Wednesday, November 30, 2016

An Autumn Freekeh Pilaf

As dinner approached one day this past weekend I realized that all I had in the house in the way of fresh vegetables was a bunch of (beautiful) Red Russian kale from what turned out to be my last visit of the year to the farmers' market.  (I admit some point the offerings at the fall market just become too sparse to motivate me to get out of bed on a cold and dark Saturday morning....)  Besides wanting to use the kale, I also wanted something simple...and not too rich (after all the holiday feasting).  And even though my options seemed limited, I really didn't want to give in and go out to eat.  As I was thinking about all this I happened to run across a blog post from last spring that featured a freekeh pilaf with Red Russian kale.  And as I looked at the recipe, I saw that a few simple changes could turn it into a satisfying, autumnal dish.

The original recipe includes blanched peas.  Of course, I could have pulled frozen peas out of my freezer and made the dish pretty much as written.  But I really did want something more in keeping with the season.  So instead I decided to dice and roast some of the sweet potatoes I always keep on hand during the colder months (winter squash would have worked too).  From there the rest fell into place.  Sweet potatoes (and the recent holiday) put me in mind of I substituted dried cranberries for the golden raisins.  Walnuts seemed an obvious change from the pine nuts (pecans would have been good too).  And finally...I used parsley instead of mint.  Mint would have been great, but the mint in my garden is gone...and I had some beautiful parsley from that last visit to the market.

But it wouldn't have really have mattered if I had had the spring version of this recipe to refer to or not.  Both versions are just dressed up grain pilafs.  If you know how to make a basic grain pilaf, you can make a few judicious choices concerning the actual ingredients (like those I outlined above)...and a dish like this pretty much drops into place. 

The fall version of this pilaf was delicious...I may even like it better than the spring version.  If you like grain pilafs, I encourage you to try it.  But mostly—as with everything I post—I hope today's post will inspire you to cook...even on a night when your ingredients don't seem very promising (which probably happens a lot during this busiest time of the year).  If you apply what you know how to what you already have on might just end up with something that tastes really good.

Leftovers made a delicious lunch...

Freekeh Pilaf with Russian Kale, Sweet Potatoes,
Dried Cranberries & Walnuts

1 medium sweet potato (about 10 oz.), peeled and cut into a 1/2-inch dice

2 1/2 T. olive oil, extra to finish
salt and black pepper
1 bunch Red Russian Kale, tough ribs removed and washed in several changes of water
1 small red onion (4 to 5 oz.), finely diced
1 1/2 T. unsalted butter
2/3 cup (100g) cracked freekeh, rinsed
a generous 1/8 t. ground cinnamon
a generous 1/8 t.. ground allspice
3/4 c. chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1 small clove of garlic, minced
pinch of hot pepper flakes
3 to 4 T. roughly cut Italian flat leaf parsley
1/3 c. walnuts, toasted and coarsely crumbled
3 to 4 T. Labneh

Toss the sweet potatoes with a tablespoon of olive oil and salt & pepper to taste.  Spread on a baking sheet and transfer to a preheated 400° oven.  Roast until tender and lightly caramelized, stirring once—about 25 to 30 minutes. Set aside

Drop the kale into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook until tender. Drain and spread on a baking sheet. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess liquid one handful at a time. Roughly chop and set aside.

Melt the butter and 1/2 T. of the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot set over medium heat. Add the onions and stir to coat in the fat. Sweat—stirring occasionally—until the onion is soft and translucent and just beginning to caramelize around the edges...about 5 to 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high and add the drained freekeh along with the spices and a generous pinch of salt. Continue to cook for a minute until the grains are coated in the oil and sizzling in the hot oil. Add the stock or water and bring to a full boil. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cook, covered until the freekeh is tender—20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and scatter the dried cranberries over the surface of the freekeh. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes.

While the freekeh rests, heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a wide sauté pan set over medium heat. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook until the garlic begins to sizzle and is fragrant. Add the kale, season with salt and continue to cook and stir until the kale is hot through. 
Transfer the freekeh and craisins to a large bowl. Add the warm kale followed by the parsley, sweet potatoes and walnuts.  Toss until everything is well combined.  Serve with a dollop of labneh and a drizzle of olive oil if you like. Serves 2 generously as an entrée. 

Note: Recipe is easily multiplied.

Printable Version

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls...and 'braided' loaf

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.  I had intended to publish this recipe for pumpkin dinner rolls last weekend so that people would still have time to incorporate it into their meal plans if they wanted to...  But my internet has been down....  Fortunately—thanks to  my nephew—it is back up now, and for those who might like to try these rolls for the big meal, there is still just enough time to squeeze them in.  So...  I thought I would go ahead and share this special recipe anyway...before this season of pumpkin spice...and all things entirely past.

I got the idea for these rolls from a recipe for a pumpkin-shaped, pumpkin-flavored, artisanal boule in The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook.  I'm sure the recipe that inspired me produced a delicious and beautiful bread, but I admit I never tried it. As I looked at the recipe...and thought about serving it...I could only think what a shame it would be that once it was sliced no one would know how beautiful it had been to begin with.  I thought it would be much more fun to be able to give each person their own little pumpkin shaped bread.

The rolls I ended up making are soft and slightly sweet...very much in the tradition of the Parker House or Crescent Rolls that show up on tables all across the U.S. during the holiday season.  To make them, I converted my friend Bonnie's cardamom bread dough to a pumpkin dough.  I replaced all of the liquids with pumpkin (which is about 90% water) and followed the lead of the Big Sur Bakery recipe by switching to brown sugar and adding loads of  the spices we have come to associate with pumpkin (cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg...).  After checking with Bonnie to see if she thought her recipe could support more butter, I increased the butter to add richness and tenderness. 

The final recipe is almost a hybrid of a traditional American dinner roll dough and a simple Brioche dough.  In fact, if you have ever made brioche, you will recognize that my method for adding the butter (whole, as opposed to melted—and after all of the other ingredients have been added) is similar to brioche.

I have never tried to make this dough by really does best in a mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Because of the nature of the pumpkin, at first the dough will seem unmanageably dry....then suddenly, very wet.  Also, the development of the gluten seems to take a bit longer than usual.  I'm not a bread expert, but I would guess this is due to the fibrous nature of the pumpkin (not to mention the larger quantity of butter) inhibiting the formation of gluten strands.  As the dough mixes, stop as often as is necessary during the first stages of mixing to scrape down the sides and encourage the dough to come together around the hook....  And be patient—eventually it really will come together into a smooth and supple mass.

I have structured the recipe so that the dough is made the day before the rolls are to be baked and served.  I find this schedule works much better for holiday meals (not to mention how much more developed the flavor is after an overnight rise in the fridge).  But you can work even further ahead by making the rolls and freezing them.  To thaw them, let them sit on the counter in their air tight wrapping for an hour or so, then transfer them to a baking sheet and cover them with foil for a brief warm up in a moderate oven.   

You can of course form these rolls into any shape you like....a plain round roll...or a clover leaf...or a crescent roll...etc.  But I find the pumpkin shape (basically formed like a Kaiser roll) to be utterly charming.  I think that the little bit of extra time it takes to form them is totally worth it for a special holiday meal.

Finally, as with any basic, slightly sweet soft roll dough, this dough can be formed into all kinds of beautiful loaves and filled buns.  You could make a tea ring (filled with butter, brown sugar, pecans and spices)...or a twisted loaf (similar to my St. Augustine braid)...or cinnamon rolls or sticky buns.  So far, my favorite alternate form is the beautiful coiled and swirled loaf that Bonnie often makes with her cardamom dough.  I have included the instructions for forming this loaf at the end of the recipe...  That way, even if you have another dinner roll recipe that you will be making for your Thanksgiving dinner, you can still make this delicious pumpkin bread to serve as part of one of your holiday weekend breakfast spreads.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

4 to 4 1/4 c. all-purpose flour (454 to 480 g.), divided
1 1/4 t. cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. allspice
2 T. warm water
2 3/4 t. instant or active dry yeast
1 egg
1 c. solid pack pumpkin or fresh pumpkin purée (240 g.)
1 1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. brown sugar (100 g.)
8 T. unsalted butter at a cool room temperature (113 g.)
1 egg beaten with 1 T. water for egg wash
3 to 4 T. pepitas (pumpkin seeds), finely chopped

Place 1 cup (114 g.) of the flour in a small bowl.  Add the spices and whisk to combine.  Set aside.

Place the water in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Sprinkle the yeast over the water.  If using active dry yeast, let it sit for a minute or two to soften.  Add the egg, pumpkin, 3 c. (340 g.) of the flour, salt and sugar (in that order).  Using the dough hook mix on low speed (no. 2 to 3) until the ingredients are homogenous (2 to 3 minutes).  Add the flour/spices mixture and continue to mix until absorbed (another 2 to 3 minutes).

Increase the speed to medium and add the butter.  Continue to mix for a minute or two, stopping to scrape down the sides a couple of times, until the butter is absorbed.  Increase the speed to medium high.  If the dough doesn’t begin to gather in a mass on the hook after a minute, gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour (28 g.) until it does...the dough will still be quite sticky and adhering to the sides of the bowl, but it will be engaged with the action of the hook when it has enough flour.  Knead on medium high until the dough is no longer sticking to the sides of the bowl and is smooth, velvety and elastic—about 6 to 8 minutes. (The first time you make this, waiting for the dough to come together will be an act of faith.  But eventually—and suddenly—it will.  If your butter is warm...or very will take much longer.)

Scrape the dough into a buttered bowl and turn to coat.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for an hour to an hour and a half.  The dough will begin to rise, but it may or may not double during this time.  Deflate and place in the refrigerator overnight (for 8 to 24 hours).

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and portion into 24 equal pieces (41 g./1 1/2 oz. each).  

Working with 6 pieces at a time, roll each piece out into a 10 to 12 inch rope, using only enough flour to keep the dough from being unmanageably sticky.  

Form each rope into a pumpkin (basically a Kaiser roll...).  Tie a simple, loose knot, 

looping the two ends back through the center—one from the outside: up, over and down through the center, 

and then the one from the other side: down, under and up through the center (this second one will form the pumpkin's "stem"). 

Place the formed rolls on two parchment-lined baking sheets and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let rise until doubled in size—about 1 1/4 hours (the rolls are fully risen when an indentation remains when a roll is gently prodded with your finger).  

Carefully brush the rolls with egg wash and sprinkle with the minced pepitas. 

Bake in a preheated 365° oven until golden brown and cooked through—about 15 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack.  Serve warm.  Makes 2 dozen rolls.

  • If you prefer you may replace all of the spices with 1 T. of pumpkin pie spice. 
  • This dough may be used to make any shape dinner roll as well as cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, braided loaves and tea rings. 

Pumpkin Spice Filled Pumpkin Loaf

1/2 recipe pumpkin roll dough, chilled overnight
1 T. melted butter
1 T. granulated sugar mixed with 1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice
1 egg beaten with 1 T. water for egg wash
1 1/2 to 2 T. minced pepitas
Turbinado sugar

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a thin 12- by 16-inch rectangle, making sure that the long side runs parallel to the edge of the work surface in front of you.  Brush the dough with the melted butter.  Scatter sugar/pumpkin pie spice evenly over the buttered dough, leaving a 1/2-inch strip of dough across the top bare.  

 Starting with the edge nearest you, roll the dough up jellyroll-style.  Pinch the final seam into the dough to seal.  

Using a sharp knife, kitchen scissors or a bench scraper, cut the roll deeply—but not all the way through—at 1-inch intervals. 

Rotate the roll so that the original pinched seam is down.  Twist the cut segments/rolls in alternating directions.  Shorten the loaf a bit by scrunching it together so that the segments are shingled slightly and the entire loaf is closer to 10 to 12 inches in length (rather than the original 16 inches).  

Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about an hour and 15 minutes). Carefully brush with egg wash and scatter the pumpkin seeds and sugar generously over all.

Bake the loaf in a 365° until puffed and golden brown—about 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and slide onto a wire rack.  Let cool briefly before slicing.  Serves 10 to 12.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Week Away with Friends...a Winter Squash Tart...and Pan-Roasted Chicken with Porchetta Sauce

Once again this fall I had the joy of spending a week away with a group of dear friends.  I have written of these getaways a lake house on the shores of Lake Michigan...and at the home of a friend in the suburbs of Minneapolis.  This year, we were once again in The Twin Cities.  It was so nice to have a break from work and responsibilities...and even nicer to have it with my friends.  Since I love what I do for a living, this time away is never about leaving cooking behind.  It always includes copious amounts of time spent cooking (and eating) together.  We have a blast.

One of the problems with the wide variety of ways that I spend my working life is that I often don't have the time to read my new cookbooks and the cooking magazines that come regularly to my home.  So I always take one or two new cookbooks and a stack of food magazines with me on this trip.  They provide fun reading and good conversation for us all...and more often than not some great ideas for our meals.  This year two of our dinners were inspired by things we found in them:  a delicious winter squash tart, and a pan roasted chicken dish dressed with a sauce seasoned with the distinctive flavors of Porchetta. 

The tart we made is a simple free-from galette.  I have made tarts like it...and posted them...many times before.  I will include the recipe we made here—improvised from one in the October issue of Food & Wine—but you should feel free to improvise too.  The original included roasted squash and onions seasoned with curry.  We didn't feel like curry...we felt like pairing the squash with apples and bacon.  It was a big hit. 

As I looked through my magazines, it began to appear that Porchetta has become a bit of a trend.  If you have not run across it before, Porchetta is a traditional pork roast from Italy.  The meat (usually a fatty cut) is stuffed with the distinctive flavorings of fennel spice, lemon or orange, garlic and rosemary and then rolled up and tied.  In its traditional forms the skin/rind is left on the meat to produce an exterior of crisp crackling.  The resulting roast is salty and fatty...and delicious. 

The chicken dish we made borrows the spices of that traditional dish and adds bacon for a porky-salty-fatty touch.  The recipe was charmingly called "Chick-etta".  In the magazine (the October issue of Bon Appétit) the sauce is an herb and oil, salsa verde-style affair...and we planned on making it pretty much as written.  But when we pulled the pan of roast chicken out of the oven and saw all the fantastic bits of caramelized chicken juices on the bottom of the pan

we decided to deglaze the pan and make a simple butter-enhanced reduction sauce rather than waste all of that great flavor.  It was delicious. 

But we didn't just cook...and I would give the wrong impression if I didn't tell you that we spent part of our days doing other things.... 

We took long walks on lovely wooded trails...

And on a warm day we walked around Lake of the Isles and strolled through the rose garden at Lyndale park...still in bloom in November due to the unseasonable weather...

We also visited an amazing pastry shop (Patisserie 46...we highly recommend it...) we could sit and enjoy the warm sun....and talk some more....and of course sample a wide array of pastries...

It was a wonderful and restorative time.  After these trips, I always return home every sense of the word...and looking forward to the next time that I will be able to gather around the table again with this group of very special women that I am so blessed to call my friends. 

Winter Squash, Apple & Bacon Galette

1 recipe Pâte Brisée (see below)
1/2 c. (120 g.) sour cream
Olive oil
1 t. flour
Salt & pepper
2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded & sliced crosswise 1/4-inch thick
1 medium onion (red or yellow), halved, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 to 1 T. unsalted butter
1 Pink Lady (or other sweet-tart, crisp apple), peeled, quartered, cored and sliced 1/8- to 1/4-inch crosswise
1/2 to 1 t. sugar
4 to 5 oz. Gruyère, coarsely grated
5 slices (about 6 to 7 oz.) thickly sliced bacon, cut crosswise in 1/2-inch strips, cooked until crisp
2 t. chiffonade sage
1 t. minced rosemary

To roll out the dough, let it warm up for a moment or two at room temperature. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a circle that is about 1/8-inch thick and is about 15 inches across. Brush off the excess flour. Trim any ragged or uneven edges if you like. Transfer the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

In a small bowl combine the sour cream, 1/2 T. olive oil, flour and salt & pepper to taste.  Set aside.

Place the squash and onions in a large bowl and toss with just enough olive oil to coat, seasoning well with salt & pepper.  Spread on a baking sheet and roast in a 450° oven until tender and beginning to brown—about 20 minutes.  Set aside.

In a medium steel, cast iron or other style of non-stick skillet, warm some (about a half tablespoon) olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add a half tablespoon or so of butter to the pan.  When the butter melts and the foam subsides, add the apples and sauté until limp—but still with a bit of texture—and caramelized in spots—about 2 to 3 minutes.  If the pan seems dry, add a bit more butter.  Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the apples and continue to cook and toss/stir until the sugar has melted and the apples are uniformly golden—another minute.  Scrape the apples onto a plate and let cool.

To build the tart, spread the prepared sour cream mixture in a circle in the center of the chilled pâte brisée, leaving a 1 1/2- to 2-inch border of dough. Scatter a third of the Gruyère over the sour cream.  

Next, layer on half of the roasted squash and onion mixture, 

followed by all of the apples and half of the bacon.  

Scatter the herbs over all.

Add a layer of the remaining squash/onion mixture and the rest of the bacon. Finish with a thick layer of the remaining Gruyère.  Pull up the edges of the crust and gently flip them over the filling to form a rustic edge. Pleat the dough as necessary, pressing lightly into place.

Bake the tart in a 400° to 425° oven on the lowest rack (or in the middle with the sheet pan sitting directly on a preheated baking stone). Bake until the filling is bubbling in spots, the cheese is melted and tinged with brown, and the crust is crisp and golden brown—about 40 to 45 minutes. Slide the tart onto a rack and let rest for 5 minutes (or cool until just tepid) before serving.

Tart serves 6 to 8.

(Recipe adapted from Food & Wine, October 2016)

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour (200g)
1/2 t. salt
10 1/2 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces (150g)
1/4 to 1/3 c. ice water

Combine the flour and the salt in a medium-sized bowl. Rub the butter into the flour until the butter is in small pea-sized pieces. Drizzle 3 T. ice water over the flour/butter mixture. Using your hands, fluff the mixture until it begins to clump, adding more water if necessary. Turn the dough out onto a counter and form into a mound. Using the heel of your hand, gradually push all of the dough away from you in short forward strokes, flattening out the lumps. Continue until all of the dough is flat. Using a bench scraper, scrape the dough off the counter, forming it into a single clump as you do. Form the finished dough into a thick disk. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Pan Roasted Chicken with "Porchetta" Sauce

2 t. fennel seed
6 oz. bacon, diced small
1 3 1/2 to 4 lb. Chicken, cut into quarters (or use whatever bone-in, skin-on parts you prefer)
Kosher salt & Freshly Ground Pepper
2 medium shallots, finely diced (about 1/4 c.)
1 t. minced fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 t. finely grated lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
1/2 t. crushed pepper flakes (more...or taste)
1/2 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup unsalted chicken stock—preferably homemade, or water
3 T. unsalted butter, cut into 8 to 12 cubes
1/2 to 2/3 c. roughly chopped (not too fine...not too coarse) flat leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Toast the fennel seed in a dry small skillet set over medium heat.  Stir or toss occasionally until fragrant—about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a plate to cool.  Grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.  Divide into two equal portions.

In an oven safe sauté pan that is large enough to hold all of the chicken in a snug single layer, render the bacon over moderate heat, stirring regularly.  When the bacon is crisp, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate using a slotted spoon. 

While the bacon cooks, pat the chicken dry.  Rub the chicken with one of the portions of fennel seed (reserving the remainder for the sauce).  Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  Be careful with the salt...the bacon adds a lot of salt.

When the bacon has been removed from the pan, pour off all but 3 T. of fat.  Return the pan to the heat and increase the heat to medium high. When the pan is hot and almost smoking, add the chicken, skin-side down.  Carefully brown the chicken so that the skin is golden and crispy.  Turn the chicken over and transfer the pan to the preheated oven.  Roast until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a breast registers 155° and the thigh registers 170°.  (Depending on the chicken, the breasts may be done before the thighs...if so, simply remove them and return the legs to the oven.)    Roasting time will be around 20 to 35 minutes depending on the size of the chicken.

Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set it on a plate.  Let it rest in a warm spot for 10 to 20 minutes.  While the bird rests, make the sauce.

Place the pan over medium heat (remembering to cover the hot handle with a pot-holder or dry towel so that you won't burn yourself as you make the sauce) and add the shallots and cook until tender and translucent.  Add the rosemary, garlic, zest and pepper flakes and cook briefly until fragrant.  Add the wine, increase the heat and bring to a simmer.  Stir and scrape to release the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan.  Continue to simmer until the white wine has been reduced to a glaze.  Add the stock, bring to a simmer.  Remove from the heat while you finish portioning the chicken. 

When the chicken has rested for at least 10 minutes, pour the resting juices off of the plate and into the pan of sauce.  Portion the chicken by cutting the leg-thigh joint into two pieces, slicing at the joint.  If you like, flip the thigh over and remove the bone.  Cut the wing away from the breast.  Pull the bones away from the breast, starting at the "wishbone" and pulling down and away from the breast meat.  The breasts may be served whole...or cut in half cross-wise to form two portions each.  Or, the breasts may be sliced so that everyone may have a slice or two of white meat and a piece of dark meat.  You may also simply serve the breast on the bone.

Return the pan of sauce to the heat and bring to a simmer.  Add the butter, bacon and parsley.  Swirl the pan (or agitate the sauce using a whisk) so that the butter emulsifies into the simmering sauce.  Continue to simmer and swirl until the sauce is slightly thickened (but not too much—the sauce should be a bit broth-y). 

Taste and correct the seasoning.  Place the meat on a warm platter, spoon the sauce over all and serve.  Serves 4 to 6.

(Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2016)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A November Surprise: Eggplant & Swiss Chard Gratin

It is no secret that the whole country is having a warmer than usual autumn.  Where I live, we have not even had our first freeze yet.  I'm not sure I ever remember being this far into the month of November without having experienced at least a light freeze.  But I admit I am enjoying the surprising warmth....particularly since it means I can still get some of my favorite late summer produce at the farmers' market each week.  Figs (!) continued to trickle into the farmers' market until the last weekend in October.  And the eggplant, peppers and tomatoes still show no signs of letting up.  It has been a treat to continue to be able to cook into the darker days of fall with these bright flavors of summer.

A little over a week ago while I was trying clear out my refrigerator of perishable items in preparation for a short trip out of town, I made a simple gratin with a bunch of beautiful local chard and some eggplant.  I don't know if this is an unusual combination or not...but it is a good one.  (Sometimes the best dinners come in the form of what my friend Molly calls "cooler cleaners"...).

To make the gratin, I cooked the chard simply...with the addition of a few shallots and some garlic...and layered it into a baking dish with some slices of broiled eggplant.  I then poured an egg-rich custard enhanced with a little Parmesan (after an all eggplant gratin in Deborah Madison's Local Flavors) over the vegetables and topped the whole thing with crumbled goat cheese.  That's it.  Baked until puffed and golden, it could really be thought of as a crust-less quiche.  It was savory, suave, and delicious. 

I liked it so much that when I returned home I purchased the ingredients to make it again so I could take pictures and share it here.  We had it last night....served with sliced, vine-ripened tomatoes (surely some of the last of the season) and local lettuces dressed with lemon and olive oil.  I will definitely be making it again.   Maybe not this year—we are bound to have a freeze soon.  But certainly next year...when eggplant season rolls around again....

Eggplant & Swiss Chard Gratin

1 to 1 1/4 lb. globe eggplant
2 1/2 T. olive oil
Salt & Pepper
2 shallots (about 2 oz.), thinly sliced
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of hot pepper taste
1 bunch Chard, stems removed and discarded, leaves cut cross-wise into 1 1/2 inch ribbons and rinsed thoroughly
3 large eggs
1 c. heavy cream (or, 1/2 c. heavy cream plus 1/2 c. whole milk)
1 oz. finely grated Parmesan (about 1/3 c.)
2 oz. goat cheese

Butter a 1 1/2 quart shallow baking dish and set aside.

Trim away the top of the eggplant.  If the skin is tough, remove a few lengthwise strips of the skin with a vegetable peeler—the eggplant will look striped.  Cut the eggplant crosswise into 1/2-inch rounds.  Spread the rounds on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil on both sides.  Season with salt and pepper.  

Broil until golden brown, turning the slices over as they brown and browning the second side.  When the eggplant rounds are all browned, stack them four or five rounds thick so that they will continue to cook and steam (eggplant should always be fully cooked—often the heat of the broiler will brown them before they are cooked through, simply stacking them while they are still hot is usually sufficient to finish the cooking process).  Set aside.  Turn off the broiler, adjust the oven rack so it is in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°.

While the eggplant are cooking, warm a tablespoon or so of oil in a medium sauté pan.  Add the shallots, garlic and pepper flakes along with a pinch of salt and cook until the shallots are tender and beginning to caramelize a bit on the edges.  

Add the chard, along with any water clinging to the leaves (which will help the leaves to steam).  You will probably need to add it a handful at a time, turning each handful to coat it in the oil and shallot mixture, and waiting to add the next handful until the previous has begun to collapse.  When all the chard has been added, cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and cook until the chard is very tender (about 10 minutes).  Uncover and increase the heat, cooking until the excess liquid has evaporated.  Season to taste.  Set aside.

When ready to build the gratin, place the eggs in a bowl and whisk to break up.  Whisk in the cream and parmesan.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Arrange half of the eggplant in the buttered dish—you may have some overlap...this is OK.  

Spread the chard over the eggplant.  

Top with a layer of the remaining eggplant.  

Pour the custard over all, jiggling the dish slightly so that the custard will penetrate the layers of vegetables.  Crumble the goat cheese over all.  

Transfer the gratin to the oven and bake until puffed and golden...and the tip of a knife, when inserted into the center, comes out clean—about 30 minutes.  Let the gratin sit for 10 minutes.  Cut into squares and serve warm.  Serves 3 to 4 as an entrée ....6 as a substantial side dish.

Leftovers make a great lunch...