I’ve been known to daydream about travelling. I do this a lot, and I’m guessing it has something to do with growing up in one of the most-rural areas of the country. My Dad is the same way. In our daily phone call, we often talk about where we would take a big family vacation if money were no object. The destination-of-the-day almost always revolves around cuisine (surprise!). It’s all in the family, I guess. For me, the pinnacle would be Paris. I know, I know– pick the obvious, right? But the food! The wine! The history and culture! Sadly, jetting off to France isn’t in the cards right now, so this week I’ve decided to bring a bit to my kitchen.
This dessert–that’s right, even with those greens this is a dessert– is definitely French. You wouldn’t normally see it here in the US. I found it in a beautiful cookbook by David Tanis, called–Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys. Tanis is the co-chef at one of the most well-known, well-respected, restaurants in the United States, Chez Panisse. He’s been there since the 1980’s, though he spends six months at the restaurant in California, and lives the other six months in Paris. Sounds like a good gig. He’ll soon be leaving Chez Panisse in order to write a column for the New York Times that I’m really looking forward to reading. When Tanis wrote that the odd combination of ingredients in this recipe make a dessert that tastes fantastic, I figured I had to give it a try.
Though the title says it’s a tart, the texture is that of a cake– the baking powder makes it puff while baking. This is a traditional dessert in the south of France and Italy (alright, perhaps it’s not Parisian, but it’s my daydream.) Tanis’ recipe calls for Swiss Chard– which I really like– but I’ve been trying to figure out new ways to use use kale, so I made the substitution. They are similar greens, and the result was excellent. The kale was delicious, while the ricotta and warm spice added a firm texture and balanced sweetness. The pine nuts– now these were the the star in this tart. No substitutions here. They add a subtle, nutty flavor and lend a nice crunch. This unique dessert is remarkable. It’s not savory, but subtly sweet. Give it a try, you’ll like it.
The Recipe: Kale and Ricotta Tart
For the Dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
For the Filling:
1 large bunch of kale, ribs discarded, chopped (about 4 cups)
1 cup ricotta cheese (I used part-skim, but the original recipe calls for whole-milk)
1/4 cup sugar (I reduced from 1/3 cup from the original recipe –it was perfectly sweet for me)
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup golden raisins, soaked in warm water until plumped
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
To make the dough, in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the dry ingredients on low speed. Add the butter and mix for about 2 minutes more, until crumbly. Add the egg mixture and the lemon zest and mix another minute, or until you can pinch the dough together. Turn the dough out and form 2 balls, one twice as big as the other ( use a kitchen scale, if you have one). Chill for at least an hour.
To make the filling, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the kale for 1 minute; drain well. Let cool, and squeeze out any liquid.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, whisk together the ricotta, 1 egg, sugar, lemon zest, and spices.
Dust a pastry cloth with flour and roll out the larger dough ball into a circle 2 inches larger than the diameter of your 9- or 10-inch spring form pan. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin, then carefully unroll it over the pan and gently press it into place, so that it comes about 2-inches up the sides of the pan. Expect the dough to be pretty soft; if it tears, just press on a scrap to cover any holes.
Drain the raisins, mix them with the greens, and spread over the dough in the pan. Pour the ricotta mixture over the greens and smooth out. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the ricotta.
To make the lattice top, roll out the second piece of dough into a 1/8 -inch-thick rectangle. Cut the dough into 3/4-inch-wide strips. Fashion a lattice top by alternating crosswise and lengthwise strips. Leave a gap of 3/4 inch between strips running in the same direction.
Fold the edges of the bottom crust over the ends of the lattice strips. Whisk remaining egg in a small bowl for an egg wash. Using a pastry brush, gently coat the tart with the egg. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the crust is golden.
Cool on a rack before serving. Enjoy!
Source: Adapted from Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys by David Tanis
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