Monday, May 14, 2012

First & Last in the Garden: Swiss Chard Gratin with Mushrooms & Goat Cheese

Almost done; the last of last year's Swiss Chard.
There is really no beginning and or ending in a vegetable garden, at least not in mine. The climate here allows me to plant some things in the Fall for the next year, like garlic, and protect some things, like Swiss chard, from the cold so we can get some quick pickings in the Spring before it goes to seed. Nice because this year’s planting is still seedlings, too small to eat unless I demolish the whole thing for one small salad.

Baby chard is delicious, but I like the big leaves, and the fact that it’s biennial, so you can get a bit of a second season out of it before it bolts to seed. It thrives in the heat unlike most tender greens, and is less strongly flavored than kale or collards. It’s really a good “entry level” green if you are trying to launch into eating a wider range of greens but worry about strong flavors. If you like spinach, you’ll like Swiss chard. Swiss chard, like spinach, is in the beet family, and if you eat it plain, you can taste the delicious similarities.

Yesterday I saw the whorls coming up that will produce the seeds so it was time to yank out the plants, and harvest the remains of last year’s chard. Really, it’s the last thing out from last season, and the first thing I was able to start picking in late February, thanks to the mild winter and the straw mulch. After all was said and done and dug out, I had about 6 lbs., a gift from last year’s garden.

This gratin is very much like a crustless quiche, with a tender custard holding together the savory mixture of chard,  red onions and goat cheese. Would make a good vegetarian main dish, or a nice lunch with some pickled vegetables on the side and a glass of white wine. It is also gluten free.

Swiss chard and goat cheese gratin.
Good right out of the oven or at room temperature.

Swiss Chard Gratin with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese
Serves 6

3 lb. Swiss chard
2 T extra virgin olive oil
8 oz. baby portabella mushrooms sliced
1 small red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 cups half & half or plain soy creamer
1 egg
1 egg yolk
½ teas grated nutmeg
5 oz. soft goats cheese (chèvre), crumbled

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil. Pull  or cut the thick stems from the Swiss chard and save for another use (cook separately, or add to your compost). Wash the leaves well, drain and blanch in the boiling water about 4 minutes until limp. Drain well, press out as much water as possible. Chop them coarsely and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and cooking spray or oil a shallow 2 qt. baking dish. In a big sauté pan, heat the olive oil until it ripples, then add the mushrooms, the red onion, and the garlic, and cook until the mushrooms have given up their juices and are starting to brown. Add salt and pepper lightly to taste. Turn off the heat and stir in the reserved cooked chard. Let cool a few moments, and then place the chard mixture in the baking dish, spreading evenly over the bottom. Crumble about 1/3 of the goat cheese over the chard and mix in lightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the half & half or soy creamer, the egg, the egg yolk and the nutmeg until completely blended. Pour evenly over the chard mixture in the baking dish, tilting the pan to even out the mixture if necessary.

Except for the raw egg in there,
the unbaked gratin looks good enough to eat!

Crumble the remaining goat cheese over the top, stir here and there with a spoon to bring some egg mixture to the top, and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes. Switch the oven to broil and cook for another 3-5 minutes to brown the top. Serve hot or at room temperature. 

No comments:

Post a Comment