1         lb            Chinese kale, washed drained, thick stems removed,
                         leaves torn into small pieces

2         tsp          dark sesame oil
2         Tbs         vegetable stock or water
1         tsp          soy sauce
2         tsp          toasted sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
                         sea salt and black pepper
4                       corn tortillas
                         oil for pan


  1. Heat sesame oil over moderate heat, and saute garlic briefly.  If using chile, cook it with the garlic.  Add kale and water or stock, then cover.
  2. Cook until kale wilts, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes.  Add soy sauce and sesame seeds.  Season with salt and pepper and remove from pan.
  3. Create two quesadillas with cooked kale as the filling.  Add sauteed tofu, mushrooms, or other items here if desired.  One at a time, heat in a lightly oiled pan until bottom tortilla is golden.  Flip and repeat.  Serve immediately.
Printable Recipe

Friday, May 14, 2010

Crispy Kale and Tofu with Brown Rice and Coconut

Lacinato kale goes by many names, including Cavolo Nero, dinosaur kale, Tuscan kale and black kale.   It is a beautiful leafy green to include in the garden thanks to its striking texture and unusual blue color.   It is a fairly versatile vegetable as well, working in any number of soups, stir fries, pastas and flatbreads.  People are so passionate about kale that there are several websites devoted solely to this leafy green.*
Kale is featured in many types of ethnic cooking including Italian, West African, Portuguese and Spanish.  Here, we use kale in an amazing dish created by Heidi Swanson that is influenced by Asian flavors.  The recipe features crispy kale on a bed of brown rice and tofu.  No one will miss eating meat when this amazing vegan dish is served.
Crispy Lacinato Kale and Tofu with Brown Rice and Coconut


1            cup           short-grain brown rice
1/3         cup           olive oil
1            tsp            toasted sesame oil
2            Tbs           soy sauce
1            lbs            lacinato kale, washed, stems and 
                             thick ribs removed, leaves chopped
1/2         cup          unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2         lb             extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/4" cubes
                             sea salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and place shelves in upper and lower thirds of oven.
  2. Combine rice with 2 cups water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce to a simmer for 35 minutes, or until rice is tender.
  3. Whisk together olive oil, sesame oil and soy sauce.  Reserve 1/3 of the dressing, then combine remaining with kale, coconut and tofu.  Toss well, then spread in a single layer on 2 sheet pans.
  4. Bake until crispy, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to cook evenly on all sides.
  5. Remove from oven and toss mixture with remaining dressing and the cooked rice.  Season with salt and serve warm.
Printable Recipe

Other kale recipes from Vegetable Matter:
Flatbread with Kale, Swiss Chard, Collards, Pine Nuts and Brown Butter
Flatbread with Crispy Lacinato Kale and Tarentaise Cheese

*A few sites devoted to kale:
I Heart Kale
365 Days of Kale 
Red Russian Kale

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Escarole Soup with Arborio Rice and Escarole Blue Cheese Crostini

Escarole, like all the chicories, is a bitter leafy green.  We admit that a bitter soup doesn't sound too appetizing, but we decided to give this Mark Bittman recipe a try with our huge escarole harvest.  These plants have become wonderfully full and large in our garden, but now that our "spring" temperatures are flirting with 100° every day, we are cooking as much escarole as possible before the heat wipes them out.  This soup does in fact have some bitter notes, but they are quite subtle.  In fact, the escarole becomes surprisingly mild in this soup, which allows many complex flavors to shine.
To accompany the soup, prepare some crostinis topped with some of the cooked greens from the soup.  With the addition of a strong blue cheese (we use local cheesemaker Pola's fabulous, creamy blue), these little toasts becomes the perfect accompaniment.  The soup, which includes both parmesan and arborio rice, is quite hearty -- almost a liquidy risotto.  With the little crostinis served alongside, this is a delicious and filling meal.
Escarole Soup with Rice and Escarole Blue Cheese Crostini 
soup recipe by Mark Bittman, NY Times; Vegetable Matter crostini recipe
serves 2-4


4             Tbs           olive oil
4                             garlic cloves, minced
5                             garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2          cup           onion, chopped
4             cups          escarole, washed and chopped
6            cups           vegetable stock
1/4          cup           arborio rice, or other short-grain rice
                               sea salt and black pepper
                               parmesan cheese
2-4                           slices sourdough or similar bread
                               strong, creamy blue cheese, crumbled


  1. Put 2 tablespoons oil in a large, deep saucepan over medium heat. When oil is hot, add minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add onions and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 more minutes. Add escarole and cook, tossing gently, until it begins to wilt, about another 3 minutes.
  2. Add stock and rice to the pan, bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and cook about 20 minutes or until rice is tender.
  3. Meanwhile, put remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a small skillet. When oil is hot, add sliced garlic and cook over medium-low heat until it turns golden brown and begins to crisp. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. When rice is cooked through, season soup with salt and pepper, top with a grating of Parmesan and garnish with garlic slivers.
  5. For crostini, drain about 1/4 cup of the escarole leaves from the soup.  They don't need to be totally dry.  Heat some olive oil in a pan, then add bread slices.  When browned, flip over and top already-grilled side with crumbled blue cheese and escarole leaves.  Drizzle a tiny bit of soup on top for added flavor.  Remove from pan when cheese is gooey and second side of bread is golden brown.   Serve on the side with the soup.
Printable Recipe

Other Escarole Recipes from Vegetable Matter:
Salad of Bitter Italian Greens, Strawberries and Parmesan

Monday, May 10, 2010

Moroccan Carrot and Hummus Sandwich

It is hard to explain the thrill of pulling up a bunch of frilly, unassuming green leaves that bring with them a fat, gorgeous carrot.   Because these vegetables grow underground, it's always a delight to discover the carrots that have developed while hidden from view.   Freshly picked carrots also have an amazing sweetness and rich flavor, something that cannot usually be said of store-bought carrots.  In fact, carrots are one of the many vegetables whose reputation (and flavor) have been destroyed by mass production, where size and uniformity have been preferred over taste and variety.  For the home vegetable gardener, there is a huge assortment of carrots available in many colors, shapes and sizes.  Don't think that growing carrots is a waste of time.  It really is worth the effort because fresh-picked carrots are easy to grow, ornamental in the garden, loaded with flavor, and of course, they're ridiculously good for you too.  We can't promise your neighbors will share your excitement when you bring over your freshly-picked carrots for show and tell (we admit that ours weren't), but they may be converted once they actually taste your carrots (ours were).

Carrot varieties are categorized by their shape.  The Hybrid Coral carrots we are now harvesting are a Chantenay-type, which is the quintessential shape everyone associates with carrots from the grocery, pictures and even Bugs Bunny cartoons.  This type of carrot has wide shoulders which taper down to a point; they also grow well in heavy soil, a plus for many gardeners in our area.   Hybrid Coral in particular is known for its reddish-orange color, vigorous growth, and disease resistance.   These carrots also have an excellent, sweet flavor and dense, moist texture that is never mealy like some carrots.
Because home-grown carrots have so much flavor, they can assume the starring role in a dish rather than playing the usual supporting part.  If you tend to use carrots just to make soup stock, to add some color to a salad, or for other mundane purposes, this recipe may surprise you.   The carrots are so delicious, even without the rest of the sandwich, that you'll want to eat them by the pound.  That is until you turn orange from beta-carotene overload.  A small sacrifice in the name of the humble but oh-so-delicious carrot.

Moroccan Carrot and Hummus Sandwich
makes 2 sandwiches, with extra hummus for other purposes


Moroccan Carrots

1/2           lb           carrots, washed, peeled, green tops removed
1              Tbs         olive oil, plus more for pan
1/2           tsp         cumin
1/2           tsp         paprika
1/2           tsp         salt
1/4           tsp         sugar
1/8           tsp         black pepper
1                            garlic clove, sliced very thinly
                             pinch of cayenne pepper
1               Tbs       white wine vinegar


1               can       (15 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1               Tbs       cumin
                             juice of 2 1/2 to 3 lemons
3                           garlic cloves, crushed
5               Tbs       tahini
                             sea salt and black pepper


4                slices   sourdough or similar bread
1/4                        English cucumber, sliced into 1/8" rounds
1/8             lb        ricotta salata, crumbled


Moroccan Carrots
  1. Place carrots in large pot of cold water.  Bring to a boil, cooking until slightly tender but not too soft, about 15 minutes.
  2. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
  3. When cool, slice diagonally into 1/4"-thick rounds.
  4. Heat some olive oil in saute pan and cook carrot slices in small batches until slightly brown.
  5. In a mixing bowl, combine olive oil, carrots, and all remaining ingredients.  Refrigerate at least one hour, or for best results overnight, before using.  Return to room temp before using.
  1. Place chickpeas in sauce pan and cover with water.  Add 1 Tbs cumin and bring to a simmer.  Cook, covered, for 10 minutes.   Drain but RESERVE 1/2 cup cooking liquid.
  2. Combine chickpeas, 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, 3 ice cubes, most of the lemon juice, garlic and tahina in food processor and process until smooth.  If too thick, add more cooking liquid.  Taste and add more lemon juice if needed.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. This recipe makes more than needed for the sandwich.
  1. After carrots and hummus are prepared, toast bread.  Spread hummus on 2 slices of bread.  Spread carrots on top, then add cucumber slices.  Crumble ricotta salata on top, and finish with remaining toasted bread.
Printable Recipe 

Other Sandwiches from Vegetable Matter:
Taleggio Melt with Escarole and Fig Jam
Panini with Anjou Pears, Brie, Caramelized Walnuts, Arugula Pesto Mayo
Caramelized Apple Melt with Aged Cheddar and Arugula
French Breakfast Radish and Mache Sandwiches
Green Apple, Brie and Caramelized Onion Panini
Grilled Eggplant, Haloumi and Arugula Sandwich

Friday, May 7, 2010

Flatbread with Kale, Swiss Chard, Pine Nuts, Currants, Brown Butter and Ricotta Salata

Leafy greens provide amazing colors, textures and shapes in the garden.   They are now reaching their peak before giving in to our hot, humid weather.  These three greens in particular, Swiss chard, lacinato kale, and collards, are not only beautiful but also among the most nutritious vegetables around.   Swiss chard, a member of the beet family, is loaded with folate, vitamins C, E and K, iron and calcium.  Kale and collards, both members of the brassica family, provide protein and iron in addition to fiber, folate, calcium and several important vitamins.
For this recipe, the greens are combined and cooked ahead of time in brown butter.  The nutty tones of the butter give the greens a rich, deep flavor; the brown butter also harmonizes the distinct flavors of the three greens.  The subtle color differences of the cooked greens are especially attractive with the red currants, brown pine nuts and white cheese that are loaded on top.  Feel free to substitute other leafy greens such as spinach, leafy cabbage, Asian greens, or beet greens, or to change the proportions to fit what you have on hand.
Flatbread with Kale, Swiss Chard, Currants, Pine Nuts, Brown Butter and Ricotta Salata

Brown Butter

8             Tbs          unsalted butter


3              Tbs         brown butter
1              Tbs         dry currants
2              cups        kale, washed, stems removed and cut into thick strips
2              cups        Swiss chard, washed, stems removed and cut into thick strips, 
                              1/8 cup of stems reserved
2              cups        collard greens (or spinach or asian greens), washed, 
                              stems removed and cut into thick strips
1              Tbs          olive oil
1/2                         garlic clove, minced
                              sea salt and black pepper
1              Tbs          pine nuts, toasted
1                            flatbread dough, at room temp for 5 minutes before rolling out
1/2           cup         ricotta salata, crumbled
                              flour for rolling out dough and corn meal for peel


Brown Butter

  1. Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat.
  2. First, butter will separate, with the milk solids settling to the bottom of the pan. 
  3. After 8 to 10 minutes, butter will turn dark amber color.  Remove from heat, and line a strainer with a paper towel.
  4. Pour butter through paper towel into a measuring cup to remove the solids.
  5. Use immediately, or store in refrigerator.
  1. Turn oven to 450° and place shelf in top third of oven.  Place pizza stone on shelf and heat, ideally for one hour before baking flatbread.
  2. Soak the currants in 1/4 cup hot water to plump them.
  3. Cut reserved 1/8 cup of Swiss chard stems on a diagonal into very thin slices. 
  4. Heat olive oil in large pan over medium.  Add chard stems, garlic, 1/4 cup water (or vegetable broth), and pinches of sea salt and black pepper.  Saute about 1 minute, then add kale.  After 1 minute, add remaining chard and collards, plus 1/4 tsp sea salt and a few pinches of pepper.
  5. Raise temperature to medium-high and saute until greens are just tender, about 3 minutes.
  6. Reduce heat to medium low and add brown butter, currants and pine nuts.  Cook briefly, then season with salt and pepper.
  7. Roll out flatbread on well-floured surface.  Sprinkle cornmeal liberally on peel to prevent sticking.
  8. Spread thin layer of olive oil on flatbread, then spread out half the cheese.
  9. Add greens mixture, then top with remaining cheese.
  10. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
  11. Bake until bread is golden brown and puffed, about 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.
Printable Recipe
Other flatbread recipes from Vegetable Matter:
Flatbread with Swiss Chard Puree, Tomme de Savoie and Fake Bacon
Flatbread with Crispy Lacinato Kale and Tarentaise Cheese
Flatbread with Sauteed Brussels Sprouts, Walnuts and Shaved Parmesan
Flatbread with Roasted Golden Beets, Goat Cheese and Chestnut Honey
Flatbread with Gorgonzola Dulce, Grapes and Walnuts
Flatbread with Broccoli Rabe and Manchego
Flatbread with French Sorrel, Roasted Cauliflower and Goat Cheese

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Flatbread with Swiss Chard Puree, Tomme de Savoie and Fake Bacon

Swiss chard is a member of the beet family, no surprise if you've planted Swiss chard because the big, bumpy seeds look almost identical to beet seeds.  It is the most colorful of the leafy greens, and is so beautiful that it is often grown solely for its ornamental value.  While it makes a bold statement in the garden with its bright ribs and colorful leaves, the flavor of cooked chard is not always distinctive.  It can be mildly bitter like a chicory, but more closely resembles kale or spinach in flavor.   This is not to knock Swiss chard, which is one of the healthiest vegetables around.

Swiss chard has been the subject of numerous health studies, including several documenting chard's effectiveness at preventing cancers of the digestive tract, and in particular the colon.  Studies also suggest that Swiss chard may protect the kidneys for diabetics, and it is packed with vitamins and minerals including the B vitamins, zinc, folate, niacin, iron and vitamins A, C and E.  It also contains lots of fiber and protein.  In other words, Swiss chard provides amazing nutritional benefits in addition to its good looks.
We have two thick rows of "Ruby Red" Swiss chard in the garden.  Thus far, the plants are surviving both Houston's increasing temperatures and our frequent harvests.  The plants are so attractive, it is not always easy to cut off the leaves.  But we have far too many uses for chard in the kitchen to leave the plants alone.  Last week, we made a gratin using only the bright red ribs of our Swiss chard.  We saved the leaves to make yet another of our fabulous flatbreads.

Flatbread, with its yeasty aroma and chewy texture, is the perfect backdrop for the Swiss chard puree we prepare here.  The chard flavor is enhanced with fresh nutmeg and vegetable stock, and fake (vegan) bacon crumbled on top adds a smoky element.   Tomme de Savoie cheese provides the gooey, creamy backdrop for these strong flavors.

Tomme de Savoie is a semi-firm cow's milk cheese produced in the French Alps. It is made from skim milk left over after the cream is used to make butter or richer cheeses.  The resulting cheese is relatively low in fat, but it still has a creamy, smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture and a rich, nutty flavor.
This creamy cheese melts into the Swiss chard puree in the oven, which is topped after baking by the fake bacon bits for a bit of crunch.  This flabread makes a wonderful spring dinner for two, and is so delicious that you'll forget that it's also good for you.  

Flatbread with Swiss Chard Puree, Tomme de Savoie and Fake Bacon


1            ball             flatbread dough, at room temperature for 
                                5 minutes before rolling out
                                flour for rolling out dough and cornmeal for peel
1            lb                Swiss chard, washed and ribs removed
1/8         cup             vegetable stock
1/8         cup             heavy cream
                                freshly grated nutmeg
                                sea salt and black pepper to taste
1/4        lb                Tomme de Savoie cheese or similar, 
                                broken into small chunks
2           strips           fake bacon, cooked and finely chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 450° and move shelf to top third of oven.  Place pizza stone in oven to heat, ideally for one hour before baking flatbread.
  2. Boil a big pot of water, then blanch Swiss chard leaves until soft, about 2 minutes.  Run under cold water immediately to stop the cooking process, then drain well.
  3. Combine leaves in food processor with half the vegetable stock and half the heavy cream.  Puree, season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.  If puree is too thick, add more vegetable stock and heavy cream and puree again.  If too watery, strain excess liquid using a colander and discard extra liquid.
  4. Roll out dough on well-floured surface, then transfer to peel covered with cornmeal.
  5. Spread thin layer of olive oil on dough, then add cheese chunks.  Top with Swiss chard puree.
  6. Bake until crust is done, about 5 minutes.
  7. Top with fake bacon and serve immediately.    

Monday, May 3, 2010

Taleggio Melt with Escarole and Fig Jam

Seasonal eating from the garden sometimes requires overloading on the current harvest.  Last summer, we tired of eggplant after months of eating it almost every day, and by November we did not want to look at another cucumber.  Right now, we're in chicory mode.  Puntarelle, Wild Chicory, Dandelion Greens, Barba di Cappuccino, Radicchio, and Escarole are all maturing at the same time in massive quantities.  We want to enjoy these wonderful bitter greens while we can because the plants won't survive long now that our daytime temperatures are hitting the 80's.
Escarole is a versatile, fairly mild chicory.  It produces a head of large, soft leaves ideal for any number of recipes.  Right now, the heads resemble small trees as the plants send up thick flower stems.  Escarole is delicious when braised or sauteed, but it is also wonderful raw, fresh-picked from the garden.  In this panini, the escarole is not cooked at all.  The taleggio melts enough to gently warm the leaves, and the fig jam plays off the greens' bitter flavor.  These are intense, bold flavors that celebrate the end of chicory season perfectly.

Taleggio is a rich Italian cheese made from whole cows' milk.  The cheese has a long history in Italy, being referred to as "stracchino" because it was made from the milk of tired or "stracca" cows returning from the high pastures of Northern Italy in the autumn.  Production of taleggio is believed to date back to the 10th or 11th century, and possibly earlier.  While it is labeled a "semi-soft" cheese, it is actually quite soft and gooey, with a wonderful, almost runny texture that easily melts in the mouth.  Taleggio is what we fondly call a "stinky" cheese, with a pungent aroma and tangy flavor.  The cheese is an ideal companion for escarole or other chicories because of its intensity, but is also wonderful when used in risotto, pasta, salad, and even paired with fruit or wine.
Taleggio Melt with Escarole and Fig Jam


4            slices           sourdough or similar bread
                                 olive oil
2            Tbs              fig jam
12          oz                Taleggio, sliced thickly
4            oz                escarole, stems and ribs removed, chopped

  1. Spread fig jam on two slices of bread.  Add cheese and escarole.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add top pieces of bread.
  2. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium low until hot, then brown sandwiches.  Flip and repeat.  Cheese should be gooey and melted, and bread toasted to a golden brown.