I was puttering around in the kitchen the other day, trying to figure out what to have for dinner that would use up lots of things in the fridge. It being high CSA season, we're long on vegetables, and there was some swiss chard that was calling out "eat me"! Yotam Ottolenghi gave me the jumping off point, with a recipe for some little swiss chard cakes. I thought they wouldn't be enough for dinner, but there was a tart shell in the freezer, some mozzarella going begging and a pile of tomatoes on the counter, and thus was born a tomato pie. So when the child came into the kitchen and whined "what's for dinner?", I answered her with a straight face "cakes and pies". I do amuse myself. She was not amused when it came time to sit down at the table and it was all vegetables and cheese.
Do you know Ottolenghi? I don't mean him personally, like you have him over for drinks, but do you know his cookbooks, or his newspaper column? His recipes are mostly vegetarian, and veer towards the eccentric, but I've made two things recently that were good. First was some baked orzo with mozzarella and eggplant that I found over on Smitten Kitchen - it was easy, especially insofar as the orzo went into the oven uncooked, we like that one less step. Also, it made a lot - so I had nice leftovers for lunch. Second were these swiss chard cakes - bound with egg, fried to crunchy goodness. I skipped the yogurt sorrel sauce he suggested because I had neither sorrel nor yogurt (does anyone ever have sorrel just lying around?). No matter, they were nice on their own.
Incidentally, the girl ate the swiss chard cakes, and rejected the tomato pie. Go figure. Then again, she'd probably eat a fried shoe, if there was enough ketchup alongside.
Swiss Chard Cakes (adapted from Ottolenghi)
a bunch of Swiss chard
2 T. pignoli (pine nuts)
1 T. olive oil
4 ounces cheese, coarsely grated (see note)
1 egg (or 2)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup cooked corn off the cob (optional)
½ t. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
vegetable oil & olive oil, for frying
Clean and stem the swiss chard. Boil a big pot of water, and blanch the leaves for about three minutes. Drain and leave to cool down slightly. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze as much water from the leaves as you can (work in golf ball sized lumps) - then roughly chop the leaves, and put in a bowl.
In a small pan, fry the pignoli in the tablespoon of olive oil for a minute or two, until light brown - don't burn them! Add the nuts and oil to the chard, along with the cheese, egg, breadcrumbs, corn, salt and pepper. You may need to add more crumbs if the mix is very soft and sticky. If it doesn't seem to hold together at all, add another egg - at which point you probably will need some more bread crumbs.
Use a mix of vegetable oil and olive oil, and put a couple of good glugs in a nice frying pan. Heat the oil until a drop of water sizzles. Shape the mix into little patties about 3/4" thick. Fry these in batches for two minutes a side, until golden brown. Transfer to a plate covered with paper towels, to absorb the oil, and serve warm or at room temperature.
1 unbaked 9" tart shell
1 T. minced basil
2 plum tomatoes, sliced
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into smallish chunks
salt & pepper
Line the tart shell with foil, and fill with pie weights. Bake at 400F for 10 minutes, remove the foil and weights, and bake for another 10 minutes. Sprinkle basil in the bottom of the tart shell. Arrange sliced tomatoes in one layer. Add salt & pepper to taste. Cover tomatoes with mozzarella. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for about 20 minutes - the mozzarella will melt together to cover the tomatoes, and will be beginning to brown. Remove from oven, and let cool for a few minutes before slicing and eating. It's like a margarita pizza in a pie crust.