FEATURED RECIPE

Chard and Onion Tart with Two Cheeses

Chard and Onion Tart with Two Cheeses
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Jennifer May

I make a lot of savory tarts, because they are easy and versatile, and everyone seems to love them. The ingredients vary according to the season and the occasion, and this beautiful chard-onion version remains one of my most beloved. The filling sits lightly on the buttery pastry, without weighing it down. A touch of fennel seeds and crushed red pepper provides spice but without overpowering everything else, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds on the edges of the crust adds a touch of sweetness that balances the earthiness of the chard and the tang of the cheese. I don’t bother with a tart pan when I make this, because I prefer the more rustic appearance of a free-form tart(also known as a galette or crostata)—plus, the rolling-out process is more fun if you’re not after a precise shape. The result is delicate enough to enjoy with a round of drinks. It also makes a fine contribution to a dinner or brunch buffet. Or serve larger pieces as a light supper or lunch. 

For the cheeses, you’ll need one aged (like Comté or cheddar) and one fresh (such as farmer’s cheese). Fresh cheeses can vary greatly by region, so shop for one that is dry enough to crumble, slice, or spread thickly. Avoid any that are very wet (like ricotta), because the moisture can make the crust soggy. Fresh goat cheese is a good choice, adding a nice tang to the filling.

GET AHEAD: The tart travels well, making it just the thing to take to a friend’s house when you’re not sure what to bring. (And you can serve it warm or at room temperature, so you won’t need to impose by asking for oven space.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 small bunch Swiss chard (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion (7 ounces), thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • Pinch of mellow red pepper flakes, such as Marash or Aleppo, or crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Savory Tart Dough (see below) or one 8- to 9-ounce sheet frozen puff pastry, preferably all butter, thawed
  • 3 ounces (Âľ cup) fresh cheese, such as farmer’s, pot, or mild goat cheese
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ounces ComtĂ© or aged cheddar, shredded (½ cup)
  • 2 tablespoons beaten egg, heavy cream, or melted butter for glazing
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, preferably white

Directions

  1. Trim and wash the chard. Use a knife or your hands to remove the chard stems. Reserve for another use (see Leafy Greens and Their Stems, page 260) or discard. Cut the leaves crosswise into wide strips (about 2 inches). You should have about 4 cups loosely packed. Wash and drain the leaves, but don’t dry—the water clinging to the leaves will help them cook; set aside.
  2. Sauté the onion. Heat a large skillet (I use a 12-inch) over medium heat. Add the oil, and when it slides across the pan, add the onion, fennel seeds, pepper flakes, and a good pinch of salt. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the onion is tender, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Wilt the chard leaves. Pile the chard leaves into the pan and cook, tossing, until they begin to wilt. If the chard is young and tender, this will happen quickly, but if the leaves don’t begin to collapse almost immediately, cover and steam until they start to wilt, about 3 minutes, then uncover and toss and cook to evaporate excess moisture, another 3 minutes. Set aside to cool (if you are in a hurry, transfer the vegetables to a baking sheet or wide bowl and refrigerate to hasten the cooling).
  4. Heat the oven  to 375°F convection (400°F non-convection) with a rack near the center. If you have a pizza stone, set it on the rack to preheat; it will help brown the tart’s bottom crust. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, if you have it.
  5. Roll out the dough. Unwrap the tart dough and set it on the counter for 5 to 10 minutes so it’s not too firm to roll (if using frozen puff pastry, make sure it is thawed and soft enough to roll). Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and decide what shape tart you want: round or rectangular. The easiest tactic is to mimic the shape of the dough; this means making a round tart (about 13 inches across) from a disk of homemade tart dough or a rectangular one (about 10 by 14 inches) if using store-bought puff pastry. Either way, roll from the center out, and avoid rolling over the edges of the dough at every pass. Continually shift the pastry around as you work to make sure that it’s not sticking, and dust it sparingly with more flour as you go; keep the rolling pin lightly dusted as well. Brush the excess flour from the underside of the pastry and transfer it to the baking sheet.
  6. Fill the tart. Taste the fresh cheese to determine how much, if any, salt you’ll need (some fresh cheese is quite salty, so it may not need additional salt). If the fresh cheese is firm enough to cut, slice it thin. Scatter, spread, or dot the cheese over the tart dough, leaving a 1½-inch border. Season with the thyme, pepper, and salt, if needed.
  7. Check that the onion and chard filling is cool enough so it won’t melt the cheese or pastry upon contact; if not, refrigerate the cheese-topped dough while you wait. Also check that the filling isn’t too wet. If there are any puddles of moisture, squeeze to eliminate the excess. Arrange the onion and chard on top of the cheese and top with the Comté or cheddar. Fold the edges of the dough over the filling, creating soft pleats, but don’t worry about being too neat and tidy. Brush the border with the egg, cream, or butter and scatter the sesame seeds over it.
  8. Bake. Set the pan on the pizza stone, if using, and bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue to bake until the crust and cheese are deeply browned, another 15 to 25 minutes (30 to 40 minutes total). Resist the urge to pull the tart from the oven when it’s only lightly golden; darker is better. Lift one edge with a spatula to check that the bottom is browned and crisp as well. Let the tart settle for at least 10 minutes before sliding it onto a cutting board.
  9. Serve. Serve the tart hot, warm, or at room temperature, cut into squares, strips, or wedges.
Savory Tart Dough

Makes enough for one 9- to 10-inch tart crust

This basic dough is the ultimate in scratch cooking. By combining a few staple ingredients—flour, butter, salt, and water—you get a versatile dough that can be the starting point for all sorts of sustaining meals, from savory tarts to potpies). I rely on a simple ratio of 1¼ cups flour to 1 stick of butter, because it gives me a buttery, tender crust—and it’s easy to remember. It’s easy to double, which I often do—making one crust for now and wrapping and freezing one to save time later. You can also transform this into a sweet pastry dough by adding 3 to 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar to the flour.

The end game is to use only as much water and handling as it takes to get the dough to come together, as too much of either can lead to tough pastry. I make it by hand, because it’s easier to judge when the dough is just right than if using a food processor. Once the dough has come together, letting it chill for at least an hour (and up to 2 days) helps it relax and distributes the moisture evenly. Skipping this step can lead to a tough crust that shrinks when you bake it. Most often, the dough is shaped into a disk to chill, but if you know that you’re planning to make a rectangular tart, or a square potpie, it makes more sense to mimic that shape. It will make the rolling out that much easier.

INGREDIENTS
  • 1ÂĽ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out
  • ÂĽ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch bits and well chilled
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons ice-cold water, or more if needed
DIRECTIONS
  1. Cut the butter into the flour. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Drop in the cold butter and, with the tines of a fork or your fingertips, toss the butter in the flour so that all the pieces are coated. (If you have warm hands, or aren’t accustomed to making pastry, use the fork; otherwise, you risk warming the butter, which can make the pastry difficult to handle and less tender once baked.) Then, with the fork or your fingertips, break the butter into small bits, mashing and coating them with flour, until all the butter is in small flour-coated bits and the whole thing looks like dry oatmeal.
  2. Add the liquid. Sprinkle over 3 tablespoons cold water and toss the mixture with the fork or your fingers to distribute the water evenly. Continue adding dribbles of water (about ½ teaspoon at a time) until the pastry looks as though it will hold together loosely. Squeeze the pastry into a rough disk. If it won’t hold together, sprinkle over a little more water. Be careful, though, since too much water will result in a tough crust that shrinks when it bakes.
  3. Chill and rest. Turn the pastry out onto a clean work surface and shape it into a disk (about 1 inch thick and 4 inches across) or a rectangle or square. If it feels crumbly, use the heel of one hand to knead the dough, pushing it away from you and folding it back on itself, 2 or 3 times, until it comes together. Wrap the dough in wax paper, parchment, or plastic. Chill for at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days.

Excerpted from All About Dinner by Molly Stevens, 2019, W. W. Norton & Company.

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