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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Eat your greens, yuppie style

Take a moment to think about dark, leafy greens. Do it right now. When was the last time you ate something leafy that wasn't spinach or bok choy? Chard, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, arugula, brussels sprouts, rocket? All of these lovely, bitter greens are in full swing from the winter through the spring and are packed full of vitamins A, E, K, potassium, folic acid (especially important for us ladies, more on that issue later) and FIBER, people. You may think the only way to subdue these leafy green bastards is to cook the crap out of them with a giant hunk of animal meat, but I'm here to say there is an alternative. Yes, it's true, a perfectly yuppified alternative to the delicious Southern-style collard greens--it may not come with pot liquor, but it's fancy, simple, and shockingly healthy.

I've made this recipe several times since discovering it at the Waitrose (apparently a British specialty foods shop) website, with a combination of lacinato kale/leeks/sweet onion the first time, and tonight with onion, rainbow and Swiss chard. DELICIOUS EVERY TIME. Liven up the filling mixture with crumbled bacon, fresh or dried herbs, garlic, spices, or flavored olive , strong flavors to balance the stronger flavor of the greens--what seems to work best are flavorings that stick with the Mediterranean feel of this yogurt tart.

Yogurt tart, you say? Is that not a strange type of quiche? Unlike the heavy, eggy filling of quiches, the filling for this tart is velvety, light, and holds its shape both hot and cold. No goopy custard-y filling here! The cornmeal crust included in the recipe is the perfect foil for a slightly salty, entirely savory and smooth. I'll use it for all savory tarts, just because the mouthfeel and crunch is incredibly satisfying and if you make it my way, marginally better for you than a traditional pastry crust with fourteen sticks of butter. Click on the photo above to see the original recipe, in British measurements. Below is my version, for a nine-inch tart.

Cornmeal Crust:
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (aka polenta)
1/2 cup whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt (I like things salty)
4 tbsp chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
just less than 3 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1-2 tbsp ice water

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the cornmeal, flour, and salt in a food processor and pulse about ten times.
2. Add the butter and applesauce and pulse again, no more than twenty times, until the mixture is sandy in texture. Pour in the ice water, one tablespoon at a time, and pulse several times until the "dough" pulls together in large clumps, or a ball if you're patient.
3. Refrigerate the crust mixture until cold to touch, then pat out evenly all over the bottom and sides of a nine-inch tart pan. Using a fork, prick the bottom of the crust a few times to prevent it from bubbling up in the oven. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes until firmed and barely browned.

Wild Greens and Yogurt Filling:
1 tsp olive oil
1 leek (white and light green parts only) or onion, sliced into thin strips (or use both if you like the oniony flavor)
2 bunchs leafy greens like chard, kale, arugula, spinach, etc. washed, chopped, and dried
salt and pepper, plus your chosen herbs or spices
1/3 to 1/2 cup Parmesan, Romano, and/or Pecorino cheese, grated fine
1 egg
1 cup thick nonfat plain yogurt (by thick, I mean Greek-style or "French village" yogurt you can find nowadays)

1. In your largest frying or sautee pan (or a wok, if you have one), heat the olive oil and add the onion/leek. Add in your minced garlic and herbs if you want now. Cook over medium heat until soft and translucent.
2. Pile all of your greens into the pan, sprinkle salt and pepper LIBERALLY over it. Don't skimp on the salt, even if you're watching your sodium intake, the salt helps the veggies cook (or something) and makes it yummy. That's my justification. Stir-fry the greens until soft and cooked down. There will be liquid in the pan.
3. Drain the greens mixture in a colander for ten minutes and periodically take a bunch of paper towels to squeeze out extra moisture.
4. Mix the cheese, egg, and yogurt in a bowl until smooth. Stir in the drained greens until incorporated, and pour into the crust. Bake at 400 degrees for fifteen to twenty minutes until the top is just browned and the filling is set. The filling might puff up a bit--just think of it like what quiche does in the oven.

I had a piece tonight with a quarter of a barbequed chicken (from the BBQ guys at the local farmers' market), YUMMY. If I were ever invited to a swanky dinner party, this would be my go-to dish...and those blue open-toe vintage stilettos might be my go-to shoes, if I ever learn how to walk in them.

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