Monday, January 9, 2012

Swiss Chard and Leek Tart

My mother is an excellent gardener.  She has been collecting seed catalogs, carefully tending her most prized trees and flowers, and cultivating her fruit and vegetable garden for as long as I can remember.  In fact, I am proud to say, she recently completed work to become a certified Master Gardener.  This was not an easy feat, but one she had been preparing for her whole life.  One of her most favorite things to do when we visit in the summertime is to take my boys out to pick the raspberries from the garden.  I think part of why she gardens is to see the joy on other people's faces when they see the flowers in full bloom or enjoy eating the freshly picked produce.

It's safe to say that I did not inherit my mother's skills in the garden.  I can put up a pretty mean fight in the kitchen, but she's got me knocked out with a one-two punch when it comes to growing anything more than weeds.  My husbands knows better than to put me in charge of anything related to plants at our house- not even the house plants.  I will kill them.  It's just that simple.
Or maybe it isn't that simple.  Something seems to have happened to me since we moved to California.  Maybe it's the constant sunshine and warm temperatures.  Maybe it's my desire to try to use the freshest and most seasonal produce available to me.  Maybe it's just that I finally have the time to really devote to it.  But this summer I grew my first honest-to-goodness vegetable garden.  And I actually grew things!  I had big, gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, all sorts of peppers, herbs, even watermelons.

Right now, I'm working on the "winter" garden.  The butternut squash didn't make it past the seedling stage (so sad), but I've got carrots, huge broccoli plants, lettuce, artichokes (purple ones!), and swiss chard growing and thriving. It's amazing and I'm super-proud of myself.
I made this tart a few days ago with some swiss chard picked straight from the garden.  It turned out beautifully and I fell in love with it.  It is perfect for a light dinner with a big salad or even a brunch buffet and is big enough to feed quite a crowd.  In fact, I shared half of the tart with my neighbor, who promptly texted me to tell how much her family loved it!

Swiss Chard and Leek Tart
Slightly adapted from A Feast for the Eyes, a lovely blog from a Northern California food lover like myself.

I encourage you to make the crust from scratch as it is given here.  It's a quite easy crust to make and work with because it has a lot of moisture from both eggs and mascarpone cheese.  I promise you, it's worth the effort.

For the crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup grated parmesean or pecorino cheese
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
8 tbs (1 stick) butter, cut into small pieces
2 eggs

For the filling:
2 leeks, light green and white parts only, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4 inch half moons
1 bunch (about 3 cups chopped) swiss chard, stems chopped into 1/4 inch pieces and leaves roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
pinch red pepper flakes
2 cups whole milk ricotta
2 tsp lemon zest
pinch kosher salt
1 cup grated parmesean or pecorino cheese
2 eggs

Make the crust:
In a food processor, pulse together the flour and pecorino cheese.  Add the mascarpone cheese and the butter and pulse several times until you have a crumbly looking mixture.  Add the eggs and whizz the ingredients together until the dough just begins to form a ball.  Dump the dough out onto your counter and gently press together into a flat disk.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a half hour.

In the meantime, saute the vegetables.  In a medium saute pan, heat 2 tbs of olive oil.  Add the garlic cloves to the warm oil and stir the cloves until they just become golden brown.  You can discard the garlic at this point- it has done it's job of flavoring the oil.  Add the leeks, the swiss chard stems and the red pepper flakes to the oil.  Stir to mix and then add 2 tbs of water to the pan.  Let the vegetables steam for 2 or 3 minutes, until they are just softened.  Add the swiss chard leaves and stir until they begin to wilt, another 2-3 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and let the vegetables cool completely.

Make the filling, assemble and bake the tart:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, lemon zest, pecorino cheese, salt, and eggs.  Stir in the cooled sauteed vegetables. Set aside

Remove the crust dough from the refrigerator.  Unwrap it and place it on a piece of parchment paper cut to fit a baking sheet.  Roll out the dough into a large free-form circle (the edges may fall over the edges of the paper) about 1/4 inch thick.  Lift the parchment paper and lay it on the baking sheet.  Spread the filling over the crust, leaving a 3-4 inch border around the outside.  Fold the edge of the crust up over the filling all the way around.  Brush the edges with a lightly beaten egg.
Place the tart into the preheated oven.  Bake for about 45 minutes, giving the tray a half turn after 25 minutes.  The tart is finished baking when the crust is a nice golden brown and the center of the filling is set (it will not wobble when gently shaken).  Let the tart cool (it was nice when served warm) and slice into wedges to serve.


  1. Very tasty and easy to make!! Loved the crust and think that I would use that dough for any number of savory tart crusts!! Thanks Renee!

  2. Thanks Libby (I mean "Anonymous"). I'm so glad you liked the tart. After all, I thought of you as I was making it!