We are 3 friends who met while living in France, and bonded over our love of food and cooking, and it’s ability to bring people together. We are separated by distance now, Emma in Lisbon, Rose in Oaxaca, and myself in Los Angeles, but not much has changed. We are still obsessed with food and find every excuse to cook for our friends and family as a way of bringing everyone to the table and as a way of expressing our love for them.
While chatting over Zoom recently, we realized that even though physical distance separates us, our food philosophies span the gap. Simple, unfussy, and delicious food can be made anywhere. Each week, we will bring you 3 different recipes that are centered around the same ingredient. This week it is chard, but next week it will be something different. We’ll talk about that ingredient, if it is readily available where we are, and what we did with it.
The shift in seasons in California is subtle but as summer rolls into fall, the days are getting shorter and the evenings noticeably chillier. As the seasons are changing, the produce at the farmers market is too, from summer to fall harvest. That means less fresh berries, melons and definitely fewer tomatoes, but an abundance of leafy greens, herbs, apples, broccoli and beets on the vendors tables at the market.
I visited the Wednesday morning farmers market in Santa Monica this past week and was surprised to find a tableful of end-of-season cherry tomatoes that were vibrant, juicy and sweet, just a little too soft to eat raw. I swiped those up along with several bunches of incredibly fresh rainbow chard and headed back to the kitchen to put something together. Wanting to use up some of the things I already had in my pantry, I settled on a rice dish.
Throwing everything together in one large pan, covering it and letting it cook for about an hour undisturbed, I ended up with a really delicious and comforting dish of rice with chard and burst summer tomatoes.
Topped with a simple herb salad and a fried egg, this was perfect on a chilly fall night!
¼ cup olive oil
½ large yellow onion, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
2 bunches swiss chard, roughly chopped
1 pound cherry tomatoes
1 cup tomato puree
2 cups short grain brown rice
Heat olive oil in a large pan* over medium heat.
Add the onions, garlic and salt to the pan and sauté for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
Add the chard and sauté for 5-10 minutes until the chard stems are tender and the leaves have released their liquid and cooked down.
Add the rice, tomato puree, water and tomatoes to the pan and stir to combine. Cover the pan and simmer for 40-45 minutes, until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. off the heat and keep the pan covered for another 15-20 minutes to allow the remaining liquid to be absorbed.
*make sure to use a pan that has a lid!
Chard is abundant at the markets right now as the seasons shift from summer to autumn. The entire vegetable is delicious and you should cook both the leaves and the stems! I love to cook as I go, which worked really well for this recipe in particular. As the onions were sautéing, I chopped the garlic and added it in for the last minute of cooking time for the onions. Then I was able to chop up the stems of the chard and get them cooking while I chopped the rest of the greens. This allowed for a little extra time for the stems to tenderize.
Everyone has a different methodology that works best for them in the kitchen, but don’t take it too seriously! Especially not for forgiving recipes. If you work better being very organized, do that! If you don’t have chard but have a bunch of beet greens on hand, use those instead!
Looking at Emma and Rose’s recipes also reminded me that there are so many combinations of flavors are possible when working with ingredients. Next time I make this, I think I will replace the onions with leeks.
We are staying in a small fishing village called Puerto Angel, in the state of Oaxaca, on the southwest coast of Mexico. There is a local supermarket, called 7 Regiones where we buy our staples (flour, oil, eggs, etc) and a couple of vegetable stands where we purchase everything else. From what I can decipher online, 7 Regiones is the only supermercado by that name in Mexico which leads me to believe that it is somewhat independent. The 7 Regiones signifies the seven regions of Puebla: Sierra Norte, Sierra Nororiental, Valle Serdán, Angelópolis, Valle de Atlixco and Matamoros, Mixteca and, Tehuacán and Sierra Negra. Upon arrival, you are greeted by a man in military garb who takes your temperature and gives you some hand sanitizer. At first it was a little disconcerting, but it’s the same man every day and he is quite friendly.
My vegetable lady is quite temperamental. When we arrived, I spoke no Spanish and she was not enthusiastic about my being there—just another gringo who would soon be gone from their vacation. Over the weeks, my Spanish has slowly improved, and she has come to tolerate me more and more. However, I went by yesterday to take some photos and she was in a particularly bad mood, so I didn’t want to push my luck. It was Dia de Los Muertos so many people were celebrating and mourning. I’ll have to take some photos next time I’m there if she’s in a good mood. Most of the food in the region comes from the Sierra Madre mountains, which lie north of where we are staying. The state of Oaxaca is a food capital of Mexico, and the first place in the world where corn and beans were cultivated for human consumption (or so Hamish has told me). It has a very rich and hyper local food culture, and is most famous for its mole, often made with chocolate.
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup warm water
2 bunches silverbeet
1 bunch parsley
White vinegar, to taste
1 cup ricotta
¼ cup goat cheese
Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine 1/3 cup olive oil and warm water. Gently pour the oil mixture into the flour mixture and mix with a knife until just combined. Leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.
While that is resting, make your filling. Separate leaves and stems from the silverbeet and thinly slice. Finely chop a bunch of parsley. Heat 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil on medium heat. Sauté silverbeet stems and parsley until just soft (5 minutes), then add silverbeet leaves and a decent pinch of salt. Cover and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally (3 minutes). Remove from heat. Stir though a splash of white vinegar at the end. Check seasoning to taste.
For the ricotta, mix ricotta with goat cheese and lots of pepper.
Preheat oven to 220C with a baking tray in the oven that you’ll use to cook on. You want to get it hot so the pastry gets crispy on the bottom.
Once pastry has rested, divide into two (you can use the other half another day to make a caramelized onion tart with potato and anchovy, that’s what I did. It also freezes well).
Place the pastry in between two sheets of baking paper and roll out until it’s thin and the same size as your baking tray.
Evenly spread ricotta mixture on pastry, then sprinkle with cooked silverbeet. Transfer to hot tray and cook until golden and crispy, about 15 minutes.
Normally I would’ve added a few more things to this — garlic, lemon zest, chili flake, Parmesan, etc. But I just used what I had at hand. I think I prefer it this way, it lets the simple ingredients speak for themselves, without getting distracted. Enforced resourcefulness.
I went out on my search for chard on Sunday evening. As local veg markets here in Portugal are only open on Saturdays, I ended up not going this time. In Portugal the grocery stores are massive but not very reliable when it comes to the offering of a wide range of vegetables. What is offered is normally seasonal, or imported from Brasil, but knew from the beginning that my chances of finding chard at the grocery store would be minimal.
Except for going to the local market, I figured there are two alternatives to get some good, local produce. 1. You know someone with a small plot of land that happens to grow chard. Leafy greens are a staple in the Portuguese kitchen. 2. You go to a neighborhood with well assorted veggie shops.
I went for option two this time. I walked past palms and marble statues in Jardim da Estrela. My destination was Campo de Ourique, an area that feels like a village of its own. In broken Portuguese I asked for ‘acelga’ and returned home with my bag filled of big green leaves on ruby red stems.
Some wine from an almost empty bottle that you happen to find in the kitchen
Add garlic, chard stems, leek in a pan together with a good glug of olive oil. As it gets soft, add red wine, Japanese soy sauce, pearl barley and water. Pepper and salt ofc, always – as much or as little as you want! Have an old parmesan rind? Throw it in! Some lemon could be nice to add as well, taste to flavor. I mean it. Simmer until the barley softens.
Fry the green chard leaves in a pan until crispy with garlic and salt. Top the creamy barley with the crispy chard leaves and some soft beautiful queijo fresco de cabra, fresh goats cheese.